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My love of bluebells is no secret.

Bluebells

They bloom in the woods near my B&B every year in late April or early May.

Sporing - bluebells

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I’ve watched their pink and purple buds turn into intense, periwinkle blue flowers, then fade to a soft, sky blue, since I was a little girl.

Blue Belle - Jump Canva

I’ve written a book named Blue Belle. The B&B and tea house I’ve owned for 25 years is called the Blue Belle Inn.

BlueBelle 2016

Familiar as bluebells are to me, I’ve recently learned a few new lessons while walking through the bluebell wood.

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It’s possible to be broken, bent, and beautiful at the same time.  One most likely leads to the other, like the beauty of a mosaic made from broken pieces.

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You can focus on the beauty of a place, or the ugliness. Stuff happens. It’s your choice what you dwell on.

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For every hill you struggle to climb, there’s an easy cruise down the other side, and a beautiful view from the top besides.

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Even when you feel hollow and empty inside, you’re a thing of beauty to someone who needs shelter from the wind.

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Finding your own little niche to grow in is one of life’s greatest gifts.

Bluebells - log

No matter how bad you have it, someone else always has it worse.

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Being front and center isn’t always the best place to be. Wallflowers are much less likely to get stepped on than flowers that grow in the middle of a pathway.

bluebells - path

You can lift your eyes upward to the tree tops, or follow the shadows down into the valley.  Your choice.

bluebells - ridge

Being uprooted is never fun, but there’s always a bright spot on the horizon.

bluebells - roots

Sunshine or shadow – it makes all the difference.

bluebells - shadows

Some people live lengthy lives in obscurity, others are chosen to be loved intensely for but a moment.

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Some are fortunate enough to find a clear, straight, well-marked path.

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Everything you do and say is a reflection on the things you love most – the real you.

bluebells - water

Sometimes the path winds  so much that you can’t see what’s around the bend. But that’s okay. It’s good to be surprised.

bluebells - winding path

I’m in a time of transition in my life. Are you? Wandering in the bluebell wood, I was reminded that there’s no better way to find your way than in new lessons learned from the comfort of the familiar.

I don’t know who coined the phrase, “the joy in the journey”, but I do know that it almost always eludes me.  A few days ago, I was sitting in an airport in Toronto, Canada on my way to Glasgow, Scotland, the Highlands, and the Isles of Arran and Skye. Like most people, I hate flying and airports in general, and submit to the indignities of being crammed into miniscule seats with dozens of hot, sweaty strangers only because I have no choice if I want to get where I’m going.

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Why is it that we so desperately long to skip the getting there part and jump right to the arrival? Scotland is definitely worth the long flight – no doubt aboot that. But why is it that I can’t find anything to appreciate about the journey?

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My ancestors came to America on ships from England, Denmark, and Germany under deplorable conditions. Many came with barely a penny to their name. Some had to delay their journey to their ultimate destination until they had earned enough money working in New York or Pennsylvania to take the train to Minnesota or Iowa, where a homestead awaited them.

Unpleasant as flying can be, it’s quick, and relatively painless. Sometimes your luggage gets lost, but at least you get to bring things along. I can’t imagine leaving all my treasures behind and having to choose only 1 trunk full of possessions for an entire family.

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We may have an occasional bumpy landing in our modern day aircraft, but many of our ancestors lurched along on muddy, rock-pocked roads in covered wagons with hardwood wheels. Just thinking about it makes my back hurt. It makes me embarrassed to admit that I am traveling with a 1 ½” thick memory foam pad and my own, specially shaped pillow for neck support just the way I like it. (Yes, you can call me a Princess because I can feel a single pea under a bad mattress.)

Sweet William Front Cover

In Sweet William, Lyndsie has to decide between her precious home, career and country and a new life with William in Minnesota. There’s really no other option. When I met my husband almost 14 years ago, we both had established lives and our own homes and career paths. Instead of forcing one of us to give up what we had, we were able to find a way to merge our lives. I’m very thankful for that. Much as I love my husband, it would have been hard to choose between him and everyone and everything else I love. (You’ll have to read Sweet William to see what Lyndsie decides what to do.)

