Who Knews About the Tower

I just finished reading a novel about the Tower of London. Although it was primarily a fictional account of a few quirky characters, many true facts came to light about the tower, as well. Facts I had never heard about. I was quite surprised and, now, curious.

Years ago, I visited the Tower and saw the impressive armory and also the priceless Crown Jewels that have been on display since the late 17th century. I learned about it being a prison and heard about all the beheadings. I thought I had a pretty comprehensive knowledge about the history of the Tower of London. Until now, that is.

Did you know it was built by William the Conqueror in the 1070’s? Or, strangely, did you know it had housed a menagerie of exotic animals from foreign lands that were collected by King John starting in 1204 and later his son, King Henry III. And in later decades some animals were gifts from foreign dignitaries? I didn’t know that. Such diverse animals as lions, kangaroos, leopards, ostriches, bears, polar bears and even an elephant were housed there. The menagerie was closed by the Duke of Wellington in 1835 and the animals became the basis for London Zoo in Regent’s Park.

I didn’t know the Tower had been a Royal Mint from the reign of Edward I in 1279 until 1810. That location was selected because it was the most secure in all of London.

I didn’t know the term; “Beefeaters” had been given to the Yeoman Warders because they were given as much beef from King Henry VII’s table as they wished, to guard the king. Today the Yeoman Warders guard the visitors, but still carry out ceremonial duties, such as locking and unlocking the Tower every day in the Ceremony of the Keys, and that they are long term veterans of military service to the Monarch. I’m realizing how little I knew about the Tower of London.

Most everyone remembers tales about Henry VIII and his six wives and how he had two of them beheaded; Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. And many of you are familiar with the story of the two princes, Edward V and Richard, Duke of York who were imprisoned in the Tower by their devious uncle, who became Richard III. Legend has it that he had the two boys killed so he could succeed to the throne. In recent centuries more evidence has come to light including the discovery of the bones of two young boys in a chest in the Tower which have all but been confirmed to have belonged to the boy princes.

Although only one bomb fell on the Tower of London in the First World War (it landed harmlessly in the moat), WW2 left a greater mark. On 23 September 1940, during the Blitz, high-explosive bombs damaged the castle, destroying several buildings and narrowly missing the White Tower.

During WW2, the Tower was used as a Prisoner Of War camp. Rudolf Hess, Deputy Chancellor of Nazi Germany, was imprisoned in the Tower after he attempted to parachute into Scotland. He was placed in what was the King’s House but is now the Queen’s House and he was free to roam the Tower grounds. After the war, any damage was repaired and the Tower was reopened to the public.

Many of you have heard that Ravens have always been kept at the Tower of London. When Charles II (a very superstitious Monarch) asked for the Ravens to be removed, he was advised that if the Ravens were removed, The Tower would crumble and great harm would befall the nation. Ever since, ravens (at least 6) have been kept at the Tower.

It is also said that several ghosts are said to haunt the Tower, including those of Anne Boleyn, Henry VI, Lady Jane Grey, Margaret Pole, the Princes in the Tower – and a grizzly bear! That’s something else I didn’t know. I guess I can say when it comes to knowing about the Tower of London, I have been almost completely ignorant! Who knew? There’s more history about it to learn, if you’re curious!

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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The Mystery of Love by Sherrie Hansen

The New Year is traditionally a time to set your eyes on new endeavors and shake things up a bit. Some think of it as being a time to start out with a clean slate, but to do that, the old slate has to be wiped clean, an idea that’s always been very distasteful to me.

Dad - creek

I may as well admit that I’m one of those persons who likes to stay friends with my old boyfriends. Even when I found myself divorced and single once again back in the 1980s, I didn’t want to forget about the years I was married. Yes, things ended badly. Since we had no children when we went our separate ways, I had the opportunity to put the past completely behind me.  At one point, when my ex-husband wanted to get married again -this time to a devote Catholic woman, I got a call from a priest offering to annul my marriage. But saying that it never happened would have meant forgetting about all the wonderful friends I made in Germany, Oklahoma and Colorado Springs during the years we were married.  Wiping the slate clean would have minimized the impact of the adventures we shared and the unique places we explored while living in Europe. It would have meant turning my back on my ex-husband’s family, who I dearly loved. It would have meant forgetting about the lessons I’d learned and the woman I had become while going through the good and bad of our marriage. I didn’t want to do it.

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Now, I’m facing another metamorphosis – not nearly as life changing as a divorce, but a fairly significant event in my life.  After writing romantic suspense for a publishing house for the last several years, I’ve released an independently published mystery, Seaside Daisy. It’s a change, and one I’m very excited about. In addition to getting the knack of writing mysteries, I’ve also had to get acquainted with the mysteries of publishing, designing covers, and formatting text for Kindle and paperback books. It’s been a little daunting to say the least!

Seaside Daisy Front Cover 10-17

So, the owner of a bookstore that carries my books contacted me today and wanted to put an ad in the paper advertising an event in February. The headline referred to me as the “Queen of Romance.” I don’t see myself that way, and at this point, I really don’t want to be viewed that way. I’m trying to appeal to a new group of readers who may not like romance, but who do like mysteries. I’m having fun exploring a new genre, and learning and growing by using a new set of building blocks to shape mysteries.

