Tag Archives: history

The Latest Buzz on Books by Sherrie Hansen

 

Please indulge me… I don’t mean to brag, but both of these reviews were recently posted on Amazon Canada by a new reader of my books. They touched me so deeply that I wanted to share them with you. If you’ve questioned what my books are about, or whether or not you should try reading one of them, perhaps this will help. Thank you in advance.

Daybreak in Denmark (3)

NIGHT and DAY

“Sherrie Hansen’s book Night and Day blew me away.

This was my Sunday afternoon read and the storytelling was so engaging I didn’t stop turning the pages until I was finished. But it still me kept me up late into the night because I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

This NEVER happens to me! First, I can’t remember the last time I finished a book in one sitting! Second, it’s rare that I lose sleep over a book unless I’m reading it!

Night and Day is not a typical contemporary romance novel. It is sophisticated, mature, exceptionally written, and deeply, emotionally engaging. I am not a romantic, not really, but Night and Day has me questioning my cynicism, believing in romance, and seeing men through a new lens.

Sherrie Hansen is not only a beautiful storyteller, but she is also an accomplished writer. Her characters are vivid, realistic people that carry the weight of their pasts into their current lives. I identified and bonded with Jensen, a late-30s unmarried woman clinging to her roots while at the same time aware that time is ticking and she’s failing to realize her dream of having a family and a happy ever after.

Jensen leapt off the pages for me and became real, a friend I wanted to have, a woman I wanted to be. Jensen has little character quirks that if not well-written (and seldom are) can be off-putting, but under Hansen’s careful handling, they become endearing, sometimes a little maddening, but an integral part of who Jensen is and what makes her so believable.

Night and Day (1)

Jensen is loved by two men – Ed, who gives her the physical love she needs, but his own painful past prevents him from letting go emotionally and Anders, who loves her with all his heart, who tells her in his words and his emotional support but can’t be a presence in her life because they are separated by distance and their own stubbornness.

The story is so skillfully handled that I couldn’t predict the outcome until towards the end of the book. And it wasn’t a prediction by then, it was Hansen leading me to its beautiful conclusion.

Another element to this book that’s important to note is the deep ties Jensen has to her past, to her great-grandmother, Maren, who emigrated to the US from Denmark. A bundle of letters written by Maren in Danish tell a story of love, romance and difficult choices. Hansen deftly weaves the two love stories together using the letters as a catalyst for the growing relationship between Jensen and Anders. It’s beautifully done.

Night and Day is an emotional rollercoaster of a romance novel. It’s contemporary but set in the early days of internet, when dial-up connections were slow and unreliable. This is a clever inclusion as it adds an intense element to the story telling, an atypical roadblock on the often, rocky path to love.

I think this was Hansen’s first book and it is so obvious that she wrote it with love in her heart. I did not want this book to end, ever. I didn’t want to let go of Jensen’s story. I cannot wait to read Daybreak, Sherrie Hansen’s sequel to Night and Day. I just have to wait for another lazy Sunday afternoon because I have no doubt how I will be spending it.”

Quilt - bear

DAYBREAK

“Sherrie Hansen is a storyteller and understands the vagaries of life in all its messiness. She doesn’t write perfect characters which ironically is what makes her characters perfect.

They are right and wrong in their thoughts, their relationships, their selfishness and their desires. They struggle with the difficulties they encounter, get side-tracked by them so badly sometimes that they lose sight of the big picture. Like every single one of us!

Daybreak - N&D

It’s almost impossible to review this book and do justice to it at the same time. It had me on an emotional roller-coaster from page one because the interplay and conflict between the characters is so identifiable.

This extended to the relationship between Jensen and her parents, Jensen and Anders, Jensen and Bjorn (her stepson), Anders and his son, Anders and his boss and so on.

Daybreak sunset

It subtly showed that life is not perfect and that sometimes everything spins out of control in a way that takes you away from what you believed were your dreams, your beliefs, your priorities. In their desire not to hurt one another, Jensen and Anders do exactly that. Their story left me fuming and crying and frustrated. But also made me reflect on my own behaviour towards the ones I love and what truly is important in life.

Finally, this book, like Night and Day, was beautifully written and exceptionally edited, two critical components of a five-star book.

I shall be reading a lot more of Ms. Hansen’s books.”

