Tag Archives: California

Life Lessons from Death Valley by Sherrie Hansen

More than one person thought we were nuts to head to Death Valley this January when we could have stayed a few more days at the beach.

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You may agree. Or you see why we love the desert after you’ve read a few of the life lessons I learned in Death Valley.

  1. Your greatest flaw may be the thing that makes you beautiful.

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These photos are from the Artist’s Palate, one of the most scenic areas of Death Valley. If Death Valley had enough moisture to support vegetation like the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevadas and the Appalachians do, these mountains would be covered with trees and underbrush and grasses just like they are, and we would never see the splendor of the colors underneath.

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  1. If not for the darkness, you can’t see the stars.

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If Death Valley was bordered by a beach, people would flock there, and the absolute darkness, the brilliant starlight that we experienced there would be gone. Not that there’s anything wrong with the bright lights of nearby Las Vegas, or even great cities like Paris, the City of Lights, but I’m glad there’s a place where we can experience complete darkness and see the Milky Way. Starlight has a way of settling the soul.

  1. It’s good to be able to hear yourself think.

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If Death Valley was a place where people wanted to settle and live, its airspace would soon be cluttered with the same intrusive sounds we hear in our day to day lives. It’s amazing what being alone, and enjoying a little peace and quiet can do. Stripping things down to the basics help you focus in a way that we rarely have the opportunity to do.

  1. Things don’t equal happiness.

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Having no services, no fast-food places, no internet access, and no cell phone reception makes you realize very quickly that you can survive quite well with very little. The important things come into focus without the distractions that so often occupy our time. Suddenly, you start seeing beauty all around and noticing things that likely would have gone by unappreciated… like a picnic under the stars,  We’ve all heard stories of pioneer families who had only what their covered wagons would hold, if that much, who were happy. We have so much, and are so often unhappy and dissatisfied. It was great to be reminded that without our toys, there is all kinds of old-fashioned fun to be had.

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  1. You won’t believe what a few little sprinkles will do.

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All it takes is a little shower and the desert bursts into a flowery oasis of color. Give someone the slightest encouragement and they will bloom. Those of us who live in places where there are dozens of inches of rainfall every year think it takes a deluge to make things grow, but when you’re in the desert, you learn that just a little bit of rain or kindness or love goes a very long way and can make all kinds of surprising things happen.

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  1. Trust your instincts and wander where you will.

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When we first realized we were totally off the grid and that our GPS didn’t work, I’ll admit I was a little worried. I really don’t like the feeling of being lost and I guess I’ve gotten used to the magic voice pointing me in the direction of my destination and telling me where to turn. What I rediscovered was the joy of wandering down this road and that to see what we would find. It’s something my Dad used to do when we were on family vacations. I had forgotten how freeing it is to flex your wings, trust your instincts, and fly.

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  1. Be patient – some things are worth the wait.

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A canyon lit by sunlight looks completely different than a canyon shrouded in shadows. In His Time. God makes all things beautiful in His time. This is a lesson I’ve had to be reminded of over and over again in my lifetime. If you try to manipulate things to fit your timeline, you’re bound to be disappointed. Being patient and waiting for the right time, when the lighting is perfect and everything lines up the way it’s meant to brings dazzling results. A little sunshine makes a big difference.

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  1. When you’re at the lowest spot on earth, there’s no place to go but up.

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Being two hundred plus feet below sea level gave me an eerie feeling. And when we left the lowlands to climb up the canyons, my muscles were painfully stretched. It’s hard to transition from low to high. I’ve been thinking about high points and low points a lot as I’ve worked on my novel, Sweet William, this winter. One of the characters is dealing with the death of someone very dear, and trying to work their way back from deep despair to some sense of normalcy. Another character is living a perfectly grand life at a time when she’s at the pinnacle of her dreams. The only catch is, if she wants to be with the man she loves, she will have to give it all up.

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Is he dragging her down? Can she lift him up? From the heather- colored highlands of Scotland to the flat, black fields of Minnesota’s farm country – which way will she go?

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And the moral of the story? I said I learned some life lessons in Death Valley – I didn’t say I had all the answers. Never fear. I hope to have them soon. In the meantime, be patient with me. Oh, and please be quiet so I can think. I can’t seem to connect to Google Search right now so I’m looking for a star to guide me.

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‘Cause the Free Wind is Blowing Through My Hair by Sherrie Hansen

A few days ago, I left behind the cold and snow of the Midwest for the surf and sand of the California coast. We even followed the Ventura Highway. We’re here to visit my husband’s mother, but I can’t deny I’m grateful she lives in a climate that’s filled with flowers and colorful scenery, even in January.

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I always feel a surge of inspiration when I visit new places, and today is no exception. I love the adventure of seeing new things and enjoying the beauty in someone else’s backyard. But I also miss the people and things I love back home.