Scot - Uig sunset stones

I feel this way for a couple of reasons. First, my romance novels never fell into the mold of typical romances anyway. My characters are a bit older than normal and many were second chance at love stories rather than first loves. Many contain steamy scenes side by side with struggles of faith and family. My novels are character-driven and unique rather than formulaic or predictable. I loved being published by a mid-sized press who cared more for distinctiveness than being a match with a specific genre. One reviewer called my novels “the thinking woman’s romance,” but in fact, many men enjoy reading them, too. I think calling my novels romance novels hurt me in many circles, when in reality, they are far more than that.

Daybreak - N&D

In some ways, I think I’ve been writing mysteries all along — the mystery of why Jensen’s great grandparents immigrated from Denmark to Minnesota in Night and Day, the mystery of the who’s trying to recover the centuries-old gold buried in Tobermory Bay in Blue Belle, In Golden Rod, the mystery of how two, 500-year-old ghosts can break a curse and save Lachlan Castle and Rod’s beautiful gardens from being razed to make room for a golf course… And then, there’s the mystery of love – how two people so very different from one another, each with their own lives, foibles, and passions can come together and forge a new life as one.

Wildflowers - Stripes.jpg

I’m not embarrassed to have written my romance novels – as I’ve republished each of them under my own name, rereading sections and looking at the reviews that have been posted over the years, I feel exceedingly proud of every one of them.  The characters still call out to me. Rose and Ian, Jake and Michelle, William and Lyndsie, Hope and Tommy Love, Rod and Katelyn – they still have the power to make me smile and bring me to tears. They were good books, with complex characters and intricate plots, when I wrote them, and they’ve stood the test of time. I don’t want to leave the past in the past and move on. I love the memories and meaningful images surrounding each of my “old” books. I would be losing so much if I were to ignore the part they’ve played in my life. But I’m ready to take my writing in a different direction to try to expand my readership. It’s fun and exciting, and it stretches me as a writer and as a person.

Czechia - Cesky Krumlov

I hope that no matter what kind of books you like to read, you can relate to my new “brand” — Explore the Mystery of Love with Author Sherrie Hansen. I think the Mystery of Love fits both my older novels and my new. If you haven’t already given them a try, I hope you will. As always, I love to get honest reviews in one or more of the many places you can post them – Amazon, Goodreads, and Bookbub to name a few. I’ve also received private messages with feedback from people who have shared emotions evoked by my books. I love it when those kind of connections are made. It’s a true honor when I discover that my fiction is someone’s reality.

Romania - woman in window

So – no matter what your “old year” has been about, or what your “new year” might bring, I wish you the best in your future endeavors.  I’ll be starting out the year with the first time performance of a new murder mystery over dinner on New Year’s Eve. Next on my list is finishing my work in progress, Plum Tart Iris, a Wildflowers of Czechia Mystery.

Czechia - Loket

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to each of you!

believe

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The Grateful Ornament

This is the time of year when everyone is running madly around trying to get things done in preparation for the holidays. In other words, it’s a stressful time. Right? To be honest, this year has actually been more stressful than most for me, whether it be good stress or bad stress, but through it all, I’ve been reminded how important it is to just stop for a few minutes to reflect on how fortunate I am.

No matter how good things are, they can always be better. No matter how bad things are, they can always be worse. But, I think the key to surviving it all comes from deciding what things are worth dealing with and what are not and to pay special attention to those things that edify one’s life over those that do not. Life is too short to waste on negativity. As a result of all this thinking, I decided to make a virtual, all-important ornament for my Christmas tree this year. It started out as a clear ball and developed from there. I named it, the “grateful ornament.”

To me, the “grateful ornament” has many layers. In its core is LOVE; that I picture as molten, ready to flow and seep into any space no matter how small or large. Surrounding this center are smaller layers that contain things like PATIENCE, FORGIVENESS and UNDERSTANDING. The outside of this ornament consists of a rich, glossy covering of KINDNESS that glows and pulses and is mixed with a multicolored, bumpy HAPPINESS, whose appearance reflects the favorite color of whomever is beholding it. But the wonderful thing about this ornament is that it has a magical quality that makes those who gaze upon it―full of HOPE and ASSURANCE that every year can be experienced with these wondrous qualities.

So my dear readers, this year I encourage you all to join me as I place the “grateful ornament” on my Christmas tree, front and center and you place your “grateful ornament,” on your tree, as well. As we race against time to get all things accomplished before year’s end, may we have the grace of gratefulness and so much more to carry us through. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a very ornamental new year!

 

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Recovered Treasure

Recently, my son, Rob, came to visit and help me clean out my garage. It was a chore I’d been putting off for years, because every time I tried to get started on it, I became overwhelmed very quickly. As a result, things that needed to be returned to shelves weren’t getting returned, and since the garage was so congested, I could no longer get to said shelves. It became a snowballing problem. Yikes!!! Does that sound familiar?

