Tag Archives: Iowa

It’s Readers and Writers Week on the Match Game – by Sherrie Hansen

This March, I’m going to be speaking to a group of bed and breakfast innkeepers on the subject of how and why we choose accommodations when we travel. Of particular interest to this group is:  When people are planning a trip, how do they start looking for a place to stay? Do they have a favorite booking platform or do they prefer booking direct? Do they even consider looking at B&Bs or do they automatically head for the big chain hotels? What are some things that attract or discourage them from staying at a  B&B? What catches their eye, makes them stop and take a second look, and press the RESERVE button – or turn around and run as quickly as possible  to the local Motel 6?

BlueBelle 2016.jpg

As an author of ten books, soon to be eleven, I often ask myself the same sort of questions. Why do people buy my books instead of the thousands of others on the book shelves or the millions of others available online?

Sometimes I think the hardest thing about being a writer is finding readers who are a good match with the books we’ve worked so hard to write.

This isn’t the Match Game, but I’m going to make a go at helping you to determine if you and my books would make a good pair.

Love Notes - Winter

  1. You might like my books if you’re from Minnesota, Iowa, or anywhere in the Midwest.

I was born and raised in Minnesota. I’ve lived just 9 miles south of the Minnesota border, in Iowa, for the past 26 years. If you have ties to either state and like stumbling upon familiar places in the books you read, you will probably like my books. Most of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels even have Midwestern characters scattered throughout – hopefully just enough to make you feel at home.

Daybreak in Denmark (3)

  1. You might like my books if you enjoy being surprised when you’re reading.

My books are character-driven and as different from one another as each person is unique – anything but cookie cutter. Some have a mystery to solve, some are a tad bit suspenseful, others, completely relational in focus. A few have Christian fiction leanings, while others are on the steamy side. A number are set in Scotland, and soon to be two, in Denmark. Most are romances, but my new book, Daybreak, focuses on a married couple and what happens when happily-ever-after doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would. Golden Rod has a pair of 500 year old ghosts. Although I will admit to having kidnappings in two of my books, you’ll find that each of my novels follows its own unique template. I like to think they’re refreshingly unpredictable and far from formulaic.


  1. You might like my books if you enjoy having characters from previous books reappear in future novels.

My books aren’t serials – each of them stands alone, but several are linked together in groupings for those who enjoy getting a second or third glimpse of their favorite characters. My Wildflower of Scotland novels (Thistle Down, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet, Sweet William, and Golden Rod) are interconnected through family and friends, as is the Maple Valley Trilogy (Stormy Weather, Water Lily, and Merry Go Round) through the lives of sisters Rae, Michelle, and Tracy. Daybreak, to be released this summer, is a sequel to Night and Day, and has cameo appearances by characters from Love Notes and Sweet William.


  1. You might like my books if you’re a follower of mine on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or Instagram.

I truly believe that the things we like, comment on, and post about on social media are a window into our general aura and a commentary of what’s important to us. If you like my perspective, the things I focus on and take photos of, the music I listen to, the foods I make at my B&B and teahouse, and the paintings I create in my spare time, you’ll most likely enjoy my books and the characters I write about, all of whom are a reflection of me, my style, and my passions.

Golden Rod (3)

  1. You might like my books if you’re a small town girl – or guy – at heart.

Whether my books are set in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Canada, California, Denmark, Scotland or France, they have small town or even rural settings. They’re populated by people who love wide open spaces and seeing the sun sink into the horizon at the end of the day, and who appreciate and can chuckle about the quirky personalities that are a part of small town living.

Night and Day (1)

  1. You might like my books if you enjoy knowing both sides of the story – from a somewhat experienced point of view.

My books are all written in two or more points of view. At least one is a woman’s, and the other, a man’s. Some say I’m more adept at writing the male point of view. And speaking of characters, mine are a bit more grown up than some, with most ranging from their late thirties to early fifties. They’re not superhuman or stupendously sexy or heroic. They’re rarely virgins or too young to know better. They’re nice, normal, slice of life, girl or boy-next-door kind of people – believable, relatable, and loveable despite their flaws and shortcomings.

If you’ve read any of my novels, you can probably think of a few more reasons you enjoy my books and choose them over the millions of other options available to you. A friend of mine once said he never wanted to be accused of being normal. I’ve tried to apply this concept to every part of my life, whether my B&B, teahouse, art or writing. I don’t know if I’ve inspired anyone new to give my books a try, but I’ve enjoyed giving you a glimpse into what makes me and my books unique. To those who are already readers, or who have visited The Blue Belle Inn, my B&B and teahouse, thank you for coming along for the ride! It means the world to me.

P.S. If you’ve enjoyed one or more of my books like I hope you have – or visited the Blue Belle Inn, please remember that authors and innkeepers need reviews to attract prospective readers and guests!

