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My last three – soon to be four – books, set in Scotland, have plenty of castles and kilts, kirks and keeps.  Those, and a muscular highlander or two, are the things Scottish romances are made of.

13 Scotland - Band in Kilts

But my books are also laced with wildflowers – wildflowers that aren’t particularly Scottish. Roses, violets, bluebells and even thistles can be found nearly everywhere in the world, after all. So, what is the connection and why did I choose to set my Wildflowers of Scotland novels (Thistle Down, Wild Rose, and Blue Belle – available now, and Shy Violet and Sweet William – coming soon) against the backdrop of Scotland?

Scotland flowers by the sea

A Striking Contrast:  In a place where flowers grow in lush, abundant quantities, a shy, little violet growing along a mossy pathway, a bluebell that’s here and gone again in a two week window of spring, even a wild rose, get easily lost in the profusion. In a country built on a rocky foundation and filled with harsh, cold landscapes, dark, misty vales, cold, stone castles, and drab, colorless cottages, a wee wildflower or two provide the perfect bit of contrast, a much needed dash of color to an otherwise harsh landscape.

Doors - Luss

A Lesson in Survival:  Scottish wildflowers are a hardy lot who blossom and grow and shine despite hard winters, rocky soils, brief summers, extreme variations in weather, and other adverse conditions.

197 Scotland - Flowers in Stone

I hope you’re starting to get a feel for why I set my novels – modern-day mixtures of romance and suspense – against the backdrop of the Scottish countryside, and that you can see the Scotland I love in the bouquet of wildflowers I’ve picked for you.

WI2 - Thistle

Thistle Down – A prickly, purple thistle played the hero when an Englishman doing reconnaissance stepped on a particularly thorny specimen and let out a howl, alerting Scottish guards to an imminent invasion by the English. We’ve all been in situations where the odds are stacked against us, and whatever is happening in our lives is so dire and growing more hopeless by the minute, that we can’t imagine salvation is even remotely possible. And then, when all seems lost, something inadvertently wonderful and life-shattering happens, and all is well once again. Nothing like the sharp bite of a prickly plant coming out of nowhere to save the day!

201 Scotland -- Fence

Wild Rose – No tame, fragile, domesticated beauties for the extreme seasons of Scotland. Wildflowers are hardy, stubborn and determined to find a foothold whether they be planted atop a stone wall, set amongst ruins, or left for dead along the motor way. No playing it the safe way or being content with the status quo for these lasses and lads, who are risk-takers, trend setters and wild things, all.

175 Scotland - Cambo gardensraindrops

Blue Belle – There’s nothing quite so satisfying as glimpsing the first wildflowers of spring after a drab, icy cold, Scottish winter. That first bit of color is not only well-worth the wait, it’s the very thing that makes the whole frigid lapse bearable. Good things do come to those who wait. Springtime flowers are all the sweeter in Scotland, because you have to endure a bit of weather each year before the wildflowers return.

Scotland Duart Castle - Mull

Shy Violet – Scotland is a subtle, understated country in so many ways. No exotic, tropical flowers here. In Scotland, it’s about the simple, everyday things of life, pleasures born both of need and necessity. Keep your eyes open and you’ll see majesty galore in nature’s quiet offerings… a shy violet hiding behind a rock, a blush of heather in the hills, a splash of rhododendrons growing deep in the woods.

189 Scotland - Cambo gardensSea

Sweet William – From hardship grows character and determination and the sweet appreciation of the things that really matter in life. Gentle spirits born of adversity are so much more lovable than arrogant showoffs. How similar to the way of Scottish wildflowers – blooming not in showy profusion, but cropping up here and there in solitary clumps wherever there is a bit of fertile soil.

Blue Belle - promo jump

The thing about wildflowers, Scottish or not, is that they’re wild. Unpredictable. Full of surprises. Bent on blooming no matter what obstacles they’re up against. Determined to flourish and find a way even when they’re between a rock and a hard place -which is exactly what Scotland is all “aboot”.

Books - Scotland Promo

Which Wildflower of Scotland do you most closely identify with and why?

WI2 - Thistle

Thistle Down?

Ely - roses

Wild Rose?

Bluebells

Blue Belle?

Flower - violet sunshine

Shy Violet?

Sweet William

Or, for you men, Sweet William?

Blue Belle Front Cover Draft

One commenter will receive a free e-copy of Blue Belle!