Well, I guess Rob got tired of me complaining about not having any more room in the garage and when he visited, it became obvious I wasn’t exaggerating, so he found a week and convinced me we could tackle this job together. It did not take me long to be convinced. I had been praying for such an intervention all along.

The first day, we picked a spot to the left of the door from the kitchen into the garage and started a clockwise pattern of cleaning out, sorting, setting up a “throw away” pile and a “garage sale” pile scheduled for the end of the week. We put on soothing classical music and spent a delightful week laughing, encouraging each other, and generally bonding, despite our aching bodies.

Needless to say, the garage looks fantastic now, but I want to tell you about a discovery we made. When we lived in Germany back in the late 1960s, I found a wonderful art teacher and took as many art lessons as I could from him during our three years there. His inspiration has stayed with me since. Especially because our shopping on base was limited to everyday type items, not art supplies specifically. So, I was always looking for common or easy to get art supplies.

It was Christmas time, so I was interested in coming up with ideas to decorate my home for the holidays. And I was teaching a class to other wives interested in art and craft ideas. I learned about a technique using ordinary crayons to color a drawn design. This idea was fairly easy to do and could become as detailed as the person doing the project wanted, depending on their talent and time spent.

I drew a somewhat modern angel and after it was drawn, I colored it with crayons and then outlined it with a permanent marker. Then I cut out the design into smaller pieces and crumbled the waxy paper tightly in my hands and then spread out the designs and straightened them back out with my fingers and put them back together like a jigsaw puzzle and glued them in place with paper glue. At this point, the next step was to cover the design with black water color paint and immediately wipe away the paint. This technique insured that the cracks absorbed the paint, and the waxy parts rejected the paint. The overall effect gave the appearance of “stained glass”. Then I took the design and mounted it on an arched foil background and outlined the arched part with a designed border from the gift wrap department of the Base Exchange.

Angel 1969?

Three-panel Angel – 1969

 

 

Rob is holding the panels up so I could photograph them and they’ve been through a zillion moves since 1969, but you can get an idea what the finished project looked like. I also did a realistic stained glass window that has since been lost in the annals of time, but it looked even more like stained glass.

This was such a fun project and as I said, not difficult, so perhaps some of you readers might be inspired to give it a try for your own personalized decorations this holiday season. It’s quick, easy and inexpensive! Please let me know if you feel inspired. I’d love to hear all about it!

 

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Seaside Daisy, a New Wildflowers Novel from Sherrie Hansen

If you’ve read any of my novels, seen my B&B or my house, followed my photographic journeys on Facebook, or even paid attention to the clothes and hats I wear,  you know I love the imagery of flowers.

Grace Corner - Bleeding hearts 2

Thistle Down, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet, Sweet William and Golden Rod all take their cues from flowers and the unique traits of the genus I’m writing about. I love drawing parallels and weaving the characteristics of the flower into terms and images that define the people in my books who are named after them.

 

SEASIDE DAISY, my new release, is my first mystery, the first of my books to be set in Ireland, and my first attempt at self-publishing. But it’s my 6th Wildflowers novel, and as such, I’d like to tell you why I chose to write about Ireland and seaside daisies, formally known as erigeron glaucus.

Ireland - Daisy lavender

Erigeron may look fragile, with its thin, tender-looking petals and pale colors, but it’s the perfect plant for coastal zones and seaside gardening. Wind and salt spray won’t affect this robust little plant. They grow well in sandy, dry soils and even prefer soil that isn’t too fertile. They thrive when dead-headed of finished flowers to encourage more blooms. The plants can be cut back at ground level to encourage new foliage. I can’t begin to describe how hard the frigid, biting winds were blowing the day my husband and I took these photos except to say, we raced to climb back into the shelter of our cozy car as soon as we’d snapped each picture. And we explored the Wild Atlantic Way in early June!

Ireland - beach

When Daisy Fitzpatrick discovers a treasure trove of gold in a sea cave near her Granny’s shanty on Dingle Bay, she rents out her art studio in Dingle, buys an old mansion in Killarney, and overnight, finds herself a local celebrity with a wonderful new life. But when the real owner lays claim to the gold, she loses everything, including her fickle, new friends. Can Daisy find it in herself to start over? With Cavan’s help, the sea captain’s ghost, and her granny’s quilt to point the way, the quest for more gold is soon underway. But when a priest ends up dead and a pirate takes up the search, Daisy may have to learn the hard way that gold can be a blessing, or gold can be a curse. The Wild Atlantic Way might be a hard foe to tame, but the townsfolk of Dingle soon learn that even the roar of the sea is no match for a Fitzpatrick with her mind made up.

Seaside Daisy Front Cover 10-17

My Seaside Daisy was certainly trimmed back to ground level when she lost the gold she’d thought would solve all of her problems. Her spent blossoms were definitely pinched off. A less hardy plant may have stopped blooming, withered up and died. But like her namesake, my Daisy soon started sprouting new growth. As you’ll soon find out if you read SEASIDE DAISY, the more adversity that comes her way, the more she thrives. I hope you’ll give my new mystery a try – I’m a firm believer that God makes beautiful things out of broken pieces… it’s been a recurring theme in my life, and in the novels I’ve written. Because I think we all know that the delicate-looking flowers growing along the Wild Atlantic Way – or anywhere the wind blows – aren’t just pretty faces.

