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We have to build our lives out of what materials we have. It’s as though we were given a heap of blocks and told to build a house. From Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace

B&W Blue Belle Inn 

I think of this quote often when I’m looking back at my life – and, when I’m starting a new book. My entire life has been a construction project – building up, tearing down, rebuilding, renovating, remodeling and even starting over one or two times when the foundation has been kicked out from under me. As the years go by, I’m getting close to the age when I need to start downsizing, and finding a house / life whose size and upkeep is more manageable.

 

Another quote from Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy and Joe says, The older I get the more mixed up life seems. When you’re little, it’s all so plain. It’s all laid out like a game ready to play. You think you know exactly how it’s going to go. But things happen…

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Things do happen – in life, and in our writing. Sometimes one mirrors the other. When I start a new book, I begin with a cast of characters who each have their own goals, dream, and motivations. They each have a past made up of previous experiences and encounters, loves and disappointments. More importantly, they have challenges, and problems, and people and things that threaten their well-being and threaten to keep them from their goals. I can plan exactly what I think should happen in a book, but at some point, the characters take over, pick up the building blocks I have strewn about, and write their own story. Ultimately, I can’t predict exactly what kind of house is going to get built in my books any more than I can my own life. It’s a good thing I like surprises, and that I’m a curious sort who loves to find out what lies around the next bend in the road.

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Twists and turns are part of the story. But bringing form and structure, color and life, and artistry and rhythm to the heap of building blocks is what a writer does. In writing, I work through my own problems, calm my anxieties, and find hope for the future. My wish is that you will do the same as you read my stories.

Like Maud said in Betsy’s Wedding,  Good things come, but they’re never perfect, are they? You have to twist them into something perfect.

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In my favorite Maud Hart Lovelace book, Heaven to Betsy, Betsy thinks, What would life be like without her writing? Writing filled her life with beauty and mystery, gave it life… and promise.

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Perhaps the magic of a good book occurs when a writer take an ordinary slice of life and turns it into a piece of art. In Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, Maud Hart Lovelace wrote, Betsy was sitting in the backyard maple, high among spreading branches that were clothed in rich green except at their tips where they wore the first gold of September. In Betsy Tacy and Tib, It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.

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I learned to look for the beauty in my own back yard when I read books like Maud’s, set in small Minnesota farming towns, when I looked at the sunset through the lens of my first camera, and when my hardworking family took time to visit Minnesota’s lovely state parks and campgrounds. I learned to appreciate beauty when we traveled across the United States and experienced the vastness of God’s handiwork.

Maybe that’s why I love what Maud wrote in Betsy-Tacy and Tib:  In silence, the three of them looked at the sunset and thought about God.

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I firmly believe that God is the Master Designer. Not only can God paint an amazing sunset, He knows what will happen in my life – has known all along – and in the books I write, even before I do. He gave me the building blocks and the skills to build a life that I hope will glorify him.

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My nephew, Luke, wanted me to play a game with me last week. We each drew a card which told us what we were supposed to build out of the pile of red, green, blue and yellow Legos in the game box. While I stumbled and fumbled around, and came up with something that only slightly resembled a frog, Luke’s creativity amazed me! It’s not just about the building blocks, it’s about the way we put them together.

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Whether you’re a writer or a reader, a musician, a quilter, a farmer, a painter, a pastor, or a poet, I urge you to thank God for the building blocks you’ve been given, the construction skills you’ve learned and acquired, and the creativity and instincts to build a beautiful house where you can thrive and grow.

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In my new release, Lyndsie thinks she knows how her life will go, when suddenly William comes into her life and causes a minor earthquake. When her carefully constructed house starts to tumble and things go from orderly to confused, she has to decide when and how to rebuild her days, and how and where she will spend them. Things are a mess. Nothing goes right…

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And to find out what kind of house Lyndsie builds – western ranch style or a wee Scottish boothie – you’ll have to read the book.

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Twenty-five 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, divide their time between two 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, Shy Violet and Sweet William, her Wildflowers of Scotland novels. If you hadn’t already guessed, Sherrie’s favorite books (from way back when) are the Betsy Tacy books by Minnesota author Maud Hart Lovelace.

