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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.

I was going through some old photos recently and came upon a photo of me taken back in the late 80’s while I was climbing Pikes Peak. For those of you who know me as a now silver-haired, overweight, 55 year old with achy knees and hips who will do most anything to avoid stairs, yes, I really did climb Pikes Peak. This is not another work of fiction. I really did it.

I lived in Colorado Springs at the time, and was acclimated to the altitude. I had walked 3 or 4 miles a day for months before attempting my trek so get in shape. My friend, Karen (the cute, naturally slender one on the left), coached and encouraged me to the top. If not for her, I might still be sitting in the midst of a boulder field, too tired and short of air to make it to the top, and too tired and sore to make it back down to the base. I probably would have been devoured by coyotes or pummeled to death by a hailstorm by morning, as we climbed the mountain in early October, when there was barely enough hours of daylight to make it to the top.  I don’t have a photo of me at the very top of the mountain, because we barely made to the top in time to get our tickets and jump on the last cog train of the day for the trip back home. If we hadn’t caught the last train, we would have had to spend the night on the mountain. Not a good thing, although there are a few little cabins along the path for folks who do get stranded or need to take shelter.

Pikes Peak is over 14,000 feet high. It’s almost unimaginable – even to me – that I ever lugged my tired old body up such a steep incline. But isn’t that always the way it is when you’re down in the valley? Life has a way of beating your down sometimes, and when you’re in the basement, it seems like you’re never even going to make it up to the first floor, say nothing about soaring to the top of a massive mountain.  Maybe that’s why I love it when my characters are surprised by joy, when they find hope, that moment when they see a pinprick of light in the far distance, shining through the darkness.

When Hope Anderson meets Tommy Love in my new book, Love Notes, she’s understandably cautious, even cynical. Tommy is downright jaded, and has long given up on finding true love. They both believe in a God of miracles – in theory…  but which of us really believes that God is going to work a miracle in our lives?

Maybe it’s because He did, in my life, when I met my husband of 8 years – my real life romance – that I like to write about hope.

So if you find yourself down in the valley, a place I’m very well acquainted with – for whatever reason – think about being on top of Pikes Peak. It’s not an easy climb, but it’s definitely doable. It could happen. It did happen to me, and I’m here to tell you that the view is great from the top. You can see forever. So keep believing. You never know what God has in store for you…  

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)

LOVE NOTES (Coming on June 4th from Second Wind Publishing)

Hope Anderson’s heart is finally starting to thaw.
Even Tommy Love’s is melting around the edges.

But they both want Rainbow Lake Lodge. Only one of them can have it.

For Hope, recreating the past - reopening the lodge and seeing it bubbling with families, children, and laughter again – means new life. It’s the only way she can honor her late husband's legacy.

For Tommy Lubinski of Tommy Love and the Love Notes fame, Rainbow Lake means coming home - peace, quiet, seclusion - and a second chance at stardom. Once he’s bulldozed the lodge and built his dream house overlooking the lake, everything will be perfect.
 
Hope is sinking fast, but she’ll be fine if she can just keep her head above water until spring. Tommy’s troubles run a little deeper, but there’s no need to worry for now… Rainbow Lake is frozen solid. Or is it?

How do you have faith when something horrible has happened to you? Is it possible to be content even when the circumstances in your life are far from ideal? And why, so often, when things are going great, do we so often feel unhappy and dissatisfied with our lives?

In Love Notes, my upcoming release, Hope Anderson has lost her husband in a tragic auto accident. She is about to lose Rainbow Lake Lodge, the resort where her late husband was raised.  Yet her faith remains strong. She believes God is in control. When Tommy Love shows up on her doorstep (well, in the ditch at the end of her driveway), she immediately concludes that God is working in her life and Tommy’s and there is some purpose to events that Tommy considers bad luck or at the very least, random.

Tommy Lubinski, of Tommy Love and the Love Notes fame, seemingly has everything a person could want, but because he has no faith, he is not happy, and is constantly looking for more, telling himself that if he only had “blank” – a new hit, a new house, new fans, he would be happy.

A poem on a plate that sits on a hutch at my husband’s aunt and uncle’s cabin in northern Minnesota was part of my inspiration for Love Notes.