Pansy

SEASIDE DAISY’S SHANTY – an original song by Sherrie Hansen

Where my Seaside Daisy’s shanty’s

On the Wild Atlantic Way,

There’s a treasure at the rainbow’s end

In the caves on Dingle Bay. In the caves on Dingle Bay.

 

In early morn out on the sea,

The fog gives way to sun.

You can hear the seabirds singing

As the waves come crashing in.

Ireland - blue cottage

Where my Seaside Daisy’s shanty’s

On the Wild Atlantic Way

There’s a treasure at the rainbow’s end

In the caves on Dingle Bay. In the caves on Dingle Bay.

 

The Captain’s ghost and Granny’s quilt

Are there to point the way

But a storm at sea and a pirate’s curse

Are turning the blue skies gray.

Quilt - names

Where my Seaside Daisy’s shanty’s

On the Wild Atlantic Way,

There’s a treasure at the rainbow’s end

In the caves on Dingle Bay. In the caves on Dingle Bay.

 

For gold can be a blessing

And gold can be a curse.

But true love is the greatest gift

Through better and through worse.

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Where my Seaside Daisy’s shanty’s

On the Wild Atlantic Way,

There’s a treasure at the rainbow’s end

In the caves on Dingle Bay. In the caves on Dingle Bay.

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You’ll find SEASIDE DAISY and my other Wildflowers books at Amazon. Enjoy!

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Bohemian Rhapsody Road Trip by Sherrie Hansen

Exhilarating and Exhausting are the words that seem to best describe our trip to Czechia from August 27 to September 17. We arrived in Prague tired and worn out and in need of rest and relaxation. When you own your own business (me) and are the only pastor on staff at a church (my husband, Mark), there are always a million things to do in advance before you leave on a trip.

Czechia - church roadside

This year was no exception, in fact, it seems like every year, there are more things on our To-Do list than ever before.

Czechia - Prague street

We enjoyed our first two days in Prague and had some wonderful experiences, but we also missed out on seeing several things that we should have due to our frazzled condition. The best thing we did was to schedule a spur-of-the-moment Airbnb Experience:  Ten Course Dinner in a Chef’s Home.

Czechia - Ladislov plate

Ladislav, our chef, was an amazing host, and we enjoyed excellent food and conversation around a table for 8 adjacent to the kitchen in his apartment.

Czechia - Ladislov

The other guests at our table were from Canada and Australia, so we all spoke English, in different accents. It was the highlight of our time in Prague. The B&B we stayed in was wonderfully historic and our host very gracious. We were able to walk a quarter of a mile to get on a bus which linked to trams and metros throughout Prague. The transport system was quite daunting for me, and even with it, we walked 7 miles up and down steep inclines, on cobblestones each day. We had our first taste of Czech garlic soup and cinnamon pastry trdelnik filled with ice cream and fruit in Prague. After an extensive search (we got lost), we found the Alfons Mucha museum and saw his portrayals of Slavic maidens. Sadly, the Slav Epic Exhibition I so wanted to see was no longer open.

Czechia - Prague houses

We saw the outside of Prague Castle from an outdoor cafe with a wonderful view of the castle and city below. We enjoyed a delicious Czech dinner where we had our first dumplings (both bread and potato).

Czechia - Dumplings

But the castle was closed by the time we were done, and our attempts to get there had been so traumatic (long story – think three or four story high escalators, an extremely steep hill, overweight and out of shape people who are terrified of escalators (me), hot, humid weather in the high 90s and no air conditioning anywhere, and one crazed taxi driver who tried to charge us $50 for a 3 block ride to a restaurant he never found) that you may understand why we never went back to see the cathedral, basilica, tower, palace, the hall that hosted knightly jousting tournaments, or the royal garden. We also missed the famous Astronomical Clock Tower in the main  square in Old Town, but we did walk across Charles Bridge twice and climbed millions of stairs to see the view of Prague from the top of the Klementinum Astronomical Tower and Old Library.

Czechia - Prague

What can I say? We were half-asleep and in a daze. These things happen when you’re in your sixties and you’ve just missed out on two nights of sleep.  I appreciated the lovely architecture and colorful facades throughout the city. I could see why people love Prague. But a big city person, I am not.

Czechia - church

Unfortunately, our next stop was Brno, another big city 2 hours to the south. We were supposed to stay in a renovated suite in an old 1820 spa house, but there was a water emergency and we were relegated to a city center apartment (which I avoid like the plague when searching for accommodations) which turned out to be filthy dirty. You don’t even want to know about the 3-4″ ginormous spider that came running out at me just before bedtime. Although my brave husband killed it, I still didn’t sleep that night.

Czechia - Brno dancers

The one good thing about our city center apartment was that it was near a tram stop that took us to the International Folklore Festival (one of our main reasons for visiting Czechia), where we had a wonderful time enjoying regional music, vintage bicycles, traditional dancing and more good food.

