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Here in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota, we’ve been snowed in by a blizzard for the last few days. For two days, we were completely cut off from the rest of the world by 6 and 7 foot high drifts up and down our road. Now that the plows have come through, there are walls of snow 8 or 9 feet high on either side of the road, and the drifts that haven’t been already been blasted away are as hard as cement. Our temperatures heading into the month of March are forecast to be in the single digits, so there’s no sign of a spring thaw anytime soon.

Blizzard photo 2On Sunday, church was cancelled for the first time in decades, and I’ve been totally discombobulated ever since, wondering what day it is and awakening in the night thinking it’s time to get up and play the piano. Our schools have had 10 snow days in less than a month and at the rate we’re going, they may be making up days until the 4th of July.

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Not to complain… our electricity has stayed on and we have heat. We had plenty of warning that the storm was on its way so we were able to get where we needed to be before the weather turned the roads to glare ice and stock up on food to eat while we were snowed in.  Thank goodness!

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Is it just me, or do you get hungry for good old-fashioned comfort foods when something in your life isn’t going quite right?  This weekend, I’ve had meatloaf, home-grown sausage, egg salad sandwiches, and raisin cinnamon bread with a lot of smooth, creamy butter spread on top – and a lot of wonderful cheeses because I was supposed to have a cheese tasting party (it also fell victim to the blizzard).

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I have a lot of other foods that I associate with warm, cozy feelings – chocolate chip cookie dough (well, any kind of cookie dough), Grandma Hansen’s chicken pie with baking powder biscuits on top, homemade apple pie, Skippy Super Chunk peanut butter and butter sandwiches… I could go on… This is part of the reason I struggle with my weight.  But my point is that food does a great job of  soothing frazzled emotions and making us happy. So do books, and they’re a lot less fattening!

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Reading a favorite book can take you back to happier, less stressful times. Books can transport you to another part of the world, a different era in time, or an altogether unique universe where fantasy reigns. In a well-woven story, dreams can come true. The characters in a wonderful book can reassure you that things could be worse – that your life and your problems aren’t half bad after all. A good novel can help you to dream again, to move forward and keep trying when your own world seems hopeless.

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Books can fill your heart with hope. They can uplift you and make you laugh. They can provide a quick escape from the harsh realities of life and renew your perspective.

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That’s why I like reading a good book when I’m stranded in a blizzard, trying to relax, or feeling anxious and overwhelmed by what’s going on in my life.

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My love for books helped shape my business, a bed and breakfast and country inn called the Blue Belle Inn, just as my passion for good food has. If you come to visit, you’ll find rooms named Never Neverland, On the Banks of Plum Creek, Secret Garden, Anne’s House of Dreams, A Wrinkle in Time, and Heaven to Betsy from Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy Tacy books. I’m a writer because Betsy Ray was, and if Laura Ingalls Wilder could make it through the Long Winter, then I can survive these horrible winds and snowstorms we keep having.

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If you’re an avid reader, you know exactly what I mean. If you haven’t picked up a book in awhile – I urge you to give reading a second chance. Whether you need comforting or calming, perking up or settling down, a good book can help. Hopefully, it will bring a smile to your face and a song to your heart.  Cookie dough might give you a momentary lift, but reading can change your life.

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I grew up in a home where we were taught “If you can’t find something nice to say about something, don’t say anything at all.” This bit of wisdom seemed like good advice then – and still does now.

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But somewhere along the way, the world changed, and now, everybody’s a critic. I see it on shows like Chopped, The Taste, The Voice, and Dancing with the Stars, where judges nitpick over tiny imperfections, and criticize and compare what the contestants bring to the table ad nauseam.

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I grew up in a world where there were defined winners, but doing your best, and working as hard as you could to be the best you could be, was both admirable and praiseworthy.

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The generation that followed mine strayed in the direction of skipping rankings altogether, of not giving any grades beyond a satisfactory rating, and passing out participation ribbons instead of purple, blue, red and white. They didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or damage anyone’s fragile self-esteem. Now, we’ve gone so far in the opposite direction – we’re so hyper competitive – that it’s scary. Nothing’s ever good enough. It’s all about being the best, better than, a notch above, a perfect 10, a fraction of a point ahead of the other competitors.

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Even more frightening is the fact that we routinely ditch the opinions of qualified judges, food critics, teachers and editors along with their years of experience and training, instead opting to give the vote to ordinary Joes. We vote to save the contender we like the best with live tweets and text messages and special apps. We, the people, hold the power.

