You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘stories’ tag.

Someone recently asked me how I started to write.

I was already a night owl before I opened the Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House almost 20 years ago. Opening the Inn had been precipitated by a move “back home” to a town of 1000 people after 11 years in bustling Colorado Springs, CO.

Opening the Inn, establishing a business, training new employees, sustaining financial credibility,  and everything else that went along with  being a first time business owner sapped my strength, sucked the life out of my relationships, and took 16 out of every 24 hours. I loved what I was doing, there was just no time for anything else.

I was working every night until 10 pm – my night owl tendency’s worsened. Probably not a good thing for the owner of a bed and BREAKFAST.  I was soon exhausted – between checking in honeymooners at 2 am and serving breakfast to business travelers at 6 am.

My “home” was in the basement of the Blue Belle, so I never really went home from work, but when I went downstairs at the end of the night, I was tired. But just because it was bedtime didn’t mean I could go to sleep. Like anyone, I came home from work pumped up with adrenalin, sometimes frustrated, sometimes happy, charged and ready to go after flying around, being busy for hours – I needed to talk to someone, to vent, to spend a few hours unwinding before I could go to sleep.

Problem is, who do you call to talk to at that time of night? (No one – they’re all asleep.) Where do you go if you feel like doing something, or need to run errands (Nowhere – everything is closed.)  So what’s a person to do? Sometimes life thrusts you into situations where you’re forced to to adapt. I did. I started writing. Late into the night.

My first published book, Night and Day (it’s midnight in Minnesota and daybreak in Denmark), was no mistake.

When the internet caught on, I made friends in every corner of the world – friends who were on the same schedule I was. While my real-life friends and family slept, I carried on a “imaginary life” with my online friends. And I wrote. In essence, I made up a few dozen “imaginary friends” and started writing about what was going on in their lives, weaving them together into relationships, imagining “what if” – and writing about it.

A friend of mine, Deborah Scafferi Rohne, writes a blog called “Life Is Too Short to Fold Underwear”. In her latest entry, she writes that life is too short to sleep when everyone else is awake.  Her theory is that you miss out on too much when your schedule is contrary to the rest of the world’s.  She is absolutely right. In my case, however, I wasn’t sleeping when everyone else was awake, I was working. And when everyone else was asleep, I was living – and writing – and engaging and interacting with my imaginary friends.

In my case, my imaginary, after-hours, everybody-else-I-know-is-sound-asleep world changed my real life.

And twenty years later? I work less (well, sometimes), play more (okay, occasionally), and have better relationship in the real world (with at least a few people – I’ve been married to a wonderful man for 7 years now). I still have many friends online who inspire, encourage, and cheer me on. I try to find a good balance, which is probably the key to everything in life.

And then, irony of ironies, when I hit 51, my body clock started to change. Suddenly, I found myself falling asleep in front of my computer at 9 pm.  My most prolific hours – 10 pm to 2 pm, found me zombie-like and bobbing my head in front of the words on my screen. After finally giving up and succumbing to sleep,  I would wake up at 6 am. But I wasn’t productive, I was crabby.

So. . .  such is life. I’m trying to adapt – again, carve out a new niche in my busy schedule for my writing, make time for me and my imaginary friends, and still get a good night’s sleep! And guess when this was written? 6:30 am. 🙂

Advertisements

I am Sherrie Hansen and it took a blizzard, and getting snowbound for three days, to make time in my crazy schedule to post a new entry to my blog.

In addition to writing books, I own a B&B and Tea House called the Blue Belle Inn. My husband of almost 7 years is a pastor. My published books include Night and Day, Stormy Weather, and Water Lily. Merry Go Round is supposed to be coming out in February, but I’ve lost my daytime help at the Blue Belle, and am running way behind schedule on writing, too, after working 12 – 14 hours at the B&B pretty much every day since October 1.

I belong to a group called Shedding Light at Gather.com, and for our first assignment, or Ripple, as our creative leader, Mariana, calls them, we were asked to list ten things – fun things – that make you smile – that you do – or observe or watch or even imagining yourself doing.

Here’s my list:

1. I love rainbows and sunsets … over the ocean, behind the mountains, across the flat fields of southern Minnesota and northern Iowa where I grew up and now live.

2. I love taking pictures of things. People, not so much, because they never seem to look as good through the lens of my camera as they do in person. But things… places, colors, buildings, flowers… with my camera, I seem to have a knack for bringing out the beauty in everyday things.

3. I love writing books, weaving a story, developing characters, saying what’s on my heart in fiction form.

4. I love playing the piano at church – the contemporary worship service with the drummer and our worship team is my favorite.

5. I love Wednesdays because that is the day I pick up my nieces after school and take them on an adventure. The oldest is 9 and the youngest is 6. I’ve been doing this since the oldest was 6 weeks old. My time with them is absolutely the best time of my week.