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I take my nieces and nephew on a mini-adventure every Wednesday afternoon – a joy I missed this week because I was on my way to the airport. Maybe that’s why I dreamed about them last night. In my dream, I remembered being their current ages – 9, 11, and 13 – and realized that I have the same interests and passions that I had way back then even though almost half a century has flown by.

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I started cooking for 4-H, and then, because I preferred fixing dinner for my family and whatever farm crew was helping out to driving tractor, and then, because I loved hearing compliments from friends and family about how delicious and cute my food tasted and looked. It seems I had an artistic eye that manifested itself in culinary delights. Entertaining friends, catering special events, and cooking at my B&B and tea house for the last 25 years isn’t all that far a stretch.

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I started piano and trombone when I was in grade school and junior high, as they were called back then. My love of music hasn’t diminished in all this time either. The trombone didn’t last, and my taste in artists (John Denver, Bread, Gordon Lightfoot) may have evolved in different directions, but I still play piano with a contemporary worship team and even write an occasional melody. And I love rocking out with drummer and keyboard friends.

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My bright lavender bedroom with sculpted, bronze carpet and lime green love beads may not have had the refined look of any of my current decorating projects, but I was clearly interested in color and design, even as a young teenager. And truthfully, my tastes  – and my passion for wild color combinations and quirky furnishings – haven’t changed all that much over the years.

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My favorite books when I was the age Victoria and Gloria are now were the Betsy Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace (a series set in the Victorian era that follows Betsy and her Crowd of friends from childhood to marriage, much like Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books.) Betsy was a writer, so that’s what I wanted to be, too. I loved to read, write poems, plays and stories, and spent hours dreaming about characters for the books I would write one day. Voila!

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I also dreamed of finding my very own, perfect for me, “Joe” (Betsy’s beau) and one day, having my own little Bettina. While that didn’t work out the way I hoped, I’ve certainly seen the Great World and accomplished abundantly more than I ever dreamed possible.

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I’ve thankful that I had people in my life who encouraged me to dream, live large, and think outside the box. When my dream life didn’t materialize quite the way I expected, I’m glad for friends who helped me pick up the pieces and start over. I’m grateful that my family loved and accepted me no matter what crazy things I was up to at any given time.

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If you have children or grandchildren or nieces and nephews who are a part of your life, please cheer them on when they try out new things, and discover their own passions. You never know what might become of it. Little acorns grow up to be mighty oak trees.

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Twenty-four years ago, Sherrie 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.  After 12 years of writing romance novels, Sherrie met and married her real-life hero, Mark Decker, a pastor. They now live in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart, and Sherrie writes on the run whenever she has a spare minute. Sherrie enjoys playing the piano, photography, traveling, and going on weekly adventures with her nieces and nephew. “Shy Violet” is Sherrie’s eighth book to be published by Indigo Sea Press, a mid-sized, independent press out of North Carolina. “Sweet William”, the last of her Wildflowers of Scotland novels, will be out early this summer.
You can find more information about Sherrie Hansen here:

WEBSITE  http://BlueBelleBooks.com  or http://BlueBelleInn.com

BLOG  http://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/

Twitter https://twitter.com/SherrieHansen

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/SherrieHansenAuthor
Goodreads  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2870454.Sherrie_Hansen

Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/author/sherriehansen

Pinterest  https://www.pinterest.com/sherriebluebell/

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Left Coast Crime 2012 Experience – by Deborah J Ledford

I returned from the Left Coast Crime conference in Sacramento earlier this week and thought I’d give you a little wrap-up.

The highlight of my experience was the “Cultures & Communities” panel. My latest thriller, SNARE (last year’s Finalist for The Hillerman Sky Award at LCC 2011), features a Native American rock star and takes place on the Taos Pueblo Indian reservation so it was an honor acting as monitor for this fascinating subject.

Joining me on the panel: bestselling authors Cara Black who writes the Paris-based Aimée Leduc series, and Naomi Hirahara author of the Mas Arai series. Also on the panel, Edmonton, Canada novelist and journalist Wayne Arthurson, and Heidi Naroozy who writes Persian-American stories. I had a blast hearing of the different cultures and characters these fascinating writers present in their work.

The photo below is provided by Clark Lohr who took loads of excellent pictures at LCC.

I also appeared on the short story panel with Gigi Pandian, Jack Erickson, Richard Lupoff and Tim Wohlforth. The gentlemen on the panel have published hundreds of short stories and I learned a lot about their process.

Fellow Sisters in Crime (SinC) members were well represented at LCC. It was great to finally meet Second Wind Publishing author Mickey Hoffman and her SinC Chapter hosted an excellent hospitality room, constantly stocked with tea, coffee and snacks. Way to go Sacramento Sisters!

There was much excitement at the Awards ceremony where Darrell James won the Eureka! award for his debut mystery Nazareth Child (Midnight Ink). And one of my all-time favorite Sister in Crime, Kelli Stanley, was presented the Golden Nugget prize for her latest California-based PI noir historical City of Secrets (Minotaur Books).