In Northern Iowa and Southern Minnesota, where I’ve lived the bulk of my life, the bluebells bloom around the first week of May and are usually at their peak on Mother’s Day. this year, we’ve had a long, hard winter, and it’s seemed like spring would never get here. But the bluebells in my yard are right on target, with clusters of tiny blue, pink, and purple buds ready to pop open on the next warm day.

Sporing - bluebells

It seems appropriate that my new release, Blue Belle, the second of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels, should be released just in time for the first week of May. I received my proof copy about a week ago, and should have copies for sale at my B&B, the Blue Belle Inn, by May 1st.

Blue Belle, a contemporary romance by Sherrie Hansen

Yes, that’s a lot of Blue Belles – and bluebells. I’ve already started to think about what I’m going to say about Blue Belle, the book, to my customers at the Blue Belle B&B.

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Some authors sell their books almost exclusively online. Since I have a steady stream of people coming to the tea house at the Blue Belle Inn, I sell a lot of print books the old-fashioned way.

BBI DR High Res

Over the years, I’ve found that what you write about a book on the back cover, to be read by prospective buyers who might pick it up at a store or look at it on a website, is quite different than what I feel comfortable saying to people face to face. I even wrote a poem for the back blurb of Blue Belle, which expresses many elements of the book very well. But I would feel quite silly quoting poetry table-side to my luncheon guests.

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When I tell people about Thistle Down (a novella) and Wild Rose, my first Wildflowers of Scotland novel, I simply say, “In Thistle Down, Pastor Ian MacCraig has two sisters who are going to be married. Emily has found the perfect man to marry. There’s only one problem – she’s not in love with him. Chelsea is wildly, passionately, madly in love with her fiance – he’s a total jerk.  Pastor Ian has some unscrambling to do, especially when the church ladies get involved.”

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]

And – “When Wild Rose opens, someone has been stealing architectural relics from the church yard, so Pastor Ian installs a security camera to try to catch the thief in action. What he captures is Rose Wilson engaged in a passionate romp under the flying buttresses.  My tag line is – Wild Rose and Pastor Ian MacCraig – a match made in heaven or one hell of a predicament?”

Scotland Bashful Rose

The blurb on the back of Blue Belle reads:

Isabelle doesn’t want to be found. Michael doesn’t want to be found out. When Damon starts searching for the centuries-old gold he thinks is buried in Tobermory Bay, it won’t matter what walls they’re hiding behind. Rocks will fall. Castles will crumble. No secret will be safe.

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.
Legends galore, buried treasure, and more…
In Tobermory, Scotland, that’s what’s in store.

Blue Belle Promo Poem

What I’ll probably say about Blue Belle is:

“Isabelle is a reporter from Virgina who’s been burned. Now, all she wants is the truth – and one big story to help get her confidence back.  Michael is a psychologist from Wisconsin who’s not only lying about who he is, but why he’s in Scotland pretending to be a contractor.  What neither of them knows is that Isabelle’s story is buried in Tobermory Bay, practically writing itself, and that Michael’s finely crafted tale – and the castle he’s restoring – are about to come crumbling down around them.”Blue Belle - promo jump

As time goes by, I hope to get my verbal pitch trimmed in half, or to think of the perfect one-sentence tagline that says it all.  In the meantime, I hope that one or the other of my blurbs inspires you to give Blue Belle a look. Romance, suspense and mysteries aside, it’s about learning to trust – and I hope you will trust me to deliver another good story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Isle of Mull, Scotland, is the setting of my next book, Blue Belle (the second of my Wildflowers of Scotland trilogy). Blue Belle will soon be off to my publisher, and shortly after that, ready to read. I just wrote a scene that includes Duart Castle. I hope this helps set the mood! If you haven’t read Thistle Down or Wild Rose yet, now is the perfect time!

Scotland Duart Castle - Mull

Here’s the Back Cover Blurb: Isabelle doesn’t want to be found. Michael doesn’t want to be found out. But when Damon starts searching for the centuries-old gold he thinks is buried in the bay, everyone is in danger. A reporter from Virginia and a psychologist from Wisconsin – both in Tobermory, Scotland, both with secrets –  hers, shocking, his kept to protect the people he loves. When Isabelle stumbles upon the biggest story of her life, and Michael discovers the truth, will the painful memories that are dredged up destroy their chance for love, or will they strike gold?  

Christmas - peacock 

I woke up this morning filled with sweet memories of a Merry Christmas spent with my family, prepared to do a “Twas the day after Christmas” blog, but then I looked outside.

