Category Archives: writing

INSPIRITING POEM by Coco Ihle

Back in 2011 I wrote about this, but I was urged to mention it again. When I decided I wanted to become an author in my late fifties, I had no idea how to go about accomplishing that goal, but figured I’d learn along the way. When I spoke about it to friends, their responses were varied. Some said, “That’s nice.” I could tell their answer was just that, not one that took any thought, just something polite to say. Some were discouraging without meaning to be, saying it was really difficult and getting published was almost impossible. And a few were encouraging, but uninformed about the possibilities or lack thereof.

One of my dearest friends whose opinion I seriously sought, totally surprised me by not being encouraging at all. She was an educator and a Stanford Grad and I expected a “go-for-it” attitude from her. At that point in my life I might have been discouraged, but I was lucky. I had been successful in my last few endeavors and had gained confidence from those experiences, and my desire to write a book was fueled by the recent discovery of a sister for whom I had been searching for over fifty years.

My deep down determination was pretty sealed, but what cemented it in place was a friend who had traveled the world and wore the wisdom of many varied life experiences. I hadn’t seen him in a while, so when we did meet up one evening, I told him about my search for family and how dogged I had been through the years and that my efforts had finally been rewarded. I told him I wanted to write a fictional story about my search for my sister, but make it entertaining for others to read. As I spoke, I could tell he was hanging on every word and I could sense his interest.

When I finished telling him my hopes, he smiled and said he wanted to recite a poem by an unknown author that had been given to him many years before.  He also said it literally changed his life.  Here it is:

 

I wish I were a could be

if I could not be an are.

For a could be is a maybe

with a chance of reaching far.

 

I’d rather been a has been

than a might have been by far.

For a might have been has never been

while a has was once an are.

 

When he finished he said, “Now, keep this poem close and go write your book.”

I did and I did.

I’d love to hear if you have had any special something that has helped you fulfill your dreams, besides persistence and hard work.

 

 

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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I’m Hooked by Coco Ihle

I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands to create original art pieces and because I’ve tried quite a few different areas of art, I rather quickly realized my likes and limitations and therefore developed a respectable appreciation for other people’s efforts as well. I’ve tried oil painting and water color and working in acrylics; wood carving, mask making and ordinary fabric sewing. When I was dancing, I created almost all of my costumes, which gave me experience in not only fabrics, but also in leather and silks and beadwork.

My sources for learning were teachers, friends and lots of books. In my day, there was no YouTube or Internet, so my discoveries were often somewhat different than they are today. I have to say, though, I really prefer learning from a person, in person, so that I can ask questions as I go and also get feedback and pointers from that teacher right away. If there is a certain correct way of doing something, I’ve also learned it’s best to learn the right way rather than try to unlearn a wrong way. This sentence recalls to my mind incorrect fingering while learning a new piece of music for either my piano or cello or bagpipes.

Now that the holidays are over and life is settling back to normal, I’ve been thinking I’d like to get back to doing a project with my hands, but didn’t know what I was in the mood to try. Years ago I used to crochet a little. That might be fun. And I’ve always wanted to learn to knit. I tried once and found I seemed to tighten up on my stitches as I went and my work didn’t look good at all. Maybe I didn’t give it enough time and experience. I didn’t have a teacher for that.

Then I remembered when I was living in Germany, my neighbors upstairs in my apartment building were avid latch hook rug makers. I remember they were a husband and wife who were working on a rug maybe 9’ x 12’ in size and they’d sit side by side a few feet apart, and work together on each row. It was a beautiful French pastel design and so elegant looking. They told me it was a kit, with precut yarn and they’d work on it whenever they were in the mood and had time. I was so impressed!

When I came back to the States, I found a latch hook pillow kit that was a 24” square and thought that would be a good size for me to see if it was something I would enjoy pursuing. I started it and really loved working on it and then somehow life stepped in and I got busy doing other things. Years went by and I forgot about it. So while I was trying to decide what project I could get involved with, I thought of finishing that one. I started searching for it and found it waiting for me in my studio. Luckily, all the pieces seem to be together and I still really love the colors and design of the pillow, so I think I’ll finish it. It’s about three-quarters of the way done. Here’s a photo. Wish me luck!

24″ Latch Hook Pillow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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!

Wildflowers of Scotland Novels by Sherrie Hansen (2).jpg

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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.

Seaside Daisy Front Cover 10-17

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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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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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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Friendships Through My Ages

My very first friend was, Miss Woodward, the lady who accompanied me to my foster homes. Since it took several tries, we had time to bond while she figured out the answer why. And even though I was still a toddler, I somehow knew she was my only link to my past and I didn’t want to lose that. So when we finally found my “Forever” home, I made sure it would be possible for me to keep in touch. At first we exchanged Christmas and birthday cards. Later, when I was in my twenties, I showed off my child to her to demonstrate and confirm the possibility of successful adoptions. And as time passed we continued our correspondence until she died many years later.

