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I had a birthday a couple of weeks ago, and I received a card from my Mom and Dad that really made me think. On the inside, it said “Lots of love  from Mom and Dad. We are very proud of all your accomplishments.  Now it’s time to slow down and enjoy the fruits of your labor?”

Yes, there was a question mark at the end, which left me wondering exactly what they meant.

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The card came at a time when I was working hard to finish Shy Violet, my next book – coming soon from Second Wind. I’ve been short staffed at my restaurant and B&B since last fall, and have been doing much of the cooking and cleaning myself. I’ve also been writing the scripts for our popular murder mysteries, about one a month – a very fun, but time consuming process. In the past week, I filled a large order for the cookie business I have on the side, and took my nieces and nephew out to dinner and to a school play (the favorite part of my busy week). In the past month, I’ve also baked 12 or 15 dozen cookies for church, practiced a lot of music, and written a Christmas program for our Sunday School youth. And on the day of my birthday – a Sunday, I had 23 people over for a birthday brunch after church.

Food - Cookies Noah

Even when I’m riding in the car, or watching TV, or doing something that could be construed as relaxing, I have my laptop open so I can  be working on something, or a needlepoint project in my hands. I really don’t like going to the movie theater because it forces me to do nothing but watch.

Rose - needlepoint

Let’s just summarize by saying that I like to keep busy! I’m the original multi-tasker, and very probably a workaholic. My husband says my brain has no off-switch. While I did not inherit these traits from strangers, I guess I should also listen when these same people tell me that I’m at that time in my life when I need to reexamine some of my priorities and start relaxing a little bit.

My first response, when I read the card, was that I don’t know how to relax – don’t want to relax, don’t enjoy relaxing – that I’d rather be busy than the alternative, that I like the hectic pace of my life, and find it energizing.

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And then, a 16 year old girl from our old church died in a car accident on Sunday night – a girl we’d known since she was little – a sweet, talented young woman who should be the honoree at a graduation party instead of a funeral. On Monday, we found out that there’s going to be a wedding in the family – in Romania. On Tuesday afternoon, my mom ended up in the hospital with congestive heart failure – she’s been treated and is going to be fine, but it shook us all up. And on Wednesday, a dear young woman who I greatly admire – talented, beautiful, engaged to be married, just starting out in life, her whole future ahead of her – was killed in a car accident on snowy roads.

Zion 2013 Frost Close

Last Sunday, a friend from church who has 15 or 20 years on me told me, “Do it now. Once you get to be 50, things start to happen. So travel now. Have fun while you can, while there’s still time.” More good advice.

So… I’m off to start writing Sweet William, finish my edits on Shy Violet, and get my next murder mystery done – this one is called, A Taste of Murder – the Galloping Gourmet Gets the Trots – and it has to be done by March 7th. While I’m working, I’m thinking about my birthday card, and trying to figure out what relaxing and enjoying the fruits of my labor looks like for me.

Zion - bowed head

In the meantime, I am grateful to be alive, and to have had the chance to live out my life, to be loved, and to love. I am grateful for the privilege of living, and I intend to live every second to its fullest potential.

It makes you think, doesn’t it?

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By day, Sherrie Hansen operates the Blue Belle Inn B&B & Tea House and tries to be a good pastor’s wife. By night, she writes. Her novels, Shy Violet (coming soon), Blue Belle, Wild Rose, Thistle Down, Love Notes, Night & Day, Stormy Weather, Water Lily & Merry Go Round are available from SecondWindPublishing.com.

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Here it is! The answers you’ve been waiting for to the questions you didn’t know existed!

1) What am I working on? Now that Blue Belle has been released, I’ve been working on Shy Violet again. Shy Violet is my third Wildflowers of Scotland novel, and it takes place at Eilean Donan Castle and in Dorney, Scotland, on Loch Alsh, just before you get to the Isle of Skye. I started Shy Violet in November and am a little over half done – and loving it!

Blue Belle, a contemporary romance by Sherrie Hansen

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? There are two things that set my work apart from others in the romance or romantic suspense genre. One, my characters range in age from their early to late thirties to their mid-forties. My stories are second-chance at romance stories about characters who have been there, done that, maybe even been burned or badly hurt, and are brave enough to give love another go. Two, my stories contain a unique, real-life blend of typical Midwestern culture, family, and faith, and real, vulnerable, not perfect, messy people – which includes sometimes steamy, sexy scenes. My stories are character based, and since each character is different, so are their stories. As a result, my books are hard to classify, tend to mix elements of different sub-genres, and cross lines that some might not feel comfortable with (on both sides of the spectrum).