Blu Belle winter tiny

Here in North Iowa and Southern Minnesota, we’ve had a lot of snow and below zero temperatures already this winter. The forecast HIGH for Tuesday is -2 below zero. Don’t even get me going on wind chills – they were – 25 and -30 a few days ago and forecast to dip as low or even lower next week.

Zion 2013 snow view

Can you blame me for wanting to take a little trip to summertime?

Flowers - strawberry  Duluth - close

I’m deep into Shy Violet, the third of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels, and almost ready to do edits on Blue Belle, the second, and relishing summertime on the Isles of Skye and Mull.  When I can’t remember the sights and smells of summer, I look at my photos and dream of warm days and starry, summertime nights and write on. It’s fun to escape to a landscape filled with wildflowers and green grass. Some people take a vacation to the south of France or Florida or the California coast. I get lost in a book set in the summertime.

Sporing - bluebells

 

My favorite wildflowers are those that I find growing in front of a picturesque sight like a castle or an old kirk, a lake or ocean, a stunning mountain, or even those that grow in the front yard of my B&B, the Blue Belle Inn. If I were a wildflower, that’s where I would plant myself.  Life is short and I like to get outside and enjoy the views as often as I can.

203 Scotland St. Andrews  Duluth - lupine

 

Wildflowers take root wherever they can find a toehold.  They’re tenacious and determined and slightly stubborn, just like me.

197 Scotland - Flowers in Stone  201 Scotland -- Fence 

Wildflowers grow in a wild tangle of disarray. Although I try to make myself tidy up my house on a regular basis so it looks like a photo shoot from Beautiful Home magazine (in case my mother should drop by), it more often looks like a tornado just touched down. The truth is, I’m just not into regimented gardens planted in straight rows a specific number of inches apart. I’m more of a wildflower and always have been.

Ely - Thistle   WI2 - Thistle

 

The heroines of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels – Wild Rose (Rose),  Blue Belle (Isabelle), and Shy Violet (Violet) – are all prone to living their lives in unconventional ways. They don’t like to be fenced in. They know how to make the best of a bad situation – to bloom where they’re planted despite that fact that the weather and soil and growing conditions are less than ideal. They get trampled on and they bounce back.  They’re true glories of nature.

Grace Corner - Bleeding hearts 2

Thanks for taking a brief trip to summertime with me.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the green scenery, warm breezes, and raindrops on roses.

175 Scotland - Cambo gardensraindrops  Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]  Love Notes Cover - Final

If you refuse to get in the mood, you can go read Love Notes – it starts as autumn is changing to winter and ends on Christmas Eve. It takes place in Embarrass, MN, the coldest place in America.  If you’re in the mood for a good winter read, this is it. Google Embarrass, MN on Tuesday and see how warm it is up north! I’ll be cozied up, dreaming of roses and bluebells and violets, waiting for summer to return.  Merry Christmas!

 

I have a confession to make. I’ve never been to Dorney. I’ve been as close as Eilean Donan Castle, but I was in a hurry to get to Fort William, and I never thought to go up into the village. Now, I’m writing a book called Shy Violet, the main characters are living in Dorney, and I’m left wishing I had walked a bit further and scoped out the town with my own two eyes.

That’s the way it is with doors. We choose to walk through them, or we skip on by, oblivious to what might be inside.

I’ve always been fascinated by doors, so when we started exploring Scotland, it came as no surprise that all kinds of unique and intriguing doors caught my eye.

Scotland - doors blue

Sometimes, when we get to a door, we’re hesitant to open it. Because doors can lead to places you’d rather not go.

Doors - Luss

Sometimes, when you see a door, you’re consumed with curiosity about what’s on the other side, and you can’t be happy until you know.

Door - Ayr

Doors can be a bit daunting – after all, one can never be quite sure what you’ll find when you open them. 

Door - Castle

Doors can be portals to a make-believe world.

Door - Castle to Castle

The sights you see through an open door can make your imagination soar.

Door - Culzean

Doors can lead you deeper and deeper into a mystery that will take you who knows where.

Door - Double

Doors can lead to an alternate reality – perhaps one from which you will never escape.

Door - drawbridge

Doors can open up to adventures you’ve never even dreamed of.

Door - Edinbough

Doors – and the places they lead to – can inspire overtures and epic poems and all kinds of artistry.

Door - Fingal's Cave Door - Fingal's Cave close-up

Doors can be common, comforting, familiar and welcoming.