My adopted mother was very involved and influential in my everyday life. In my younger years, she picked friends for me and they were always people who were more knowledgeable or talented in something than I or at which I wasn’t as good. Most of the time, I didn’t mind, because I enjoyed learning, but occasionally, I felt inferior to them. And as I look back at that time, I could have used more confidence building.

My father had six weeks’ vacation each year and the three of us would take a large chunk of this time to travel out West to see the National Parks. We camped all along the way and I was fortunate to visit all the states except Washington and Oregon and all the provinces of Canada. Campsites in those days were great spots to make pen-pal friends and I met several from both the States and Canada.

A couple of my friends were terrific artists who shared their love of horses and art with me. Another loved to cook and she and I had taffy pulling parties. Later, a guy friend shared his love of car mechanics and he helped me keep my ’56 T-Bird in tip-top shape. Another guy friend was into S.C.U.B.A. and we became diving buddies. I later took my diving equipment to Cannes, France when I was in school there, so I could dive with the local club during my stay.

When I found out I had Scottish roots, my son and I joined the local St. Andrews Society and we met several really special people with Scots ancestry and also found a bagpipe teacher. Other people in the society taught me about the history and customs of Scotland and inspired my trips there and interest in writing a book about my adventures. In fact, a lovely man from Scotland has become a friend after he read my book and contacted me to tell me so. He calls himself “The Village Kiltie.”

During my husband’s military career, I took belly dance lessons in several places where we were stationed and after my parents died, I went home to N.J. to settle their estate. While there, I met a gal who became my inspiration/teacher/mentor for a whole new twenty-plus-year career. Who would have guessed it?!

One of my guy friends was into opera, ballet and orchestral music, and since I had studied ballet, piano and cello most of my growing up years, he and I used to share season tickets. And another guy friend and I consoled each other when we each went through divorces.

I had a friend who was a 29 year cancer survivor, who taught me more about living than anyone I’ve known.

As I look back, my mother had a good idea in introducing me to people who could teach me something. It may have been a little difficult in the beginning, but the more I learned the more I wanted to learn, so I pick friends like that, still. I always want to grow and find things and people who inspire me. I have been so fortunate to have met so many really special people. I have photographs of most of them on shelves on either side of my desk and every day when I enter the room, I greet them with cherishing thoughts.

 

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 How To, life, musings, Scotland, Travel, writing

Beauty Salon Blues

Years ago when I first started to get my hair cut and colored and my nails manicured or artificial nails put on, an appointment at the beauty salon was an experience where I always felt pampered and special. Am I being old fashioned in thinking that’s still true, or should be?

Almost a month ago, I set up an appointment at a new salon to have a cut and color done on my shoulder-plus-length, medium brown hair. I had researched salons in my area and was impressed by an ad I’d seen in which the owner had expressed how professional she and her staff were and how her salon was a dream come true for her. That sounded good to me, so I set up an appointment with (we’ll call her), Breanna.

I did my due-diligence rounding up photos of favorite styles and examples of color that I liked so I could better explain to my new hair dresser the results I was expecting. Since the examples I selected were actual photos of me, I knew it was possible to cut and color my hair to look like those photos. And I was being realistic in knowing the results I’d see in the mirror would include the wrinkles I now wear, as opposed to some of the early photo examples, sans wrinkles.

Beauty day arrived and I was excited and very much looking forward to meeting and learning about my new hairdresser and explaining to her what I wanted done to accomplish my spiffed-up look, and also to getting my head massaged during the shampooing portion of the appointment. I think just about everybody loves that part!

I arrived a few minutes ahead of schedule and Breanna, a twenty-something girl, came forward and led me to her chair. When she asked what I wanted I showed her the folder of photos and explained that as far as cut was concerned, I’d like a page boy that curled under with a length just below my chin but above my shoulder. She looked at me with a blank look and then pulled out her comb and scissors and started cutting my hair with it dry. Other hair dressers had always cut my hair when it was wet, especially since I have some natural curl, but I‘m not the expert so I didn’t say anything.

After cutting my hair she went to get the color chart. She picked out three reddish samples and I selected a medium reddish-brown that had very definite warm, reddish highlights. She mixed the color, applied it, set a timer and went and sat down and started looking at her cell phone. The owner of the salon (about the same age) was in another chair and they spoke to one another and pointed out things on their phones to each other and ignored me.

Just about the time I was feeling totally neglected, the timer went off, I was directed to the sink and my hair was shampooed very quickly. No massage. In fact, I wasn’t sure she even got the nape of my neck wet. Then the towel was wrapped around my head and I went back to her chair where Breanna started blow-drying my hair. She had me facing away from the mirror so I had no idea what I looked like until she was done.