“As I was wandering over the green

Not knowing where I went

By chance I saw a pleasant scene

The cottage of content”

When Tommy Love stumbles on Hope’s cottage of content, his way of thinking about his life gradually starts to change and God eventually shows him what it means to be a man of faith.  It’s not an easy journey. Why is it that it’s harder to have faith when we have everything than when we have nothing?

I’m interested to hear your thoughts – and I hope you’ll read Love Notes when it comes out and see whose perspective you can relate to more – Hope Anderson’s or Tommy Love’s.

Love Notes

 Tommy Lubinski, aka Tommy Love and the Love Notes, is a fading star in the middle of a stellar mid-life crisis. Tommy needs one more big hit – hip-hop, to appeal to a new generation. Thanks to an old friend who’s a banker, he’s found the perfect spot to build his dream house. When Tommy starts nosing around Embarrass, Minnesota and ends up in the ditch in the middle of an ice storm, he discovers he’s not the only one with plans for the place.

Hope Anderson is determined to renovate Rainbow Lake Lodge, the Northwoods resort where her late husband grew up. Reopening the Lodge so the families who have come there for generations can fill it with life again is the only way she knows to honor his legacy. Then the health inspector informs her that her old kitchen no longer meets state codes, and Billy Bjorklund, the devious new bank president, starts foreclosure proceedings.

Sure, Tommy feels bad that Hope spent all of her late husband’s life insurance money fixing up a lodge he plans to bulldoze. Tommy has always prided himself on being the kind of man who makes women’s dreams come true. But this time, Hope Anderson’s goal is in direct conflict with his. Bottom line, he has the wherewithal to make his dream a reality. She does not. No sense both of them being frustrated.

LOVE NOTES… Hope Anderson set out to preserve a legacy and found Love. Tommy Love wanted to make it big in hip-hop and found Hope. If they ever hope to understand the mystery of love, they’re going to need a little faith.

People often ask me how I come up with ideas for my stories. In the case of “Love Notes”, my soon-to-be-released novel (my first Christian inspirational), it was a poem on a plate.

“As I was wandering over the green

Not knowing where I went

By chance I saw a pleasant scene

The cottage of content”

The plate was on a shelf in an antique pine hutch at my Aunt Pat and Uncle Frank’s “cabin” in northern Minnesota. Each year, my husband and I spend a few days at Pat and Frank’s cabin, unwinding, relaxing, and trying to forget the stresses of our busy lives (me, the owner of a bed and breakfast and tea house, and he, a pastor).

Their “cabin” is really a cute three bedroom cottage, renovated and expanded by Frank and decorated with garage sale treasures and quilts by Pat. I was feeling pretty content when I first read the poem on the plate. We’d enjoyed a delicious dinner and a long walk in the woods. We’d poked around Ely and gone boating. The men were playing Scrabble. I was working on my needlepoint.

Life was good, nearly perfect at that moment. Still, I wished I could escape the craziness of my life and enjoy more laid-back, carefree days like the one we’d just had. When I saw the poem, my mind started whirling.

What if there was a man who had everything – fortune and fame – but nothing that really mattered? No family and definitely no love? What if he was lost and came upon the cottage of content? What if he had to give up what he thinks he wants to get what he really needs? And Tommy Lubinski of Tommy Love and the Love Notes was born.

The next step was to figure out who lived in the cottage of content. What if she had nothing – no money, no children, a husband who died tragically and left her to pay back a huge debt to the bank – but had a strong faith in God in spite of her dilemma? And thus, Hope Anderson was born.

The cottage of content turned out to be a cluster of rainbow-colored cottages – Daisy, Fern, Ivy, Bluebell, Violet, Rose, and Lily – at Rainbow Lake Lodge, the family resort Hope is trying to bring back to life. Snippets of information about living “up north” I picked up while chatting with Pat – frequent power outages due to a deteriorating electrical cable buried at the bottom of the lake, snowplows scraping “roads” on the lake so people can drive on the ice in the winter, getting stranded on a boat in the middle of the lake – became fodder for a plot. A story was born.

To me, life is all about second chances, whether dilapidated cabins become honeymoon cottages, a heartbroken widow finding love again, or a tortured soul discovering new life. I hope you’ll enjoy Tommy and Hope’s story in “Love Notes”.

Love Notes ~ Coming soon from http://www.SecondWindPublishing.com.

My blog tour for Love Notes begins today at The Literary Mom, http://www.preslaysa.com/. The release date for my first Christian inspirational novel, Love Notes, is set for later this month. Please subscribe to my blog for further updates!

