Author Archives: Sherrie Hansen

About Sherrie Hansen

By day, Sherrie Hansen Decker operates a Victorian Bed & Breakfast and Tea House, The Blue Belle Inn, in St. Ansgar, Iowa. By night, she enjoys writing novels, quilting, playing the piano, renovating old houses and traveling. Sherrie and her husband live in Northern Iowa. Sherrie's debut book, Night and Day, was released on 2/27/09 by Second Wind Publishing. The Maple Valley trilogy (Stormy Weather, Water Lily, and Merry Go Round) is complete as of May 2011.

To Leave the Bedroom Door Closed or Head to the French Riviera. An Honest Appraisal by Sherrie Hansen

 

I know many authors who keep their characters’ bedroom doors tightly closed, some because it’s dictated by their publishers, or because they’re writing Christian fiction or want their books to be appropriate for all ages. Some writers simply don’t feel comfortable going there for a multitude of personal reasons. Others abstain because it – or in this case, a lack of it – fits the story. Perhaps their characters just aren’t in a place where they’re thinking about or engaging in sex.  Other authors are known for their erotic sex scenes – or as one friend from a writer’s group I belong to recently said, writing books that are “a never-ending sexual romp.”

Wild Rose - tag line

Likewise, some readers have strong preferences when it comes to closing the bedroom door or keeping it open. While I sincerely respect those who don’t want to fill their heads with gratuitous sex or violence, I get irritated with people who assume that just because a novel is labeled romance, it’s a bodice ripper or akin to Fifty Shades of Grey. In other cases, the only reason people even read books is for the sex. That’s fine with me, too.  We all have different passions and personalities. We read for different reasons – to relax, to be inspired, to better ourselves, to be entertained or to re-infuse our lives with hope – all perfectly valid.

Scotland - Bagpipes

Scottish Bagpipe player 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just like people are different, so are characters. Some of the characters I’ve written desperately want to have sex, but can’t or won’t for whatever reason. Others think about it all the time, but never have the opportunity. Some leap in with both feet, others shy away. Some are too busy with more important things, others just don’t get what the big deal is. Some do, and then wish they hadn’t. Others pay grim consequences for a few moments of pleasure that were probably far more disappointing than satisfying.

Scotland Bashful Rose Rose - rose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, if I had to put a label or heat index on my books, it would have to be “all over the place”.  Some of my books, like Night and Day or Water Lily, have sweet, tender love scenes, definitely on the mild side by today’s standards. Love Notes, which was originally targeted to a Christian fiction market, has no sex scenes, but does contain a few thoughts of sex. I’m told Stormy Weather is my steamiest novel to date. Wild Rose has adult themes, but only one very mild, “feel-good”  sex scene between a newly married couple.

So here it is – be warned – Blue Belle, which is soon to be released, has one sex scene. It takes place more or less accidentally-  on the beach on the French Riviera. One advance reader called it the hottest sex scene ever.  I can’t tell you exactly why it’s there, or why your heart will break when you find out what happens the next morning, without giving too much away, except to say that Blue Belle is about trust and betrayal, and being naked and vulnerable, and how scary that is, because we all have to tear down the walls we build around our hearts if we want to find love, but it’s so hard to know who’s telling the truth and who’s lying, and when it’s safe to let down your guard and bare your soul – maybe even your body. Or not.

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As always, there may be those who judge me because I’m a Christian and a pastor’s wife, and “how could I?” And yes, a few of my ancestors would probably roll over in their graves if they ever read such a thing. And in spite of all that, or because of it, I wholly endorse the scene for reasons I think you will understand when you read the book. I’m proud of every page of this book and can’t wait for you all to read Blue Belle.  (My husband has also read it, and he’s proud of me, too.)

So, there it is.  Beware — or, order your advance copy now. I think you’ll love Blue Belle. If you choose not to read it, you’ll miss what’s very probably my best book yet. I’m still fond of the the reviewer who called my books, “the thinking woman’s romance”. Because, in addition to the occasional, still mild, comparatively speaking, sex scenes that sometimes crop up in my novels, books by Sherrie Hansen are knit together with intelligent characters in adverse circumstances struggling with real-life issues. They’re lovingly shaped with conflict and joy and heartache, compassion and suspense, intimate moments and lots of trouble – but always, a happy ending. And occasionally, sex happens. And when it does, because it has a huge impact on the lives of the characters, and because it forever changes who they are and how they view the world and themselves, I wouldn’t dream of not taking you along on the journey.