6. I love snuggling with my husband. I was single for about 20 years before I met Mark – lots of nights spent alone in my bed. Now, we hold hands while we sleep (at least we start out that way) and I love the sense of being loved and cherished that I feel when he’s beside me.

7. I love the feeling of going home at night after a productive day at the Blue Belle Inn, of being told that what I’ve done has pleased people and provided a relaxing, enjoyable time for them.

8. I love reading a good book, whether romantic, spiritual, nostalgic or suspenseful, and listening to good music – bluegrass, country, Celtic, gospel, rock and roll. I love getting to enjoy other people’s creativity.

9. I love traveling – mostly in Europe or Canada. There’s something about getting out of the country that really helps me relax. Seeing the sights and experiencing a different culture is a true joy for me, inspiring and attitude enhancing in many ways.

10. I love days when I can hang around in my nightgown and watch TV, needlepoint, cook dinner for my husband, catch up with my writing or email and just relax and do things at my own pace… days where I don’t HAVE to be anywhere or do anything in particular.

Anyone feel like singing “These are a few of my Favorite Things”?

 

I received a very warm welcome from Erik and friends at the Danish American Center in Minneapolis yesterday. I spoke about “Night and Day” and its Danish connections, our recent trip to Denmark, and the creative process of writing a book.

My first book, Night and Day (It's Midnight in Minnesota and Daybreak in Denmark...)

The Melting Moments (little Danish butter cookies with almond frosting) I took were a great hit and the book signing went well! My Mom and Dad went along and so did my husband, Mark.

I told several family stories and told about my niece making Danish aebleskivers when I was talking about new generations of Danes. I also told them about the delicious pork roast with the crackled skin and brown gravy that my Danish cousin’s daughter, Anne-Sofie, who is 21 years old, made for us when we were in Hillerod last month. (Red cabbage and new potatoes, too!) My mouth still waters thinking about it! It was so fun getting to know another generation of Danish relatives, who will hopefully keep the family relationships and stories going strong for another several decades!

My Danish cousin, Helle, me, Anna-Sofie, her daughter, and Boyda, her mother, who wrote letters to my Grandma Victoria for decades.

Another of Maren Jensen’s descendants (my Mom’s second cousin, Shirley) also came to hear my presentation and bought a copy of Night and Day for each of her brothers and sisters. It was a great day, and I enjoyed meeting all the fellow Danes at Danebo! I even met a fellow Betsy-Tacy / Maud Hart Lovelace fan!

My wonderful webmaster, George Rezak, has just told me that my new website, http://www.BlueBelleBooks.com, is up and running. Please check it out and add it to your favorites!

I’ve approved the cover art for my next release, Stormy Weather, and I’m thrilled with the artwork, thanks to the patient efforts of Stacy at Second Wind Publishing. I sewed the quilt block and my husband, Mark, took the photo, but she put it all together. Didn’t she do a great job?

Stormy Weather - cover

November 15th is the tentative release date, but I scheduled my first book signing for November 28 to allow time for the first shipment to arrive.

Saturday, November 28, 11:30 – 1:30 p.m.

Sherrie will be reading aloud and signing copies of her newly released book – Stormy Weather – at a holiday luncheon.

“A storm is brewing, and as usual, Rachael Jones is in the middle of the fray.

If the local banker succeeds in bulldozing the Victorian houses she’s trying to save, she’s in for yet another rough time before the skies clear.

The only bright spots on the horizon are her friendship with Luke… and her secret rendezvous with Mac…

Is Rachael meant to weather the storm with Luke, who touches her heart and soul so intimately, or with Mac, who knows each sweet secret of her body?

STORMY WEATHER… Stay tuned for the latest forecast!”

When I was 10 or 11, my parents decided to sell the tent-top camper we’d had for a number of years and buy a bigger one. They put an ad in the paper and had a few responses, but no buyer. Then, one Saturday, while the ad was still running, they had to go somewhere. I was the oldest child in our family, so before they left, they said, “If anyone calls about the camper, tell them we want $500 for it.”

I was in awe. That was a lot of money back in 1967.

Well, wouldn’t you know, an hour after they left, the phone rang – someone had seen the ad and was interested in the camper. I told them the price, answered some questions, and told them where we lived so they could come and see it. A short time later, the phone rang again – someone else wanted to come and see the camper. I gave them directions to get to our house (which was 6 miles from town, on a gravel road) and went back to my other job, which was to make sure my younger brothers and sisters weren’t wrecking the house.

An hour later, I was standing in the yard, showing the camper to both couples, who had coincidentally arrived within minutes of each other. After looking the camper over and asking a few questions, the first couple offered me $450. The other couple jumped in and offered $500, the asking price set by my dad. The first couple was still hanging around, so instead of saying yes, I told a little story about one of our camping trips and how much our family had enjoyed the state park where we’d camped.