What story is your life telling? A new friend on Twitter asked this question in a tweet this morning. Who says a few word can’t be powerful?

This is a question that seems to be of more importance to me as I get older, as it becomes apparent that my most productive years are probably more than half gone, and that if I want to make a name for myself or accomplish something that I have yet to do, it’s time to get with it and get it done. One of the main characters in my book, Tommy Love, is in his mid/late forties, and in the middle of a stellar mid-life crisis. He’s had a successful career as a musician, gotten the star treatment from millions of adorning fans… most of whom are baby boomers and dying off faster than fruit flies. What Tommy wants – or thinks he wants, is one more big hit – hip hop – to appeal to a new generation of fans. Can you blame him for not wanting to fade into oblivion, for not wanting to be pegged as an oldie-but-goodie? As perhaps all of us would like, Tommy wants to go out in a blaze of glory, to see his legacy live on for at least another 20 to 30 years.

Some of us accomplish this with our children, but in Love Notes, neither Hope or Tommy has children. Neither do I. It’s been suggested before that my books are my way of passing on the secrets of my heart, and I think that’s probably very true. The story my life has been told, continues to be told, and hopefully, will be passed along one day, through my creation of the Blue Belle Inn B&B and tea House (my baby in a very real sense), and in my writing.

I was recently approached about answering some questions for an article because I was an author who was over 50, a writer whose career as an author didn’t begin until I was past 50 years old.  The question’s implication resulted in a lot of things floating through my evidently half-addled, 55 year old brain: What does she think I am, older than dirt? That it’s a miracle I can still write, old as I am? Once I got over my indignation, however, I started to think about what it is really like being 55, and how life is different now than when I was 25, 35 or even 45.

Here are my answers to her questions:

What prompted you to take up writing as a career at this time in your life?

When I was 35 years old, I opened a B&B and Tea House called the Blue Belle Inn. During those early days I worked until 10 p.m. every night, serving or cleaning up after dinner and trying to keep up the laundry and bookkeeping. When I got off work and went home (a basement apartment in the same big Victorian inn) I was keyed up and too wide awake to go to sleep. I needed someone to talk to so I could unwind. Being single, and living in a largely rural area where the rest of the world was early to bed and early to rise, I had no one to talk to and no where to go. So I wrote. I made up characters and conversations and situations and poured my pent up emotions and needs for personal interactions into my books.

For over a decade, I was so busy that I never found time to query or submit. Soon after I turned 50, I was approached by a publisher who had read the first chapter of Night and Day in an online contest I’d entered at Gather.com. He loved my voice and related to my characters and wanted to publish my book.

Do you think your age in any way hindered your writing success?

I suspect it has, for a couple of different reasons. I attended an American Christian Writer’s Conference last fall, and felt decidedly old, fat, and gray (comparatively speaking), even though I cheated a bit and added some color to my hair just for the occasion. Why, I wondered, would an editor or agent take a chance on me, when there were so many youthful, energetic people waiting in line on either side of me? The editors I spoke to were all in their 20′s or 30′s, looking for books that would engage a new, younger generation of readers. What did I have to offer them, with my stories of 30 and 40 year old characters – still a decade or two younger than me, but so ancient to them, that, as one editor put it, they would work as secondary characters, but not hero and heroine? Another said that they felt their readers would not be able to relate to stories about older characters, with the implication that they would be turned off, that the “ick factor” of a bunch of old fogies finding love would be too great for them to get get past.

Sigh…

The second reason I feel my writing has been impacted by my age is much scarier – and more personal, and that is that everything people say about menopause is true. Your brain turns to mush. It’s harder to focus, multitask and concentrate. My most productive time of the day – formerly from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., now finds me falling asleep at my computer. Now, I’m awake at 5 a.m. but I’m not productive, I’m crabby. It takes me longer to get the same amount of work done, so there is less time for writing. Worst of all, your interest in romance diminishes. So does your passion for life and people. It’s sad. It’s a reality. Some people tell me it will pass. Others just shake their heads and wish me the best.

Do you believe you could have written the same type of books at a different point in your life?

No. My books are about second chances, people who have learned by their mistakes, men and women who have failed and been forgiven, and thanks to God’s grace and love, have found a sweet love that they would most likely not have appreciated when they were younger. They see beauty in places they would have rushed right by when they were younger.