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As we traveled from Minneapolis to Toronto to Halifax, Nova Scotia to Glasgow, I tried to find things to be thankful for. I can’t say I found joy, but our journey so far has included an amazing house sitter who is a definite answer to prayer, some very polite and helpful Delta Airlines employees, a kind stranger or two who could tell I was struggling and offered to help, some prayer warriors on Facebook that encouraged me when our tickets were lost in the system and nowhere to be found, and even an ex-wife who stepped up in an emergency and made sure our car was taken care of. I didn’t seen any 360 degree rainbows from the airplane windows, but there was a handsome man sitting beside me who I’m awfully thankful for. There’s always something to be grateful for, even in the midst of the journey.

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That doesn’t mean I dinnae sometimes get grumpy on the journey. On our second day in Scotland, we hiked to see some ancient standing stones on the moors of the Isle of Arran. We were under the impression that the walk would be just a wee bit of a stroll, maybe 500 meters. Three long, hot miles later, we finally reached the standing stones. And we still had to get back to the car. We had no water, no sunscreen, and no food. It had been hours since we’d eaten breakfast and used a restroom, and it was already time for supper. As we listened to the plaintive “baaaaaaas” of the sheep in the pasture along the way, I wanted to hang my head and wail along with them. (I did a couple of times.) But then I turned around and saw what lay ahead.

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Joy in the journey? Are we there yet? I truly hope you have an easy time of it, and that the getting there goes quickly and is without pain. But if you experience delays, or unexpected trials along the way, or run into a thicket of thorny gorse, remember to look for the bright spots, and the kind hearts, and perhaps you will find joy in the journey after all.

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Last week, as I sat and listened to a bestselling author speak about writing murder mysteries, someone in the audience asked, “Why do you write about murder?” The author explained that she wrote what she knew – she had worked as a journalist investigating murders for years before writing novels. A good answer, I thought. But the person in the audience persisted, and once more asked, “But of all the things in the world you could write about, why would you want to focus on murders?” To which the author answered, “So, what should I write about? Cute, little flowers?” While she went on to explain that she had tried to write a romance once, and within three chapters, someone ended up dead, I sat there feeling embarrassed because my last three books are indeed about cute little flowers.

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I got the idea to write my Wildflowers of Scotland novels when we were in Scotland. We flew into Glasgow, and as we headed north towards Luss and Loch Lomond, there were still a few bluebells here and there. The rhododendrons were in full bloom and, as we worked our way from north to south, we saw heather in the highlands, roses in hundreds of hues, purple thistles, yellow gorsk, and a profusion of other wildflowers. When I got home and started writing, Thistle Down was born, then Wild Rose, and Blue Belle. I’m currently working on Shy Violet and, if I decide to keep going, Sweet William will be next.

Books - Scotland Promo

But the question still is – and it is a very valid question – “Out of all the things in the world I could write about / focus on, why cute little flowers?” It’s been clear from the beginning that if I wrote grisly, gory murder stories, I would sell more books. It’s what people seem to want to read. Townspeople who are generally unimpressed with my books were clamoring to buy hers. Friends of mine who are absolutely wonderful writers concoct excellent murder mysteries / crime / detective novels. So – why can’t I bow to public demand, get with the program, and write chilling thrillers?

Storm sun beams

Here’s my answer:

1. A friend of mine once said that he never wanted to be accused of being normal. Call it stubborn, call it being creative, unique, or just plain different, but I’ve always been one to do my own thing. I generally don’t care about popular fashion trends, or that no one else I know wears hats, or what other restaurants have on their menus (I own a B&B and Tea House). I’ve always followed my instincts, be they right or wrong, and at 57, I’m guessing there’s no changing me now.

Sherrie - porch

2. I also write what I know – and love, and care about. Maybe it’s because I come from a long line of worrywarts, or as we call it today, people who suffer from anxiety, but I try very hard to think about good things. Like many writers, my method is to start with a premise and then ask the question, “What if?” until my mind starts to swirl and a story comes to life. The thing is, I’m always thinking “What if?”. Even when I’m not working on a story, I’m prone to thinking about and imagining the worst thing that could happen. If I listened to those voices – dwelled on them – thought about them long enough to write a whole book based on the worst possible scenarios I imagine – well, lets’ just say I have no desire to go there.