Czechia - Brno bicycles

We had quark dessert dumplings filled with strawberries and a sour cream sauce that were so wonderful I will dream of them until I die – and fried cheese, and more garlic soup. We climbed to the top of the city (twice) to see the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, a striking 11th-century Romanesque chapel, rebuilt in the Baroque and Gothic styles.

Czechia - Brno

Another highlight was the traditional dance review with costumed dancers from many countries.   

Czechia - Folklore Festival

When planning our trip, we figured we’d need a little peace and quiet after the hustle bustle of a festival in a big city, and boy, were we right! Our time in the tiny country village of Rojetin was our salvation.

Czechia - traditional cottage bed

The stars were brilliant, the countryside was gorgeous, and the quiet was just what we needed.

Czechia - garden door

While there, we were able to see three UNESCO Heritage Sites – a lovely church in Třebíč, a star shaped pilgrimage church in Zdar, and our favorite, the old town center of Telč with its Alpine style Italian Renaissance architecture.

Czechia - Telc cafe

Czechia - Telc

We also discovered a quaint town, Velkabites, where we watched them putting up an extremely high pole with a tree on top for an upcoming festival.

Czechia - Telc statue

It was the season of festivals. We dipped down to stay in Niederösterreich, Austria for the next two days because all the rooms in nearby Mikulov were booked for their annual Pálava Wine Harvest Festival.

Czechia - Wine cellar

We loved the storybook villages and wine cellars of the area, and the wonderful music, medieval processions, dance and fencing performances, historic market, and tasty homemade crepes, sausages and cheeses at the festival.

Czechia - Grape Arbor

But our best memory is of Austria, and a wonderful chef at a delightful restaurant just a few kilometers from our B&B. By the time we left, we were full of creatively prepared food, and we felt like we’d made a friend.

Czechia - Znojmo view

The next morning, we headed to Znojmo, where we stayed in an amazing B&B in an old bakery, and discovered a beautiful church with an amazing view over the heart of Bohemia.

Czechia - Znojmo church

The next few days were a confusing jumble. First, the person who planned this trip one snowy day in April while short on sleep (me), got mixed up and thought the towns of Cesky Krumlov and Karlovy Vary were one in the same.

Czechia - CK Window

Bzzt, wrong. Second, while I was sleeping in the passenger seat, our GPS directed Mark to go east, back to Prague, crisscrossing the country instead of driving a short ways north, from one town to the other. Third, we missed seeing a beautiful castle along the route we were supposed to have been going.

Czechia - Chesky Krumlov shop

In our defense, I will say that we were completely wiped out from walking miles and miles a day up and down hugely steep hills on cobblestones and rough rock surfaces. In the rain.  Or did I already mention that?

Czechia - Cesky Krumlov

Despite some rain while we were there, we loved Cesky Krumlov. I’m so glad we thought it was Karlovy Vary or we might have missed it. We actually liked it much better than Karlovy Vary.

Czechia - Cesky Krumlov river

It was quaint and beautiful, with a magnificent medieval castle and beautiful gardens, picturesque river walks, good restaurants, and (be still my heart) several hat shops.

Czechia - Cesky Krumlov view

Due to my confusion, we didn’t ever stay in Karlovy Vary. That was fine with me, because the nearby town of Loket, where we did stay, was smaller, more manageable and twice as delightful.

Czechia - Loket

I liked it so much that I’ve decided it’s going to be the settling of my next book, Plum Tart Iris, a Wildflowers of Czechia novel. We saw a spectacular sunset while eating outside at a great cafe wrapped in furry blankets to combat the chill from the mountain air.

Czechia - Loket sunset

The medieval castle was amazing, as was the river that curves around town on three sides, and a pottery shop and a creative tea house that I fell in love with.  I interviewed a few locals, and discovered some interesting historical facts that will define the plot of my new book.

Czechia - Karlovy Vary colunnades

But back to Karlovy Vary. I’d already committed to writing a murder mystery set there, so we had to research it. Since 1358, Karlovy Vary has for centuries been a popular destination for Europe’s elite, from royalty like Peter the Great to famous composers and writers including Beethoven, Chopin, and Goethe.

Czechia - Karlovy Vary spa

The town has 13 large springs and Neoclassical and Art Nouveau colonnades with drinking and bathing fountains.

Czechia - Karlovy Vary mineral water

We walked miles to experience as much of it as we could, but were glad to retreat to little Loket at the end of the day.  Have I mentioned that we were quite tired and very sore but this point?

Czechia - Cesky Krumlov table

Mark spent a lot of his time sitting on a bench while I explored the town. I may have been in as much pain as he was, but I am more stubborn. Or maybe not. He was hurting pretty badly.

Czechia - Pernstejn Castle near Zdar

Our next stop was a small castle in Jilove that was built by a famous doctor in the early 1900s, then taken over by the Nazis in World War II (Hitler even stayed there) and then, by the Communists after the war, who used it for visiting dignitaries, and then, turned it into a factory. It still needs a lot of work, but the new owner is working hard to get it renovated and we enjoyed staying there and being a small part of its history.

Czechia - woods

Our objective for this stop was to see the Bohemian Alps. Bohemian Switzerland is an especially picturesque region in the northwestern part of the country.

Czechia - sunset

After a run in with a lot of road construction and some unsavory Vietnamese entrepreneurs who were gatekeepers to the parks, we decided to forego the promised paradise of rock castles, ravines, scenic overlooks, mountains, and arches. However, while in the area, we drove through a bit of Germany, where I enjoyed a mug of hot Gluhwein and a German dinner and Mark had fun driving 100 miles an hour on the autobahn in our Mercedes rental car.

Czechia - crystal

Other highlights – when our plans to see more of the National parks soured, Mark researched and found a factory seconds outlet store at a glass bead factory where I bought millions of unique Czech beads for my art projects. It was heavenly! We also found a Bohemian crystal factory outlet store and came home with two treasures from their shelves.

Czechia - glass beads

Our last four days in country were spent in the small town of Lesany, just south of Prague, at an honest to goodness castle, where we hoped to get rested up before our trip home, since we always have to hit the ground running when we get back from a trip. It had a wild boar skin on the floor and the bed was so hard it was like sleeping on a granite slab. But other than that, we liked it. It was very charming.

Czechia - Lesany

We could have gone back to explore more of Prague, but we opted to see some castles in the nearby countryside instead.

The medieval castle and surrounding village, Hrad Karlstejn, was incredible, and after climbing everywhere, we decided to splurge on a horse drawn wagon ride which took us part way to the top.

Czechia - Karlstejn Castle tower

We walked all the way down to take in the shops and eating spots along the cobblestone streets.

Czechia - Karlstejn Castle

In České Budějovice, the huge white Neo-Gothic Tudor Hluboká Castle, which is said to be the most beautiful of the Czech Republic’s many castles, was also stunning. We were able to find an English speaking guide who gave us a private tour of the huge chef’s kitchen in the castle.

Czechia - Hluboká Castle

Our final excursion and another favorite was Průhonice Park, which is home to Průhonice Castle, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, was delightful. The formal gardens, wooded areas, streams, and ponds involved a lot of walking, but we persisted and got some beautiful photos.

Czechia - Roses

I had been longing for gardens and flowers and water, as we’re so accustomed to seeing them when we travel to Great Britain, and I was not disappointed.

Czechia - Průhonice Castle

I can’t begin to touch on the dozens of other quaint villages, delicious meals and delightful experiences we had or we would be here all day.

Czechia - after dinner

Suffice it to say, I’m so glad we went, and I so enjoyed walking where my Bohemian ancestors walked.

Czechia - country sunset

In other news, Seaside Daisy, a Wildflowers of Ireland Mystery, is now available in both paperback and Kindle versions.

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Please grab a copy soon and let me know what you think! Reviews warm my heart!

Czechia - Plum Tart Iris

I plan on starting Plum Tart Daisy during NaNoWriMo this November while the trip to Czechia is still fresh in my mind. My goal is 50,000 words by November 30. Thanks for listening!

Czechia - Rose Garden

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Filed under photographs, Sherrie Hansen, Travel, writing

Cozy Authors & Social Media

It seems to me that mystery books by cozy authors have become more and more popular among readers in the last few years. I am one of those readers and I love escaping to another world or hovering temporarily in a favorite character’s life where discoveries are made, problems are solved and often humor and lighthearted banter is exchanged. I enjoy pondering a good puzzle, perhaps learning something new, and knowing all will be wrapped up in the end for the protagonist(s). It’s comfort food to me.

I guess the key word here is “escape.” My experience with that word comes from a more than twenty-year career in the entertainment business as a belly dancer, doing mostly “belly-grams” to celebrate special occasions like a birthdays, anniversaries, get-wells, fare-wells, even family reunions. When I arrived on my job site, before I even left my car, I was in character and remained so until I returned home. Every detail was considered important to me, from my freshly laundered elaborate costumes to exciting Middle Eastern music on my boom box, and from immaculate fingernails to my beguiling smile. My 10 minute surprise dance routine was designed to involve many spectators beside the Guest of Honor, so no-one felt left out and it was conducted with class and meant to be good clean fun for all.

All through my career every time I left my house for any reason, I was aware there might be people (past or potential) who would see me and form an impression, so I always made sure I had my make-up on and my hair washed and clothing presentable. As it turned out, there were many, many times I was glad I had gotten in that habit, because I lived in a smaller city and worked full time and eventually became well known. I was proud of my reputation and had worked very hard to gain respect.

With all that said, since I’ve gone to a lot of writers’ conventions and conferences, I’ve met quite a few authors and many of them write cozies. The opinions I formed about these writers came from hearing them speak, perhaps on convention panels, and by reading their books. And often I associated them with their characters.

In days gone by, it used to be popular for authors to have their own website. Now days, group websites seem even more popular along with social media like Facebook. I follow authors through Goodreads and Amazon, but don’t have much time to go to Facebook unless there is a book giveaway by a specific author or authors. Twitter is just too much for me. I’m with Betty White!

Yesterday, I was visiting the website of one of my favorite authors, Molly Greene, and she wrote something that really spoke to me. She said, “Social media is a tough road right now, with the world upended and chaotic, and folks are understandably distraught and upset much of the time.”  This sentence explains so well why I read cozies. It’s the escape thing, so well said!

So I’ve actually been shocked lately to visit some of my favorite cozy writers’ Facebook pages for a giveaway offer or something, only to feel my escape mode splintering and being destroyed by negative remarks that have nothing to do with writing, cozy books or anything about their characters. I want to ESCAPE, not be drawn back into chaos. It’s become so upsetting to me, I’m thinking of dropping a couple of my favorite cozy authors for this very reason. Years ago I had an editor tell me that a certain sentence wording or something-or-other pulled them right out of my story. It’s the same thing. I feel yanked out of my cozy mood and thrust back into the “world and its troubles.” Authors are entertainers too, and I want to be entertained!

Am I alone? Are there others who feel this way, too? Let me know by leaving a comment below. If you can’t see the comments area, go up and click the title of the blog and it will refresh the page for comments. And have a comfortable, happy, cozy day.

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Filed under books, fiction, marketing, musings, writing

What makes You Happy?

I have a question for you. It’s the title of this post. I was thinking about what makes me the most happy of all the things, actions, thoughts, whatever, and I came up with what sounds to me as cliché , but are actually true. The thing I like to do the most is find something to do or say or give to someone else that I feel might make them feel good. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a big thing, sometimes a smile will do, or forwarding a funny email, or encouraging someone in an endeavor.

Shopping for that perfect gift and then eagerly waiting for that person to open it. I think that makes me giddier than anything else. Knowing they will love my gift and also knowing that they know I took the time to really think of them while shopping. Sometimes, we buy what we like when we don’t know someone that well and if we are general enough, that approach will usually work out, but it can be scary. I try to learn about people so I don’t have to face that awkward time, but if I’m not sure, I’ll take a chance rather than miss it altogether.

Maybe because I’m a senior I’ve learned to value friendships so much, because our time on this Earth is short and I think it’s important to make the most of the time we have. And, because I’ve lost many dear friends over the years, I’m perhaps more aware how precious our acquaintances, family and loved ones are. When we are young, we are immortal in our minds and losing anyone is not at all in our minds until it happens, and then happens again, and then again.

But, I never will forget an experience I had a few years ago. It was early in the morning in my bank. The teller’s line was slow and I could hear the lady behind me impatiently sighing, and out of the corner of my eye I could see her shifting from one foot to another. It was obvious she was in a hurry and was not happy she had to wait. I stood there in the line and tried to think what I could do. Finally I was first in line. I cashed my check and as I turned around to leave, I leaned toward her, smiled, and in a low voice said I had the feeling she was having a rough day and I hoped it got better. She just looked at me, startled. About an hour later I saw her again at the post office and she made a point to come up to thank me for making her day. She said I had completely turned around the direction her day was going and she felt it was important to thank me. That day was a very important lesson for me and will remain in my memory. We both knew I didn’t have to say anything to her, but we both were glad I did. Sometimes a lift from a stranger is a wonderful help to someone.

As a result of that experience, there have been times when I’ve found I was becoming impatient with someone for some reason and instead of getting annoyed and/or angry, I take a deep breath and pretend that person is a fictitious, dotty little grandmother of mine, and I’m suddenly more patient and not annoyed anymore.  I’ve noticed this technique also appears to be helpful to my nerves and blood pressure.

So now, dear readers, I want to hear what makes you happy. And what are some of your secrets?

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Let’s Celebrate!

Back in April 2011, when my book, SHE HAD TO KNOW came out, my publisher asked me if I would write a blog once each month for what is now Indigo Sea Press. I thought it would be fun and agreed. Today I am celebrating my 100th post!!! During the last eight years, I’ve only missed one. For that one, I was blessed to have Pat Bertram fill in for me with an exceptional post. Thanks again, Pat!

For my blog posts, I was given free rein and have been allowed to write about anything I wanted. The only exception would be a topic that might compete with my publisher and/or the other authors writing for ISP, or be subject to controversy. We strive to be G rated.

To refresh my memory, I skimmed through previous past posts to see the variety of subjects I’ve covered and realized I’d touched on lessons I’ve learned about writing techniques and discoveries having to do with the craft of writing; places to which I’ve traveled and objects I’ve collected that reminded me of those travels; what it was like living in certain places like Germany and Montana; discovering my Scottish roots; dealing with the loss of friends through death; and various emotional subjects with my expressions of joy, sorrow, surprise, wonderment, even fear. One example was a post in 2012 written while I was in the hospital recovering from a stroke. The stroke came as such a shock (I mean, I had always been so healthy and I was so happy I survived), I complained about a normal problem like dealing with Microsoft Windows 10 on my new computer as opposed to a previous Windows program. And I had to keep the post short, because I was having difficulty typing with my still limp left hand.