After spinning me around to face the mirror, someone with dark brown shoulder-length hair stared back at me and the bottom of her hair was flipped up in some places and hanging limp in others. Along with the feeling of neglect, I was trying to understand where the reddish color was and what had become of the page boy I had asked for. Then it occurred to me that Breanna may not have known what a page boy even was. That would explain the blank look she gave me, but I had had a photo of one that I had shown her and I remembered pointing to it. If she was too young to know what a page boy was, why didn’t she say she hadn’t heard that term used before?

I was so disappointed and exhausted by this time, I paid her and left, thinking I’d just not ever go back. When I got home, I went into my bathroom and ran my spread-out fingers up through the bottom of my hair at the nape of my neck and my hand came out covered in wet, gooey, dark-brown hair dye. How could Breanna have dried my hair and not noticed she’d not rinsed all the dye out? I couldn’t believe my eyes! And to make matters worse, there was not a hint of any red in the dye. The more I thought about it, the madder I got. The cut she gave me was too long, too. I had asked for a length between my chin and shoulder. What I got was hair that hung down and split at my shoulder because it was too long. To top it all off, not only did she do a poor job; she had no social skills whatsoever!

Clearly, I made a bad choice in salons, but I never dreamed I could be off that much. Throughout my adult life I worked in a service oriented business and I always gave my customers more than they expected. In other words, I treated people like I would like to be treated.

Is this a millennial thing? Or is this an unqualified stylist thing? Or both? Are young people unable to communicate with the public because of their isolation as a result of technology; the cell phone? Is that the problem? I have noticed people don’t communicate much anymore in doctor’s or dentist’s offices, restaurants and such, but this oddity seems to have totally crippled young people in particular. I might even be so bold as to say this lack of communication has become what appears to be an act of rudeness. Am I alone in thinking this? Do they know this is how some older people feel? Do they even care? Can I ever hope to get my hair done in a salon and feel pampered again? I’ve lost my confidence in being able to tell. Am I being unreasonable? Maybe so, if I didn’t say anything. I guess I should I have told her, but didn’t because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings? This is really bothering me.

Let me know your thoughts, dear readers.

 

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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Why Mysteries?

People have asked me why I like to read and write in the Mystery genre. My answer: mysteries have it all. If I need an intellectual challenge I can select one that has a complicated plot and denouement and slug all the way through to a satisfying conclusion. Perhaps I’ll spend a good deal of time working out a puzzle, deciphering clues and enjoying the challenge of working out the solution on my own, maybe even before the protagonist does. Mystery writers are great at creating suspense and misdirection and keeping us readers on the edge of our seats. They also generally play fair by providing the clues for the reader to utilize along the way, and they usually wrap up loose ends before the story reaches completion.

If I’m in the mood for a lighter touch, I can turn to the cozy or humorous side of the genre. These mysteries can contain romance, fantasy, laugh-out-loud fun, comfort settings and food, and often a beloved pet. In other words, they provide a happier, more positive and relaxed environment where I can escape from daily trials.

Then there’s the kind of story in which the protagonist sets out on an adventure of discovery and suddenly I’m learning about an occupation or foreign country and its customs and mores unfamiliar to me. Or the atmosphere or setting of a place will inspire me to draw or paint the feeling it gives me or recreate it in an original story of my own. How many times have you been reading something that sparked all sorts of creative ideas in you?

Series mysteries are very popular. As readers follow a specific character or characters through different adventures and become emotionally attached to them and their settings, these characters become “family” and readers enjoy following along in their lives. And, luckily, most series authors are good about making each book work as a stand-alone. I really try to read series books in order though, because the protagonist (and sometimes other characters) tends to learn and develop with each case he/she has to deal with and it’s nice to see how and why these developments occur.

Mysteries often contain atmosphere. British mysteries come to mind immediately. The phrase, ‘A castle in Scotland” immediately conjures up an image somewhat similar for most people, but along with that phrase can come, ancient, gray, crumbling stones, thunder and lightning, rain and fog, lonely, dark and dreary landscapes, ramshackle outbuildings, etc. Or perhaps you see in your mind’s eye a palace with all the finery that comes with that image. Plush, royal robes, crown jewels, carriages, a monarch. Words that are full of colorful paint.

Most of my favorite authors are traditionally published and their books have been edited professionally. That is extremely important to me as a reader, because correct grammar and sentence structure make for clear writing and thus, for me―understanding. I must add that I have read some self-published authors who have gone that extra step to have their books professionally edited and I say kudos to them.

I have a TBR pile (To Be Read) and there are many sub-genres of mysteries represented in it where international characters, each vie for my attention in this century and others, depending on my mood. I do have some memoirs, women’s fiction, biographies, fantasy and horror books, too, but most of my TBR pile consists of mysteries. Mysteries all ready to load onto paintbrushes. What’s your palate preference?

 

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 Art, fiction, musings, Scotland, writing