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3. I memorized this verse when I was a kid, and it evidently stuck. “Philippians 4:8 –  Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” I in no way wish to imply that people who write about evil people or events are disobeying the Bible. I’m just saying that if I didn’t at least try to do as this verse says, my thoughts and fears would no doubt consume me.

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4. I have an artist’s eye. Follow me on Facebook and look at my photos if you don’t believe me. I know the world is filled with horrific images and all kinds of hate and evil and gore. But when I look at the world, I honestly see cute little flowers and beautiful sunsets and rainbows after storms. I also see symbolism behind every falling leaf in autumn and every snowflake in winter and everything – everything – around me.

Scotland Lighthouse

Of course, my books are about a lot more than cute, little flowers. In Wild Rose and Blue Belle, there are kidnappings, murders, and blackmail. In Shy Violet, there are pirates and whiskey smugglers, lying, abusive boyfriends and all kinds of bad things. But there are also wildflowers. Tiny, unique, beautiful little flowers.

Scotland flowers by the sea

My last three – soon to be four – books, set in Scotland, have plenty of castles and kilts, kirks and keeps.  Those, and a muscular highlander or two, are the things Scottish romances are made of.

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But my books are also laced with wildflowers – wildflowers that aren’t particularly Scottish. Roses, violets, bluebells and even thistles can be found nearly everywhere in the world, after all. So, what is the connection and why did I choose to set my Wildflowers of Scotland novels (Thistle Down, Wild Rose, and Blue Belle – available now, and Shy Violet and Sweet William – coming soon) against the backdrop of Scotland?

Scotland flowers by the sea

A Striking Contrast:  In a place where flowers grow in lush, abundant quantities, a shy, little violet growing along a mossy pathway, a bluebell that’s here and gone again in a two week window of spring, even a wild rose, get easily lost in the profusion. In a country built on a rocky foundation and filled with harsh, cold landscapes, dark, misty vales, cold, stone castles, and drab, colorless cottages, a wee wildflower or two provide the perfect bit of contrast, a much needed dash of color to an otherwise harsh landscape.

Doors - Luss

A Lesson in Survival:  Scottish wildflowers are a hardy lot who blossom and grow and shine despite hard winters, rocky soils, brief summers, extreme variations in weather, and other adverse conditions.

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I hope you’re starting to get a feel for why I set my novels – modern-day mixtures of romance and suspense – against the backdrop of the Scottish countryside, and that you can see the Scotland I love in the bouquet of wildflowers I’ve picked for you.

WI2 - Thistle

Thistle Down – A prickly, purple thistle played the hero when an Englishman doing reconnaissance stepped on a particularly thorny specimen and let out a howl, alerting Scottish guards to an imminent invasion by the English. We’ve all been in situations where the odds are stacked against us, and whatever is happening in our lives is so dire and growing more hopeless by the minute, that we can’t imagine salvation is even remotely possible. And then, when all seems lost, something inadvertently wonderful and life-shattering happens, and all is well once again. Nothing like the sharp bite of a prickly plant coming out of nowhere to save the day!

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Wild Rose – No tame, fragile, domesticated beauties for the extreme seasons of Scotland. Wildflowers are hardy, stubborn and determined to find a foothold whether they be planted atop a stone wall, set amongst ruins, or left for dead along the motor way. No playing it the safe way or being content with the status quo for these lasses and lads, who are risk-takers, trend setters and wild things, all.

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Blue Belle – There’s nothing quite so satisfying as glimpsing the first wildflowers of spring after a drab, icy cold, Scottish winter. That first bit of color is not only well-worth the wait, it’s the very thing that makes the whole frigid lapse bearable. Good things do come to those who wait. Springtime flowers are all the sweeter in Scotland, because you have to endure a bit of weather each year before the wildflowers return.