Sherrie Hansen has written 6 books and 1 novella, soon to be 7, all published by Second Wind Publishing. You can purchase Night and DayStormy Weather,Water LilyMerry Go RoundLove NotesThistle Down (FREE at Smashwords or 99 cents elsewhere – how can you go wrong?), Wild Rose, and very soon, Blue Belle, as paperback or e-book formats at Smashwords.com, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, selected independently owned stores,  The Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House, or directly from Second Wind.

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What Is It With Me and This Tree? by Sherrie Hansen

 

Sunset - Zion

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

Zion - Tree 14 branch

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

Zion - tree

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

Zion - Tree 14

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

Zion 2014 Tree 2

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

Zion 2014 Tree

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

Zion 1-14 Tree

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

Zion - 2013 Sunset

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

Zion - 2014 cold house

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

Zion tree split

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

Sunset - Good Friday

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

Zion - tree down

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

Zion - tree crack

Just a silly old tree – yet its loss affected me. Replaceable. Botanical. It was just a tree.

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

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

Zion - fall steeple 2013

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

Zion 1-14 Sunset

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Legends Galore, Buried Treasure and More… by Sherrie Hansen

Blue Belle Promo Poem

Isabelle doesn’t want to be found. Michael doesn’t want to be found out. But when Damon starts searching for the centuries-old gold he thinks is buried in the bay, everyone is in danger. A reporter from Virginia and a psychologist from Wisconsin – both in Tobermory, Scotland, both with secrets –  hers, shocking, his kept to protect the people he loves. When Isabelle stumbles upon the biggest story of her life, and Michael discovers the truth, will the painful memories that are dredged up destroy their chance for love, or will they strike gold?  Blue Belle, a Wildflowers of Scotland novel by Sherrie Hansen. Coming Soon from Second Wind Publishing.

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It’s a Mystery… or Ding, Dong the Wicked Witch is Dead! by Sherrie Hansen

Lately, everyone’s been asking when my next book is coming out. Blue Belle, the second of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels, should be ready in 60 – 90 days. All it needs is a serious going over and a new ending and it should be ready to send off to my publisher. In the meantime, I took advantage of NaNoWriMo to get 40,000 words into Shy Violet, the third in the series, so there should only be a short wait between the two books.

BBI Spring 2012

Some of you know that my primary distraction from writing is a bed and breakfast called the Blue Belle Inn B&B. For the past few months, my two passions have come together in a unique way.  In August, I decided to write a series of what I like to call fractured fairy tale style murder mysteries highlighting the storybook themes of each of our guest rooms at the B&B is named after.

BBInn - PC Tree 2010

I started out with our “On the Banks of Plum Creek” room and wrote (with apologies to Laura Ingalls Wilder), “Little Oops On The Prairie”. It begins when Nellie Olafson’s somewhat eccentric, mean-spirited cousin, Nutty Olafson, is found face down at the supper table. My tagline read: Something smells fishy on the banks of Plum Creek – is there a wolf in sheep’s clothing lurking in the Big Woods or a little killer loose on the Prairie? Suspects Nellie Olafson, Visiting Professor Jerald Jill of Iowa, Quick Draw McNutt, local football hero Big Brawny, and the much loved but tragically flat-footed Insoles family are all in for a Long Winter in the pokey unless the true murderer can be uncovered. I also planned a theme dinner which included Ma’s Bean Soup with Bacon, Chicken Pie with Baking Powder Biscuit Crust, New England Pot Roast with Potatoes and Carrots, and Roast Pork with Milk Gravy and Mashed Potatoes.

MM - Little Oops cast

We’ve been doing murder mysteries at the Blue Belle Inn for over 20 years now, at the rate of 4 to 9 times a year. Although I have several sources for purchasing the “whodunit” mystery games that become the basis for our dinner theater productions, it’s become increasingly harder to find fresh material that’s well-written.  The actors would often complain about how flimsy the plots were, or that there just wasn’t enough material to work with. Often times, I would spend hours fleshing out the plays I bought online with an opening  dialog, opening and closing statements, and so on, while the actors frequently had to unscramble plot elements that just didn’t make sense.

When I first started writing books, they were pure romance. I thought I’d never write novels that contained murder and mayhem, but in my last two books (Love Notes and Wild Rose) and the ones I’m presently working on (Blue Belle and Shy Violet), there are bad guys who are truly twisted, evil and bent on hurting people, a kidnapping, gunshots, and even a murder. As I worked on the motivation and chaotic situations caused by the suspense element in my novels, it occurred to me that I could just as well try my hand at a murder mystery. (Not to worry, there are still plenty of sweet, romantic moments in my novels, too.)