 You can see what’s Sherrie’s up to at: 

https://www.facebook.com/BlueBelleInn

 https://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/

www.BlueBelleInn.com or www.BlueBelleBooks.com

https://twitter.com/SherrieHansen

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

http://www.amazon.com/Sherrie-Hansen/e/B007YXQJ4W/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Sherrie’s new release is Sweet William. https://amzn.com/B01H2TUD3U

He’s a real sweetheart. She’s a wee bit tart. When Minnesota farm boy, William McKnight, and sassy Scot, Lyndsie Morris, are forced to work together in the kitchen of Rabbit Hill Lodge, the atmosphere is as charged as an episode of Chopped. Will someone get cut, or will they find a recipe that works? Things just start to get spicy when an angry bull butts his way into the picture, and Lyndsie has to decide if she loves William more than everyone and everything she holds dear.

Have you ever noticed that in many novels, the mothers of the main characters are conveniently vacationing in some remote spot on the other side of the globe, or even dead? Having grown up in a family where my mother and grandmothers, even my aunts and cousins, were involved in almost every aspect of my life, I have a hard time relating to a world without a mother’s magic.

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When I was 9 years old, I joined 4-H and got sent to Aunt Shirley’s house (my dad’s sister, who is married to my mom’s brother) to learn how to sew. I remember getting into arguments with my mother when she told me a seam was crooked and had to be ripped out. When Aunt Shirley told me something needed to be redone, I very meekly said, “Okay,” and did it over until I got it right. From that time on, I made most of my own clothes.

Going to Dorothy’s Fabric Store in downtown Austin, Minnesota to pick out fabric and notions was an adventure that was shared with the extended family, too. The first thing Mom did when we found a time when we could go to town – preferably without my little sisters and brothers – was to call my grandmas and aunts and invite them to meet us at the fabric store. I can still remember them crowding around me, holding this and that bolt of fabric close to my face, giving their opinions on what color looked best on me and reminding me that vertical stripes were the most flattering to my figure. Which fabric would work well with the pattern we had selected and what kind of cloth would hang right and stand up well under repeated washings were important considerations, too. Dry-clean-only fabric wasn’t even considered because of the extra cost of upkeep. Anything on the clearance rack was given double consideration. Their favorite materials were the rainbow selection of polyester double knits, considered a modern miracle of inventions because the seams didn’t ravel, it didn’t have to be ironed, and it was practically indestructible. When the fun part came – deciding which buttons would accent the fabric to its best advantage and what kind of zipper was easiest to put in – options were discussed at length, a truly matriarchal affair.

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Perhaps the fact that my mom, grandmas, and aunts were so involved in my life would have driven some teenagers to madness, but it made me feel surrounded by love, special, and deeply cared for. To this day, I have trouble making decisions by myself and almost always call my mom or dad to see what they think I should do before making a major purchase. I still think about calling my grandmas for advice when I’m stumped even though they’ve been gone for over a decade. I’m blessed to have both parents living and hope it stays that way for a good long time.

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As for writers who leave mothers out of their fictional equations and plotlines, I would say that they’re missing out on some of the best fodder for character development – and yes, conflict – there is. Mothers and daughters have a very unique relationship. They love, they adore, they disagree, they despise. The imprint our mothers make on us, good or bad, affects us more deeply than anything else in life. And what is more endearing and heroic than a son who loves and respects his mother? Mothers know their children inside and out. They meddle. They make us laugh – they break our hearts. Mothers are our biggest cheerleaders and our worst critics. They’re not afraid to say what they think, and they sometimes don’t approve of the choices we make. And they show us the true meaning of love, over and over and over again.

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In Sweet William, Lyndsie’s mother (Kelly, who you’ll remember from Wild Rose), and her Aunt Rose, are very influential figures who chide, defend, and lend a listening ear. William’s mother, who is convinced Lyndsie made everyone at their family gathering sick when she served them her homemade smoked haddock pies, takes an instant dislike to the lass her son is in love with, putting William in a very awkward position. To see how it all ends, you’ll have to read the book.