Sherrie - book signing

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Filed under fiction, Sherrie Hansen, writing

Crazy Quilts and Sage Sayings by Sherrie Hansen

I grew up wrapping my baby doll in this soft, little quilt, made with scraps from dresses my mom and grandma sewed for my sister and I and themselves in the late 1950s and early 1960s. There’s a bit of the dress my mother made for her first class reunion and some of her curtains, too. My Great-Grandma, Mathilda Jensen Paulsen, from Blooming Prairie, Minnesota, stitched it together, along with a big quilt that matched. Later, when I was old enough to sew but still young enough to play with dolls – Barbie dolls instead of baby dolls by this time – my grandma and I made doll clothes out of more scraps from some of these same fabrics.

Quilt - baby doll

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love quilts and the memories and history woven into them – or when I didn’t embrace the concept that nothing should be wasted – not the extra fabric after a pattern was cut out, or the few inches of lace or rickrack left over from a project, or the odd button on the button card, or even an empty feed sack. Waste not, want not. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Quilt - twin bed

And thanks to my Grandma Victoria, who scraped out her bowls so clean that you couldn’t tell they had been used, I know that the batter that lingers in the pans of people who don’t scrape out their bowls is enough to make a whole extra muffin or two cookies – very probably the ones you will get to eat!

Quilt - fabrics

I grew up in a family of thrifty, hardworking, creative, and yes, stubborn Danes with a dash of Bohemian, German, English and Scottish thrown in for good value. And I mean that literally. The melting pot that was my family tree produced a bumper crop of large-boned, freckle-skinned, hardy folks who could do most anything they set their minds to – unless it was sports related. We weren’t athletically inclined, nor were we ones to waste time or energy on things that weren’t essential, necessary, or needed.

Quilt - off to bed

When later generations grew up wanting to dabble in the arts – make pretty quilts from calicos bought from quilting shops instead of scraps (because they were in colors that matched a room or enhanced a decorating scheme), eyebrows were raised, prayers were said, and people wondered what the world was coming to. I was a part of the younger generation – I loved certain colors, and it was very important to me that everything matched. One year, my Grandma Victoria made rag rugs for us for Christmas, I dug through the pile until I found one with no red.

Quilts - EJ

Bright red didn’t match the pastel pinks and roses I used in my house. To satisfy my artistic eye, even the threads the rugs were woven with had to be blue or green instead of red – or heaven forbid, orange. (Thankfully, someone had put an old pink bathrobe in the rag bag at some point, so I did get my color-coordinated rug.)

Quilt - houses

It was clear. The writing was on the wall. Never ever would I sew a quilt out of old dresses or wool suits (or whatever leftover fabrics happened to be in the mending pile) in a mish mash of helter-skelter colors. I was a colorful prima-dona, a quilting artiste.

Quilt - mine

Something else had changed over the generations. The hodgepodge, crazy quilts we slept under and covered our beds with and used to keep the dust off of the furniture were replaced by quilts that were so perfect and pretty that we didn’t want to ruin them by putting them on our beds or actually using them.

Quilt - hearts

We hung them on the walls, put them in our hope chests, and lovingly guarded them for posterity’s sake so we could pass them down to future generations. We took them off our beds and put them in our cedar chests.

Quilt - Mom

We collected old quilts at auction and estate sales and revered any family quilts that had survived said family. Sometimes people made numerous pillows or even teddy bears out of a grandma’s quilt so each grandchild could have a small piece of it. But we didn’t snuggle under them or swaddle our children in them, or cuddle in front of the fireplace wrapped up in them, or throw them on the ground and spread a picnic out on top of them.

Quilt - crazy

So, how does this pertain to my books, Night & Day and Daybreak? Jensen Marie Christiansen comes from a long line of quilters to whom a quilt meant nothing more than something to keep you warm on a cold winter night. Jensen is a designer and creator of art quilts. In Night & Day, Ed has a pilly old bedspread in drab tones.  Anders sleeps under a sailboat quilt in bright blues and yellows that his mother made for him.

Quilt - sunbonnet sue

Quilts become the catalyst for the conflict of a family, generations of hopes and dreams, and the uncertainty of what lies ahead – a solid, predictable, convenient future with Ed or a wild ‘trip around the world’ with Anders?

