You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Isle of Mull’ tag.

Okay – I’ll be honest. Part of the reason I write contemporary romantic suspense as opposed to historical is that I don’t have the time or inclination to do research. It’s not that I don’t enjoy history or investigating the past. And it’s not that I’m lazy – really. It’s simply that I’m already stretched so thin that I simply don’t have time. I own and operate a B&B and Tea House called the Blue Belle Inn, and I’m a pastor’s wife in a different town, 85 miles away. I play the piano at church with a traveling band of musicians, and I’m very involved in the lives of my family. I write on the run whenever I have a spare second, often with my laptop propped on the door of the glove compartment while my husband drives us between our two homes. If I had to stop and do extensive research on a specific time period or worry about maintaining historical accuracy, I’m convinced I’d never finish anything.

BBI - Spring 2012  Zion 2013 Sunset shadows

To keep things simple, I try to write about locations I’ve been to or lived in, and occupations or fields I’ve worked in or been trained to do. I’m less likely to make silly mistakes that way. I’ve had characters who are Realtors (I’m licensed in the state of Colorado), interior designers, quilters, farmers, pastors, home renovators, and business owners in Minnesota, Iowa, California and Colorado – all things and places that are intimately familiar to me. No matter – it still takes an immense amount of time to research and validate facts, even for familiar scenarios.

Iowa - sunset 2010

Part of the problem is that my characters somehow seem to acquire minds of their own. Tommy Love giving up on building his dream house in northern Minnesota and buying a beachfront property in central California in “Love Notes” is one good example of a character who went traipsing off in different directions, pulling “my” story and stretching “my” plotline to include things that I never would have thought of on my own, and attempting actions and activities I’d never dare try. What could I do? I was invariably forced to follow his lead, searching for those tidbits of knowledge I was lacking to keep the story grounded and authentic.

Cal - Rachel SS

When I started writing “Blue Belle”, I had never been to Tobermory or the Isle of Mull, or even Scotland. When I finally set foot on the island, I had a strange sense of déjà vu because I was already so well acquainted with the place via the internet. One night, while I was sitting on a bench near the harbor, a woman walked by that looked exactly like I’d always envisioned Isabelle, my main character. It was eerie! I also had to change an entire scene that had Isabelle blithely scooting around Mull on her bicycle when I discovered how hilly the island is. It’s a very steep climb from the harbor street to the top of the hill where our B&B was!

67 Scotland - Tobermory 5

Scoping out a location is only the beginning. I spent almost an entire day researching European chocolates for Blue Belle. When I was in Mull, I even had to go to Tobermory Chocolates to taste their famous Rose and Violet Cream Chocolates. You know, so I could describe them accurately. I had to take tea at the Willow Tea Room in Glasgow, try Victoria Sponge with buttercream and berries and Mini-Battenbergs layered with almond paste, moist cake, and apricot jam, and sample Sticky Toffee Pudding with Caramel Whiskey Sauce.  Not that it stops with the sweets. I had to taste pub grub – things like Cumberland Mash and Cottage Pie with  Thatched Roof  and Smoked Haddock Pie with Mashed Potatoes – at locations all over Scotland. And, I had to stay at several B&B’s so I could experience an authentic Scottish breakfast. Yes, we authors are forced to spend our time laboring over many such unsavory tasks. I spent a huge amount of time looking for Scottish slang, phrases, and speech idioms that would define and give depth and reality to my characters and their conversations, yet be understandable to the average American reader. I researched castles and keeps, Cromwell’s practice of slighting, and the art of building with stones in both Scotland and Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

73 Scotland - Tobermory Chocolate

Isabelle is a journalist, so part of my research involved investigating the facts behind each of the stories she was working on in the book, from Mad Cow and hoof and mouth to puffins and vultures, a Celtic bathing pool, and the centuries-old gold some people believe is still buried on a sunken Spanish galleon in Tobermory Bay.

82 Scotland Bathing Pool

The thing I like least about research is that I’ve already learned some things the hard way, which, sadly, means I already know everything I need to know about them without doing a single Google search. The thing I love most about researching is that once you start looking for specific answers to certain questions, you discover amazing things that lead you in completely new directions that then become fodder for your plot, and on and on in an explosive chain reaction of knowledge. It’s fascinating!