When I was young, before I fell flat on my face and learned a lot of life’s bittersweet lessons, I never could written the books I have. An author can imagine plots lines and character profiles, but you can’t conjure up the richness and fullness of life you find in your 50′s!

What have been the biggest advantages to pursuing a writing career at your age?

See above! I’m older, wiser, more accepting, more forgiving, more understanding, more savvy. I have more to offer, greater insights into what makes characters tick. I’ve been there, done that. Add my experience to my still active imagination, and you get richer, deeper characters, conflicts that are heart-wrenching, and scenarios that are intensely real.

And, I have the zillions of baby boomers who are tired of reading books about naive, 18 year old Amish girls, as potential readers. :-)

What have been the greatest obstacles?

Finding a publisher who agrees with me. :-) Three years ago, at the moderately “old” age of 52, I opted to sign on with a medium sized, independent publishing firm who are more interested in finding a good story that they are the age of the hero and heroine – or the author.  Second Wind Publishing has been a great place for me to grow as an author and a wonderful venue for getting my books in print. I’ve had to modify my dreams and expectations, a bit, but then, isn’t that what aging gracefully is all about?

Whatever story your life is telling… and whatever age you are, I would urge you to keep sharing yourself – through your children, with your friends and family, in your careers or second careers – or third, or fourth – and if you like to write, through the stories you put on paper.

Here’s to the stories of our lives.

I’ve been thinking a lot about unconditional love lately. Little girls and boys dream of it, young women wish for it under the nearest star, and people who have had a failed relationship pray that they will be granted a second chance at finding it. It’s something we all want – to be accepted and adored for who we are and what we are – just the way we are, an inherent  need / desire that never seems to go away no matter how old we get.

One of my favorite songs – a true oldie from the Disco era sung by Donna Summer – says it well.

Unconditional love is a theme that’s interwoven into almost every romance novel – whether the hero and heroine are kick-ass contemporary or an old-order Amish. Who doesn’t want to find that certain, one-in-a-million dream mate who’s a perfect fit for us?

We look for unconditional love in our non-romantic relationships, too. We want our teachers to “get us”. We hope our parents will accept our choices and admire our chosen path in life even if we don’t embrace 100% of their values or do things exactly they way they do. We crave compliments from our bosses and acceptance from our peers.

Unconditional love is the model of Christ’s love for us – Just As I Am, unworthy, guilty, with no defense – yet God’s love for us was so great that he sent His Son to die for us so that we could live and be loved, so that we could experience His abundant life.

I am blessed to have a husband who loves me even when I screw up or say things I shouldn’t. He may not like every single little thing about me, but he accepts and loves me nonetheless. He is supportive of who I am and helps me attain my dreams and goals. I have parents who are proud of me. I have friends and siblings who I can talk to and confide in, who are there for me when I’m in trouble.

I also have relationships that I’m not so secure in. As a boss / owner / manager of The Blue Belle Inn, a busy B&B and Tea House, I hope that my staff,  employees, and customers all like me, and think that each of my edicts and decisions is wise, fair, and commendable. That doesn’t always happen. I’m currently meeting new people and making new friends at the church where my husband is the new pastor. Of course, I’d be thrilled if every single person who attends the church adores me and thinks I’m the perfect pastor’s wife. Realistically, that’s not likely to happen, because people (at work or church, in families, and otherwise) can be nit-picky, critical, and hypersensitive about certain things. Add that to the fact that I (and I’m assuming you) am far from perfect and voila… We all have our own quirks and idiosyncrasies, and yes, faults. The people who are around us are bound to discover them eventually.

I’ve been nervous for the last couple of weeks because some of the people I’ve recently met are just finding out that I’m an author, and others, that my books contain some steamy scenes. For the record, my next book, Love Notes, which will hopefully be released later this spring, is a Christian Inspirational romance (hopefully the same sizzle you love in my books, but no sex). But to be truthful, I haven’t had a great conversion experience, and I can’t promise I’ll never write another steamy romance. Because each of my characters is unique, and I believe as an author that it is my job to respect each and every one of them for who they are, and write their story to the best of my ability. Some of them think about sex all the time, some hardly ever; some are bold and go after what they want; some are shy and reticent. Some are laden with guilt and shame, some tied in knots because they’re grieving. There are no cookie cutter characters in my books. Hopefully each of them has a unique personality of their own, complete with their own foibles and brilliant streaks – just like me!