Door - Sanctuary

Doors can be austere and foreboding.

Door - St. Michaels

Doors can be pretentious affairs.

Scotland - doors big

Doors can be plain and functional.

Scotland - door plain

When a door opens, light floods into the dark corners of you mind and enlightens every last nook and cranny.

Door - Sea

When you unlock a door, you never know what secrets you’ll uncover.

Door - Secret Garden

When a door shuts behind you, sometimes you wonder if you’ll ever go home.

Door - St A

Sometimes doors are a nice fit. Not too big, not to small.

Door - St Conans

Although it’s always wise to mind your head.

Scotland - door in a row

Sometimes doors dwarf you, and you wonder, who were these doors made for, giants?

Door - St Conans 2Some say that when God closes a door, he opens a window.

Door - St. Andrews

But we all know that when a door is closed, you can get left standing outside in the cold.

Scotland - doors closed

Next time you go in or out a door, I hope it leads to somewhere you want to be – maybe even Scotland – and that someone you love is waiting on the other side.

Scotland - door

Earlier this month, my husband and I drove to Michigan and back on old highways, backroads, and even a few gravel roads for all but a few miles when we skirted Chicago on I-90. We even took a ferry across Lake Michigan in our quest for the roads less traveled. (Don’t even mention our GPS – she’s very frustrated with us for disregarding her advice.) The many unique images that were our reward included seeing an Amish farmer steering a homemade digger behind a team of 6 horses while his bonnet clad wife and little girls and suspendered little boys watched from behind the barn… the sun setting behind the cemetery of a little country church in Wisconsin… and marshy stretches of Lakes Michigan, Erie and Huron, and more – all things we never would have glimpsed on the Interstate.

Likewise, there are certain things a tourist expects to see while traveling in Scotland – bagpipers, Loch Ness,

Scotland - Bagpipes  Scotland Urquart Castle on Loch Ness

old castles and older abbeys,

Scotland Castle  Scotland Sweetehart Abbey

and if you’re lucky, heather blooming in the highlands and men in kilts.

Scotland flowers by the sea  Scotland Bagpipers

But  if you’re brave-hearted enough to rent an auto and drive down Scotland’s narrow little byways (we call them golf cart paths or bicycle trails) on the left side of the road (assuming they’re wide enough to accommodate two cars), you’re going to discover all kinds of hidden gems that the average visitor won’t see.

Last week, I posted a blog at Blue Belle Books – http://www.SherrieHansen.wordpress.com – about Things I Learned While Traveling in Scotland. It was very well-received. Here are a few more glimpses of why I love Scotland and why I started my Wildflowers of Scotland novels.

1. If you’re not sure where you’re supposed to go next, walk to the top of the nearest hill and have a good look around. Most likely, you’ll see something that will point you in the right direction.

Scotland - sheep

2. If the top of the hill is in a cloud, walk down to the valley and follow the river. You’ll know what to do.

Scotland - Hill with it's head in the clouds

3. If you’re feeling downtrodden, bow your head and let the sun shine down on you for awhile. Things will get better.

Scotland Bashful Rose

4. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative when painting your house.  A little color can really brighten your day.

Scotland - Tobermory 5

5. You never know what you’re going to find in your path. That’s life. Deal with it. It’s probably nothing to worry about.

Scottish Hedgehog

6. Learn what you can from those who have gone before us and try not to make the same mistakes.

Scotland Standing Stones

7. Take a close look and make sure you’re not missing something that could be key.

Scotland Castle Top

8.  If you’re in unfamiliar waters, look for a bright light to guide you.

Scotland Lighthouse

9. Grow a thick hide and you’ll be able to withstand the strongest storms.

Scotland Coo

10.  Never be too proud to call a friend and ask for help.

Scotland Phone Booth

11.  If you’re lost, look for clues. They’re everywhere.

Scotland - Beach at Ayr

12. If you have a problem, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Creative solutions are the best!

Scotland Fishing Shack

Reading one of my books may be a little like traveling along the road less traveled, too. Your expectations might not be met exactly, but there are going to all kinds of little surprises and insights that you’ll likely discover along the way that you never would have stumbled upon if you hadn’t dared to venture from the mainstream to give one a try.

In the meantime, keep looking up!

