Tag Archives: Denmark

A New Day is Dawning by Sherrie Hansen

If one thing can be said of my life, it’s that I can’t go through a single day on autopilot. Some days, I wake up in the parsonage next door to my husband’s church in Hudson, Iowa to the sounds of tractors and trucks driving by on our gravel road, the creak of old farmhouse floors, or the sound of the wind whistling across the fields. Other days, I awake 85 miles to the north in a cozy, but comfortable cottage next door to my B&B in the small town of Saint Ansgar.

Sometimes I get to sleep in, or maybe even spend the day lounging around in my nightgown, writing or painting. Other times, I wake up to the demanding b-b-b-b-ring of an alarm clock reminding me that there’s breakfast to serve, lunch to prepare, or a church service to rush off to.

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The one thing that’s consistent about daybreak at my house is that when I wake up each morning, the past is behind me and a fresh day awaits, brimming with new opportunities and unique experiences. No matter which of our homes I wake up in, what’s done is done, and daybreak is a chance to start out fresh.

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I’ve been very fortunate in my life to work in a career where every day is different and filled with new challenges. I’ve always appreciated the fact that my work offers me the joy of interacting with a variety of people, the chance to participate in a broad assortment of tasks, and the opportunity to experiment with creative menus that I can change as often as my heart desires.

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Since my first novel, NIGHT AND DAY, was released, I’ve been telling people it starts when it’s “midnight in Minnesota and daybreak in Denmark.” Since the sequel, coming out this summer, begins in Denmark, it seemed logical to call it DAYBREAK.

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Daybreak is about new beginnings. To begin fresh, you have to turn your back on the past and look forward. It’s a choice we make every day, in little ways, and every so often, with extraordinary, life-changing transitions. For Jensen, daybreak means leaving her comfort zone in Minnesota, moving across the ocean to a different country only to find out that Anders won’t be there to help her adjust. For Anders and his son, Bjorn, daybreak means suffering the indignity of losing a career and being forced to look for a new job. Both have to let go of their expectations and forge a new path.

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For the Christiansen family, it means moving on after an unexpected death changes the entire perimeter of their world. For Leif Unterschlag, it meant giving up the woman he loved, and starting over in Solvang, California, halfway across the world. If Leif hadn’t had the courage to walk away from his heartache and embrace a new love, Jensen never would have come to be. The choice to look toward the rising sun and move forward can have great repercussions!

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I won’t say more for giving too much away, but I think if you’ve ever had to give up something familiar and beloved so that you have your hands free to grasp a new opportunity, you know what I mean about daybreak. Just like Jensen and Anders’ lilac bushes, sometimes our branches have to be pruned and cut back before we can grow. What does daybreak – or the dawn of a new day – mean to you?

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Twenty-six years ago, Sherrie Hansen rescued a dilapidated Victorian house in northern Iowa from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a B&B 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”, she has ten books in print, most featuring a “second-chance-at-love” story. Daybreak, a sequel to Night and Day, will be released in the summer of 2018. 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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Take Two: Something Old, Something New – by Sherrie Hansen

There’s something very exciting about seeing familiar characters in new situations. I love it when I get to experience my favorites things from days past paired with a handful of fresh new adventures. My upcoming release, Daybreak, a sequel to Night and Day, will give readers a chance to reminisce and reacquaint themselves with some of their favorite characters. At the same time, it has to be realized that this second glimpse at Jensen and Anders, Ed, and the Christiansen family begins at a time when everything has changed, some things for the better, and some for the worse. Familiar characters (something old), different situations (something new).

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That’s how I’m looking at our third trip to Scotland this coming May and June. We’ll be revisiting some of our best loved spots, interspersed with a few never before seen destinations.  Familiar sights, new experiences. Hopefully, it will be the perfect mix!

We’ll be starting out at a new B&B in a new village, halfway between Edinburgh and St. Andrews, both of which we’ve already seen. Our beautiful room is in Colinsburgh, where we’ll be our first three nights in country.

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On our first trip to Scotland, I fell in love with Cambo Garden Estates in Kingsbarns, St Andrews, Fife. This will be Mark’s first time, and I can’t wait to show him around, hopefully this time, not in the rain – although the raindrops and overcast haze made for some lovely photos in 2007.