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3) Why do I write what I do?  I’ve always been a bit of a rebel, and shall we say, unique? I write what’s in my heart, and that includes characters who are as one of a kind as I am, stubborn but not afraid to change, and complex. My books have been called the thinking woman’s romance. I also write what I know, and tend to include elements like old-fashioned bicycles, a favorite quilt, Victorian or medieval architecture, ethnic foods, bed and breakfasts, or other funky things, places or props to make my stories fun. I am NOT my characters, but the way I think and feel about things is very much reflected in their responses and choices and reactions to the obstacles and dilemmas they encounter. When people say they don’t like my books, or the kind of books I write, I often think, then you really don’t like me.

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4) How does my writing process work?  I live in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart, and write on the run whenever I have a spare minute. If my husband is driving, I usually have my laptop propped on the door of the glove compartment, working on a scene. I don’t get much writing done in the summer, when my B&B is at its busiest, so I try to make up for it in the wintertime. Once I have my rough draft done, I do extensive editing and smoothing out, including writing my transition scenes, and at least one session of reading the book out loud.

 

Thanks to Dellani Oakes for nominating me! Please check out her blog and her answers to these questions at www.dellanioakes.wordpress.com.

I’m tagging two Iowa authors to carry on the blog tour:

Stephen L. Brayton, who I met at a booksigning last Sunday at La Vida Loca Winery in Indianola -www.stephenbrayton.com, www.stephenbrayton.wordpress.com, www.braytonsbookbuzz.wordpress.com
Author - Stephen L. Brayton
Stephen L. Brayton owns and operates Brayton’s Black Belt Academy in Oskaloosa, Iowa. He is a Fifth Degree Black Belt and certified instructor in The American Taekwondo Association.
He began writing as a child and has written numerous short stories both horror and mystery. His first novel, Night Shadows (Feb. 2011), concerns a Des Moines homicide investigator teaming up with a federal agent to battle creatures from another dimension. His second book, Beta (Oct. 2011) was the debut of Mallory Petersen and her search for a kidnapped girl. In August 2012, the second Mallory Petersen book, Alpha, was published. This time she investigates the murder of her boyfriend.
And, Jordyn Meryl, who I enjoyed getting to know at our last Writers Retreat at the Blue Belle Inn – http://facebook.com/jordyn.meryl
Jordyn’s Bio:  Once living under the guise of a passive, quiet, school librarian, books and kids were the passions which kept her mind fresh. One day she decided to spread her wings and live the dream of her heart. Sitting in front of her computer, her fingers bring to life the voices in her head. But it is when the night muses visit Jordyn, her spirit rises up to wrap around the stories that float in her dreams. Land locked in the mid-west she envisions days on a white sandy beach with a laptop to write all her tales. Crossing many genres she spins chronicles of romance, paranormal and fantasy, for they are stories worth telling, even at the risk of revealing true feelings. http://jordynmeryl.wordpress.com/

jordynmeryl.wordpress.com

I’ll admit that I occasionally dream that the book I’m writing might just be “The Next Big Thing”.
I’ve known fellow Second Wind author, Pat Bertram, for several years and admired her not only for her storytelling abilities but for her savvy social media and marketing skills. So when Pat offered to tag me in an ongoing blog chain, “The Next Big Thing”, in which authors get to talk about their current Work in Progress, I jumped at the chance.
If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I just took advantage of NaNoWriMo to complete the rough draft of my current work-in-progress and  that it’s set in Scotland – I’ve been posting photos from our trip to Scotland to help get me – and you – in the mood for a visit to one of the most beautiful, intriguing places on earth. Here are a few more details:
What is your working title of your book?
Wild Rose of Scotland
Where did the idea come from for the book?
A few years after I married my husband, who is a pastor, we went on a dream vacation to Scotland, where we stumbled upon a beautiful old church along Loch Awe called St. Conan’s Kirk. I was new to being a pastor’s wife, and having a lot of “eye-opening” experiences. In the midst of my “adjustment period”, Rose’s character came to life.
Scotland - Bagpipes
What genre does your book fall under?
Contemporary Romance
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
My husband, who has read snippets of Wild Rose, thinks Rose should be played by Kate Walsh from Private Practice. Although I’m not wild about her character or the role she plays in that show, she’s stunning, and looks the part. Emma Thompson’s quirky, upbeat personality and accent would make her a good match. I envision Ted as a young Sean Connery or Richard Chamberlain (think Thorn Birds) – or maybe Liam Neeson?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Can the church ladies of St. Conan’s forgive and forget Rose’s ill-advised romp with a common criminal when it’s  captured for all time on Pastor Ted’s surveillance video – more importantly, can he?
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Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
My publisher is Second Wind Publishing. Although they haven’t yet read the book or set a release date, I’m told they are eagerly awaiting the completion of my manuscript.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I’ve played with Wild Rose for the last 3 years and somehow managed to get 40,000 words written here and there along the way. I wrote the last 50,000 words in 30 days thanks to this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Theme-wise, I have no idea. I’m sure there are some, but I don’t know of anything similar. Although my book does not have the paranormal aspects hers does, I hope I’ve captured the Celtic cadence and voice even half as well as Nora Robert did in her Irish Jewels Trilogy – Jewels of the Sun, Tears of the Moon, and Heart of the Sea.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Since it was God who led me to my husband and”made me a pastor’s wife when I felt like I was probably the least suited, most unlikely person for the role, I would have to credit Him.  And, since God is also the master designer of this whole forgiving and forgetting concept… well, you get the idea.
Altered - Scottish Cottage
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Wild Rose is the first of a Wildflowers of Scotland trilogy and will be followed by Blue Belle of Scotland, set in the picturesque  village of Tobermory, on the Isle of Mull, and… I’m tossing around Shy Violet or Sweet William of Scotland. We’ll see what happens!
And now, I’d like to tag Maggie Rivers, the writer who’s trying to get you to buy her a shoe! A very big shoe…  Who will be agged next in “The Next Big Thing” blog chain?  Maybe you? Coming soon – more great authors! (How’s that for a cliff hanger?)