Quilt - pink and green

In Daybreak, everything has changed and Jensen is searching for order in a world that has become all too crazy. The freeform, artistic quilts she has always designed are suddenly too flighty and fancy free to meet her needs. As her hopes and dreams swirl out of control, she needs the precision of perfectly aligned corners and points that come together the way they’re supposed to. When her family starts to fall apart, and she needs the constancy of her heritage. She even starts a quilt in a red and white Danish design (well, a pretty cherry red, almost burgundy in hue.)

Quilt - CH

The imagery of quilts – a doll quilt that a young Mathilda wrapped her baby doll in, and then gave to Leif to wrap Maren’s newborn baby in, a quilt made by Jensen for the daughter she feared she would never have, a great-grandmother’s quilt that was Jensen’s most cherished possession – the tapestry of a family’s life, patched together in a way that unites the generations of my family for all times.

Quilt - Mathilde

My life – I skipped a generation in Night & Day, so in real life, Maren was my great-great grandmother, Mathilda was my great-grandma, and baby Victoria was my grandma – but it’s all there.

Quilt - Victoria

The scraps and memories, pieced together with bits and bobs from my imagination, all joined together in fiction form, misunderstandings and conflicting perceptions of the world – a completely different world than existed back then – smoothed out in a colorful pattern and stitched with love.

Quilt - Grandma Hansen

Jensen and her family are very close to my heart, and I hope once you read Night & Day and Daybreak, you’ll feel the same way. I chose the design and colors for the quilt on the front cover of Night & Day to coordinate with the color palate in one of my guest rooms – On the Banks of Plum Creek – at my B&B, the Blue Belle Inn.

Quilt - bear

I wanted to use a Trip Around the World quilt – it would have matched the theme of Night & Day so perfectly, and if there’s anything I love more than coordinating colors, it’s perfectly synchronized symbolism – but my publisher liked this one, so that’s what we went with. If you come to stay at the Blue Belle one day, you can still snuggle up under this quilt and dream the night away.

Quilt - plum Creek

I saw and fell in love with the lovely quilt on the front cover of Daybreak online, which has a unique symbolism in and of itself. The colors were perfect, and the design, with sunrise and sea, spoke to me of oceans and time, and seemed perfectly suited for Jensen and Anders’ continuing story. I was able to weave the design into the story in ways that brought the whole tale to life. I hope you agree. (The cover art quilt for Daybreak is by Elena Stokes, and was photographed by the artist. You can visit her website to see more of her work at www.elenastokes.com and follow her at www.facebook.com/elena.stokes.art.)

Daybreak Elena Stokes - It Suddenly Dawned 300 ppi

I’m sure some folks wonder why I would put a quilt on the front of a fiction novel instead of a character or a sketch of Maren’s old house, Peter’s bonfire, or any one of the beautiful scenes from Minnesota or Denmark that unfold in the course of the book. But to me, the quilts say it all. Quilts were the inspiration for these stories. The plot revolves around them. The characters are defined by them and shine because of their existence. In both Night & Day and Daybreak, the quilts connect the generations across oceans and time through each precise stitch – a miraculous labor of love, and the gift of a special artistry known only to quilters.

Quilt - Danish flags  Quilt - DEnmark

Even after all these years, when it’s midnight in Minnesota and daybreak in Denmark, somewhere, a night owl like me is quilting.

Quilt - Maren

Someone else is fast asleep under a quilt stitched by a mother or grandmother who loved them. Someone on the other side of the world is crawling out from under the covers, ready to face the dawn of a new day, and someone else is sitting cross-legged on a quilt, writing in her journal, and falling in love. Crazy quilts of life – God makes beautiful things out of broken pieces, leftovers and scraps. So do the hands of quilters.

Quilt - names

Now off to bed, sleepy heads.

(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, while living 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, quilt, decorate vintage homes, and travel. Her new release, DAYBREAK, is the long awaited sequel to her very first book, NIGHT & DAY. Both books are full of quilting imagery and sage sayings.)

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Fake News and True Fiction? by Sherrie Hansen

These days, with everyone complaining about fake news, I’m glad I’m not a reporter. But yesterday, I got accused of writing fake fiction. I was telling people about my book, Night and Day, and that it was loosely based on the story of why my great-great grandparents emigrated from Denmark.