Scotland - Castle Cross

My books aren’t written about the most earth-shattering events. When you read one of my books, you can be fairly certain that the world isn’t going to end in 24 hours. Life as we know it isn’t going to cease to exist. Murders – at least of anyone you dearly love – aren’t likely and extreme violence is rare. But my characters do learn and grow from the world around them, be it a sleepy little town in the heartland where everybody knows way too much about everybody else, the coldest place in the USA, or a quaint village in Scotland or Denmark. My characters are smart, savvy, and intuitive, They know how to figure things out and make the best of a bad situation. Sometimes it takes them awhile, but in the end, there’s always an ah-ha moment, a reawakening, an eyes-open-wide experience when they finally get it.

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Last night, I spoke about my latest books, Thistle Down and Wild Rose, at the library in Hudson, Iowa, where my husband is a pastor. We had only a small crowd, but my photo journey of Scotland on the big screen was well received, the caramel shortbread disappeared very quickly, and I sold 7 books. More importantly, it was good for me to get my slides and my impressions of Scotland organized in to a nice presentation, since my next two books will be set in Tobermory (Blue Belle) and on the Isle of Skye (Shy Violet). If anyone wants a speaker for their library or group, let me know! I’m all set now, as well as being inspired to start working on my Wildflowers of Scotland novels again.

Here’s part of what I spoke about – lessons learned while traveling in Scotland:

1. Don’t stay inside and miss out just because it’s raining a little.

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I’m not recommending that you venture out in a hurricane to see what’s up or become a storm chaser in tornado alley, or go looking for your cows in the middle of a raging blizzard, but so many people miss out on so many opportunities because it’s a little windy or overcast or too hot outside. The day we had designated for golfing St. Andrews, visiting the beautiful gardens on nearby Cambo Estates, and hiking down to the sea on the garden path, was alternately drizzly, and downright sopping wet. Between the 7th and 8th holes of the famous golf course, my husband was so wet that he ducked into the men’s room at the clubhouse, took off his shirt, and crouched under the hand dryer to take the chill off. Would he have missed the probably once in a lifetime chance to golf St. Andrews so he could stay warm and cozy? No way.

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Mark’s sister, Becky and I donned floppy hats and vinyl rain gear, shielded our cameras with a sheet of plastic and slipped at slid over the muddy paths that wound through the walled garden and down to the sea at Cambo Estates.

191 Scotland - Cambo gardensSea2

Were we sorry? No. In fact, here’s another lesson learned.

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2. Colors are brighter on cloudy days and raindrops on roses are one of my favorite things.

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3. When your life appears to be crumbling around you and everything’s in ruins, there’s still beauty to be found. (On the beach at St. Andrews.)

203 Scotland St. Andrews

4. When everything around you feels sad and gray, add a splash of color to the mix and everything will look brighter.

173 Scotland House Blue Door

5. Keep looking up! There’s always a rainbow after the storm.

135 Scotland - Rainbow 5

6. Even the most nondescript things in life look better if you plant a few flowers.

166 Scotland Window boxes

7. Find balance wherever you can. It helps.

205 Scotland - House1

8.  Be thankful for what you have.

209 Scotland - Street in Luss

While I was oohing and aahing over their little stone cottages and thinking they were like something straight out of the pages of a story book, the Scots were loving the photos of my Victorian B&B and saying it looked straight from the pages of a fairy tale.

169 Scotland -- B&B

9. Never judge a book by it’s cover, or a house by it’s formidable exterior. There’s probably something nice and cozy waiting for you inside.

171 Scotland - KirktonBarns.Parlor

10. No matter how impossible the path ahead looks, there is always a way through the mountains – or over whatever’s blocking your way .

199 Scotland - Mountains  195 Scotland Moat  91 Fence - ladder

11. Bloom where you’re planted.

201 Scotland -- Fence

12. Sometimes you have to dig your heels in and be tenacious. If you think you can do it, you probably can.

197 Scotland - Flowers in Stone

13. The road may seem narrow, but there’s always enough room to get where you need to go – somehow.

207 Scotland - Street in Tarbet

14. Pay attention to the little details. All information is useful, and bound to come in handy one day.

13 Scotland - Band in Kilts

15. Keep looking up. (This one bears repeating.) Often, what you see will point you in the direction you need to go.

217 Scotland - Celtic Cross1

Maybe it’s my Viking blood, but I’ve always had a case of wanderlust. I grew up on a farm in Minnesota, We farmers put down deep roots. But in addition to the solid, stable grounding I had as a child, I was also taught that it was fun to travel. My parents took us on camping trips to Colorado, Florida, Canada, and everywhere in between. My Dad loved (still does) to pull off the main road and see what lay down each little lane and byway. No staying in the same cabin at the same lake every summer of every year of our lives – we camped at a different State Park or campground every night so we could see as much as we possibly could.