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Some newly discovered treasures we hope to see while we’re in the area include Kellie Castle, with its fairytale stone towers, and an Arts & Crafts garden with herbaceous borders and old rose gardens, and Culross, Scotland’s most complete example of a burgh of the 17th and 18th centuries. Envision white-harled houses with red-tiled roofs lining steep, cobbled streets running from market cross to the hilltop abbey. In the centre is an ochre-coloured palace with a beautifully reconstructed herb garden, complete with rare Scots Dumpy hens. We’re told it’s one of the most picturesque villages in Scotland.

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Our next few nights will be spent in a cottage near Aberfeldy, Perthshire – one of our favorite places on earth. When we’re not enjoying our cozy abode, we hope to visit some new spots – Ailean Chraggan Hotel, where we’re told you can meet the locals, and the food is good. The Breadlabane Bakery is on my list, and a highly recommended Deli-ght, a great delicatessen with very good home cooked ready meals we can enjoy at our home away from home.

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Our trip to Aberfeldy will include a visit to a favorite art gallery belonging to Artist Audrey Slowrance

And – a return visit to nearby Blair Atholl Castle where we will once again see the Atholl Highlanders marching in review, and the famed highland games.

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From there, we’re off to Inverness, or the countryside near Inverness, where we’ll spend two days at Ben View House Lentran Farm. 

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While we’re in the highlands, we plan to visit the living Highland Folk Museum, where we’ll learn how our Scottish Highland ancestors lived, built their homes, tilled the soil and dressed. We can’t wait to see the restored buildings and witness Highland history coming to life.

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The Kilted Fudge Company is next on my list. I first tasted their handmade cream and butter fudge at the highland games in 2016. Located in Aviemore, Scotland, they feature mouth-watering Scottish favourites like Irn Bru, Crannachan, Clootie Dumpling (my absolute fave), Millionaire’s Shortbread, Turkish Delight and Parma Violet.

On our last visit, we couldn’t quite squeeze in Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire, the 
Scottish residence of the British Royal Family. After watching two seasons of Masterpiece Theater’s Victoria, we’re intrigued by the history of Balmoral Castle, which dates from the 15th century, but was considered too small when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert fell in love with the region and people during a visit to the Scottish Highlands. Prince Albert set about organising the design of the current castle and grounds when the Royal Family purchased the estate in 1852. Construction of the new castle started during the summer 0f 1853, on a site just 100 yards from the original building. The couple spent many weeks each year relaxing at their new home in Highlands, and after Albert’s death, Victoria spent up to 4 months each year at Balmoral.  If we have time, we’ll also explore Braemar Castle, Aberdeenshire, a largely restored 17th century castle originally built in 1628.

From there, we head to Ullapool…

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Our host will be Fair Morn Bed & Breakfast, in a room with a view, at Morefield Brae.  This will be another first for us, as will the lovely Achmelvich Beach, and the award-winning Inverewe Garden, where we’re promised we can lose ourselves in the lush setting and enjoy a riot of colours and scents.

We’ll start out June with a three hour long CalMac Ferry Ride to Stornoway, hopefully on calm seas!

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While on the Isles of Lewis and Harris, we’ll stay at Keepers House, Uig Beach, Tinsgarry, Isle of Lewis. Although it was tempting to head back to the Isle of Mull, where Blue Belle is set, or Isle of Arran, which we enjoyed so much in 2016, we decided to strike out and try something new…

The mysterious, and now famous standing stones seen in Outlander will no doubt be our first stop.  We’re also hoping to drive over the bridge from Harris to explore the small island of Scalpay and its red and white striped Eilean Glas Lighthouse on the island’s eastern cliffs. We’re told Scalpay’s North Harbour Bistro is the place for a tasty meal and that we need to browse the beautiful Harris Tweed products at the Pink Sheep Studio. We want to see Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, an open-air museum with its restored blackhouses – long stone cottages with thatched roofs, Dun Carloway, the remnant of a stone broch (small tower) that’s roughly 2000 years old, the very northern tip of the island, or the Butt of Lewis, Luskentyre Beach, and St. Clement’s Church in the tiny town of Rodel.

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After another ferry ride to Uig, Isle of Skye, we hope to have dinner at Stein Inn, a favorite from two years ago, and take in a sunset like this one.

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We’ll definitely revisit our favorite scenic overlook on Skye, and the much loved Eilean Donan Castle featured in my books Shy Violet and Sweet William. One spot that we previously missed is Caisteal Maol (Castle Bare) near Kyle of Lochalsh. We hope to include it on this trip… something old, something new…

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Staying in Lochcarron, setting of Golden Rod, will be a new experience, (Castle Cottage looks wonderful!) but we’ll also enjoy some of our favorite spots while we’re there.