Night and Day (1)

I told them the reputedly true part of the story. (My great, great grandma was a very beautiful woman. My great, great grandfather brought her and their four children to America to get her away from another man who was in love with her.) I then said that the rest of the book was a product of my wild imagination – one possible explanation of what might have happened in Denmark all those decades ago.

Night and Day - Maren Jensen Grave

I went on to describe Golden Rod, my most recent release, including the legends and castles that inspired the book. And then I mentioned ghosts.

Golden Rod

“So this book isn’t true,” said one of the ladies.

“None of my books are true,” I said. “They’re fiction.”

“But if there are ghosts in Golden Rod, it can’t be based on a true story.”

“But it is,” I said. “We toured a castle in Scotland that has been under a curse for over 500 years. A traveling minister offered to bless the castle, and when his offer was rejected because the owners preferred to wait for the priest, he cursed the castle, promising that no eldest son would ever inherit. In all these years, none has.”

Wildflowers of Scotland Novels by Sherrie Hansen (2)

“But if there are ghosts in the story…”

Golden Rod front cover- final

“Fictional ghosts. All of my novels are fiction.” I told them about a second castle we toured, and the legend of a woman who fell from a fourth story window, and the upside down writing carved into the castle wall, 3 ½ stories up where no one but a ghost could possibly reach.

“It’s fiction based on a true story,” I tried to explain. “Just like Night and Day. And another of my books, Blue Belle, which was inspired by the tale of a Spanish galleon that went down in Tobermory Bay in 1588, fully loaded with gold that has never been recovered.”

Blue Belle - Jump Canva

“But if it happened that long ago, no one knows what really happened.”

“Right. But that’s okay – because it’s fiction, based on an intriguing snippet of history.”

Perhaps the real truth is that there’s a nugget of something that really happened in all my books – or very probably happened – or at least, very probably happened, in some similar form, or in a slightly different way, or at a different time.

Wild Rose - Photo

The truth – altered just enough to protect the not-so-innocent, which in some cases might be me, and to throw family members, acquaintances, and any others who might judge me off the scent.  The truth – transformed just enough to convince the reader that this is a work of fiction, that the characters, incidents, and dialogs are products of the author’s imagination and not, under any circumstances, to be construed as real.

Shy Violet

Because the truth is, any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. My books are all fiction and my characters are all fictional, people. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Sweet William - 2016

I write fiction. Still, everything that filters through my brain is based on the reality of my life, my experiences, and my beliefs. I’m a complex person, and so are my books. Real life occurrences often inspire fictional stories. Imaginary tales sometimes spring from a nugget of truth, either learned or observed.

Fake fiction? You be the judge.

Wildflowers - Stripes

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A Grandfather, A Son, and Two Not-So-Holy Ghosts (by Sherrie Hansen)

Although my Wildflowers of Scotland books are contemporary, I always find a way to weave in a wee bit of history… an old kirk with architectural and religious artifacts gone missing, a sunken Spanish galleon filled with gold that was never recovered, a castle with a melancholy history all its own, or the Isle of Skye’s magical Fairy Glen. In GOLDEN ROD, I incorporated a touch of history via a 500-year-old castle that was cursed by a traveling minister when the owners refused his blessing, preferring to wait for the prayers of a Catholic priest.  At least, that’s what legend holds, and it would seem the legends are true, since no eldest son has ever inherited Lachlan Castle – not once in 500 years.

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From GOLDEN ROD:

A traveling Protestant minister who liked to speak in rhymes leveled the curse when the MacKenzie clan refused his blessing, preferring to wait until a Catholic priest could dedicate the newly built edifice.

Oh Lachlan, ye’re on shifting sand.

Nae eldest son shall have a hand

In furth’ring hist’ry on this land.

In the history of the castle, no eldest son has succeeded his father as heir of Lachlan Castle.

GR Blog - Castle

All kinds of tragedies have transpired as a result of the minister’s curse, including ghosts Laird Valan MacKenzie and Lady Rosemary being stranded at Lachlan for over 500 years.

A ghost dressed in full Highland attire roams the castle and grounds at Lachlan, on the shores of Loch Carron. A favorite of locals, Laird Valan MacKenzie so desperately wanted a son to pass the castle on to that he may have taken his wife’s life when she bore him nothing but daughters. Laird Valan’s version of the event was that his wife tripped and fell to her death despite his best efforts to save her. Many a guest has seen Laird Valan’s kilt, plaid, and sporran. Legend has it that Valan will haunt the castle until an ancient curse is broken.