The first couple countered with an offer of $550. I mentioned how easy the camper was to put up and tear down. Working together, my dad, my sister and I could do it in 10 minutes flat. The second couple offered $600. I showed them how the table could be folded down and made into a bed. The first couple upped their bid to $650. That was more money than the second couple had, or was willing to offer.

I pronounced the camper SOLD, got $650 cash from the winning bidders, wrote them a receipt, and waved goodbye as they drove down the road, pulling the camper behind. You can imagine my parent’s shock and glee when they came home and I handed them $650.

Night & Day - Book signing

It was at that moment that I first experienced the joy and exhilaration of selling something. As writers, pitching, or trying to sell our books may or may not be part of our comfort zone. But like it or not, published or unpublished, if you’re a writer, you have something to sell, and you need to pitch your book, not just once, but over and over again. Selling yourself, and your book, is an important part of being an author… the difference between being published or unpublished… the difference between success and failure.

When I made the decision to go with a small, independent press (Second Wind Publishing) for my book, Night and Day, it was in part because I own a bed and breakfast and tea house and knew that I had a built-in venue for selling my book. Each day, 4 – 40 people walk in the door – all potential buyers. Still, a stack of nice, new books sitting on a table with a cute little sign rarely sell themselves. Neither will a bump on a log at a book signing.

What does sell my books is me. I pitch my book once or twice every day – sometimes ten or twelve – to each and every guest who walks in the door. As you might guess – I’ve got my pitch down – and I have sold about 300 books in the last 3 1/2 months. I sold 8 over the lunch hour just yesterday.

That doesn’t mean everyone who walks in the door buys a book. Some are not interested. I can see their eyes glazing over 10 seconds into my pitch. Some look excited until I mention the words “internet romance”. Perhaps they’ve been burned by an online lover – perhaps their spouse has had an online dalliance – maybe they think computers are for the birds. Whatever the case, when you try to sell something, you have to be ready for rejection – and then, you have to pick yourself up and keep trying.

“It’s midnight in Minnesota and daybreak in Denmark…” I regularly vary my pitch depending on who I’m talking to – young, old, someone I know, a stranger. The important thing is that I believe in my book. I love my characters and am convinced people will enjoy reading Night and Day.

I live for those moments when I connect with a reader, when we strike common ground, when their faces light up. Sometimes it’s when they see the log-cabin quilt on the cover of Night and Day, sometimes it’s when they hear the words Danish, “junk in the attic”, or bonfire. And when I take their $15 and autograph their book, it’s just as exciting as selling that camper for my parents when I was 11 years old.

Selling is hard. Whether you’re pitching your book or telling someone about your story at a writing conference, talking to guests at a book signing, or asking the manager of your local grocery store if they would consider stocking your book, you will feel naked at times. Intimidated. Daunted. Unsure.

But there comes a moment, when someone wants to buys your book, when you find a common chord with an editor, the owner of a shop, a librarian, or a potential reader, and make the sale, that you will know it was all worth it.

Find the courage to try, and keep trying.

Don’t ever sell yourself short. Sell yourself and you will sell your book!

The review I’ve been waiting for (for Night and Day) from Romance Reader at Heart has been posted and it’s good! I’m so excited! 🙂

There’s a link below.

Sherrie

Some of my earliest memories are of bedtime stories being read to me, and I loved to read books from the time I learned how. When I was in grade school and junior high I had special library privileges – because I had to jump on the school bus as soon as school was out, I was dismissed from class 5 or 10 minutes early each day so I could go to the library and pick out a book, which I would then read that night and return the next morning. On Sundays, I would check out several books from the church library. I read at least one book a day.

baby-blue-cinderella

When I was little, my parents thought it was nice that I liked to read so much. They were proud that I was such an avid reader. But I was raised on a farm where everyone was expected to pitch in and help, and as I got older, what was perceived as cute became an irritation, especially to my Dad, who thought I should be working instead of “wasting time” reading. I took to reading late at night, sometimes in my bed, with a flashlight, half hidden under the covers, so my parents wouldn’t see the light. There are photos of me sitting at a picnic table or in the back seat of the car when we were on family vacations, reading, when according to my Mom and Dad, I should have been doing things with my family – hiking, swimming – the things “normal” kids do. When I tried to read, my sisters and brothers teased me. My parents yelled at me. Reading became a sore spot.

lavender-book1

I stubbornly ignored them and kept reading… and writing. A poetry class and then, a creative writing teacher, inspired and encouraged me to write, to express myself. I was a straight A student, fueled as much by what I learned from the books I read as what I was taught in class.