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And then, it’s off to Fort William on our way south toward Glasgow.

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After one night at Loch View Estate, Fort William, we’re very excited to get to explore a new corner of western Scotland, where we get to stay in a B&B that looks absolutely delightful.

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Kilmartin Glen is located between Oban and Lochgilphead, on the west of Scotland. The area spans 5,000 years with a multitude of cairns, standing stones, carved rock, stone circles, forts and castles. Kilmartin Glen is considered to have one of the most important concentrations of Neolithic and Bronze Age remains in Scotland.

And then, it’s off to Paisley to repack our suitcases and catch an early morning flight back to the U.S.

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If we have time, I’d love to see House for an Art Lover in Glasgow. It’s situated in Bellahouston Park, about 10 minutes from the flat where we’ll be staying. It’s a wonderful Charles Rennie Mackintosh building with a fantastic restaurant and art collection.

Maybe now you have a sense of why I keep revisiting Scotland in my books, my travels, and my dreams. And although I took a detour back to Denmark and Minnesota in my new book, Daybreak, the concept is the same. Something old and familiar, something new and exciting, something borrowed (aren’t all stories?) and something blue… always Blue. It’s the stuff the best stories are made of.

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(Sherrie is the owner of the Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House in St. Ansgar, Iowa. She is a Wheaton College alumni, and attended University of Maryland, European Division, in Augsburg, Germany. Her husband is the pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, an LCMC Congregation in rural Hudson, Iowa. In Sherrie’s spare time (?) she likes to dabble in the creative arts, play piano, paint, decorate vintage homes, and travel.)

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(Disclaimer:  I use my own photos except for those of places I have never been, which I obviously couldn’t have taken – yet.)

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What Happens AFTER Happily Ever After by Sherrie Hansen

Have you ever wondered what happens after your favorite book comes to an end? We’ve all turned the last page of a novel, hoping and praying that there’s a epilogue, or as the musician in me likes to think of them, a postlude, so we can peek ahead and get a glimpse of what the future holds. I hate saying goodbye to characters I’ve come to love. Even better is that moment when you talk to your librarian or do a search online and find out there’s a sequel! If you’re like me, we’re talking overnight express time.

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For more than a decade, I’ve heard from readers who have wanted to know what happened to Jensen and Anders after Night and Day came to an end. They’ll be thrilled to know that now, the story goes on. I just finished a rough draft of Daybreak in Denmark, a sequel to Night and Day. It should be ready for release by mid-summer.

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In the almost, but not quite as good category, are cameo appearances by the characters of the previous book in the next. I love linking story lines together in my Wildflowers of Scotland books, although, much as we love getting reacquainted with old friends in a new book, it’s not the same as a true sequel. When old characters are resurrected in a new character’s book, they can’t be allowed to steal the show or take over the plot. After introducing Lyndsie, Rose’s teenaged niece, in Wild Rose, and bringing her back as a spunky young woman in Shy Violet, it was amazing to write her story in Sweet William. I knew Lyndsie so well by the time William came into her life – her background, her hopes and dreams, her foibles, her family – that the scenes in her point of view practically wrote themselves.

I also find that emotions evoked by familiar, beloved characters are deeper, richer, and have a greater capacity to draw us into the story. When readers learn that the same lovely breasts that captivated Pastor Ian, and made Rose something of a scarlet woman, have been invaded by cancer, we truly get it. We weep with Rose and grieve with Ian and pledge to support them both to the bitter end, just like Lyndsie did.

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Or maybe you didn’t want to know that Rose and Ian adopt her young, immature nephew’s child, who then decides, some years later, that he wants his baby, now toddler, back… maybe you prefer that Rose and Ian stay forever young, their hopes and dreams for a fairy tale future bright and shiny and untarnished for all time.

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I had similar feelings once upon a long time ago when I first read the Little House on the Prairie books. If the series had ended with On the Banks of Plum Creek – if I had never opened By the Shores of Silver Lake, I could have continued to imagine Mary’s beautiful blue eyes seeing the world around her, for years to come. But had I not read on and dealt with the heartbreak of Mary’s blindness, I would have missed out on all the pleasure I gained in reading The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, and These Happy Golden Years.

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It’s no secret that rarely does anyone live happily ever after. When you turn the first page of a sequel, there are bound to be disappointments – romantic notions lost – along with the delight of seeing what old friends are up to. The important thing is, joy of joys, we get to turn the page and see what happens next! Does that mean the mystery is gone? If you’ve read Night and Day, there will be no wondering who Jensen is going to end up with when you begin reading Daybreak in Denmark. But her future, Anders’, Ed’s, her family’s – what happens next, beyond the pages of Night and Day – will still be a complete enigma.