I decided to write about my online aura bright and early this morning. As I lay in bed, slowly waking up, I had the words all planned out… clever words, put together with onomatopoeia and alliteration and all kinds of good “stuff”.  And then my day began. My husband had an early morning doctor’s appointment at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. I tried to go back to sleep after he left, but the phone rang several times in a row. I took room reservations for my B&B for a total of 16 nights and started processing the paperwork. I found out a friend had just gotten out of the hospital – and I didn’t know she’d been in. I answered an email about a do-it-yourself murder mystery party. I checked my email, facebooked for a few minutes, then got another phone call reminding me to email some photos to my ad rep at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. I followed Kaila’s instructions,  had to resend one photo, and minutes later, proofed the ad. I had barely enough time for a quick shower and then it was off to the Blue Belle to fix lunch for several customers and throw together food, party games and prizes for Tanya’s baby shower. The party was a hit and Tanya liked the gift my husband picked out last night in the big city.  My husband and I climbed into the car as soon as it was over and headed for Thompson, where we scrubbed out the refrigerator, returned some folding chairs that mistakenly got moved to Hudson, and reclaimed a few odds and ends that didn’t make it into the moving trucks last weekend. While Mark finished up at the house and said a few last goodbyes, I and my portable keyboard went to Merle’s house with Mary Ann so the three of us could practice for my upcoming birthday / Blue Belle 20th anniversary party.  We drove the hour long drive home with a quick dinner stop at Subway in Lake Mills. Thank goodness they’re open until 10 p.m. Now, it’s after 11 p.m. and I and my aura are shot.

I was going to talk about the fact that some people have an encouraging online aura, others a humorous aura, and others still, an aura that’s sexy, cute or funky.  Some of my online friends have a bitter, cynical aura. Some come across as being crabby, complaining and whiny. Some have a faithful aura out of which shines a love for God and their fellow man. What kind of silent vibes do you transmit over the internet? Does your online aura personify the kind of person you are in real life, or do you use the internet as an opportunity to set your alter-ego free? If you met an online friend in real life, would they immediately recognize you?

Your words and the things you post, twitter, share and like, all make a statement about who you are – what’s important to you. In cyber space, all we have are words. Make each one count! Let your words shine with the essence of you!

If the subject of internet romance / relationship fascinates you like it does me, get a copy of my first book, Night and Day, and find out how a chance online meeting when it’s midnight in Minnesota and daybreak in Denmark transforms the lives of Jensen Marie Christiansen and Anders Westerlund.

My goal this morning was to write a blog that made me sound perky and pleasant… the kind of person you’d want to buy a book from. Instead, I probably sound exhausted – because I am! (But in the best way possible.) Keep smiling.

My life has changed drastically since I last blogged. My husband has resigned his call to the church where he’s been pastor for the last 11 years.  I knew his ministry there was coming to an end because of recent events within our church and the denomination that the church belongs to, but I did not know that it would happen so soon, or that it would be so sudden – or that the whole process of saying good-bye would be so painful.

