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The excitement and bright lights of the holiday season have come and gone, and for me, the temptation to hunker down, eat a lot of fattening food, and hibernate for the rest of the winter is strong. If I’m not careful, dreary winter days, void of sunshine, can lull me into a lazy, lackadaisical mode that can last half the year. So I’m here today to challenge you – and me, too. There’s a rhythm to writing, and it’s time to get in sync!

Winter BBI wind

 

Because I live in the upper Midwest, my New Year starts out much like the Wizard of Oz – in black and white. Long nights, winter snow, fog, and ice, and shades of gray, overcast skies dominate our landscape. But the flipside is, the slow, boring days of January are a great time to start a new book or finish editing your old one. Like Dorothy, I spend my days dreaming of colorful characters and enchanted places, typing black words on a white screen to create worlds where flowers are blooming and the sunshine is golden.

Food - cookies

February is a time of romance. At my B&B, we lavish our customers with red strawberries dipped in chocolate fondue, seafood served in scallop shells on puff pastry hearts, and steaks topped with herbs de Provence and Roquefort cream. Yes, romance. You know what to do. Take a long soak in a bubble bath, let yourself dream a little, and start writing.

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March brings the winds of change. March is a time of new life – daffodils, kites and newborn lambs. But March is full of false starts and hopes dashed – thin crusts of ice with rushing water underneath, Easter snowstorms, cuteness and treachery all rolled into one. Sounds like the perfect time to hatch a plot, doesn’t it?

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With April showers and May flowers, come refreshment and a rainbow of colors. Rinse the cobwebs out of your mind and let yourself participate in the rebirth of the earth. Write with newly kindled passion. Step back, let go, and allow your characters to spring to life. Follow them and see where they take you.

Flower - Yellow lily

June and July are colored with the vibrant greens, pinks, purples, and yellows of summer. Hot and steamy, summer is filled with fireworks and fizzled relationships and a heightened sense of being. Let the hazy, lazy days of summer infuse your novel with short-term craziness. No need to commit to a specific plot. Just run with it. Feel the cool breezes – really feel them. Let yourself get a little sultry.

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Depending on where you live, August or September is a time of re-structuring. We’re forced to buckle down, go back to our studies, and get serious about finishing our summer projects. September is a month when forced disciplines and alarm clocks dominate out lives. What better time to start out fresh, wake up early and get an extra hour of writing worked into the schedule?

From camera December 2015 090

The brilliant reds and oranges of October are a last hurrah that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Get your fill of color – and write – all you can. For the past several years, I’ve tried to have my novel half done by the end of October in hopes of being able to finish the rough draft during NaNoWriMo. Because my goal is to release one book a year, I have the first 10 months of the year to write the first half of the book. The end of the year is drawing near. Let October’s brilliance propel you into high gear. Do whatever you need to do to stay on track.

ShyViolet Final Front Cover

By the time November rolls around, I’m ready for the challenge of writing 1667 words a day to write 50,000 words in November. I wrote large portions of Love Notes, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, and Shy Violet in November because of NaNoWriMo. There’s no time to edit, rewrite or perfect. Just get the words on the paper. No matter how crazy or erratic your schedule, just get it done. There’s plenty of time to get picky come December or January.

BBInn - PC Tree 2010

December is a prelude to winter, a time to tie up loose ends. Give your readers the gift of yourself, shining through the pages of your novel. December can be exhilarating, or for some, a downer. But there’s no need to drown in the dismal, sometimes depressing days. Let your writing be your Star in the East. Save on therapy sessions and write your heart out. Take those horrid or hilarious family gatherings and craft them into a scene. Make lemonade.

Books - Scotland Promo

And then, because you’re in the groove, the rhythm repeats. You get with the beat. Yes, Virginia, there is a time for every season. I do my edits and rewrites in December, January and February so I can send my manuscript to my publisher in March. They typically have it ready for release in July. For me, it’s a good rhythm. Write no matter what’s going on around you, and in a matter of time, the cycle of writing will come full circle.