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So read on! In a sequel, the complexities of first falling in love are replaced by trying to adjust to a new life and overwhelming changes – some good and some unwanted.  There may be disillusionment and disappointment. Things may or may not turn out the way you hope they will. Because, as Jensen soon finds out, the happily ever after endings that romance novels are famous for are, in reality, nothing but a fairy tale, and even if you have the most wonderful husband in the world, things don’t always turn out the way you hope, dream, plan, wish they will.

Intrigue, drama, conflict and black moments – they’re all there waiting for you in a sequel. But so does joy come in the morning, after even the blackest of nights. Even sequels can have happy endings.

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One reviewer called Night and Day “the thinking woman’s romance.” I can’t tell you what they’ll say about Daybreak in Denmark, but I can promise you it was thoughtfully written from a perspective of deep, abiding love for Minnesota, my home state, Denmark, my ancestral home, and the Jensen, Christiansen, and Westerlund families, my fictional first loves.

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A few days ago, at a funeral, a woman I didn’t know said in passing, “Keep those books coming! I love every one!” I nodded and smiled, because I fully intend to do just that – and something tells me she’s really going to love Daybreak in Denmark.

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The Old Dane by Chuck Thurston

My father-in-law was born in Denmark, died in the U.S., and never let much grass grow under his feet between those two events. He was an incurable and restless dreamer, and always convinced that something better than what he had at the time was out there somewhere — his for the taking — if he could but find it. He joined the Danish underground in WWII, and got a medal out of the experience. For years afterwards, he traveled to Denmark to march with his old comrades until their ranks dissolved with the passing years. He sailed the seas in the Danish merchant marine, and later worked in the American Embassy in Copenhagen. Well traveled, and with an ear for language, he could communicate with almost anyone of any culture. After his second wife died, he used to wow widows and others in his cohort with his tales of underground exploits. We in the family had heard them all, of course, but fresh ears were too much for him to resist.

Like many father-in-laws, he was convinced that his future son-in-law was not worthy of his daughter — an only child — and our relationship was often prickly over the years. He was a committed “fixer,” and would not be in the house for two minutes before he was looking for something to work on. Miraculously, he often had his own toolbox in his car when he arrived. Since he had a job as an apartment superintendent in one of his earlier occupations, his knowledge of wiring and plumbing outdid my own. I suppose I should have been grateful, but I often seethed as he repaired something that I had not gotten around to — or was perplexed about.

He and my mother-in-law divorced some years later. He eventually remarried and moved out west. “California Dreamin’” probably applied. We lost track of him for many years and did not reconnect until his second wife was dying of cancer and they returned east. When she died, my wife and our family were nearly all he had left. The years had taken their toll on him. He had experienced heart attacks, aneurisms, lousy circulation and a life-long love of unfiltered Luckies. Still, though, he was a font of repair advice and tall tales. He and I became closer, and I got the chore of driving him to and from his many doctor’s appointments. He had only to climb three steps to the parking lot from his ground floor condo. I would sit in my car and watch him struggle — pausing after each step for breath – and clutching the handrail to pull himself up. I knew better than to offer help to this proud old Dane.

I was with him the day he got the news that one of his legs would have to go. When we left the doctor’s office, he asked me to go to a small local cafe. He needed a drink, and I couldn’t quarrel with that. I felt I had to break the ice somehow, as we sat, each pondering this awful news. I don’t know what possessed me, but I said, “I suppose you will be wanting to get an eye patch now.”

He gave me a strange look. “What for?” he asked.

“Well, it seems like the thing to have, what with a peg leg and all…”

He looked at me as if I had gone nuts, and perhaps I had, momentarily. He remained silent for a bit; finally took another sip of his drink and said: “Perhaps two…one with rhinestones — for formal wear.”

He did not last long after the leg came off. He knew that his weakened system would not permit much more than life in a wheelchair. Not for him. He had one good day when he laughed and contemplated the future with his newly found family, but his mind was made up. That very night he slipped into a final coma. My wife and I quickly summoned a favorite niece from Denmark – one of his few living relatives. We made the painful decision to disconnect life support and held his hands as the Old Dane departed on his final journey.

Epilogue

At a memorial service, a grandson said farewell for us with Stevenson’s Requiem:

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you ‘grave for me:
“Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.”