One unfortunate consequence of this whole unfolding mess is that I have learned I am being cyber-stalked. Parts of my previous blogs, taken out of context, were read aloud at a church council meeting where my husband and I were then berated. This kind of thing hurts me deeply as a person and a writer.  I have always tried to be honest but discreet in my blog posts. My intention has never been to diss others, but to honestly express my own feelings about the impact of certain happenings and actions on me. I have never even thought a bad thing about the women who were upset with me. Quite the opposite! Knowing that my words were twisted and used against me, and my husband, is a horrible feeling.

So what to do from this point forward? Clam up? Shut down? Shut up? Stop writing at a time I most need to release my angst, vent my frustration, ask for prayers and gain support from friends and family, many of whom my only connection to is online?

I suspect I shouldn’t care what the people who criticized me because of what I wrote think of me (although I do), but a concern is that my husband is obviously looking for a new call, and I really, really don’t want to do anything to jeopardize his chances. But when I think of trying to live out the next however many years under a gag order, not able to say what I really think or be who I really am, is is so disheartening that I want to cry. Am crying.

A year and a half ago, I was in a group at Gather.com called Shedding Light, led by the wonderfully insightful Mariana T.  She asked us to make a list of the things we needed to shed, the things that are holding us back, and dragging us down. Among the things I listed were Clutter, Stress, Anxiety, Insecurity, Low Self-Esteem, Excess Weight, Inertia, Excessive Possessions,  Computer Games and other Time Wasters.

To the past and future church council members who may be reading this – there you have it. You now know all of my vices. Look no further. Dig no deeper. It’s all right here.

The sad thing, as I read this list, is that instead of shedding the things on the list, I seem to be attracting them like a magnet. I feel like I’m inside a huge snowball, gathering unwanted masses of the above items as I roll downhill. I feel like I’m about ready to hit a tree and explode into a million fragments of icy debris. I can’t concentrate.  I am terribly over-committed and way behind on everything, but I can’t seem to get anything done.

But maybe there is hope. I got my blog done, didn’t I?

Have you ever had Blog Fog – that sinking feeling that you have nothing blog-worthy to say?

That moment when you’re looking for the inspiration of a starburst and all you get is fizzle?

When you’re looking for a burst of life and all you get is thistles?

I’ve definitely been there… that moment when you’re craving bright sunshine, and what you get is a sunset in Death Valley…

When you’re convinced you’ll find crystal clear waters and all you see is rusty old crud…

When you desperately need a lighthouse to guide your way and what you see in front of you is a long, low, dark tunnel…

When you need a gushing waterfall of inspiration and all that bubbles up is mud.

Blog Fog is unlike Writer’s Block in that the words flow quite freely. But when you have Blog Fog, your brain is so bogged down in minutia that you can’t think of anything significant to say. It doesn’t work just to write, because all that comes out is drivel. There’s no comforting knowledge that you’ll re-write it twenty times before it goes to press anyway, so it doesn’t matter. When you blog, it’s out there immediately. As soon as you post it – and you have to, because it’s your day to blog – everyone will know that you’re not really brilliant after all, that your brain is just a pile of mush.

It’s hard to be clever when you’re under a lot of stress – when things are so busy at work that you’re putting in 12 hour days and still not making a dent in your pile of papers to file and things to be done. It’s difficult to think of a topic when a new first line for your book is running through your head and there are bills to pay and people coming for lunch and rooms to be cleaned and new employees who need to be told what to do.

But you have to try. You don’t want to gain a reputation as a difficult blogger – someone who misses their day or doesn’t attract the numbers the site is accustomed to. And you can forget about getting Freshly Pressed or Creating a Buzz, or getting Re-Tweeted or even Liked – not unless the fog clears.

You check your spam digest – maybe something will trigger an idea. Febreze Air Freshener… I’ll Help You… I Quit My Job and I’ve Never Been Happier. Hard to do when you own your own business. Although, there have been times I’ve been tempted. But maybe someday, someone will invent a pill that floods your brain with hard facts and novel ideas. It’s certainly possible.

Did you know that if you Google “blog ideas” you will get a list of helpful articles like “Need Ideas for Your Blog?”, “101+ Ideas That Will Make Your Blog Sizzle!”,  “12 Typical Blog Post Types to Kick Start Ideas”, “Blog Post Ideas That Generate Buzz”, “How to Create Viral Blog Posts”, and “Killer Blog Posts” will inundate your screen. Unfortunately, when you have Blog Fog, it’s going to take more than a bunch of stagnant, stodgy old lists to make the fog clear. What you need is a stiff breeze to blow the fog out to sea.

Maybe if I turned the ceiling fan on high…

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Daybreak – New Release! (Sequel to Night & Day)

Night and Day

Golden Rod

Sweet William

Shy Violet

Blue Belle

Wild Rose

Thistle Down

Love Notes

Stormy Weather

Water Lily

Merry Go Round

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