Ghosts - plaid  Ghosts - Rosemary  Ghosts - blue lace 197442_14c1b9f9-2f1a-4779-9b3d-df92290ceadf

I won’t ask if you believe in ghosts because it doesn’t matter. GOLDEN ROD is a work of fiction, so all I’m asking you to do is to suspend your disbelief while you’re reading the book. But whatever our beliefs, I think we all have thoughts on the subject of ghosts. Some of us are afraid of them, or would be afraid to stay in a place that’s haunted by ghosts. Others are fascinated or even intrigued by ghostly happenings and seek out places that are reputedly haunted. What about you? Maybe you’ve had your hair stand on end when you’ve been seated around a campfire listening to ghost stories. How do you react to the subject of ghosts?

GR Blog - bluebells

A ghost, known as the “Blue Lady” also frequents Lachlan Castle, on Loch Carron. She is thought to be the wife of Laird Valan MacKenzie, and mother to their five daughters. Her husband allegedly pushed her from a fourth floor window so he could take a new wife who might bear him a son. The ghost of Lady Rosemary MacKenzie, who ironically, was discovered to have been pregnant with a son at the time of her death, is said to have scratched the words, The Son You Always Wanted, upside down on the window sill outside the bedroom window where she fell. The inscription can still be seen there today. It is reported that the “Blue Lady” leaves the scent of rosemary and bluebells wherever she goes. Because her own life ended so tragically, legend holds that the “Blue Lady” will haunt the castle until a Lachlan love story ends with a happily-ever-after ending. Unfortunately, due to an old curse, the dreams of many a castle resident have ended tragically, perpetuating the haunting of the castle by Lady Rosemary.

BlueBelle 2016 

I grew up watching tales of Casper the Friendly Ghost,  the classic Christmas Carol, and even Ghostbusters, so I’ve always been comfortable with the concept of ghosts. In church, we heard about the Holy Ghost, a comforting presence who is always with us. When I bought a house in St. Ansgar, Iowa and turned it into a B&B and tea house, locals told me about a friendly ghost who rescued the century old floor plans from the dump and returned them to the house when they were accidentally thrown away, among other adventures. So in one form or another, I’ve always accepted that ghosts are real.

Wildflowers - Stripes

In GOLDEN ROD, Rod MacKenzie has felt the presence of Laird Valan and Lady Rosemary since he was young, but never had a direct encounter with them – until Katelyn O’Neal arrives from America and stirs things up.

GR Blog - Clouds

Katelyn thinks the whole thing is a crock, and is convinced there has to be some sort of logical, scientific explanation for the odd things that are happening to her.

GR Blog - Cemetery

Laird Valan and Lady Rosemary, the ghostly duo from GOLDEN ROD, have very distinctive personalities and a sometimes quirky sense of humor. As Laird Valan and Lady Rosemary get more and more desperate to break the 500-year-old curse so they can rest in peace, the stakes grow higher.

GR Blog - Kilt Rock

Once Rod discovers what they’re up to, he’s more than happy to comply, or at least humor them, except that Katelyn’s niece is dying, and if he has to choose who to help, a dying twelve year old or a pair of ghosts who’ve already been dead for five hundred years, the choice is clear. Except that nothing is clear – and Laird Valan and Lady Rosemary will do anything to change history and break the curse that binds them.

Golden Rod

You’ll have to read GOLDEN ROD to learn how the story ends. In the meantime, I hope the ghosts that may haunt you are friendly ones.  Here are the Buy Links for GOLDEN ROD at Amazon:
Kindle: http://a.co/3zRGCpF
Paperback: http://a.co/8oJpv4Q

Ghosts - blur of blue

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Filed under photographs, Scotland, Sherrie Hansen

The Real Story of Labor Day

It’s Labor Day. I bet you think I’m going to hash over that age long debate over who founded it. Some say it was Mathew Maguire of the International Association of Machinists others claim it was Peter McGuire from the Brotherhood of Carpenters.

Maguire vs McGuire, really?

I am going to settle this dispute right here and now. The idea of Labor Day had been kicked around for years but unlike Maguire and McGuire, the real story of Labor Day has no mention on the official Department of Labor website. The real story of how Labor Day was signed into law started with The Pullman Palace Car Company.