I also thought, if I wrote my own mysteries, that it would be fun to incorporate some local color. Some of our local spoofs include the World Famous Miracle Whip Clinic in Rochester, MN, where miracle cures abound, and our locally manufactured breakfast cereals with a pirate named Captain Crunch. Because murder mysteries are tongue in cheek, humorous and very irreverent, you can really toss in whomever and whatever you feel like. It’s also great fun writing parts that specifically match our actor’s best (and worst?) features. If we can’t laugh at ourselves once in awhile, what fun are we?

MM Never Ever Land cast

In September, we performed our second original mystery, “Footloose in Never Ever Land”. The intro read: Who will be next to walk the plank in Never Ever Land? One thing is sure – it won’t be poor Woody Stuck, an old hippie who was stuck in the 60′s, because he was found belly up in the Lagoon a few hours ago. Now the clock is ticking and we hope you’ll help Peter Pun and the Lost Boyz find out who is guilty – is it Captain Crunch, the pirate with the biggest chompers ever, Rev. Hal Fyre and his crony, The Church Lady, free-spirit Windy, Fancy Free Willow Tree, Crocodile Rock, who has a scaly skin condition, or Stinker Belle, the church secretary? The theme meal included Gems of the Sea Puffs Mornay with Shrimp & Crab on Scallop Shells, “But Spinach is Good for You, Peter” Chicken with Spinach Artichoke Dip & Italian Cheeses, and The Church Lady’s Sunday Roast Beef with Mashed Potatoes.

MM - Sherwood Forest

In October, we did “Shenanigans in Sherwood Forest with Robin Love & His Band of Unmarried Men”. The write-up says:  Relationships are complicated in UnTie the Knotingham, a small but wealthy kingdom where the divorce rate is extremely high. Thus, it came as no surprise when Richie Rich, a philandering playboy, was found dead on his wedding day. The question is, who killed him? Wife #7 – the former Maid Mary Ann, Ginger Root, wealthy nobleman Henry the Eighth, Friar Luck, Viking warrior Little Johnson, or Robin Love – a poor, mild-mannered attorney who has devoted his life to championing the underdog in divorce cases far and wide? It’s up to you to unravel the mystery before anyone else loses their head and does something crazy, like getting married. SHERWOOD FOREST CUISINE featured Cottage Pie with a Thatched Roof, and Fruits of the Forest Chicken with Mushrooms, Apples, Berries and a Splash of Brandy.

That left “Anne of Green Gables”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “The Secret Garden”, Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time”, and “Heaven to Betsy”, from Maud Hart Lovelace’s Victorian era Betsy Tacy books, for future mystery dinner themes. At the rate of one every 3 – 4 weeks, by the time we finished one mystery, my brain has already been working on the next, envisioning characters who tesseract, wear pompadour hair styles and floppy hats and climb big hills with the Crowd, or hob knob with princes and princesses and wicked witches and maybe a giant bunny rabbit or two.

MM - Dudley Do-RightMM - Anne Green

In November, for our Anne of Green Gables Fans, we premiered a mash up Lucy Montgomery’s Anne books and Gone with the Wind. “Anne Green and Dianna Dingleberry’s Most Excellent Adventure”. The lead-in read: When cold-hearted Rachel Bag O’ Wynde, the neighbor from down the lane, is found dead, every one thinks she choked on an artichoke heart. But one person knows how she really died, and it was no accident. Help Anne Green and Dianna Dingleberry find out who is guilty. Is it sour old Marilla Lemon, Matthew Chokecherry, obsessed with being best Gilbert Plum, Southern belle Scarlett Pimpernel, the pasty faced schoolteacher Ashley Grey, or Rhett, the Butler? Dudley Do-Right of the Canadian Mounted Police even made a guest appearance.The custom menu included PEI Potato Soup, Ingleside Inn’s Fried Steak with Cheesy Onion Gravy and Red Potatoes, and Anne and Dianna’s Most Resplendent Raspberry Cordial Chicken served with Cavendish Creamed Potatoes and Peas. The featured dessert was Bread Pudding with Caramel Whiskey Sauce – sans the mouse.

MM - PCharming

In December, we tackled Sleeping Beauty with “Will the Real Prince Charming Please Stand Up?” My teaser read:  When game show host Alec Quebec is found dead, everyone on the latest episode of “To Twist the Truth!” is a suspect. Who is guilty? Is it one of the esteemed panel of judges – Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, wicked stepmother Eveele O’Gress, or Glimmer, the Good Fairy? Or is it one of the contestants – dashing Prince Charming, Hermie, the Outcast Elf wannabe dentist, or Dopey the Dwarf, who was last seen clutching a ruby red slipper and looking for Cinderella? Or is it Kermit, a spirited frog that keeps hopping around the stage? The made-to-fit menu included Bavarian Hunter Schnitzel on Homemade Spaetzle Noodles, Cinderella’s Pumpkin with Pork and Parmesan Filling, and Snow White’s Special Apple Pie.