BBI Spring 2012

Consumers make decisions on which books to read, which hotel, B&B, or restaurants to stay at or eat at based on what unaccredited strangers post on Yelp, Trip Advisor, or Angie’s List. We review people’s performance on eBay and Airbnb. We rate products and services on Amazon.com and e-pinions and hundreds of other websites. Some of these posts are honest, genuine, thoughtfully written assessments. But there are also overly harsh reviews from drama queens, people trying to get hits, whiners, complainers, obnoxious know-it-alls and yes, liars. And we listen to them, take their advice to heart, and chart our course of action based on what they say.

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These days, every time I walk into my kitchen at the B&B and tea house I own and operate, I feel like I’m on an episode of Chopped… the stress, the clock ticking down, the feeling that if I don’t deliver a product that’s not only beyond reproach, but exemplary – in record time – I will be chopped from the list of restaurants my clients frequent and recommend. Is it just my imagination, or are my customers picking apart every detail of my culinary efforts, second guessing my choice of cheeses, the seasoning I used on my chicken breasts, and the amount of Parmesan I sprinkle on top of my casseroles? Did one flavor overpower another? Did I plate too hurriedly? Did I commit any one of a multitude of culinary sins when I envisioned and created my menu?

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I’ve had far more complimentary reviews than bad when it comes to my B&B and tea house, and my books, but every negative comment is like a dagger in my heart, sometimes because the remarks are unfair, untrue, and unjust, and other times, sadly, because what my critics have written is a valid criticism.

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Our expectations are so high, our standards so close to perfection that it’s almost impossible to please. I’ve read a few early works of my favorite, big-name authors and found in many cases that the writing is amateurish, lacking in basic writing skills, and what would generally be considered sub-standard in today’s world. To be frank, there is no way these books would ever be published in today’s hyper-critical world. And what a tragedy that would have been, to shoot them down before they had a chance to grow and bloom and shine.

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Is there a place in today’s world for a thin-skinned, people-pleasing author/restaurateur/ innkeeper who craves positive attention and compliments? My husband gets a yearly performance review – I get one every time someone opens one of my books or eats at my tea house or stays at my B&B. And the thing is, there’s not a pillow or mattress or book on earth that will please everyone, because some like it hot, and some like it cold, or firm or soft, or spicy or mild, or big or small. And no matter how wonderful our stories are, not everyone is going to resonate with our characters or get into our plot line.

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I was told early on that you had to have thick skin to survive as an author. I was also told that it takes 10 positive comments to make up for one negative. I get hundreds of verbal compliments and affirmations every week, in person, and on social media. Why is it that the people with complaints never seem to speak to you directly, or give you a chance to correct the problem, but instead, chose to publicly humiliate and damage your reputation online? And why is it that those dear people who pay me compliments tend to do it privately instead of shouting it from the rooftops, as I would selfishly prefer?

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What I’d like to suggest is that we all learn to look on the bright side. No situation – no traveling, dining or reading experience – is perfect. Most generally, the flaws lie in things that are beyond our control. Not to say that we shouldn’t speak up if something is grievously wrong, but in each situation we’re faced with, we have an option of focusing on the negative or the positive. If you choose the positive and look for the bright spots, the silver lining, and the good that can be found, you will be happier by far. So will I. 🙂 The negative? Try letting those irksome little foibles roll off your back. If you can’t find something good to say, then say nothing at all.

Now, if you have something good to say about me, my books, my tea house or my B&B, please consider posting a positive review at whatever online sites you frequent. In this Chopped world, the gift of praise is so appreciated, and much needed. Ever so humbly… Sherrie

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Blue Belle is now available in paperback and electronic versions! Here are some links: Kindle http://amzn.com/B00K33ND3K – Smashwords (any e-format including Nook) https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/434398 – Amazon Paperback http://amzn.com/B00K33ND3K – Second Wind Publishing http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/product_info.php?products_id=241 . I have copies of all three books at the Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House and I’ll be at La Vida Loca Winery in Indianola, IA on Sunday from 1 – 5 p.m. for a book signing.

Blue Belle Front Cover Draft

Blue Belle is the 2nd of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels, following Thistle Down (a short prequel novella) and Wild Rose.

Books - Scotland Promo

From the back cover:  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 the bay, it won’t matter what walls they’re hiding behind. Rocks will fall. Castles will crumble. No secrets will be safe.