Scotland Duart Castle - Mull

Shy Violet – Scotland is a subtle, understated country in so many ways. No exotic, tropical flowers here. In Scotland, it’s about the simple, everyday things of life, pleasures born both of need and necessity. Keep your eyes open and you’ll see majesty galore in nature’s quiet offerings… a shy violet hiding behind a rock, a blush of heather in the hills, a splash of rhododendrons growing deep in the woods.

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Sweet William – From hardship grows character and determination and the sweet appreciation of the things that really matter in life. Gentle spirits born of adversity are so much more lovable than arrogant showoffs. How similar to the way of Scottish wildflowers – blooming not in showy profusion, but cropping up here and there in solitary clumps wherever there is a bit of fertile soil.

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The thing about wildflowers, Scottish or not, is that they’re wild. Unpredictable. Full of surprises. Bent on blooming no matter what obstacles they’re up against. Determined to flourish and find a way even when they’re between a rock and a hard place -which is exactly what Scotland is all “aboot”.

Books - Scotland Promo

Christmas - peacock 

I woke up this morning filled with sweet memories of a Merry Christmas spent with my family, prepared to do a “Twas the day after Christmas” blog, but then I looked outside.

Blu Belle winter tiny

Here in North Iowa and Southern Minnesota, we’ve had a lot of snow and below zero temperatures already this winter. The forecast HIGH for Tuesday is -2 below zero. Don’t even get me going on wind chills – they were – 25 and -30 a few days ago and forecast to dip as low or even lower next week.

Zion 2013 snow view

Can you blame me for wanting to take a little trip to summertime?

Flowers - strawberry  Duluth - close

I’m deep into Shy Violet, the third of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels, and almost ready to do edits on Blue Belle, the second, and relishing summertime on the Isles of Skye and Mull.  When I can’t remember the sights and smells of summer, I look at my photos and dream of warm days and starry, summertime nights and write on. It’s fun to escape to a landscape filled with wildflowers and green grass. Some people take a vacation to the south of France or Florida or the California coast. I get lost in a book set in the summertime.

Sporing - bluebells

 

My favorite wildflowers are those that I find growing in front of a picturesque sight like a castle or an old kirk, a lake or ocean, a stunning mountain, or even those that grow in the front yard of my B&B, the Blue Belle Inn. If I were a wildflower, that’s where I would plant myself.  Life is short and I like to get outside and enjoy the views as often as I can.

203 Scotland St. Andrews  Duluth - lupine

 

Wildflowers take root wherever they can find a toehold.  They’re tenacious and determined and slightly stubborn, just like me.

197 Scotland - Flowers in Stone  201 Scotland -- Fence 

Wildflowers grow in a wild tangle of disarray. Although I try to make myself tidy up my house on a regular basis so it looks like a photo shoot from Beautiful Home magazine (in case my mother should drop by), it more often looks like a tornado just touched down. The truth is, I’m just not into regimented gardens planted in straight rows a specific number of inches apart. I’m more of a wildflower and always have been.

Ely - Thistle   WI2 - Thistle

 

The heroines of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels – Wild Rose (Rose),  Blue Belle (Isabelle), and Shy Violet (Violet) – are all prone to living their lives in unconventional ways. They don’t like to be fenced in. They know how to make the best of a bad situation – to bloom where they’re planted despite that fact that the weather and soil and growing conditions are less than ideal. They get trampled on and they bounce back.  They’re true glories of nature.

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Thanks for taking a brief trip to summertime with me.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the green scenery, warm breezes, and raindrops on roses.

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If you refuse to get in the mood, you can go read Love Notes – it starts as autumn is changing to winter and ends on Christmas Eve. It takes place in Embarrass, MN, the coldest place in America.  If you’re in the mood for a good winter read, this is it. Google Embarrass, MN on Tuesday and see how warm it is up north! I’ll be cozied up, dreaming of roses and bluebells and violets, waiting for summer to return.  Merry Christmas!

 

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Sweet William – New Release!

Shy Violet

Blue Belle

Wild Rose

Thistle Down

Love Notes

Night and Day

Stormy Weather

Water Lily

Merry Go Round

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