But we knew that the Old Dane would not be content to lie still very long under any starry sky. His ashes were divided. Half now repose in a country churchyard near Denmark’s blustery Baltic coast. The rest were given to the sea off a North Carolina beach – on the evening of a lunar eclipse – a touch he would have appreciated, I have no doubt. We stood in the ocean’s surf as his mortal remains were scattered — to go where the currents will take them.

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“Requiem” by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894); from Modern British Poetry, 1920; Louis Untermeyer, ed.

The Old Dane appears in Chuck Thurston’s Senior Scribbles Unearthed, available from Second Wind Publishing or Amazon.

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A Case of Wanderlust by Sherrie Hansen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It’s the Day After Christmas and It’s Time to Move On by Sherrie Hansen

I can’t remember if my husband said it in his sermon on Christmas Eve at Zion Lutheran Church in Hudson, or if it was Pastor Mike from Faith E-Free Church in Austin, MN where we worshiped with my family on Sunday morning, but somewhere in the last two days I heard the phrase “Christmas is a time of new beginnings”.

Granted, there are aspects of the Christmas spirit that we should hold on to all year long – love, joy, peace, a spirit of generosity – but in many ways, Christmas is a spearhead that jump starts a whole host of events – a time to move on.

We all love a well-told story full of conflict followed by a happy ending, and certainly the Christmas story has it all… a tenuous engagement in which Joseph learned his virgin bride was pregnant with God’s son, a long, arduous, inconveniently timed journey to Bethlehem, the inability to find a place to stay the night, the stress of Mary’s impending delivery… and the grand culmination:  A baby born in a stable and wrapped in swaddling cloths, a star shining in the night, a heavenly host singing “Alleluia,” shepherds bowing down in adoration, animals lowing, God’s incarnate presence in the flesh… The Christmas story is a masterpiece loved by all.

But the story does not end there. There is a sequel, and a great one at that.
Fast forward two years, and Mary and Joseph are visited by wise men, then warned in a dream that they should flee to Egypt. An evil King Herod is bent on killing Jesus – and is willing to go to great lengths to accomplish his goal. Perhaps an omen of things to come? The Bible says Mary pondered all of these things in her heart – I can only imagine what must have gone through her head – and Joseph’s – as these events unfolded. I love the song, “Mary, Did You Know?” because it looks past the Christmas story and forward to the miraculous transformation Jesus would bring into our lives as an adult, the Son of God.
If we only come to church at Christmastime – if we don’t ever read – and live out – the sequel to the Christmas story, we have missed the best part. If we don’t move on, past the sweet, little babe laying in a manger, to getting to know Jesus as a friend and Savior, we have missed the real story.

This Christmas season is also a time of moving on for my husband and I as he transitions to a new call at a new church, full of new possibilities, new growth, and new life. Although we hardly have King Herod hot on our tails, there have been some traumatic scenarios surrounding our decision to move. We’ve also said a lot of bittersweet good-byes in the last few weeks as we leave behind a church, a home and friends that we love dearly. But because we believe that God is calling us to live out a new chapter in our lives, we’re also excited and joyful about the sequel that is about to be written.

I am working on my own sequel, too. Almost three years ago, I wrote the last lines of my soon-to-be published book, Night and Day, and left Anders and Jensen in a happy place, planning a life together in either Denmark or Minnesota – maybe both. Hopes were high. Their future looked bright. A happy ending to their story was delivered as promised, and all was well.
But many of my readers wondered what happened next. They wanted to know the rest of the story. They wanted more.

For a long time, I was content, in my mind, to leave Anders and Jensen where they were. And then, a call from Pat Bertram, one of my fellow authors at Second Wind Publishing, for stories about springtime and renewal, got my mind going, and suddenly, I, too, felt a need to revisit Anders and Jensen, to find out what they were up to, and where they had been since I left off.

And so, Daybreak in Denmark was born, and the happily ever after has morphed into a complex new situation fraught with conflicts and less than perfect situations and — wondrous, magnificent, new life. Because life moves on, whether we want it to or not. At this Christmas season, let’s not forget the past – the sweet, inspirational message of the Christmas story – but let us also remember that seasonal sentimentality only goes so far, and that new life and growth will only thrive in our lives if we have the courage to move on and see what happens when we turn the next page, write a new chapter, and fully immerse ourselves in the sequel to the story.
It’s the day after Christmas, and it’s time to move on!

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A Love Letter From Me to You by Sherrie Hansen

I’ve been thinking a lot about love letters lately. For the last few weeks, I’ve been working on an inspirational novel I wrote a few years ago called Love Notes. This week, I started writing a sequel to Night and Day called Daybreak in Denmark.