MM - W in Time

Our January premier was “Who? Whatsit? Which Wicked Witch is Dead?” a mash up that featured childhood favorites “A Wrinkle in Time” and the “Wizard of Oz”. My teaser read: When a Wrinkle in Time causes Camazotz and the Emerald City to collide, the witch is accidentally squished. Or was it Mrs. Which? And was it really an accident? Follow the yellow brick road with Meg Dorothea Ditz, Charles Wallace Wiz, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, the creepy computer guy nobody likes – Jay I.T. Bug, Glinda the Good, scary mafia man Scarface Crow from Central Intelligence, and nice guy Calvin Tim Mann, who wears his heart on his sleeve, to find out which one really did it. I had fun with this meun – Emerald City Soup with Green Broccoli & Garlic Herb Toasts, Over the Rainbow Fruit Wand, Starry, Starry Night Steak with Green Peppercorn Sauce, Aunt Beast’s Best Ever Vegetable Cheese Puff, Out of this World Salmon with Seafood Stuffing, and Mrs. Murry’s Bunsen Burner Beef Stew with Biscuits on Top.

Blue Belle winter

On February 7 and 8, we’re looking forward to presenting another original murder mystery entitled “Betsy and Tacy Go Downton” – a mash up of my favorite books, the Betsy Tacy books by Minnesota author Maud Hart Lovelace, and the popular British TV series, Downton Abbey. Here’s what guests have to look forward to: When Betsy Ray’s British cousin, Matthew Crawley, fakes his death in a car accident and comes to Deep Valley, MN because he needs a break from Downton Abbey, a round of parties is planned to introduce him to the Crowd. When Lord Grantham and the Dowager Countess cross the pond to put an end to his lark, the unthinkable happens and Matthew is murdered. (Yes, this time, he’s really dead.) Did someone tamper with his dance card, hot wire his motor car, or spike his punch? Or could he simply not tolerate the caterwauling during the Cat Duet? Betsy, Tacy, Tib, Bad Boy Tony, Busty Bonnie the Minister’s Daughter (who we’ve never quite trusted), Joe Schmo, and Thomas, the Valet are all suspects. The menu includes “Onion Sandwich” Soup a la Mr. Ray, Betsy’s Heart of My Heart Chicken with Garlic Rosemary Cream Sauce and Artichoke Hearts,  Tib’s Beef Rouladen with Bacon & Onion Gravy on Homemade Spaetzle Noodles, Tacy’s Irish Meat Pie with Pork and Potatoes, and Lady Violet’s Elegant Roast Beef with Chardonnay Cream Sauce, Gorgonzola Cheese and Red Potatoes – and of course, a bite of the Crowd’s Famous Fudge for dessert.

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A tale based on the book “The Secret Garden” is next, in March or April, and will probably feature a mad Farmer MaGregor and that rascal, Peter Cottontail. After that – who knows? It’s been an absolute thrill to see the creative costumes the actors have come up with for each of my mysteries and watch the way they’ve brought my characters and words to life. My only regret is that I’m usually working in the kitchen and don’t get to see much of the performances. Our actors are some of the best and so creative! John Deyo’s portrayal of a hopping, green frog / Prince Charming and Lisa Deyo’s rendition of Sleeping Beauty were amazing and very memorable. Mel Schroeder has done everything from A to Z including a one-legged pirate. My favorite of Deb Stickney’s roles to date is The Church Lady but she also does a great German accent. My husband, Mark Decker, makes foaming at the mouth and dying look so realistic that it’s scary. Neil and Terri Hernan, Mark and Ken Borchardt, Phyllis Ruehlow, Brenda and Michael Esdohr, Julia Crail, Tiffany Adams, and so many more who have filled in for us on occasion are some of the most versatile, slightly crazy, very silly actors ever.

I’m thrilled to say that our new, original mysteries have been getting rave reviews from our customers, including my mother, who said, “Are all those crazy things really in your head?”, to which I replied, “They kinda are.”

If you live in northern Iowa or southern Minnesota and haven’t been to one f the Blue Belle’s mystery dinners yet, it’s high time! Like I always say, at what other event does the guilty perpetrator of a dastardly deed get a round of applause? And as always, if you guess correctly or solve the mystery, you could get your dinner free.

One of these days, I’ll get around to finishing Blue Belle and Shy Violet, but in the meantime, if you’ve wondered what I’m up to – this is it! I hope you’ll also watch for another instance when my innkeeping and writing worlds are scheduled to collide… Second Wind Publishing will be hosting a Pitch the Publisher event at the Blue Belle Inn B&B sometime this summer or fall. Stay tuned for further details!