WI2 - Thistle

One of the things I’ve always loved about reading books is the new worlds that are opened up to me as I see a place or situation through the eyes of each character. Being an author has stretched me even more. Research can seem like a necessary evil at times, and a thrill at others. But no matter how hectic my schedule is or how bad my attitude about having to jump out of the story and take the time to chase down facts and figures, research is a great opportunity to learn more things, broaden your perspective, and see the world in a different light.

117 Scotland Castle Statue

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

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.

IMG_9551

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.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Belle Front Cover Draft

 

Blue Belle should be available shortly! I will have copies to sell by next Tuesday, and I”ll keep you posted on the online availability as I hear updates, but in the meantime, I wanted you to see the beautiful cover. The photo is of Duart Castle, Isle of Mull, Scotland, where Blue Belle takes place. I will forever remember the day I photographed it, and the brilliant blue of the sky. I’m so excited that Blue Belle is finally in print, and that everything has come together so perfectly.

 

 

Books - Scotland Promo

 

 

I suppose I shouldn’t be waxing on about Scotland on a day that belongs to the Irish, but it is what it is. I’m lucky enough to have visited Scotland. Ireland is on my bucket list, and when it happens, I’ll write about it. I hope it’s soon!

Blue Belle Promo Poem

Blue Belle was the first novel I set in Scotland, although in the release date queue,  it follows Thistle Down (a novella) and Wild Rose. An editor first planted the seed in my mind to write a book set in Scotland. I was at a conference sponsored by the Romance Writer’s of America pitching books set in southern Minnesota and Iowa, and the editor I met with told me that people flock to buy books set in Scotland. By that time in my life, I’d visited England twice and fallen in love with all things British Isles, so it didn’t take much nudging to point me in that direction.

Scotland - Tobermory 5

 

I started to research Scotland online and stumbled onto the Isle of Mull, and the village of Tobermory because it’s known for its weddings. And, they have a rainbow-colored waterfront whose buildings are reflected in the water. And, they have a chocolate factory, and castles galore, mountains, and white sandy beaches. And, there is a centuries old legend about a Spanish galleon, filled with gold, that sunk in the bay back in 1588 that was never recovered (although several attempts have been made.) In my mind, that covered all the necessary ingredients for a great story.

Scotland - Celtic Cross

 

The rough draft of Blue Belle was nearly finished by 2007, when I got to visit Tobermory and the Isle of Mull in person. By that time, I felt like I knew the Island intimately, since I’d been “living there” in my mind for months. It was more than a dream come true. I had a strong sense of deja vu as I wandered around the harbor and saw Duart, Torosay and Glengorm castles for the first time.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]  Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]

It was on that same trip that my husband and I stumbled across St. Conan’s Kirk on Loch Awe. This old church was another case of love at first sight. My mind started reeling the second I rounded the hedge of rosy rhododendrons and saw the stone spires and awesome views. It’s definitely not the biggest or most grand cathedral in Scotland – more of a country church, really. But the crumbling steps and flying buttresses and angelic stained glass windows, and the copper, rabbit-shaped drain spout drew me in immediately, captured my imagination and inspired Wild Rose and Thistle Down.

Wild Rose - tag line

Shy Violet? I got the most beautiful photo of a totally gorgeous bagpipe player standing in front of the Eilean Donan castle, playing a haunting melody. I decided then and there that it was going to be on the cover of one of my novels.

Scottish Bagpipe player 5

The Wildflowers of Scotland concept? I bought a deck of cards at a gift shop titled the Wildflowers of Scotland. Among the cards were Wild Rose, Bluebell, Shy Violet, and Sweet William.

Sweet William

 

I have no idea if there will ever be a book called Sweet William, but last summer, I started seeing the flowers everywhere after not noticing that variety of flowers in any garden I’m aware of for decades. That must mean something. The wheels are turning.

WI2 - Thistle

 

Whether you love Scotland already or will one day, whether you’ve already visited Scotland in person or just imagined it in your mind’s eye, I hope you’ll come along for the journey.  Thistle Down and Wild Rose are available from Second Wind Publishing or your favorite online bookstore now. Blue Belle should be out this May. Shy Violet is half done, so you shouldn’t have to wait long. Although there are recurring characters throughout the novels, the plot lines and stories are unrelated – each one a new adventure.

13 Scotland - Band in Kilts

How hard is it for you to trust someone you’ve just met? And should you? Can new friendship and new loves happen without trust? Blue Belle, coming soon from Second Wind Publishing.

Blue Belle Promo Poem

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?  Blue Belle by Sherrie Hansen. Coming soon from Second Wind Publishing.

 

 

 

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Wild Rose

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