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Mothers really do make the world go round. Without them, nothing would be as it is – we wouldn’t exist. A mother’s magical presence, woven into the plotline of a novel, may not be as high intrigue or titillating as  murder and mayhem, but it can tear at the soul and tickle the heartstrings like no other relationship. Grandmas

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If you sometimes take your mother for granted, be sure to give her a hug and tell her how much you love her this Mother’s Day.  Next time you read a book, think about how much impact a mother has on what’s happening between the main characters. There are fictional mothers we love, and those we hate, and those we feel lukewarm about, but whatever their make-up, they’re one of the – maybe the most – pivotal, primal component in our lives.

Cherish your mom, today and always.

I’m not sure why, but all of the sudden, I’m starting to feel like an old fogy. (Definition:  an extremely fussy, old-fashioned, or conservative person.) It started last summer when my mom and dad celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary and their 80th birthdays. My parents have always seemed quite young to me, and they are compared to many of my classmates and peers, since I’m the oldest child in our family. (They only waited a couple of years before they had me, so that tells you about how old I am.) When did they get to be so old?

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Suddenly, my little niece is taller than I am, and most likely smarter, too.

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This winter, the house my dad built when I was 16 suddenly needed a lot of updating because it was over 40 years old. When did that happen? Earlier this month, a video of the house I renovated and turned into a bed and breakfast almost 25 years ago started to recirculate, and as I looked at a young, energetic, spry-looking version of myself smiling on the video, I realized that my staff, neighbors, nieces and nephews, and half the people in town have no idea how horrible the property used to look, and how absolutely heroic I was to rescue the place from the bulldozing it probably deserved. They either weren’t born yet, or were about 5 years old.

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Yes, that’s me in the middle.

I’ve always prided myself on being pretty with it. I play with a contemporary Christian band and there’s nothing I like more than rocking out with the volume on my keyboard at full blast. I pound out a mean bass line and I’ve got the rhythm. I write steamy novels, wear funky clothes and hats, and work circles around many of my years younger staff members. I may be a little gray; I may be getting a little stiff in the joints, but I like to think I’ve still got it. Well, part of it anyway.

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But lately… well, I’ve started to feel more and more irked with the way the younger generation thinks and does things. I routinely say things like, “What is this world coming to?”, and “Back in my day, we used to…”, and “When I was your age…” When I watch the Grammies, the only musicians I’m familiar with are those being inducted into the Hall of Fame.  To be honest, most of what we call contemporary music at our church are songs written 30 or 40 years ago. And when I visit churches with truly contemporary music and smoke machines and light shows, I cringe and probably feel the way my parents did the first time I sang Ralph Carmichael’s “He’s Everything to Me”.

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And don’t even get me started on the fact that many of the obituaries in the paper are for people my age or even younger. It’s scary to think that I’m in the twilight years of my life, or that it’s all downhill from here. And to quote a comedian three-fourths of you have probably never heard of, “I don’t get no respect.”

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Suddenly, I understand all the fuss about bucket lists, because time is running out, and if I’m going to do it, it needs to be now, while I still can. My goal has been to leave the country every three to five years to go on a dream vacation, but suddenly, it makes more sense to take a good long trip to somewhere far away and exotic every year, before it’s too late. Even then, you’ll probably find me on a cruise ship or one of peering out the windows of one of those big buses with really comfy seats. I hate the thought of missing out on anything.

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Because today I noticed something. Sunsets are just as beautiful as sunrises. Maybe even more so. I have wisdom, and grace, and the kind of polish and beauty that a rock gets from being in a rock tumbler. I’ve worked hard for what I have, and now, I get to enjoy it (well, whatever the government doesn’t take first). But that’s another thing I shouldn’t get started on.

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Sunrises are just fine. But watching the sun sink into the horizon in a blazing display of color and class… All I can say is, I’m going to enjoy every last minute of the show. Sometimes, the sky is at it’s most brilliant when the sun has already set, and the truth is, I’ve always been a night owl.

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I firmly believe that each book I write is better than the last, and besides, it’s great fun to put my characters up to things I would never do now that I’m… And that I’m so in the groove at my B&B that the food we turn out only gets better and better. And, like all of us, my music – my generation’s – is the best. So there.

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Smile if you will, but think of me next time you see the sun setting, and remember, one day, you’ll be an old fogy, too.

Cal - Rachel SS

 

 

 

 

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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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