But somewhere about the time I was a junior in high school, I started to accept the message that was repeated over and over again – at worst, that reading was a waste of time, at best, that reading was something people only did when they were too old to work and had nothing better to do with their time. I stopped reading for pleasure. My school courses became more demanding and required more reading, and I was involved in several extracurricular activities – choir, yearbook editor, 4-H, youth group at church – that required my attention and took a lot of time.

This was even more true in college. What free time I did have was spent talking with friends in my dorm. I started working and dating. I wrote reams of poetry while I was at Wheaton, exulting in first loves and new experiences, questioning, learning, growing up. But I read only what I had to.

I married after two years at Wheaton and moved to Germany. I continued my studies and wrote avidly – this time in the form of term papers and hundreds of hand-written letters to my parents, in-laws, Grandmas, and friends. But I didn’t read. I earned money and I worked. I gave up the fight and listened to the inner voice in my head that said I was being lazy when I sat down to read a book… that I should be working… that I should be doing something worthwhile, productive… if nothing else, seeing the sights and experiencing Europe.

It didn’t help that books written in English weren’t that readily available in Germany. No e-books back in the 70’s! But more importantly, my life was in crisis. My marriage was a mess, and I made a series of bad choices in the years that followed… choices that I was ashamed of, felt guilty about, and couldn’t talk… or write… about. I lost hope, felt depressed, eventually got divorced. I neither read nor wrote during this period. How can a person read stories with a happy ending when you are so cynical that you don’t believe in them? Writing seemed pointless. It didn’t solve anything, help anything, change anything.

I acquired a sarcastic wit as I fought my way back to emotional health and rebuilt my tattered financial status. I worked countless hours opening a business and eventually found both happiness and success. But I never opened a book.

bbi-h-to-b-crop

It’s ironic now to think back on that time period — the fact that each of the rooms at my Bed and Breakfast is named after a book attests to the fact that I still had a passion for reading. But the rooms are named after books I’d read as a child… “On the Banks of Plum Creek” by Laura Ingalls Wilder, “The Secret Garden”, Sherwood Forest from “Robin Hood”, “Sleeping Beauty”, NeverNeverland from “Peter Pan”, “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madelaine L’Engle, “Heaven to Betsy”, one of the Betsy – Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace… the books I’d loved as a child were the only books I knew, because I had stopped reading by the time I became an adult.

bbinn-pc-high-res

Then, a friend invited me to join her at Prince Edward Island for a week and a half. Her aunt and uncle owned a vacation house on the water, and had rented the one next door for us to stay. I arrived at the sleepy little island one summer day, and felt immediately at home. Plainly rural, yet beautifully scenic, it lives up to its Indian name, Abegweit, or land cradled by the waves.

I’d never been on a seaside vacation. My family camped, changing locations every night, seeing new sights every day, traveling hundreds of miles over the course of a week’s vacation. I was bored silly, or more accurately, fit to be tied, after 3 days.

My friend’s Aunt Doris was a reader. She handed me a book and told me to relax. I started Sandra Brown’s “French Silk” later that afternoon, sitting in an old lawn chair, overlooking the water. I had read six books by the time I left for home. She let me take another to read on the airplane. I had finished it by the time I reached New Jersey, and bought another at the airport to take me to Minneapolis. I haven’t stopped since.

I read everything Sandra Brown had ever written. I discovered Susan Elizabth Phillips, Jill Marie Landis, Dorothy Garlock, LaVyrle Spencer, Nora Roberts, Elizabeth Lowell, Debbie Macomber, Janet Evanovich, Linda Lael Miller, Pamela Morsi, Julie Garwood, Jennifer Crusie and more, devouring their books one by one. Bookshelves once filled with baskets and knick-knacks were now crammed with books.

plum-creek-books

A year after I visited Prince Edward Island and started reading again, I was inspired to write my first novel. I spent hundreds of dollars to fly to Colorado, rent a car, and attend a writing workshop led by Madelaine L’Engle. My employees, parents, and brothers and sisters all seemed to think I was wasting my time. Would writing pay off? It didn’t seem likely that I would ever get paid for the hours and hours I was spending in front of the computer, typing away.

This time, I again refused to listen. I kept reading… and writing. In my first published book, “Night and Day”, recently released by Second Wind Publishing, Jensen Marie Christiansen finds pure magic on Prince Edward Island, the place where I rediscovered my love of reading. Is it any surprise I chose this very special island to be the setting of Jensen’s dream come true?

Although my family has learned to accept my passion for books and writing, the entrepreneurial side of me is still bothered on some level that I may never net more than one or two cents an hour for the time and energy I’ve spent writing my books. But I have learned to be proud of my voice. I have learned that dreams really do come true. I have learned that I must write… and read. With every book I read, I am far richer than I was before.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,167 other followers

Daybreak – New Release! (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

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: