Tag Archives: home

“Home Is Where Your Story Begins” by Sherrie Hansen

I started reading romance novels in earnest about 18 years ago, while visiting friends on Prince Edward Island.  Before long, a pattern began to take shape… The heroines were almost always young, beautiful, career women, living in a big city. These women were most often naive, innocent virgins in their early twenties who were struggling financially and trying to succeed in a career dominated by men. Heroes were typically much older – in their late thirties, and rich, powerful, men of the world. The men were successful in their careers, experienced in lovemaking (having been with a multitude of partners), and often had a “bad boy” persona. Siblings were almost non-existent, and parents were distant, and at the time of the story, were often vacationing in Europe or conveniently dead.

While worlds filled with characters of this sort were fascinating at first (What woman hasn’t wished at some point in their life that they would get swept off their feet by a wickedly handsome, wealthy man with a mansion on the coast and an apartment in Paris? Who hasn’t dreamed of a world where you can do whatever you want to without having to worry about the fact that it’s probably going to break your parents heart, who will find out because your siblings ratted you out?)

But fun as these little fantasies were, I longed for stories about people who were more like me, plot lines that I could relate to, men and women whose happily ever endings were meaningful because, on some level, they were like me. At the time, I was single, in my mid to late thirties, divorced, slightly cynical, maybe even a little jaded. I was not a virgin, nor was I beautiful. I had gone on a few dates with a man who owned a BMW and a Mercedes convertible, but alas, he had neither an estate on the East or West Coast nor a summer home in Europe. My job was important to me, but family and friends were far more important. I had 2 brothers and 2 sisters and my parents – even two of my grandmothers – were alive and well. In fact, I had learned at the world-wise age of 22 while on a train to see the Passion Play in Oberamergau, Germany, when a man from the grain elevator in my hometown spotted me and said, “Aren’t you Everett Hansen’s daughter from Austin, Minnesota?” that wherever I went in the world, someone would always know who I was.  Which meant I couldn’t get by with anything.  I remain quite certain to this day that if I were ever to have a torrid affair with the a fore mentioned wickedly-handsome, sinfully-wealthy man of my occasional dreams, that one of my aunts, uncles, or many cousins would spot me, and my parents would know by nightfall.

While it was fun to periodically drift off to a fantasy-world filled with people totally different than I, it soon lost its luster. A friend recommended I read LaVyrle Spencer’s novels. She was from Minnesota, and her books were full of honest-to-goodness, down-to-earth, real-life characters with all kinds of small-town, Midwestern family twists and turns. Historical and contemporary – I could relate to and loved LaVyrle’s books.

When I eventually started to write my own novels, I followed suit.  For me, home is where your story begins. Living in the Midwest, surrounded by family-based accountability, love, interference, sharing, guilt trips, support, and yes, sometimes meddling, how could I possibly write a book that didn’t include those elements? What can I say? If one or both of your parents are on Facebook for the sole purpose of keeping tabs on you and other family members, you would probably like my books. If your family tree has many limbs and branches, and if you like realistic stories about struggles with family and faith by characters who aren’t perfect-looking or rich, you’re probably my reader. If you like characters who missed out on God’s perfect will for their life years ago and are down to Plan C, D or even E; if you can relate to men and women who are slightly disillusioned with how their lives have turned out but ever hopeful that miracles can happen, then you will probably like my books. If you’re from a small town, but have a big family, you’re probably my reader. If you know what “Heard it on the grapevine” means, if there are no secrets in your family (well, very few) and if you like the kind of tangled webs that result from brothers and sisters and moms and dads being an integral part of each others lives, then you’d probably enjoy reading my stories.

Night and Day, Stormy Weather, Water Lily, and Merry Go Round are all full of local color, family interactions, and honest, this-could-really-happen situations.  In my humble opinion, when someone like me – and probably you – believable people – find true happiness in the midst of  their everyday and occasionally extraordinary problems,  it fills me with hope. If it can happen to them, it can happen to me. What is more exciting, more comforting, more thrilling?


I’m at my desk, looking at a picture frame that includes the graduation photos of my Grandma Victoria and her sweetheart, my Grandpa (Harold) Lightly, and my Grandma (Lorna) Hansen and her dapper beau, my Grandpa (Albert) Hansen. Love stories that beget love stories that inspired love stories.   Home is definitely where my story started. How about you?


Filed under books, musings, Sherrie Hansen, writing

Home is Where the Mama Is

I’m in the midst of selling my childhood home. As nostalgically sad as it may sound, I’m not having a problem with it. On this path, I look neither left, right or behind; I keep my feet pointed forward.

The roses were in full bloom a few weeks ago. A solid line of red blossoms climbed along the side of the house as bees busily buzzed in and out. I checked the permanent nine-year old bird’s nest to see if any new babies were in it, but it was empty this year. The coalition of mother birds had moved on to other places.

Maybe it was a sign.  Not a sign for me, though. I don’t have sentimental attachments to structures I own.  The sentimental attachments I carry are for the structures I build.

My relationships are my buildings. My family and close friends are my houses. I furnish my homes with my heart, and, though I may move from place to place over the course of my life, I carry the hearth with me. I have always told the kids, “Home is where the mama is.”

Lately, world events have dominated most conversations. Beginnings and endings over the past several days give one pause to reflect. Selling my childhood home is an ending and a beginning. I know what the ending means; the beginning, eh, not so sure, yet.

At the beginning, I write a book. At the end, the book is published. I see it on its way and then I don’t look back. I’m sure that’s a character flaw for a writer, but it’s how I am. Rewrites? Oh, yes, I’ve had my share – before the novel flies out to the publisher. After that, it’s pretty much, goodbye, baby bird.

All of the things happening around me, in my own world and in the bigger one, remind me of a line in a song by The Three Degrees:

Is this my beginning
or is this the end?

Although the sentiment is slightly morbid (considering the world is scheduled to end next year – guess I better get busy . . . or not), beginnings and endings are necessary for the entire scope of the human experience.

With the Monterey Pine, fire serves to end and begin the life of this tree. The cones stay closed until the heat from a forest fire pops them open and scatters new seeds upon the burnt ground. Our own personal fires signal our starts and stops throughout life.

Goodbye, childhood house. May your next journey take you on as many adventures as the first family who lived within your walls did. You and I will never cross paths again in this life, but I will speak of you fondly to those who ask. Goodbye and godspeed a quick sell.

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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Filed under fiction, life, musings, writing

Once again, the “visit home” has changed it’s meaning.

One of the first “major achievements” of my life was leaving my parents’ home.  I turned eighteen on a Tuesday and moved out on Thursday.  My thinking (this is assuming of course that the “cerebating” adolescents do can be called “thinking”) was I had gained my independence.  For the next four years, as I lived alone and went to college, my visits to my parents had a lot to do with watching their large TV, eating their food and bumming money for the little luxuries I couldn’t afford.

I was married by the time I got to graduate school.  Trips to see mom and dad took longer and lasted longer and usually involved physical labor on my part.  They lived on a large farm in those days and Dad often wanted my help with projects.  Dad was an engineer and attorney.  He was, above all, a genius at production design.  Companies flew him all over the globe to set up production lines and build factories.  He found sanctuary from the expectations of the world in working on his farm.

In my late 20’s and 30’s, trips home involved taking our three children to visit their grandparents.  I remember my mother complaining as a young woman that her parents—my grandparents—never came to see us; we always had to go see them.  Just so, my wife and I dutifully loaded up our kids regularly and went to see Grandma and Grandpa and their menagerie of animals on the farm.

By the time I was in my 40’s, when I went to see my parents it was more often to tell them about their grandkids.  Those three wonderful children all took a page from my book and moved out of our house when they were eighteen.  And, yes, they all came back on weekends for free food and to ask for money.  I guess the little apples don’t fall far from the tree.