SW 143

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


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Teaser New Book

Savannah Georgia, September 1895
It was hot, stiflingly hot. Tempers frayed as temperatures in the small room rose, making it harder to breathe. The poker game had been going on for hours now, and the players, though weary, weren’t willing to walk away. One man, afraid of changing his luck, soiled himself rather than take a break. The thick, humid air stank of sweat, urine and cigar smoke as the men searched one another for that fatal tell that would let the others know he might be bluffing.
A few of the men relented, looking at their cards one last time, wishing for something better and knowing the cards they needed weren’t going to magically appear. Earl Buchanan had been one of the men who had folded, throwing his cards on the table in disgust; a last thought passing through his mind, had he done the right thing? Earl Buchanan looked about the room as he got up from his chair and took a place along the wall with the other men who had dropped out of the hand. He wondered who held the kind of cards that could win the engorged pot of money in the center of the table. He cast a glance at his friend, George Hutchinson, who still sat at the table his face showing no emotion. Earl Buchanan had never been able to find his friends tell in all the years they had worked together or played poker.
The stakes were high in this hand with thousands of dollars at risk. Now, only three men remained vying for the ultimate victory. The tension between them crackled in the moist, fetid air like heat lightening. As Orville Devey shifted in his chair he looked over his cards again, secreting them close to his chest so no one could peek and give him away. He looked at George Hutchinson to see if he might reveal anything about his hand. Then his eyes darted to the man named Patrick Lemp who claimed his family brewed beer in the caves of St Louis, Missouri, his grandfather having perfected the krausening process nearly fifty years earlier.
“I fold, gentlemen,” Patrick Lemp threw his cards to the table with a sigh. “This has gotten beyond what I can afford to lose.” He leaned back and mopped the sweat from his brow. He counted the cash he had left, and then eyed the kitty longingly.
Orville Devey darted a quick look at Lemp as Lemp pushed away from the table, getting up for the drink he’d needed for a while now. The dense smoky air had parched his throat. The only sound in the room came from the liquor pouring into a glass, and Lemp drinking greedily before sighing with satisfaction.
Devey shifted his gaze back to Hutchinson. He could feel a trickle of sweat dribble down from his forehead and run down his cheek. He wanted the hand to be over so he could collect the pot. His nerves frazzled by the glut of money tossed on the table. The pile of bills and gold coins glittered in the wavering gas light. He took in a breath, slowly filling his lungs, waiting to see what his opponent, Hutchinson, would do next.
The gas lamps hissed in mockery as Devey hesitated, searching again his opponent’s face.


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It’s a Mystery… or Ding, Dong the Wicked Witch is Dead! by Sherrie Hansen

Lately, everyone’s been asking when my next book is coming out. Blue Belle, the second of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels, should be ready in 60 – 90 days. All it needs is a serious going over and a new ending and it should be ready to send off to my publisher. In the meantime, I took advantage of NaNoWriMo to get 40,000 words into Shy Violet, the third in the series, so there should only be a short wait between the two books.

BBI Spring 2012

Some of you know that my primary distraction from writing is a bed and breakfast called the Blue Belle Inn B&B. For the past few months, my two passions have come together in a unique way.  In August, I decided to write a series of what I like to call fractured fairy tale style murder mysteries highlighting the storybook themes of each of our guest rooms at the B&B is named after.

BBInn - PC Tree 2010

I started out with our “On the Banks of Plum Creek” room and wrote (with apologies to Laura Ingalls Wilder), “Little Oops On The Prairie”. It begins when Nellie Olafson’s somewhat eccentric, mean-spirited cousin, Nutty Olafson, is found face down at the supper table. My tagline read: Something smells fishy on the banks of Plum Creek – is there a wolf in sheep’s clothing lurking in the Big Woods or a little killer loose on the Prairie? Suspects Nellie Olafson, Visiting Professor Jerald Jill of Iowa, Quick Draw McNutt, local football hero Big Brawny, and the much loved but tragically flat-footed Insoles family are all in for a Long Winter in the pokey unless the true murderer can be uncovered. I also planned a theme dinner which included Ma’s Bean Soup with Bacon, Chicken Pie with Baking Powder Biscuit Crust, New England Pot Roast with Potatoes and Carrots, and Roast Pork with Milk Gravy and Mashed Potatoes.

MM - Little Oops cast

We’ve been doing murder mysteries at the Blue Belle Inn for over 20 years now, at the rate of 4 to 9 times a year. Although I have several sources for purchasing the “whodunit” mystery games that become the basis for our dinner theater productions, it’s become increasingly harder to find fresh material that’s well-written.  The actors would often complain about how flimsy the plots were, or that there just wasn’t enough material to work with. Often times, I would spend hours fleshing out the plays I bought online with an opening  dialog, opening and closing statements, and so on, while the actors frequently had to unscramble plot elements that just didn’t make sense.

When I first started writing books, they were pure romance. I thought I’d never write novels that contained murder and mayhem, but in my last two books (Love Notes and Wild Rose) and the ones I’m presently working on (Blue Belle and Shy Violet), there are bad guys who are truly twisted, evil and bent on hurting people, a kidnapping, gunshots, and even a murder. As I worked on the motivation and chaotic situations caused by the suspense element in my novels, it occurred to me that I could just as well try my hand at a murder mystery. (Not to worry, there are still plenty of sweet, romantic moments in my novels, too.)