Storm road

I’m a firm believer that there’s all kind of beauty right in our own backyards, but I’m still curious about what’s around the corner.

Sporing - bluebellsZion - Sunflower 2013 SunSunset - Good Friday

When I was in high school, I signed up for mission trips, choir trips and journalism and poetry workshops on various college campuses so I could see as many little corners of the world as I could. When my Great-Grandpa Lightly died (I was 15), I hitched a ride down to San Antonio, Texas with my Uncle Kenny and Aunt Cathy, who had driven home for the funeral, and spent a week exploring the Texas Hill Country, the River Walk, and the air force base where they lived. At the end of the week, I flew home to Rochester, MN. I was the first of our family to fly on an airplane. I still have the little packets of sugar, salt and pepper and the napkin imprinted with the airline’s logo that I got on that flight.

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When it came time to choose a college, I couldn’t wait to leave home and explore the Great World. I selected Wheaton College, in Wheaton, IL, and for the next two years, hopped on the “L” and explored downtown Chicago every chance I got. At the end of my sophomore year, a friend from Maine suggested that we look for jobs in Bar Harbor. I got engaged while I was there and after a military wedding in Lawton, OK. and a brief visits to Minnesota and St. Louis, I ended up living in Germany for 3 years. All of Europe was at my back door. I took advantage of opportunities to see Budapest, Hungary, Salzburg, Austria, Lucerne, Switzerland, Paris, France, London and the Cotswolds in England, Florence, Italy, and Gouda and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and loved every second of it! From there, it was back to Oklahoma, and then Colorado Springs. Every time I had enough money saved up, I took off to see another part of the world – Dallas, Santa Fe, Durango and Telluride, Colorado, Banff National Park, Lake Louise and  Calgary in Canada, Disney World in Florida, Wales, England, Prince Edward Island, Bainbridge Island and Victoria, Canada, the Blue Ridge Mountains, old Virginia, and Washington, DC, Denmark and Norway. I lived for (and worked hard to pay for) the times when I could explore the world and satisfy my wanderlust.

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After years of being single and sometimes short a traveling partner, I was very blessed to find a husband who shares my passion for exploring. Since Mark and I have been married (almost 10 years ago), we’ve taken trips to his home state of California,  seen Death Valley, the Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone National Park  (all firsts for me), gone to Scotland, Germany, southern France, Italy, Denmark, the Amish area of Indiana, Florida, and most recently, Louisville, Kentucky. Next week, we’re off to Wisconsin to catch a ferry across Lake Michigan, where we’ll explore yet another area of the country.

KY - blue shuttersIN - reflectionKY - staircase

Some writers (and people in general) never stray far from home. There are authors who set all their books in England, Scotland, the northeast, Northern MN, Texas, or the South.  And I have to admit that I’ll go anywhere with my favorite authors, including staying in the same small town with the same characters. But my books are a lot like my life. I like to explore different places, see different sights, and experience a change of scenery as often as I can. It’s refreshing. It renews your perspective. It reminds me that there’s a whole big wide world out there, and that the universe doesn’t revolve around me. Traveling, experiencing different cultures, broadens us and grows us and changes us. It promotes understanding and empathy. It enriches us in countless ways.

Zion - bowed head

Part of my wanderlust is no doubt a part of my genetic make-up. But I truly believe that another very important part of my thirst to experience new places, people and things is a result of the books I read as a child.

Heaven to Betsy1Laura Ingalls Wilder books

I was there when Betsy Ray headed out to have her Great Adventure in Europe, when Laura and Mary helped Ma and Pa pack up the covered wagon and set out for a new territory, when Daniel Boone went exploring, and when Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea set out to find the Pacific Ocean.

Cal - Rachel SS

Perhaps it’s presumptuous of me, but I hope that my books create the same kind of stirrings in you. If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll take a trip to Scotland with Rose and Ian in Wild Rose, the first of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels, that you’ll join Anders and Jensen in Copenhagen, or Hope and Tommy in Embarrass, the coldest town in the USA, or see what the Midwest is really like in my Maple Valley trilogy, A change of scenery is a good thing. It refreshes. It restores. It renews. Come along for the ride and you’ll see!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]Love Notes Cover - Final

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

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

Storm sun beams Sunset - 8-24 close

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

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

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

Photo80Scotland - sheep

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