When I joined the American Fiction Christian Writers last year, I worried about being judged, about not being Christian enough, about being rejected because not all of my books are “Christian”. Conversely, I’ve often felt like I didn’t quite fit in over at the  Romance Writer’s of America either. I’m a lot more conservative that many of them, and even when I’m writing straight contemporary romance, thoughts of God, family, home, and religion often creep into my work, something that is sometimes frowned upon.

Some authors take on a pen name and assume two separate identities when they write – one for one kind of story, whether is be erotica, mystery, suspense, or literary fiction, and another for romance, inspirational, or non-fiction. But I am stubborn. I want my friends and readers to give me their unconditional love. I am proud of all my stories, no matter what genre they fall into. You will find common themes of family, home and faith in each of my books. The ones with steamy scenes will be published under the name Sherrie Hansen (my maiden name). The ones with no sex will be published under the name Sherrie Hansen Decker, my married name.

No matter which of my books you choose to read, I hope that you will accept me for who I am – innkeeper / author / pastor’s wife / Everett Hansen’s daughter / Auntie Sherrie / sometimes sweet, sometimes silly, sometimes bossy, sometimes, shy, with a rare bit of a wild streak thrown in for good measure. I am uniquely me. I am not a cookie cutter anything.  And to the friends and relatives and acquaintances who would like me to fit into their ideal mold, who think I should be a bit more or less of this or that, please remember that the characters in the Bible were all pretty unique as well — Moses, Ruth, Esther, Joshua, Elijah, Peter, Paul, John, David,  Solomon — God used all kinds of unique people to accomplish His will – and still does. So please try to accept me for who I am even though you may like some things about me and not others.

Like everyone else, all I really want is your unconditional love. And, I really hope you like Love Notes! And Night and Day, Stormy Weather, Water Lily, and Merry Go Round. :-)

I know… New Year’s Eve came and went over two months ago. So I’m a bit behind. I still haven’t mailed out my Christmas cards either. And like it or not, life’s events don’t exactly follow a tidy calendar. Changes – new beginnings – endings – often hit us unaware and at times that are anything but convenient.

It’s been a year of upheaval, changes, and saying goodbyes for my husband and I. We packed up one home and moved into another in December and January. Now, we’re off to a great new start at a new church (my husband is a pastor), in a parsonage that’s completely different from the home we’ve lived in for the past 8 (me) – 11 (him) years. The walls are painted in fresh new colors and I’m raring to get started on sewing new curtains for the windows and planting a garden come spring.

New beginnings are a wonderful thing any time of year. We’re slowly but surely making new friends, putting new names with new faces, and finding out where the best bargains, best food, and best places  to go around our new home are.

Fresh starts can also come in tiny packages. My cook and primary assistant at the Blue Belle Inn, the B&B and Tea House I own and operate, just had her first baby and is on maternity leave for the next 3 months. As a result, I’m shuffling duties and training a new staff member. All good, but challenging, nonetheless. It’s probably good to mix things up once in awhile, but it’s also a lot of work to start over again. My new assistant is a quick study, but I’m starting from scratch, teaching her how to make Stuffed Pork Tenderloin Roll, Lumpy Bumpy Toffee Pie, Parmesan Cream Sauce with Garlic and Rosemary for Heart of My Heart Chicken and our Fondue Feast. No matter how you look at it, it’s a time consuming process to begin anew.

As I sometimes get to do when my husband has no pastor friends to talk to, I’ve also been listening to him bounce around sermon ideas. This week the Bible passage he’s going to preach on is about Jesus throwing the money changers out of the temple. Here’s another instance of tossing out the old and bringing in the new. Jesus is all about newness and radical, life-changing alterations to the way we see the world and live our lives.

I’ve heard say that if there’s one thing you can count on no matter what, it’s that nothing ever stays the same.

As a writer, I get a lot of practice saying goodbye and starting out fresh.  By the time I’ve spent months or even years getting to know my characters and writing a book about their comings and goings, it’s a huge let-down when the books ends and it’s time to say good-bye and move on. My last three books (Stormy Weather, Water Lily, and Merry Go Round), are a trilogy, so I’ve gotten especially attached to the Jones sisters, their family and friends, over the course of writing about them for the past several years. Leaving their world behind, however make-believe it might be, and moving on to another, is always bittersweet, just like changes and transitions in real life.

