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Today, I had the opportunity and pleasure of updating my novel, Love Notes, before its re-release from Indigo Sea Press. Love Notes is one of my favorites. I’m very proud of it just the way it is, but it was fun to be able to make a good book even better.

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Love Notes is set in Embarrass, in the far north of Minnesota, which among other claims to fame, is know for being the coldest place in the lower 48 states. Embarrass fell to 64 degrees below zero in 1996.

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In the article Finding Embarrass, I learned that the word Embarrass is French for obstacle. The realization only convinced me anew that Embarrass was the perfect setting for Love Notes. Just as many obstacles – inopportune cold weather being a common denominator – deterred the Finns who settled Embarrass, Hope and Tommy faced a multitude of conflicting goals and stumbling blocks that had to be overcome before their relationship began to heat up.

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Logistically speaking, I changed several of the last names of secondary characters to Finnish surnames, and added a bit or two about the wonderful Finnish saunas that Embarrass is known for. And of course, my more mature writer’s eyes spotted a few tiny changes that also needed to be made in the text. Hopefully I’ve taken Love Notes from good to better to the best!

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Love Notes will be available as a new release from Indigo Sea Press in a week or two. If you haven’t already read it, I hope you will. Love Notes has no steamy scenes, but plenty of passion. Don’t be deterred in your search on Amazon, as the book was originally published under my married name, Sherrie Hansen Decker, but is now listed by Sherrie Hansen.

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If I haven’t already intrigued you, here’s what a couple Amazon readers said about Love Notes:

“This is a great story to curl up with and be nice and warm while you read about folks who are battling the cold… the frozen lake… the snow storm… the heartless banker… all while finding love in all sorts of different places and sometimes in surprising ways. Sherrie Hansen will keep you turning the pages as you are drawn in for a marvelous journey of two people discovering first of all themselves – their weaknesses, but also their strengths – and, inevitably, each other.”

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“Sherrie Hansen has given her readers another gift from her heart with Love Notes. Although much of the story is set in a frigid Minnesota winter, sparks fly between Hope Anderson, a widow and Tommy Love, an aging pop star. The book jump starts with a suspenseful water rescue and I was caught up in both the ensuing struggles and the growing romantic relationship between Hope and Tommy against the backdrop of the their opposing life visions and unexpected growing attraction. Add to that an unsavory backwoods man, and the financial problems Hope is working to resolve and it is a page turner with a heartwarming ending. Thanks, Sherrie Hansen!”

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“Sherrie describes the setting so well that I could see and feel the near frozen temperatures and the cold water of the Lake. I could see the fog coming off the water and feel the fear of the character as they struggle to start the boat that is stranded on the Lake. I could feel the coldness in the air so much that I went outside and read the next few chapters just to get warm again.”

“An opening scene with winter coming, a dark storm brewing on the lake, paints assumptions that time will surely pull apart… And two great characters, both proudly, fiercely independent, slowly learn to see through different eyes. Forgiveness of others and self, acceptance of unwelcome advice, and finding what to stay true to when others guide you away, all these and more form a backdrop to Hope’s desire to keep Rainbow Lodge afloat and Tommy Love’s search for a song to revive his life and career.

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Meanwhile each is freed from the past as God writes his Love Notes on their hearts, through song, through beauty, through faithful community, and through hope. The balance of finance and tradition in small towns is complicated. As well, “It’s complicated when two mature adults go into a relationship,” as one of the characters says. But complications can be anchored on solid ground and new life can be forged. This story kept me glued to the page, never knowing how I wanted the tale to end, but always sure the author would end it well. After all, she’s very clearly listening to the author of our lives as she writes these lives–Christian fiction indeed, where honest humanity meets heavenly hope.”

 

Tommy Lubinski of Tommy Love and the Love Notes fame, the somewhat unlikely hero of my new book, LOVE  NOTES, is a fading star whose heart has been trampled on so many times that it’s frozen solid. Although he’s enjoyed fortune and fame, he can’t find the words – or the heart – to write a new song. Probably because he has no hope, joy or peace. Or faith. Tommy thinks that building his dream house on the shores of  Rainbow Lake so he can sit on his new deck and bask in one of the most beautiful views in all of northern Minnesota, his childhood home, will inspire him to create again.