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Wildflowers in Winter by Sherrie Hansen

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 church, 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. It’s good to get outside and enjoy the views as often as you can.

203 Scotland St. Andrews  Duluth - lupine

Wildflowers take root wherever they can find a toehold.  They’re persistent and determined and slightly stubborn, just like me. Many of them survived the last ice age. That’s tenacity!

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 unexpectedly), it more often looks like a tornado just touched down. The truth is, I’m just not into neat, 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.

175 Scotland - Cambo gardensraindrops  Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]  Love Notes Cover - Final

NOTE:  If you refuse to get in the summertime mode, 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! It’ll make you thankful for whatever temperature it is where you are. As for me, I’ll be cozied up, dreaming of roses and bluebells and violets, waiting for summer to return.  Merry Christmas!

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The Doors of Dorney, Scotland by Sherrie Hansen

I have a confession to make. I’ve never been to Dorney. I’ve been as close as Eilean Donan Castle, but I was in a hurry to get to Fort William, and I never thought to go up into the village. Now, I’m writing a book called Shy Violet, the main characters are living in Dorney, and I’m left wishing I had walked a bit further and scoped out the town with my own two eyes.

That’s the way it is with doors. We choose to walk through them, or we skip on by, oblivious to what might be inside.

I’ve always been fascinated by doors, so when we started exploring Scotland, it came as no surprise that all kinds of unique and intriguing doors caught my eye.

Scotland - doors blue

Sometimes, when we get to a door, we’re hesitant to open it. Because doors can lead to places you’d rather not go.

Doors - Luss

Sometimes, when you see a door, you’re consumed with curiosity about what’s on the other side, and you can’t be happy until you know.

Door - Ayr

Doors can be a bit daunting – after all, one can never be quite sure what you’ll find when you open them.

Door - Castle

Doors can be portals to a make-believe world.

Door - Castle to Castle

The sights you see through an open door can make your imagination soar.

Door - Culzean

Doors can lead you deeper and deeper into a mystery that will take you who knows where.

Door - Double

Doors can lead to an alternate reality – perhaps one from which you will never escape.

Door - drawbridge

Doors can open up to adventures you’ve never even dreamed of.

Door - Edinbough

Doors – and the places they lead to – can inspire overtures and epic poems and all kinds of artistry.

Door - Fingal's CaveDoor - Fingal's Cave close-up

Doors can be common, comforting, familiar and welcoming.

Door - Sanctuary

Doors can be austere and foreboding.

Door - St. Michaels

Doors can be pretentious affairs.

Scotland - doors big

Doors can be plain and functional.

Scotland - door plain

When a door opens, light floods into the dark corners of you mind and enlightens every last nook and cranny.

Door - Sea

When you unlock a door, you never know what secrets you’ll uncover.

Door - Secret Garden

When a door shuts behind you, sometimes you wonder if you’ll ever go home.

Door - St A

Sometimes doors are a nice fit. Not too big, not to small.

Door - St Conans

Although it’s always wise to mind your head.

Scotland - door in a row

Sometimes doors dwarf you, and you wonder, who were these doors made for, giants?

Door - St Conans 2Some say that when God closes a door, he opens a window.

Door - St. Andrews

But we all know that when a door is closed, you can get left standing outside in the cold.

Scotland - doors closed

Next time you go in or out a door, I hope it leads to somewhere you want to be – maybe even Scotland – and that someone you love is waiting on the other side.

Scotland - door

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The Road Less Traveled – Things I Learned While Traveling in Scotland by Sherrie Hansen

Earlier this month, my husband and I drove to Michigan and back on old highways, backroads, and even a few gravel roads for all but a few miles when we skirted Chicago on I-90. We even took a ferry across Lake Michigan in our quest for the roads less traveled. (Don’t even mention our GPS – she’s very frustrated with us for disregarding her advice.) The many unique images that were our reward included seeing an Amish farmer steering a homemade digger behind a team of 6 horses while his bonnet clad wife and little girls and suspendered little boys watched from behind the barn… the sun setting behind the cemetery of a little country church in Wisconsin… and marshy stretches of Lakes Michigan, Erie and Huron, and more – all things we never would have glimpsed on the Interstate.

Likewise, there are certain things a tourist expects to see while traveling in Scotland – bagpipers, Loch Ness,

Scotland - Bagpipes  Scotland Urquart Castle on Loch Ness

old castles and older abbeys,

Scotland Castle  Scotland Sweetehart Abbey

and if you’re lucky, heather blooming in the highlands and men in kilts.