The Pullman Co was a manufacturer of luxury railroad cars on the Southside of Chicago. In efforts to deter labor agitators George M. Pullman created a company town for his workers in 1881 and named it, oddly enough, Pullman. The press hailed him as a humanitarian and a visionary but George Pullman’s saw an opportunity to control and exploit.

He charged high rents, inflated the cost of utilities and increased the prices of goods sold at the company store. He allowed only churches of his own denomination, banned public speeches, independent newspapers and within 10 years his town was valued at five million, over six times his initial investment.

Workers had little enough to live on during prosperous times but when 1893 saw an economic downturn Pullman responded by cutting jobs and reducing wages. Paychecks were cut by a quarter. His rents and prices remained unchanged.

As Pullman squeezed, families could no longer afford to heat their homes or feed their children. Out of desperation many of the workers joined the American Railroad Union (ARU) led by Eugene V. Debs and attempted to bargain collectively.

George Pullman refused to negotiate. He fired them on the spot and gave them ten days to vacate their homes. This action led to the Pullman Strike of 1994.

Riots broke out from Ohio to California as 125,000 other union workers supported their plight. Railways were disrupted, damage was done and this led to the first federal injunction to stop a labor dispute (teach them to delay the US Mail and interstate commerce).

That year, on the Fourth of July, President Grover Cleveland sent twenty-five hundred US Army troops to Chicago to break that strike. He is reported to have said that if it took the entire US Army to deliver one postcard to Chicago then he would do so. In the aftermath thirty Americans were killed and an untold number were wounded. Within a week the strike was crushed.

As opportunistic as it may have seemed, it was time to make that old idea of a special day to honor the workers real. Congress voted unanimously to approve and six days after the end of the Pullman Strike President Cleveland signed the bill into law. Labor Day became a national holiday celebrating the social and economic contribution of the American workers and you get a long weekend, yay!

Pullman died 3 years later. His casket was encased in eighteen inches of reinforced concrete then topped with more concrete, a layer of steel rail and another layer of concrete. Two full days of burial to ensure that this hated man’s body would not be dug up and desecrated by the masses.

So cast your vote, was it Maguire vs McGuire who founded Labor Day or was it George Pullman’s greed, Grover Cleveland’s violent response to people demanding fairness and his immediate efforts to appease them?

 

I would like to wish you all a Happy Labor Day. Enjoy the day, eat a burger, shop the sales and raise a beer to all those who died in labor disputes to make our lives a little better. We have much to appreciate.

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What’s In a Word 2 – by Paul J. Stam

More madness with the English language

Foreign Legion soldier at Keelung, January 1885

A bass drum

So there I was with all this Polish furniture to polish. I didn’t know how I would get it all done so I got a soldier to desert his dessert in the desert to help me. After all his help I felt there was no time like the present to present him with the present I had for him. He did not object to the object I gave him, which was a bass drum with a bass painted on it.

English: Short leg cast

Later I went to visit an invalid friend with invalid insurance. He had a leg injury. When I go there his room was so full I was too close to the door to close it. Before I got there the doctors had to subject the subject to a series of tests. He was in great pain but after a number of injections the leg was number. They didn’t think they could save the leg, but how could I intimate this to my intimate friend?

Now unless you are bilingual, multilingual or super lingual, you’re kind of like me in that the English language is what we have to work with. I do the best I can, and I don’t know about you, but I have never been able to find an egg in an eggplant or an apple nor a pine in a pineapple. And why is it sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet at all, are meat? Why is it boxing rings are square and why is it quicksand sucks you down slowly?

And so I leave you with this, not every word is what it seems to be, or is necessarily so, which brings me to my autobiography which I am writing entitled, “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” and which will probably never be published, but at the beginning of it I give the reader fair warning with this.

An Introduction
To Be Read

It has been said that, “History is written by the winners.” Hell, I said that in one of my books soon to be released by Second Wind Publishing, so it had to have been said before me. I am one such winner in that I have outlived any who might be able to refute the things I say in my autobiography.

However, I will, to the best of my ability, be honest except when it suits me to be otherwise. After all, I am a storyteller, and the important thing to a storyteller is to keep the reader interested, not be honest.