What Tommy wants to write is punk – or hip hop, so that his new hit will appeal to a younger listener. That way, his legacy will live on in the hearts of a new generation. But once he meets Hope Anderson, the original old-fashioned girl, all he can seem to think about – or write – are love songs about Hope. As God was working in Tommy Love’s heart – and mine – while writing this book, a song came to me / him…

I was so deep into Tommy Love’s character when the song came to be, that it truly felt like Tommy Love wrote it. For the past few years, we’ve sung it during the Christmas season at the church where my husband was pastor. The first time Mark printed up the words to put in the church bulletin, he asked if I wanted it to say, “Written by Sherrie Hansen”, my maiden name, and the name under which I’d written 4 novels, or “Written by Sherrie Decker”, my married name, since that was how everyone at church knew me. Without thinking, I responded, “I didn’t write it. Tommy Love did.”

Mark smiled and said, “I wouldn’t tell that to too many people if I were you.” You authors will know what I mean. In my mind, the song truly was a love note written by Tommy Love, with a heart newly melted around the edges, to Hope. And to God.

That’s where the song Hope, Joy, Peace and Love came from. You can hear the music at Gather.com if you click here. Below, I’d like to share my thoughts – some of which came from getting to know Tommy Love – on each of the four words in the title.

Hope, Joy, Peace, Love

Gentle blessings from above.

A rainbow bright, a starry night

To warm our hearts – the gift of light.

Hope, Joy, Peace, Love

A star to follow from above.

Shining brightly in the night

To warm our hearts – the gift of light.

Hope, Joy, Peace, Love

The Son of God from heaven above

came down to us on Christmas night

To warm our hearts – the gift of light.

Hope – I don’t know about you, but on many occasions, I’ve given up hope – hope of ever feeling good again, hope of ever being slender and healthy, hope of ever being happy, hope of finding someone to love, of being loved. I start out at least a little hopeful, but if things don’t come together fairly quickly, just the way I think they should – the way I HOPE they will, then I lose hope. Maybe depression is the opposite of hope, looking down instead of up. So how does a mid-aged woman who knows that things are probably just going to keep getting worse from here on out, have and hold on to hope? In Ephesians 3:20, the Bible says, “By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope” and in Romans 15:4, “For whatever was written was given to us for our learning, that through patience and comfort of the scriptures we might have hope.

Joy – To me, joy is the most elusive of emotions. The older and wiser and more cynical I get, the harder it is to attain any semblance of it. Joy is not synonymous with happiness, or pleasure, or feeling good. It is so much more than that. I know, because on rare occasions, I have experienced it. Most recently, I’ve seen it in the eyes, heard it in the squeals of my little nieces and nephews, so quickly lost, so hard to capture. Joy is like a hummingbird, flitting around us at lightening speed, teasing us, taunting us, because we are just too slow and encumbered by burdens to get more than a glimpse. But God says of joy, “Those who sow in tears will reap a harvest of joy; for though they may weep while going forth to plant their seed, if they persevere, they will undoubtedly return rejoicing—bringing their sheaves with them. (Psalms 126:5-6). And in John 15:11, after telling his disciples that they need to keep his commandments and abide in his love, Jesus says, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

Peace – Hard as I try to keep my life, my household and my business organized, there is so much chaos surrounding me that lately, it has become possible. I struggle with anxiety and come from a long line of “fretters and stewers”. Unfortunately, my wild imagination – the same one that makes me a good writer – adds fuel to the fire. The same “what if” exercise I use when I’m coming up with my stories has often kept me up at night, as I imagine the worst and worry about what will happen if I’m right. God’s peace is the only answer to the chaos of the world… another of those things that I can’t possibly control or conquer on my own. If you’re going to have lasting peace – peace that sticks with you through the bumpiest of rides, you need to find it at the feet of Jesus. Here’s what He says about peace in John 14:27:  “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Love – I do know that people love me – my husband, my parents, my brothers and sisters (well, most of them), my nieces and nephews, and friends – but we all know that human love is fallible.  We’ve all had broken hearts, we’ve been betrayed, we’ve lost at love. What we really want – need – is unconditional love. And the older I get, the more disillusioned with the world I am, the more I realize that the only place we’re likely to find true love is in Jesus. John 3:16 talks about a love that is unparalleled:  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Now that’s true love.

So it turns out that Tommy Love and I hadn’t only been looking for love in all the wrong places, we’d been looking for hope, joy and peace in the wrong places, too. The world is full of wonderful things, but nothing can and will satisfy our restless souls like God’s gifts to us. Hope, joy, peace, love, gentle blessings from above. So keep looking up – the rainbow bright, the starry night will guide you and remind you that it is He alone who can give us the treasures we seek -hope, joy, peace and love. If you don’t know Him, all you have to do is look in His Word – it’s a lamp unto your feet and a guide to unto your way.

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