Scotland flowers by the sea  Scotland Bagpipers

But  if you’re brave-hearted enough to rent an auto and drive down Scotland’s narrow little byways (we call them golf cart paths or bicycle trails) on the left side of the road (assuming they’re wide enough to accommodate two cars), you’re going to discover all kinds of hidden gems that the average visitor won’t see.

Last week, I posted a blog at Blue Belle Books – http://www.SherrieHansen.wordpress.com – about Things I Learned While Traveling in Scotland. It was very well-received. Here are a few more glimpses of why I love Scotland and why I started my Wildflowers of Scotland novels.

1. If you’re not sure where you’re supposed to go next, walk to the top of the nearest hill and have a good look around. Most likely, you’ll see something that will point you in the right direction.

Scotland - sheep

2. If the top of the hill is in a cloud, walk down to the valley and follow the river. You’ll know what to do.

Scotland - Hill with it's head in the clouds

3. If you’re feeling downtrodden, bow your head and let the sun shine down on you for awhile. Things will get better.

Scotland Bashful Rose

4. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative when painting your house.  A little color can really brighten your day.

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5. You never know what you’re going to find in your path. That’s life. Deal with it. It’s probably nothing to worry about.

Scottish Hedgehog

6. Learn what you can from those who have gone before us and try not to make the same mistakes.

Scotland Standing Stones

7. Take a close look and make sure you’re not missing something that could be key.

Scotland Castle Top

8.  If you’re in unfamiliar waters, look for a bright light to guide you.

Scotland Lighthouse

9. Grow a thick hide and you’ll be able to withstand the strongest storms.

Scotland Coo

10.  Never be too proud to call a friend and ask for help.

Scotland Phone Booth

11.  If you’re lost, look for clues. They’re everywhere.

Scotland - Beach at Ayr

12. If you have a problem, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Creative solutions are the best!

Scotland Fishing Shack

Reading one of my books may be a little like traveling along the road less traveled, too. Your expectations might not be met exactly, but there are going to all kinds of little surprises and insights that you’ll likely discover along the way that you never would have stumbled upon if you hadn’t dared to venture from the mainstream to give one a try.

In the meantime, keep looking up!

Scotland - Castle Cross

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A Case of Wanderlust by Sherrie Hansen

Maybe it’s my Viking blood, but I’ve always had a bad case of wanderlust. I grew up on a farm in Minnesota, We farmers put down deep roots. But in addition to the solid, stable grounding I had as a child, I was also taught that it was fun to travel. My parents took us on camping trips to Colorado, Florida, Canada, and everywhere in between. My Dad loved (still does) to pull off the main road and see what lay down each little lane and byway. No staying in the same cabin at the same lake every summer of every year of our lives for the Hansen family – we camped at a different State Park or campground every night so we could see as much as we possibly could.

Storm road

I’m a firm believer that there’s all kind of beauty right in our own backyards, but I’m still curious about what’s around the corner.

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When I was in high school, I signed up for mission trips, choir trips and journalism and poetry workshops on various college campuses so I could see as many little corners of the world as I could. When my Great-Grandpa Lightly died (I was 15), I hitched a ride down to San Antonio, Texas with my Uncle Kenny and Aunt Cathy, who had driven home for the funeral, and spent a week exploring the Texas Hill Country, the River Walk, and the air force base where they lived. At the end of the week, I flew home to Rochester, MN. I was the first of our family to fly on an airplane. I still have the little packets of sugar, salt and pepper and the napkin imprinted with the airline’s logo that I got on that flight.

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When it came time to choose a college, I couldn’t wait to leave home and explore the Great World. I selected Wheaton College, in Wheaton, IL, and for the next two years, hopped on the “L” and explored downtown Chicago every chance I got. At the end of my sophomore year, a friend from Maine suggested that we look for jobs in Bar Harbor. I got engaged while I was there and after a military wedding in Lawton, OK. and a brief visits to Minnesota and St. Louis, I ended up living in Germany for 3 years. All of Europe was at my back door. I took advantage of opportunities to see Budapest, Hungary, Salzburg, Austria, Lucerne, Switzerland, Paris, France, London and the Cotswolds in England, Florence, Italy, and Gouda and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and loved every second of it! From there, it was back to Oklahoma, and then Colorado Springs. Every time I had enough money saved up, I took off to see another part of the world – Dallas, Santa Fe, Durango and Telluride, Colorado, Banff National Park, Lake Louise and  Calgary in Canada, Disney World in Florida, Wales, England, Prince Edward Island, Bainbridge Island and Victoria, Canada, the Blue Ridge Mountains, old Virginia, and Washington, DC, Denmark and Norway. I lived for (and worked hard to pay for) the times when I could explore the world and satisfy my wanderlust.