Twenty-four years ago, Sherrie Hansen rescued a dilapidated Victorian house from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a B&B and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn. Sherrie and her husband, Mark, who is a pastor, live in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart. Sherrie writes murder mysteries and novels whenever she’s not working at her B&B or trying to be a good pastor’s wife. Her contemporary romantic suspense novels include Night and Day, Love Notes, and Thistle Down, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, and Shy Violet, her Wildflowers of Scotland novels. Watch for Sweet William coming soon! You can see what’s she’s up to at: 

https://www.facebook.com/SherrieHansenAuthor/ 

https://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/

www.BlueBelleInn.com

https://twitter.com/SherrieHansen

https://www.pinterest.com/sherriebluebell/

Sunset - Zion

Those of you who follow me on Facebook know that my husband and I recently lost the tree in front of the parsonage where we live in Hudson, Iowa.

Zion - Tree 14 branch

So what is it about losing this tree that traumatized me? In the strictest sense, this tree wasn’t even mine, since our church owns our house and our yard. I’ve only lived here for two years. It’s not as though I grew up with this tree.  I have no idea who planted it and I didn’t even know it existed until recently.

Zion - tree

But we had a special bond, this tree and I.  I started admiring its beauty and photographing it even before I knew its days were numbered.

Zion - Tree 14

Once its great arms began to sag and its trunk wasn’t able to endure the stress of blizzards and winds and storms, I tried my best to memorialize it.

Zion 2014 Tree 2

Our Church council president has already promised to plant a new tree come spring.

Zion 2014 Tree

The wind is howling again tonight, and I am secretly glad that there are no more creaking and cracking, rubbing and splintering noises outside my window.

Zion 1-14 Tree

The men who took the tree said it wouldn’t have stood much longer. I was afraid it was going to fall on the house. It is good that it is gone.

Zion - 2013 Sunset

It’s branches will provide warmth for several families next winter.  It’s wood will not go to waste. Small comfort, but something.

Zion - 2014 cold house

Our house looks lonely and bare without the tree, and sunsets are just not the same. But I know it was the right thing to do.

Zion tree split

Sometimes things just can’t be fixed. And that is the real problem with me and this tree.

Sunset - Good Friday

I like things to be perfect, for every thing and every one to have a happy ending.

Zion - tree down

There has come a time in my life, where I am starting to realize that there are more sad endings than happy. There are a whole list of things that I can’t do as well as I used to, and will never be able to again.  I’m getting old. I’m on a downhill slide.  I haven’t cracked yet, but I may – probably will – one day soon.

Zion - tree crack

Silly old tree – yet its loss affected me. Replaceable. Botanical. Just a tree.

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It stood its ground, gave leafy green shade. It witnessed more than a century of sunsets and salvation.

Now, its time is done. It’s time to step aside and let another tree do its job.

Zion - fall steeple 2013

Now lest you think I’m totally depressed, there is one thing that I think I keep getting better and better at, and that is writing. It’s fun, as I age, to have a skill – a passion – that’s still  growing. The things that I’ve seen as I’ve stood, watching half a century of sunsets, are a network of branches that keep spreading wider and wider. And the more I know, and experience – the greater my understanding, the better.  So that’s the end of my tree. But not of me.

Zion 1-14 Sunset

One of the parts I like best about starting a new book is choosing the location where my story will be set. Local traditions, distinctive scenery, and quirky bits of historical lore can all be used to enhance the plot and bring life to your characters. Layering and interweaving them together or using symbolism to enhance the plot is pure fun for me.  Choosing the right season for your story is another fun exercise. My latest book, Love Notes, starts just about this time of year, when late summer / autumn is turning to winter.  The conclusion of Hope Anderson and Tommy Love’s story falls on Christmas Eve with a tender carol about hope, joy, peace and love. Maybe that’s why I’ve been thinking about autumn and the images it brings to mind.

But first, I’m going to backtrack a bit. I have to admit that autumn is my second favorite season. My bed and breakfast, The Blue Belle Inn,  is named after a spring flower, and painted in springtime colors, so you can probably guess what my favorite season is.

To me, spring is a season of hope, and new beginnings. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t start Love Notes in the spring. Because for Hope and Tommy, certain things had to come to an end  – die – before any new growth could occur. Dreams, self, old business.