I will also warn you that the things I tell you about me, my family, my life, my loves, my hates, my accomplishments (there’s very damned few accomplishments so I’ll have to make some up) and my failures (do you really think I would tell you about those) are things that interest me, or at last did at the time.

Now, having been warned, let us begin. Please feel free to make suggestions. They will be welcomed and ignored, as is the case with any suggestions from close friends.

There, you’ve been warned, exactly what you have been warned about I’m not sure.

Thank you, and May Only Good Come Your Way.

Copyright © 2015 by Paul J. Stam
All rights reserved

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Final MSS Cover frontMurder Sets Sail is available from Second Wind Publishing and on Amazon. Kindle editions is only $4.99.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]Another of Paul’s books, The Telephone Killer published by 2nd Wind Publishing is available on Amazon and from the publisher. Kindle and Nook versions just $4.99.

To watch The Telephone Killer video click here.

The Telephone Killer is now also available as an audiobook.

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Since everything is copyrighted please feel free to re blog any of my posts but please repost in its entirety and giving appropriate credit.

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It Ain’t Necessarily So – 2

Aint 3 finalIt Ain’t Necessarily So
CHAPTER TWO

The Wages of Sin
In doing it My Way

I said before that I don’t remember the event of being born. It would seem to me that one should remember the most important event in his or hers life. Without that important event there can be no other important events. I guess that is a deficiency on my part. Nor do I remember sucking my mother’s breast, but again, I’m told I had a voracious appetite.

One other thing that I think should be made quite clear is that I also do not remember being consulted as to whether or not I wanted to be born. It seems to me that is something a person should at least be informed about if not consulted. After all, I’m going to be spend more time with me than with anyone else and I should be allowed to decide if I want to be me, and spend my entire life with someone like me. Continue reading

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How important is research? by S M Senden

I have been complimented over and over again about the depth of my research for Clara’s Wish, and my ability to re-create another era so readers feel as if they are right there.  In preparing for an interview, someone asked me that question ‘How Important is research?’  They thought that research amounted to reading a couple of books, looking up some things on the internet and that would be it.  Then I would be ready to write a book set in another era.

I had to laugh at that, for research ~ at least for me ~ can become a deep quagmire that is difficult to extract myself.  But then I do consider myself a devoted history geek.  Once I find myself doing some research on a subject, all too soon it points me in another direction, to another book, to another set of references and so on.

I am currently researching two historical settings for two books I am writing.  The periods are sufficiently diverse that it is easy for me to keep the research separate in my mind.  One of these stories is set primarily in Europe in the late 1700’s about the time of the American Revolution, running through the French Revolution and into the Napoleonic era.

The story is about a young girl, Eleanor, who has finished her education in the French convent and comes home to live in England with her only living relative ~ her sister.  The sister has married well and has young children.  They introduce Eleanor into the society of the Bon Ton hoping to find her a suitable husband.

In researching this strata of society, I was caught up in the amazing and volatile times in which they lived.  Since I am a hopeless history geek, I like to have readers learn something as well as be swept along in a good story.  Dorothy Sayers always managed to teach readers something, and I aspire to emulate her.  I read about the people that I wanted to include, in some way in my book, for their lives were extraordinary.  Some in particular are Madame Tussaud, Miss Lenormand, the Duchess of Devonshire and the possibilities that arise when the some of these people meet at Spa in Belgium with a whisper of possible spies and political intrigue.

I have no idea at this point where all my research may take me.  I have the idea for the story and what I would like to have happen to the main characters.  Yet, I do not know how this will end.  My research may change the story or it may reinforce it.  That is the process that I love, creating, pulling research and story together to make another era come alive, not just for me, but for those who read the words I have written.

So, how much research is enough?  I can only say that ~ for me ~ my research never seems to end, for it always points me in a new direction.  However, I do have to get the story written, and as I continue the research process, I can add or take something away and make corrections as I work.  Sooner or later, I will need to say, enough and hope that I have done my best to create another era and bring a fulfilling experience to my readers.

Right now, I better get back to research, for there are still so many books to read!

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History Down the Hill by Norm Brown

My home is certainly not a mansion, though I can see some from here. In real estate ads I’ve always heard that it’s all about “location, location, location.” Well, my place does have plenty of that. It’s situated atop a limestone hill overlooking one of the most popular biker roads leading out into the Texas Hill Country. What passes for my back yard is only a ten foot stretch of grass. Beyond that, the hill drops away abruptly in several steep tree covered steps. I like the privacy that the position provides. I also enjoy hiking around down below occasionally to get exercise and also to see what I can find. There’s a lot of history to be found on this weathered hillside.