Night and Day, my first book, contained some very special – and revealing – letters from Maren Jensen, who had recently immigrated to Blooming Prairie, Minnesota, written to her cousin, Sophie, back in Slagerup, Denmark.  Night and Day also contains some beautiful love notes from Anders Westerlund, sent from Denmark to Minnesota to Jensen Marie Christiansen, via email. One of my favorite scenes in Night and Day is when Jensen changes the font of an email she received from Anders to one that looks like handwriting, prints his letter on parchment paper, and lays it and a rose she picked from her garden on her pillow.

This morning on Facebook, my second cousin, Marcia, mentioned some letters that she received years ago from her Aunt Vic (my Grandma Victoria, who died at age 93, about 7 years ago). Her comment brought back a flood of memories, as I too used to get letters from my Grandma, special notes in birthday cards, then full-fledged, rambling epistles full of vignettes from her life and stories about aunts and uncles and cousins, even a few relatives I didn’t even know. The letters started when, at age 18, I went off to Wheaton College in Illinois, and followed me when I moved to Bar Harbor, Maine, Augsburg, Germany, Lawton, Oklahoma, and finally, Colorado Springs, Colorado. She stopped writing only when I stopped wandering and came home to northern Iowa / southern Minnesota. From that time on, I saw her and talked to her face to face almost every week.

Letters are a very interesting form of communication. In them, people sometimes dare to say things they would never say to someone were they talking to in person. An expression of love, a passionate – or angry – response, an accusation, a confession — why is it that many of us can say with our pen what we can’t with our lips?

Sometimes letters are simply a matter of practicality. Much as we wish never to be separated from the ones we love, it’s impossible to be two places at once, and sometimes we have to resort to letter writing to communicate. While cell phones, Skype and live chats on Facebook may have eradicated some of the impetus we used to have for writing letters, there is still a time and a place for a thoughtfully written, old-fashioned letter.

When I was in 5th grade, Roy Anderson and I got into trouble for writing love notes in class. We had to sit in the hall – together, on a small bench, just the two of us – over recess. We were so embarrassed by the end of the lunch period that I don’t think we spoke to each other again until graduation day.

The summer between my 7th and 8th grade years I wrote and re-wrote and re-wrote and finally mailed a love letter to a boy I had a crush on. Nothing ever came of it – I honestly can’t remember if I even signed it, but there was something very significant about the fact that I admitted my feelings.

When I was going through First Presbyterian’s Divorce Recovery Workshop, we were asked to write a letter to our ex-spouse, saying whatever we wanted or needed to say. At the end of the exercise, the letters were destroyed. Over 25 years later, I have no idea what I wrote, but I do remember that it was a very therapeutic way to clear the air.

When computers became the rage and internet dating- internet everything –  came of age, I had a good advantage in that I knew how to write. E-mails were suddenly key, and I excelled at them. I was lousy at flirting, and awkward as all get out when it came to first dates, job interviews and loan applications, but I knew how to write, and because of it, many doors opened to me that might not have.  I’ve always been better with words written than words said, and that simple fact has helped to shape my life.

There are everyday, run of the mill letters, and there are famous, life-changing  letters that are known worldwide. Thomas Jefferson’s letters helped shape the course of our country. The Apostle Paul’s letters to the Galatians, Ephesians, Corinthians, and Philippians and to a young  Timothy, written in the first century, still deeply influence the way many of us live our lives today.

My Grandma’s Danish cousin, Boyda, still has the real letters in which Maren Jensen poured out her heart to her cousin back in Denmark. They’re written in an old-world handwriting and cadence, and we may never know exactly what is said in them. But the mystery of those letters, and the little bit I do know of them, has already inspired a love story whose legend will live on. What is a book, if not a love letter written to our readers?

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In Search of Inspiration… A European Adventure by Sherrie Hansen

In exactly 10 days, my husband and I will be leaving for Europe. We’re going for a much needed break, a vacation, to see the sights. But we’re also going in search of inspiration.

We’ll be flying into Stuttgart, Germany on April 6, where we’ll be connecting with an online friend – in person – for the first time.  While staying with her, we hope to enjoy seeing her neighboring areas – Rothenburg, Baden Baden, Strasbourg, France – and wherever she wants to take us. I haven’t been back to Germany since I lived there (1977-1980) and I can’t wait to see it again, especially through her eyes.