I love spring, when the first blossoms start to poke out of the brown, colorless, still-half-frozen ground.

Spring has humble beginnings, and finishes with a truly glorious display.

Fall, on the other hand, is slow and mellow. It sneaks up on you. Why is it that we think summer will never end? I mean, we know colder weather is coming. Fall is about denial.

Fall is the season of being finished, pleased with yourself, satisfied and content. Fall is the time of year when the fruits of your labors are seen to completion.

Now I sound like a farmer’s daughter, which I am.

Fall is nature’s last hurrah.

Fall is frisky squirrels scurrying frantically about, getting ready for winter.

Are your characters driven – under a tight deadline? If so, maybe fall is their time.

Fall is yellow, orange and red… exactly what we expect, most of the time. But fall is also every color of the rainbow.

Fall is full of surprises.

Fall is hazy nights, full of dust and chaff, and beautiful sunsets.

If fall is hazy, summer is lazy. The time when we go on vacation, take siestas, and stop to smell the roses.

Summer can bring stormy weather.

Summer is unsettling, volatile. Things can blow up in a hurry.

Summer can be crazy.

Summer can be relaxed. Sweet. Wet. Wild.

Summer is a blaze of glory. Hot and humid. A time when things grow and burst into color. Everything is at it’s best in the summertime.

Summer is the perfect time to lean back and enjoy a day of basking in the sun or relaxing on a porch swing.

Summer is sentimental.

Summer is a time when I take nothing for granted, because I know it won’t be long before…

Fall. And fall is fleeting. The inevitable frost kills things, makes things colorless and grey.

And fall, after all, leads to winter. Winter…  it’s icy cold. If you’re not careful, it will freeze your little tush off. The tip of my nose is always chilly in the winter.

Winter is a time of desolation. Isolation. Winter is beautiful, even majestic, in it’s own way, but so frigid and unyielding.

Crisp, clear. Blustery, blue.

Merry, dear. Winter has its own set of wishes, its own brittle warmth.

Which season is your favorite? What time of year were you born in? Have one or more seasons impacted your life? After all, we’re all characters living out a story line. Wild Rose of Scotland, the book I’m working on now, starts in the spring when the rhododendrons are in bloom. But there’s a long, hot, oppressive summer in store for Rose before she finally feels the graceful acceptance of fall.

I thought being in the zone was an appropriate topic since it’s Superbowl weekend and everyone is thinking about End Zones.

While I’m not quite in the end zone of Waterlily, the second book in my Maple Valley trilogy, I’m deep into revisions, writing new scenes, getting to know my characters better and making great progress – in the zone.

A writer I greatly admire from my just Cherry Writers critique group, Robin LaFevers, once led an online workshop where she asked us to identify our character’s greatest fears. What is he or she afraid of? Then, what is he or she really afraid of. Then, what is he or she REALLY, REALLY afraid of? Discovering these often hidden truths about your characters speaks to their motivation, helps you understand what they might do or how they might respond to situations, and can lead to the black moment, when they come face to face with their biggest fear. (Forgive me, Robin, if I’m misquoting you.)

This morning, while laying in bed thinking, then later, talking to my husband, I finally put my finger on what Michelle’s greatest fear is. Now, I hope to make the black moment reflect her deepest insecurity. Waterlily will be a better book because of it.

I also wrote a scene last night that I think is one of my best ever – clear protagonist, antagonist, goals, value change – it meets all the criterion, and it’s funny, too. I read it out loud to my husband last night and we were both cracking up so hard I couldn’t continue.

Is writing seasonal, like winter, spring, summer and fall – like football, baseball, or basketball seasons? Are there times when the words flow, when a flood of new ideas washes over you, and conversely, are there times when the well seems completely dry?

Whatever the triggers might be for me (I’m not sure I fully know or understand why this varies so much for me), I’m certainly glad I’m in THE ZONE. And for what it’s worth, I’ll probably be typing the whole time the Superbowl is on TV.

Here’s hoping your team wins!

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PLUM TART IRIS – New Release

Seaside Daisy

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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