Kudos to Co-Chairs Robin Burcell and Cindy Sample, as well as their extraordinary and hardworking crew. You all did an incredible job. Well done, indeed!

If you’ve never attended a mystery conference, I urge you to register for Left Coast Crime 2013 to be held in Colorado Springs, March 21-24, 2013.

Deborah J Ledford’s latest suspense novel SNARE, The Hillerman Sky Award Finalist, is book two of her Deputy Hawk/Inola Walela thriller series. STACCATO, book one of the serial, is also available. Both novels are published by Second Wind Publishing. To find out more about Deborah, receive a Free Download of the first chapters of her novels, and to read a few previously published short stories, she invites you to visit her website.

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Left Coast Crime Conference Experience

Earlier this month I joined nearly 500 published authors, as-of-yet unpublished writers and readers for the Left Coast Crime conference. This year the conference was held in downtown Los Angeles, California. The Omni hotel was great and we pretty much had the facility to ourselves where we all but took over the entire second floor.

I had the opportunity to feature my debut thriller STACCATO in The Mystery Bookstore set up for the conference, as well as at the Rue Morgue table. Exposure was excellent for the debut authors where we took the spotlight during one morning’s breakfast to present our titles to all those in attendance.

Kris Neri, author of the recently released Revenge for Old Times’ Sake, and High Crimes on the Magical Plane (nominated for The Lefty Award at the conference) was kind enough to introduce me to a slew of published authors.

I met Eric Beetner, co-author with K.B. Khol of One Too Many Blows to the Head, also released by Second Wind Publishing. Eric did an excellent job on his two panels, one about noir fiction, the other featuring newly published authors.

Biggest honor was appearing on the panel “The Art of the Short Story” with venerable award-winning authors Gar Anthony Haywood and Toni L.P. Kelner who co-edits anthologies with Charlaine Harris (famous for her Sookie Stackhouse True Blood series).

I’m currently reading Gar’s literary crime fiction novel Cemetery Road and must say, this is an incredible novel. One word description: Magic.

I hope and intend to keep in touch with the authors I had the pleasure and honor to meet. I look forward to seeing my new “friends” at the Bouchercon conference in April.

Deborah J Ledford is the author of the debut suspense thriller novel STACCATO, now available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, Kindle, and independent bookstores.

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Stormy Weather, Yet Again… by Sherrie Hansen

Once again, Stormy Weather is impacting my life. Last week, a winter storm (ice, sleet, freezing rain, snow, winds) almost kept my husband and I apart on Christmas. This week, another is threatening our long lusted after vacation.

We’ve had this trip planned – a visit to Visalia, Cayucos, and Glendora California to see friends and family – for months. We checked out the extended forecast a week ago and breathed a sigh of relief when the weather sounded passable for the day we were scheduled to fly from Minneapolis to Bakersfield. We asked my parents to drive us to the airport. Everything was a go – we couldn’t wait to escape the frigid, 50 below zero windchills and two feet of snow that has inundated northern Iowa this winter.

My B&B – the place we are trying to escape.

You can imagine our dismay when well-meaning friends informed us that the revised forecast features a winter storm warning – 5 to 8 inches of fresh snow, winds in excess of 25 mph, near white-out conditions, blowing and drifting snow with blizzard-like periods expected – starting tomorrow afternoon and continuing on until Thursday night. We are supposed to fly out of St. Paul Thursday afternoon, right in the middle of the fray. The airport is two hours from our home – a nice, mellow drive in good weather – a nightmare in near white-out conditions.

So… What possessed me to write a book called Stormy Weather in the first place, I have started to wonder of late… ever since this book came out, my life has been nothing but. A cruel twist of fate? Is Mother Nature mad at me for speaking out about things best left alone? Is God upset with me for making the sex scenes too steamy, something a good girl / pastor’s wife like me really ought not do?

If you have the answer, let me know!

In the meantime… what to do about all this Stormy Weather? Adapt, I guess… we are leaving for the airport a day early, tomorrow morning, in hopes of beating the storm. The plan is to book a room in St. Paul where we can leave our car while we’re gone, and hoping our flight is on schedule the next day so we don’t end up stranded in Minnesota, where the forecast is continued sub-zero temperatures.

We’ve been California Dreaming for months… sandy beaches, warm ocean breezes, barefoot in the sand, Catalina Island romance, tropical paradise type weather… you get the picture. We need this break from the lung-searing cold, frozen tundra, snow and ice everywhere  Midwest.

Assuming we get there, we hope to encounter no Stormy Weather in California. (Did you hear that, God?)

A California sunset I witnessed from a friend’s deck while visiting last year.

We really need a rest from all this turbulence… a little smooth sailing would be nice. Red skies at night, sailor’s delight… Please??? I’m taking my Alpha Smart. My husband is dragging the laptop along so I can work on Waterlily. Smooth-petaled, tucked in still waters, sunshine-drenched waterlilies… ah, yes… no ice, no snow. waterlilies… Coming soon (June 2010?) if I get my way… Summer should be here by then…

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