On April 11th, we will be picking up our rental car and leaving for Augsburg, where I lived for three years. I’m sure the town and surrounding countryside will have changed immensely, but I look forward to visiting my favorite haunts (those that still exist, and that I am lucky enough to find)! We’ll be staying at the Landgasthof Lindermayr.

On the evening of April 12, we will be at the Schloss Hotel Swiss Chalet on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland. If you are interested, you can have a peek.

April 13, we will be spending the night along the Italian Riviera near Genoa, at Hotel Villa Bonera.

April 14, 15,and 16, we will be staying at the wonderful Le Mas Perreal B&B in Provence, France.


On April 17, we head north again, stopping for the night at Le jardin d’ Elisa.

April 18th, we’ll be back in Stuttgart to say good-bye to Cristina. Then, on April 19th, we fly to Copenhagen, Denmark to see our Danish relatives in Hillerod and Slangerup. We’ll be staying at Rose-House. We leave to fly home on the 23rd, so we should have a lot of time to see our cousins, explore the area around Copenhagen, and even take a day trip to Sweden.

I have just finished Water Lily, the second book of my Maple Valley trilogy, which follows Stormy Weather. In fact, I just sent it off to my publisher (a wonderful feeling). The last book, Merry-Go-Round, is written in rough draft form, and needs a lot of revisions. As soon as I’ve completed it, I plan to move to Europe, at least in my mind.


I’ve already written a book set in Tobermory, Scotland called Blue Belle of Scotland. It is almost ready to submit. A second in the series, Wild Rose of Scotland, is about 1/3 of the way done, and was inspired after we stumbled upon St. Conan’s Kirk on Loch Awe, a wonderful church in the Scottish countryside. I really should finish itas soon as I’m done with Merry-Go-Round …

And then… who knows which of the countries or gasthofs we visit will become the setting for my next book…? I am so ready to be inspired… so open to new ideas… just waiting for the person, scene or occurence that will spark my imagination… and result in the birth of a new story.  I have no idea if it will occur in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, Denmark, or Sweden – maybe all of the above. But I know it will be there – the kernel of insight, a gem of wisdom, a beautiful vista – something will call out to me and an idea will be born.

Have you had a similar experience when traveling? If so, I’d love to hear where your story idea was born!


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Midnight in Minnesota and Daybreak in Denmark

My mother’s cousins in Denmark — the family mentioned in my novel, Night and Day, have been in close contact for generations. However, when my mom, dad, and I visited the tiny island of Als, in Denmark, a few years ago, no one in my father’s family had been in contact with their relatives in Denmark since just before World War II, when they had lost touch. All we had to go on was the name of the town and a photo of my Dad’s cousins with the cousins from Denmark taken in the 1930’s.

We had only a few hours when we arrived in Als because of a tight ferry schedule. Hurriedly, we started searching every church, every cemetary, but found no leads. Finally, my Dad spotted a farmer pulling a manure wagon down a little country lane, and followed him, thinking that if anyone knew the people who had lived in the area in generations past, it would be a farm family. (My dad is a farmer — so was his father and grandfather.)

When we reached the end of the lane, the Danish farmer went to get his brother, who spoke English, from the barn. His brother looked at the photo and said, “I don’t know the people in the photo, but I recognize the house and can take you there. It is in the next village over.”

When we arrived at the house in the photo, there was a couple outside doing yardwork and pruning bushes. They did not speak English, but the farmer explained the situation to them and showed the woman in the yard the photograph. She began to cry, pointing at the people in the picture, saying, “My moder, my fader,” and so on. Then she pointed to a toddler in the photo and said in Danish, “That is me.”

How excited we were! She went on to tell us that their family home had been sold after the war, but that it had come on the market about the time her husband had retired from his medical practice in a larger city. They were able to buy it, renovate it, and move home.

We enjoyed a great time of fellowship with them, looking at photo albums,  having tea, and communicating in snipets of Danish, English and German. Their children, who know English, now communicate with my mother and father via letters.

Everything that happened was a bit too “coincidental” to be anything but God / fate leading our paths so that our family could reconnect after so many decades apart.

Rediscovering my father’s Danish relatives made for a very exciting day for my family… And who knows? This family legend may also find its way into a story one day, too.

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It’s Time to Tell the World! or Marketing, the Old-Fashioned Way…

So you’ve written a wonderful book. Friends and family who’ve read it rave about how good it is.  Now all you have to do is to figure out how to get it into the hands of the hundreds and thousands of other people who you know would enjoy it.