My new adventure in the writing world involves a new book (Love Notes) in a new genre (inspirational romance) under a new name (Sherrie Hansen Decker). I can’t wait for you to get to know Hope Anderson, Tommy Love (Tom Lubinski), Billy Bjorklund, Alvin Soldvedt and the people of the tiny, Northwoods town of Embarrass, Minnesota.

Here’s a sneak peek, if you’re one of those people who likes to be the first to know:

Love Notes

Tom Lubinski, aka Tommy Love and the Love Notes, is a fading star in the middle of a stellar mid-life crisis. Tommy needs one more big hit – hip-hop, to appeal to a new generation. Thanks to an old friend who’s a banker, he’s found the perfect spot to build his dream house. When Tommy starts nosing around Embarrass, Minnesota and ends up in the ditch in the middle of an ice storm, he discovers he’s not the only one with plans for the place.


Hope Anderson is determined to renovate Rainbow Lake Lodge, the Northwoods resort where her late husband grew up. Reopening the Lodge so the families who have come there for generations can fill it with life again is the only way she knows to honor his legacy. Then the health inspector informs her that her old kitchen no longer meets state codes, and Billy Bjorklund, the devious new bank president, starts foreclosure proceedings.


Sure, Tommy feels bad that Hope spent all of her late husband’s life insurance money fixing up a lodge he plans to bulldoze. Tommy has always prided himself on being the kind of man who makes women’s dreams come true. But this time, Hope Anderson’s goal is in direct conflict with his. Bottom line, he has the wherewithal to make his dream a reality. She does not. No sense both of them being frustrated.

LOVE NOTES… Hope Anderson set out to preserve a legacy and found Love. Tommy Love wanted to make it big in hip-hop and found Hope. If they ever hope to understand the mystery of love, they’re going to need a little faith.

It’s been a busy weekend and I’m just now finding time to blog… I’m in Hudson tonight, at the parsonage, and we just returned from dinner at the home of some new friends from our church.

We started out the weekend having dinner with some old friends from Thompson, and seeing a movie – One for the Money – on a rare Friday evening off. In between, I worked a busy lunch hour at the Blue Belle Inn, then met up with my parents for a weekend trip to see our new home in Hudson. After dinner in Cedar Falls, they spent the night in the guest room at the parsonage and came to church with us this morning. I played the piano with the worship team. All in all, it’s been a great weekend – a nice balance of work and play, a good combination of old and new, and a pleasing mixture of entertaining and being entertained.

My husband and I have had an exciting start to our New Year… a new beginning in a new church in a new town. As I contemplate the release of my first inspirational romance, Love Notes, I feel a similar sense of anticipation. New characters in a new place in a new genre… a new beginning for me as an author, and a chance to engage new readers.

Like in my real life, in Love Notes, Hope is determined to preserve what has been, to keep her “old” life intact, to honor the legacy of her late husband, and Rainbow Lake Lodge. But unbeknownst to her, God has something even better waiting in the wings… something new… a surprise so delightful and unexpected, that it is almost unimaginable.

Sadly, we sometimes cling to the old, even when it is rusty and corroded and totally out-dated, or even bad for us, simply because it is familiar.  Sometimes, if we want to experience the wonderful new things that God has designed with us in mind, we have to let go of the old.

It’s often said, there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. But really, there is… what would our world be if we didn’t start over once in awhile, if we didn’t look to the future and move on?

My husband’s sermon this morning was about God’s covenant to Noah after the flood… a fresh start, a new beginning for the world, a promise of good and wonderful things to come… none of which would have happened if Noah hadn’t given up life as he knew it, built a humongous boat, gathered up a bunch of animals, and set sail on the biggest adventure of his life.  What God was asking of him must have seemed crazy at the time. Thank God Noah was willing to take a leap of faith.

To new beginnings!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the “old days” this week. My bed and breakfast, the Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House, in St. Ansgar, Iowa, has been open for 20 years as of February 1st, which was also my 55th birthday. It’s definitely a time to think back, to remember what things were like those many years ago.

Memories are a funny thing. I learned in Childhood Psych that 90% of a child’s brain and 85% of their social skills and personality develop before they are 5 years old. Yet most of us have very few memories of anything that happened to us in this time period.