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After years of being single and sometimes short a traveling partner, I was very blessed to find a husband who shares my passion for exploring. Since Mark and I have been married (almost 10 years ago), we’ve taken trips to his home state of California,  seen Death Valley, the Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone National Park  (all firsts for me), gone to Scotland, Germany, southern France, Italy, Denmark, the Amish area of Indiana, Florida, and most recently, Louisville, Kentucky. Next week, we’re off to Wisconsin to catch a ferry across Lake Michigan, where we’ll explore yet another area of the country.

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Some writers (and people in general) never stray far from home. There are authors who set all their books in England, Scotland, the northeast, Northern MN, Texas, or the South.  And I have to admit that I’ll go anywhere with my favorite authors, including staying in the same small town with the same characters. But my books are a lot like my life. I like to explore different places, see different sights, and experience a change of scenery as often as I can. It’s refreshing. It renews your perspective. It reminds me that there’s a whole big wide world out there, and that the universe doesn’t revolve around me. Traveling, experiencing different cultures, broadens us and grows us and changes us. It promotes understanding and empathy. It enriches us in countless ways.

Zion - bowed head

Part of my wanderlust is no doubt a part of my genetic make-up. But I truly believe that another very important part of my thirst to experience new places, people and things is a result of the books I read as a child.

Heaven to Betsy1Laura Ingalls Wilder books

I was there when Betsy Ray headed out to have her Great Adventure in Europe, when Laura and Mary helped Ma and Pa pack up the covered wagon and set out for a new territory, when Daniel Boone went exploring, and when Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea set out to find the Pacific Ocean.

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Perhaps it’s presumptuous of me, but I hope that my books create the same kind of stirrings in you. If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll take a trip to Scotland with Rose and Ian in Wild Rose, the first of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels, that you’ll join Anders and Jensen in Copenhagen in Night and Day, or Hope and Tommy in Embarrass, MN the coldest town in the USA, in Love Notes, or see what the Midwest is really like in my Maple Valley trilogy, A change of scenery is a good thing. It refreshes. It restores. It renews. Come along for the ride and you’ll see!

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Our Mysterious Fascination with the Morbid by Sherrie Hansen

When I first began to write books, I remember saying that I would never write about murder and mayhem – that it just wasn’t in me to dwell on the grisly, gruesome details of such occurrences. These kinds of things were so foreign to my own life, that I couldn’t imagine the characters I concocted even remotely being in a situation where they’d encounter such experiences.  True to my intentions, the most traumatic things my characters in Night and Day, Stormy Weather, Water Lily, and Merry Go Round have to deal with are squabbling siblings, backstabbing friends, insensitive parents, nosy neighbors, troublesome children, minor medical problems, the rare encounter with a wild animal , the occasional disruptive weather emergency, and of course, broken hearts.  Not that lions and tigers and bears – oh, my – tornadoes, and bats in the house can’t  be unnerving, or that unplanned pregnancies, nasty exes, finding out your husband is gay or being betrayed by someone you trust  can’t be demoralizing, but you get my point. Nothing really bad or evil came close to touching my characters.  No one died. No one was hurt so badly that they couldn’t be fixed. Nothing unbearable happened.

With the release of Love Notes and Wild Rose, my readers saw a slight shift to a more suspenseful mode – bad guys that were truly bad, a kidnapping, gunshots, murder.  I’d crossed a line. I think that part of it was that my own reading tastes changed. Several of my favorite authors changed over from romance to suspense / thrillers and I went along for the ride. I read new authors, like Second Wind’s Christine Husom, who writes about comfortable, folksy Midwesterners like me who suddenly find themselves dealing with murdered parents and dismembered bodies in cornfields and cults in their backyards, and does it with dignity and aplomb.  Sadly, I think some of it is that the world has turned into such a crazy place that I can now clearly envision my characters having run-ins with evil, despite their best efforts to steer clear of it. As awful occurrences get more and more prevalent, it’s easier and easier for my imagination to “go there”.

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So what are your thoughts? How do you account for our fascination with the morbid? I hear over and over again from readers that they’re not “into” romance, but that they love to read gritty mysteries and thriller or suspense novels. If you’re one of my readers, are you glad I’m inching towards the unthinkable? (Not to worry – there are still plenty of sweet, romantic moments in my books for those of you with tender hearts. ) Any of you who have read all of my books probably also noticed a shift from steamy to not so much. When I made this switch, I expected accolades, and have instead heard from many who are disappointed that I stopped crossing that squiggly line.  It’s interesting to me that while some readers find my steamy scenes offensive, they seem to have no trouble with reading about violent, evil people and the situations that ensue because of their hatefulness. Personally, if I’m going to “clutter” my mind with one thing or another, I’d rather it be with something I think of as beautiful and natural rather than deeds and actions that are ugly and perverse.