But my very favorite part of all the monthly offerings was, and still is, when readers contribute by adding comments and likes and even emails. I love it when people tell me about how my posts affect their lives or when they share how glad they are to not be the only ones who feel a certain way about something. I love it when readers tell me about their experiences. It’s always so special when an author realizes that people actually enjoy reading their posts and exchanging ideas and opinions. Not all people know we generally don’t get paid to write blogs. I don’t anyway. It’s our opportunity to share our somewhat isolated lives with the outside world, which suddenly becomes smaller and more intimate. I love that!

So, on this day of celebration, I want to thank all my readers out there, especially the ones who have given me feedback. And I thank other author friends whose works I’ve learned about through blogging. Here we go. I’m lighting 100 candles. Help me blow them out. To the next 100! Let’s celebrate!

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Filed under life, memory, musings, Pat Bertram, writing

The World is Waiting by Sherrie Hansen

Some of you know that I lived in Germany for three years when I was younger. I traveled throughout Europe when I was there and soaked up as much of the local culture as I could. I loved living in Europe so much that part of me didn’t want to come home. Those years helped shape the person I am today in many ways, both good and bad, and provided the inspiration for several of my books.

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I’ve always believed that I inherited a good dose of wanderlust from my Danish ancestors. When we went on family vacations, my Dad loved to drive down random roads just to see what he would find. I’m a little more structured about what places I go and what I hope to see when I’m there, but just like my Dad, I love stumbling upon quaint places and unique sights.

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My husband also shares my love of traveling and exploring. That’s why we try to get away on a long vacation every year. This year, we’re headed to Czechia. Some of our friends go to the same cabin on the same lake or the same cabin in the same mountain valley every weekend, summer, or year. We like seeing new things each time we go. We’ve also been told by numerous friends to travel while we can, that the window of opportunity when folks have the good health, time and money to travel is narrow and short-lived.

Blog - Imix water

Maybe you’re at a time in your life when you can’t see the world due to whatever restraints keep you tied to one spot. If so, I’d like to invite you to take a vacation in your imagination. Open a bevy of books and you can read your way around the world.

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Start by reading NIGHT & DAY or DAYBREAK (by Sherrie Hansen, of course) and experience Copenhagen, Northern Minnesota, Prince Edward Island, the Mississippi River Valley, and The Faroe Islands.

Scotland - St. Conan's

Next, why not try Scotland? You can visit Loch Awe, Glasgow, and Tobermory, Scotland in THISTLE DOWN (a prequel novella,) and WILD ROSE, the first of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels.

Scotland - Celtic CrossScotland - Tobermory 5

The lovely Isle of Mull, home of the colorful Tobermory harbor and Duart and Glengorm Castles, Alsace Lorraine, and the French Riviera are featured in BLUE BELLE.

Wildflowers - Stripes

If the highlands call out to you, you can see the Isle of Skye and Eilean Donan Castle in SHY VIOLET  and SWEET WILLIAM.

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Picturesque Loch Carron, Scotland is the setting of GOLDEN ROD. I love it there so much!

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Maybe you just want a short vacation to someplace cool with lakes and forests galore like the Northwoods of Minnesota. Duluth, Ely, and Embarrass, Minnesota  are featured in LOVE NOTES along with Harmony, California on the Central Coast.

Scot - Stornoway castle ceiling

Are you getting the feel for how far you can go just by cracking open a book? Depending on how fast you read, and how many books you devour in a few days time, you can see the world for less than $20 a week.

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My next book, SEASIDE DAISY, is set in Ireland on the Dingle Peninsula. Ever since I visited Dingle and Killarney three years ago, I’ve been trying to recreate the feel of the place with my words so you can see it through your eyes.  This week, I attended a Songwriting Workshop and wrote a song called Seaside Daisy’s Shanty. I hope it puts you in the mood to visit Ireland when SEASIDE DAISY comes out this fall.

Seaside Daisy’s Shanty by Sherrie Hansen

In the meantime, I’m dreaming about a new book called PLUM TART IRIS set in Czechia, and one after that I think I’ll call COMMON PRIMROSE, set somewhere in Europe. None of us knows exactly what the future holds or where our journey will take us next, but I hope you’ll continue to follow my travels via my blog and Facebook, and accept my invitation to read my books.

The world is waiting!

Scot - Eilean Donan

Twenty-eight years ago, Sherrie Hansen rescued a dilapidated Victorian house in northern Iowa from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn. Sherrie grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota and has lived in Bar Harbor, Maine, Colorado Springs, CO, and Augsburg, Germany. She attended Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL. After 12 years of writing romance novels late at night when she couldn’t sleep, she met and married her real-life hero, Mark Decker, a pastor. Sherrie lives in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart, and writes on the run whenever she has a spare minute. With her Wildflowers of Scotland novels, “Wild Rose”, “Blue Belle”, “Shy Violet”, “Sweet William” and “Golden Rod”, and her new release, DAYBREAK, the sequel to NIGHT & DAY, she has eleven books in print, most featuring a “second-chance-at-love” story. Sherrie enjoys painting, playing the piano with the worship team at church, photography, decorating historic homes, and traveling. You can learn more about her books by visiting  http://amazon.com/author/sherriehansen

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Filed under fiction, photographs, Scotland, Sherrie Hansen, Travel