Some of my earliest childhood memories are sleeping out under the stars with my dad and my sister Becky, on the farm where we lived in Grand Meadow, Minnesota, when we were little. I can remember Marty Hedstrom, a teenager who worked for my Dad one summer, singing “Sherry Baby” to me and rescuing me from the bumblebees who were after me in the haymow of the barn where I used to play. I can remember standing next to my Great Grandma Matilda Paulson and my Grandma Victoria at First Baptist Church singing “Holy Holy Holy”. I can remember climbing on the school bus on the first day I went to school, the day my baby brother and sister were born, and the day my Grandpa Hansen died. Some of these experiences have already ended up in or certainly may one day find themselves into books I’ve written – in one form or another.

My 25 year old nephew and his pretty wife, Kayla, sang “Sherry Baby” to me this weekend at my birthday / anniversary party. What a flood of memories it brought back! Because I don’t have children of my own, my nieces and nephews are very special to me. I hope that I have made an impact on their lives as well, and that they will carry memories of me and the fun times we’ve shared at the Blue Belle Inn and our family gatherings with them long after I’m gone.

My 5, 7 and 10 year old nieces and nephews were at my party, too. The girls helped get people registered for the door prizes. The two youngest were waitress and waiter and helped clear plates and take them to the kitchen. They were very intense about collecting the dirty plates (Will you please hurry up and finish eating your food so I can take your plate?) and did their jobs well.

I will have to give them some tips next time I see them. (They had to leave early because it was past their bedtime.) Right before they left, the girls entertained us by singing our favorite song, “He Knows My Name,” while I played the piano.

My hope is that they will retain their memories of the very special night they shared with their old Aunt Sherrie at the Blue Belle Inn. Maybe one of them will blog about it one day when they’ve heard “Sherry Baby” played on the radio… er… computer.

Maybe it’s because I don’t have children, but it’s important to me that someone remembers that I’m not just Blue Belle Sherrie (the main hat I’ve worn for the past 20 years). I want someone to know and remember that I climbed Pike’s Peak when I was younger, that I learned to disco dance when I lived in Germany back in the late seventies at the height of the Saturday Night Fever era. I want someone to remember that I went to Wheaton College, and saw Michael Jackson’s Thriller concert at Mile High Stadium in Denver and spent a night at a Benedictine Monastery in Bavaria. And that I made the best Jaeger Schnitzel and Spaetzle noodles this side of the great pond.

I hope you have some sweet memories, too – perhaps something you’ve read in one of my books has evoked a recollection or brought tears to your eyes. I also wish for each of you someone who knows you and loves you enough to remember unique things about you.

Thanks for letting me be nostalgic on the occasion of my big birthday and anniversary. Andrew Lloyd Webber says it well…

Memory
All alone in the moonlight
I can dream of the old days
Life was beautiful then
I remember the time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again.

And if you’re a child of the seventies like I am, I’m sure this song conjurers up the very thing it talks about…

Memories, pressed between the pages of my mind
Memories, sweetened through the ages just like wine

Quiet thoughts come floating down
And settle softly to the ground
Like golden autumn leaves around my feet
I touched them and they burst apart with sweet memories,
Sweet memories

Of holding hands and red bouquets
And twilights trimmed in purple haze
And laughing eyes and simple ways
And quiet nights and gentle days with you.

Some of my favorite memories – and ones that will almost certainly die with me, since all my friends from that era are my age or older – are of the 12 years I lived in Colorado Springs. During that time, I heard Amy Grant sing this song in concerts three or four times. From I Will Remember You…

Later on
When this fire is an ember
Later on
When the night’s not so tender
Given time
Though it’s hard to remember darlin’
I will be holding
I’ll still be holding to you
I will remember you

So many years come and gone
And yet the memory is strong
One word we never could learn
Goodbye
True love is frozen in time
I’ll be your champion and you will be mine
I will remember you

Being a writer, I’ve always thought that stories are the best way to share memories. I hope one day, you’ll read mine.

Happy Birthday to me. Cheers to 20 years at the Blue Belle Inn. And a toast to memories that live on forever in the minds of the those who love us.

(Sherrie Hansen is the author of 4 books: Night and Day, Stormy Weather, Water Lily, and Merry Go Round.)

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RAGGED ROBIN – New Release

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

What You’ve Missed

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