What do you think? Have we opened a can of worms with our mysterious fascination with the morbid? Does the art of writing and reading about it quell our fears or feed them? Does it give you a sense of triumphing over evil, or give you pause for fear we are planting the seeds of further evil? Do you feel anxious and terrified after reading a book where horrible things happen to good people, or do you feel inspired by people who get life’s worst thrown at them and live to tell the story?

I always illustrate my blogs with appropriate photos, so here is the most dark, foreboding photo I could find with it’s cheery, upbeat counterpart. Which would you rather read about?

Photo80Scotland - sheep

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My Hat’s Off to You by Sherrie Hansen

 

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I wear a lot of different hats in my life as a writer, the owner and manager of the Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House, a pastor’s wife, and a daughter, sister and aunt. And I don’t get it from strangers. My Grandma Hansen loved wearing hats. During the depression, she and my Great-Grandma Danny used to make matching mother daughter dresses out of feed sacks. They would go to the feed store with Grandpa and root through the pile of feed sacks until they found enough in the right fabric to make two dresses. They sewed the dresses on a treadle sewing machine. I remember pumping my short legs back and forth on it when I was a girl. Grandma told me once that she never minded wearing a feed sack dress as long as she had a pretty hat to make it an outfit.

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So she would take a few pennies of the money she raised selling the eggs her chicken laid (their only source of cash during the depression) and drive to the Millinery Shoppe in St. Ansgar to buy a hat.

Zion - Hollyhocks

Grandma Hansen was a multi-tasker, and a wearer of many hats, just like I am. She cooked enough for a threshing crew even when there wasn’t one, had a huge garden, entertained family, friends and neighbors on a regular basis, taught a Sunday School class, and always seemed to find time for a game of Aggravation or Sorry with the grandchildren.  She taught us how to make hollyhock dolls (with pretty little hats) and pick eggs and butcher chickens. She was a woman of many talents. But no matter how busy she was, she always had time to tell us a story.

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When I think of how tired Grandma must have been at the end of a long hard day washing clothes on a wringer washer, sewing on a treadle machine, cooking over a wood cook stove and standing on her head out in the garden, it amazes me that she had the energy to tell us bedtime stories, And never just one… My favorites included Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, The Little Red Hen, The Three Little Pigs, and Chicken Little with Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, and Turkey Lurkey. There were also stories about our dad when he and his brother and sister were little. And there were stories from the Bible, stories about Jesus, and people he knew, like Nicodemus, Peter, and Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Grandma wove her stories with Billy Goat Gruff’s deep, scary voice, and Goldilocks sweet soprano. She held us spellbound for hours, telling stories that were new each time we heard them even though we had heard them hundreds of times.

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So it seems that I got not only my love of hats from my Grandma Hansen, but the gift of storytelling. As a writer of novels, I’ve spun tales of pure imagination in Night and Day, Stormy Weather, Water Lily, Merry Go Round, Love Notes, Thistle Down and Wild Rose that I hope would make her proud.

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When I put on my chef’s hat and go to work in the kitchen of my B&B, I tell people how the Blue Belle Inn came to be, and how I concocted their favorite recipes, how I met my husband and what interesting guests we’ve had that week.

Sherrie - Mark

I really do wear a hat to church most Sundays, when I dabble at being a pastor’s wife. And I tell the old, old story with my hands and voice, as I play the piano and help lead worship. When I’m with my nieces and sometimes my nephew, I tell stories about their daddy when he was a baby, and about what happened in our family before he was born. I’m 16 years older than my brother, and someone has to pass down the stories and legends and funny family tales. Who better than I, the oldest daughter of the oldest daughter of the oldest daughter for generations back? It’s a sacred calling.

Danish Girl

I used to wish I had one outstanding talent that would propel me to some sort of greatness. I play the piano plenty well enough for our small church, but a concert pianist, I’ll never be. I was a straight A student, but I’m no rocket scientist. I am good at a small dabbling of different things instead of being great at one thing.

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As I’ve gotten older, I’ve decided I like wearing different hats – my purple one to parties, my velvet one to church, my straw hat to tea and my floppy Florida hat with the big brim to the beach. What I once rued, I’m now thankful for. I’m a storyteller, a preserver of legends, a mind set free to fly anywhere in the world my imagination may take me.

Sherrie library

So thank you, Grandma Hansen, for telling me about Indians and horse-drawn sleighs and one room schoolhouses and eloping to the Little Brown Church in the Vail, and all the stories of your life. My hat’s off to you.

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