Marketing your book can be far more intimidating than writing it – especially for a writer who is more introvert than extrovert. For me, it is not so much the lack of courage, but lack of time that comes into play.

Whatever your reason for not getting your book out there, conquering a few easy marketing strategies can make the difference between your book being a success and not.

I’m not a marketing expert by any means, but I’ve owned and operated a fairly successful bed and breakfast and tea house for 17 years, and I have learned quite a bit about promoting a product. Here are a few ideas that I’ve come up with for marketing my recent release, Night and Day, that I hope you’ll be able to adapt and use to market your own books.

Night and Day by Sherrie Hansen

Night and Day by Sherrie Hansen

(Note:  In this article, I will concentrate on old-fashioned, non-internet marketing ideas. )

1.  A couple of weeks ago, I personally visited several grocery stores and specialty shops in my area with a book in hand to let them know about Night and Day. One shop owner handed me cash right then and there and said they’d call when they needed more books. They’ve already called to order 2 more. Other shop owners seemed more skeptical, and wanted to have the books, but on consignment.

One woman wasn’t there when I stopped by, so I left a book for her to take a look at. When I returned a week later, she had read half of it, and was  saying things like, “What are you doing living in St. Ansgar, Iowa? You should be in New York City writing full time – you have such a knack for this! The book is wonderful! I love it!” and “If I don’t get my Easter ham in the oven, it’s going to be your fault. I can’t put this book down!”

While not everyone is going to react to your book with such enthusiasm, all it takes is one person – in a store, a community, an area, and the word is going to get out. Word of mouth is always the best advertising. Giving away a few books to people you think might be good cheerleaders might really pay off.

2.  I also sent out a letter to a dozen or two shops in areas mentioned in my book. For Night and Day, I targeted Scandinavian specialty shops, quilting shops, and book stores in areas of Minnesota mentioned in the book, as well as areas of Iowa and California with high concentrations of Danish settlers. So far, I have only had one positive response, but it was definitely worth my time. And, once I follow up with a personal visit (I’m planning to head to Red Wing, Welch, Cannon Falls and Blooming Prairie, MN as soon as I have more books, and a free day.)  I hope to land a few more placements for my book. You can find email and mailing addresses online if you visit the chamber of commerce pages for the community you’re targeting.

3.  Offer to do a book signing at the shop’s next sale, open house, or special event. Shop owners are always looking for ways to attract a few more customers. Some shops have wine tastings, or craft demos, or participate in community celebrations. Ask if you can come to their next event and be part of the excitement. Everyone I spoke to reacted enthusiastically to this idea. I’ve even been invited to do a book signing at the Book Loft in Solvang, CA next January when we’re out on the West Coast. It might have something to do with the fact that I offer to bring a plate of Melting Moments (a little Danish butter cookie my family has always made) with me when I come.  A unique slant can catch their attention.

4.  Woman’s groups and clubs, church groups, community groups, most any kind of group enjoy special speakers. I’ve been on several committees, and it’s a constant challenge to find someone to speak at our monthly meetings. Prepare a 10 – 15 minute long talk on some aspect of your experience, and contact libraries, churches, friends, community centers, senior citizen centers, and let them know you’re available. Odds are, they’ll be delighted, and you’ll soon have an opportunity to present your book to a captive audience! I will be speaking to a local writer’s group this Friday at 10 a.m., and another, in the next town over, sometime next month.

5.  Send out press releases to area newspapers, radio and television stations. Include a blurb, a bio, a photo, a list of places your book is available, and hopefully, a slant that makes your story unique. A unique slant might be how you were discovered, how the story ties in with a local legend or current event, or what inspired you to write the book in the first place. Most of them will go in the trash, but if even one picks up the story (who doesn’t love a “local girl or guy done good” story?), it will have been worth your while. I taped my first radio interview yesterday, for a station in Atlantic, Iowa, a large Danish community a couple of hours south of here. Who knows what will come of it?

6.  Offer your book as an auction item or special prize for your favorite charity, a church bazaar, or a local contest. Most places will also let you leave a stack of business cards or book marks to maximize your exposure.

I’m sure there are many other ideas that you can use to market your books, but hopefully, this short list will jog your creative impulses and help you get started. If not, make a list of what kind of people you think would enjoy your book (who is your target customer?) and where you are most likely to reach them.  Then, make a list of each place, area, craft, hobby, or profession mentioned (hopefully in a positive light) in your book, and start thinking about how you can market to those niches.

You HAVE written a wonderful book. Now it’s time to tell the world!

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