Blue Belle - promo jump

I’m going to be signing copies of Thistle Down, Wild Rose, and – hot off the press – Blue Belle, on May 4th at La Vida Loca Winery in Indianola, IA. Please join me and the other Iowa authors listed below for a taste of wine and some delectable stories, too. May 4th in Indianola, Iowa. Please stop by and say hello if you’re in the area! 

Books - wine flyer Apr 2nd

I know many authors who keep their characters’ bedroom doors tightly closed, some because it’s dictated by their publishers, or because they’re writing Christian fiction or want their books to be appropriate for all ages. Some writers simply don’t feel comfortable going there for a multitude of personal reasons. Others abstain because it – or in this case, a lack of it – fits the story. Perhaps their characters just aren’t in a place where they’re thinking about or engaging in sex.  Other authors are known for their erotic sex scenes – or as one friend from a writer’s group I belong to recently said, writing books that are “a never-ending sexual romp”.

Wild Rose - tag line

Likewise, some readers have strong preferences when it comes to closing the bedroom door or keeping it open. While I sincerely respect those who don’t want to fill their heads with gratuitous sex or violence, I get irritated with people who assume that just because a novel is labeled romance, it’s a bodice ripper or akin to Fifty Shades of Grey. In other cases, the only reason people even read books is for the sex. That’s fine with me, too.  We all have different passions and personalities. We read for different reasons – to relax, to be inspired, to better ourselves, to be entertained or to re-infuse our lives with hope – all perfectly valid.

Scotland - Bagpipes

Scottish Bagpipe player 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just like people are different, so are characters. Some of the characters I’ve written desperately want to have sex, but can’t or won’t for whatever reason. Others think about it all the time, but never have the opportunity. Some leap in with both feet, others shy away. Some are too busy with more important things, others just don’t get what the big deal is. Some do, and then wish they hadn’t. Others pay grim consequences for a few moments of pleasure that were probably far more disappointing than satisfying.

Scotland Bashful Rose Rose - rose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, if I had to put a label or heat index on my books, it would have to be “all over the place”.  Some of my books, like Night and Day or Water Lily, have sweet, tender love scenes, definitely on the mild side by today’s standards. Love Notes, which was originally targeted to a Christian fiction market, has no sex scenes, but does contain a few thoughts of sex. I’m told Stormy Weather is my steamiest novel to date. Wild Rose has adult themes, but only one very mild, “feel-good”  sex scene between a newly married couple.

So here it is – be warned – Blue Belle, which is soon to be released, has one sex scene. One advance reader called it the hottest sex scene ever.  I can’t tell you exactly why it’s there, or why your heart will break when you find out what happens the next morning, without giving too much away, except to say that Blue Belle is about trust and betrayal, and being naked and vulnerable, and how scary that is, because we all have to tear down the walls we build around our hearts if we want to find love, but it’s so hard to know who’s telling the truth and who’s lying, and when it’s safe to let down your guard and bare your soul – maybe even your body. Or not.

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As always, there may be those who judge me because I’m a Christian and a pastor’s wife, and “how could I?” And yes, a few of my ancestors would probably roll over in their graves if they ever read such a thing. And in spite of all that, or because of it, I wholly endorse the scene for reasons I think you will understand when you read the book. I’m proud of every page of this book and can’t wait for you all to read Blue Belle.  (My husband has also read it, and he’s proud of me, too.)

So, there it is.  Beware — or, order your advance copy now. I think you’ll love Blue Belle. If you choose not to read it, you’ll miss what’s very probably my best book yet. I’m still fond of the the reviewer who called my books, “the thinking woman’s romance”. Because, in addition to the occasional, still mild, comparatively speaking, sex scenes that sometimes crop up in my novels, books by Sherrie Hansen are knit together with intelligent characters in adverse circumstances struggling with real-life issues. They’re lovingly shaped with conflict and joy and heartache, compassion and suspense, intimate moments and lots of trouble – but always, a happy ending. And occasionally, sex happens. And when it does, because it has a huge impact on the lives of the characters, and because it forever changes who they are and how they view the world and themselves, I wouldn’t dream of not taking you along on the journey.

Sherrie Hansen has written 6 books and 1 novella, soon to be 7, all published by Second Wind Publishing. You can purchase Night and Day, Stormy Weather, Water Lily, Merry Go Round, Love Notes, Thistle Down (FREE at Smashwords or 99 cents elsewhere – how can you go wrong?), Wild Rose, and very soon, Blue Belle, as paperback or e-book formats at Smashwords.com, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, selected independently owned stores,  The Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House, or directly from Second Wind.

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Seaside Daisy – NEW RELEASE

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

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