On a warm spring morning during one of my first years of living here, I came across something that really got me going for a while. At the edge of a gravel trail, I spotted a half buried object. From what I could see, it looked like the ridges of a mammoth molar. These extinct creatures roamed this part of Texas tens of thousands of years ago. I remembered seeing a tooth for sale here in the Austin area for several hundred bucks. I knelt down and started digging, totally unaware that the small mound of dirt was actually a fire ant bed. That unawareness was brief as my hands were attacked by much smaller critters than the mammoth, but I snatched the fossil up and dusted away the ants. Back at the house I washed off my find and got a better look at it. Once I could see both sides, I realized I had not found a tooth. It was something much older: a chunk of sea coral, here on a hill at least two hundred miles from the Gulf of Mexico. That seems odd now, but some 60 million years ago most of Texas was covered by a shallow sea. The white Austin limestone that my house rests upon was formed entirely from the shells of ancient sea creatures. The hill itself wasn’t here at that time. Later earthquakes pushed up the rough terrain. In places this exposed not only solid sedimentary rock, but also stretches of the actual sea floor as it last existed. About half way down the hill there is a band of oyster shells and seashells that look like they could have just been cracked open.  Here is a photo of some of the things I’ve found while “beachcombing” on a hill. The tiny sea anemone is my favorite find so far.

Sea Coral, Oyster Shells, and Sea Anemone

Sea Coral, Oyster Shells, and Sea Anemone

I have also happened upon evidence of more recent times in the past. So far I have found three arrowheads.

Arrowheads

Arrowheads

Two are small and almost perfect and the third is a fragment of a larger point meant to take big game. Where my neighbor’s house stands now is a round outcropping of flint that perfectly matches the material of the first small arrowhead that was laying a few feet away. Did the manufacturer throw it angrily away when the corner broke off after hours of sitting there working it? A couple of hills farther south of my place, Lake Travis follows the narrow contours of the Colorado River. People have lived in this area for a very long time, at least by North American standards. About four miles east of here, in the city of Leander, the remains of a very early resident was found in January 1983. Estimated at between 10,000 and 13,000 years old, she is affectionately called the Leanderthal woman.

Well, there are still a couple hours of daylight left today. I think I’ll put on my hiking shoes and go exploring for a bit.

Norm Brown is the author of the suspense novel Carpet Ride, published by Secondwind Publishing, LLC.

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Virginia Slims and the Kool-Aid Man by Claire Collins

Oil of Olay’s ads in the late 70’s were so effective that I as a 7 or 8-year-old, thought I needed to use their product. From the commercials, women must all succumb to this horrible tragedy called “wrinkles” which made them look old. My mom got a sample size of the amazing beauty fluid and I used it until it was gone. She wouldn’t buy me a full bottle and over time I forgot to worry about wrinkles.

I was about 5 when my parents quit smoking. It’s hard to believe I remember so much of it so well since I was so young but it was pretty traumatic for me.  I remember lying on the floorboard of the car. Yes – seatbelts were optional back then, and I was very young since I could fit on the floorboard. Yet I remember clearly lying on the floorboard because I was trying to breathe. It was winter and both of my parents were smoking with the windows rolled up. Yuck. But I do remember that my mother smoked Virginia Slims.

I remember so well because they would include these totally cool and amazing Book of Days calendars with each carton of cigarettes. My mother always ended up with lots of extras and I was a voracious reader so she would give them to me. I think I memorized most of them. To me, it was just like getting a prize in a cereal box. That was strong advertising.

I began smoking at 15 and  smoked for 22 years. It’s been 3 years now since I quit.  I always did like that slogan: “You’ve come a long way baby”. Thankfully, all of that Oil of Olay has kept my skin very youthful looking and wrinkle free despite all of that smoking.

What advertising really impacted your life? Not just the ones that you remember, because we all know about the Kool-Aid man, OH YEAH! and that our bologna has a first name (It’s O-S-C-A-R), but the ads that really sunk in to your habits and life? What do you think about the images that children today are exposed to?

Claire Collins is the author of Images of Betrayal  and Fate and Destiny

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