There was one family excursion I took in my late 40’s that was unusual in its nature and unforgettable in its outcome.  One of my father’s brothers (he was one of nine boys and five girls) died in the fall of 2000.  My wife and I traveled to rural Ohio for the service.  As we were about to leave, I stood talking to Dad.  I got into the car and turned to my wife and said, “Something’s wrong with Dad.”

That something was the first sign of dementia.  Dad has always told the worst jokes.  Like my blog articles, they are long and rambling and you can see where they’re going lot before you get there—so there isn’t much punch in the punch line.  Standing beside my car that afternoon, Dad related a joke that was three or four minutes in the telling.  What he didn’t remember was telling me the same joke only a few hours before.

Over the last nine years, visits home have taken on a new dynamic.  I live at such a distance from my parents’ farm now that I can only schedule a couple trips a year.  Each time I go, the difference in his appearance and ability is marked.  I steel myself for these visits.  My mother copes amazingly well.  The least I can do is cope and be supportive in any way I can.

Wednesday morning at 2 a.m., Mom heard Dad taking a shower.  She went in asked him what he was doing and he said, “I’ve got to get ready to take Laz to the airport.”  Patiently she explained to him that I had driven myself to the farm with a rental car, that he didn’t drive anymore and that I wasn’t leaving until Thursday.  When Mom told me the story over breakfast, it was one part humor, one part exasperation and one part “this is where your dad is now.”

Later that day, though, he turned to me unexpectedly and asked, “Have you written anything else?”  Suddenly I felt lighter.  The room became a little brighter.  I told him I had.  I had written some short fiction, just for him.  He does better with short stories and poetry.  When he reads the words, he knows them all.  The little reading he can do is his escape now from the expectations of the world.  That was one of the better moments from this week’s visit home.  —Laz Barnhill


Filed under writing

Is There a Home for Lacey


            Recently I received the proof copy of my first novel, Lacey Took a Holiday, from the good people at Second Wind Publishing.  This is one of the great things about Second Wind (or 2W as the writers have come to call it): the authors are all much more involved in the creative process, including the editing and creating the covers if we want.  I’ve found some little changes I wanted to make and they’re willing to let me.

Now that the book has been accepted and published, I can go ahead and express a concern I had long before Starr Ambrose—one of the eventual winners of the Gather “First Chapters Romance”—voiced it during our competition.  The problem is that Lacey is an atypical romance.  Since anyone who reads it is going to find out anyway, I might as well confess that Lacey Grady, the main character of the novel, is in her own words “a woman of leisure.”  This does not mean the book is full of sex.  And her “romantic interest” in the story—Andy Warren—actually kidnaps her out of the brothel where he meets her.

Well, let me fill in a few more blanks: Andy is actually a WWI veteran (the story takes place in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northwestern North Carolina in the mid 1920’s) whose wife and only son both died during childbirth.  Eventually the reader discovers that nearly everyone Andy has loved throughout his life has died tragically.  He’s really a bitter and jaded fellow.  He kidnaps Lacey on impulse because—well, okay, not only is she a prostitute, but an alcoholic.  Andy recognizes that she is drinking herself to death.  In a perverse sort of rescue attempt, he takes her out of “Curly’s” the bordello where she works and spirits her away to his mountaintop.

The problem with the story is this: who ever heard of a romance where the two main characters were so flawed, so downright “sinful.”  On the other hand, the love that develops between them is so sweet.  Not to give away too much, the romance that emerges becomes the one pure, innocent part of their lives.  Of course, there are some dangerous and difficult complications.  I’m not promising that they live happily ever after.

So can Lacey find a home in the midst of the other romance novels of 2W and on the bookshelves of Amazon and other places?  Is it too realistic to be a romance novel?  Does love redeem even people as abused and used as Lacey and Andy?  I suppose only time will tell.  –Laz Barnhill


Filed under books, Lazarus Barnhill, writing