I also thought, if I wrote my own mysteries, that it would be fun to incorporate some local color. Some of our local spoofs include the World Famous Miracle Whip Clinic in Rochester, MN, where miracle cures abound, and our locally manufactured breakfast cereals with a pirate named Captain Crunch. Because murder mysteries are tongue in cheek, humorous and very irreverent, you can really toss in whomever and whatever you feel like. It’s also great fun writing parts that specifically match our actor’s best (and worst?) features. If we can’t laugh at ourselves once in awhile, what fun are we?

MM Never Ever Land cast

In September, we performed our second original mystery, “Footloose in Never Ever Land”. The intro read: Who will be next to walk the plank in Never Ever Land? One thing is sure – it won’t be poor Woody Stuck, an old hippie who was stuck in the 60′s, because he was found belly up in the Lagoon a few hours ago. Now the clock is ticking and we hope you’ll help Peter Pun and the Lost Boyz find out who is guilty – is it Captain Crunch, the pirate with the biggest chompers ever, Rev. Hal Fyre and his crony, The Church Lady, free-spirit Windy, Fancy Free Willow Tree, Crocodile Rock, who has a scaly skin condition, or Stinker Belle, the church secretary? The theme meal included Gems of the Sea Puffs Mornay with Shrimp & Crab on Scallop Shells, “But Spinach is Good for You, Peter” Chicken with Spinach Artichoke Dip & Italian Cheeses, and The Church Lady’s Sunday Roast Beef with Mashed Potatoes.

MM - Sherwood Forest

In October, we did “Shenanigans in Sherwood Forest with Robin Love & His Band of Unmarried Men”. The write-up says:  Relationships are complicated in UnTie the Knotingham, a small but wealthy kingdom where the divorce rate is extremely high. Thus, it came as no surprise when Richie Rich, a philandering playboy, was found dead on his wedding day. The question is, who killed him? Wife #7 – the former Maid Mary Ann, Ginger Root, wealthy nobleman Henry the Eighth, Friar Luck, Viking warrior Little Johnson, or Robin Love – a poor, mild-mannered attorney who has devoted his life to championing the underdog in divorce cases far and wide? It’s up to you to unravel the mystery before anyone else loses their head and does something crazy, like getting married. SHERWOOD FOREST CUISINE featured Cottage Pie with a Thatched Roof, and Fruits of the Forest Chicken with Mushrooms, Apples, Berries and a Splash of Brandy.

That left “Anne of Green Gables”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “The Secret Garden”, Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time”, and “Heaven to Betsy”, from Maud Hart Lovelace’s Victorian era Betsy Tacy books, for future mystery dinner themes. At the rate of one every 3 – 4 weeks, by the time we finished one mystery, my brain has already been working on the next, envisioning characters who tesseract, wear pompadour hair styles and floppy hats and climb big hills with the Crowd, or hob knob with princes and princesses and wicked witches and maybe a giant bunny rabbit or two.

MM - Dudley Do-RightMM - Anne Green

In November, for our Anne of Green Gables Fans, we premiered a mash up Lucy Montgomery’s Anne books and Gone with the Wind. “Anne Green and Dianna Dingleberry’s Most Excellent Adventure”. The lead-in read: When cold-hearted Rachel Bag O’ Wynde, the neighbor from down the lane, is found dead, every one thinks she choked on an artichoke heart. But one person knows how she really died, and it was no accident. Help Anne Green and Dianna Dingleberry find out who is guilty. Is it sour old Marilla Lemon, Matthew Chokecherry, obsessed with being best Gilbert Plum, Southern belle Scarlett Pimpernel, the pasty faced schoolteacher Ashley Grey, or Rhett, the Butler? Dudley Do-Right of the Canadian Mounted Police even made a guest appearance.The custom menu included PEI Potato Soup, Ingleside Inn’s Fried Steak with Cheesy Onion Gravy and Red Potatoes, and Anne and Dianna’s Most Resplendent Raspberry Cordial Chicken served with Cavendish Creamed Potatoes and Peas. The featured dessert was Bread Pudding with Caramel Whiskey Sauce – sans the mouse.

MM - PCharming

In December, we tackled Sleeping Beauty with “Will the Real Prince Charming Please Stand Up?” My teaser read:  When game show host Alec Quebec is found dead, everyone on the latest episode of “To Twist the Truth!” is a suspect. Who is guilty? Is it one of the esteemed panel of judges – Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, wicked stepmother Eveele O’Gress, or Glimmer, the Good Fairy? Or is it one of the contestants – dashing Prince Charming, Hermie, the Outcast Elf wannabe dentist, or Dopey the Dwarf, who was last seen clutching a ruby red slipper and looking for Cinderella? Or is it Kermit, a spirited frog that keeps hopping around the stage? The made-to-fit menu included Bavarian Hunter Schnitzel on Homemade Spaetzle Noodles, Cinderella’s Pumpkin with Pork and Parmesan Filling, and Snow White’s Special Apple Pie.

MM - W in Time

Our January premier was “Who? Whatsit? Which Wicked Witch is Dead?” a mash up that featured childhood favorites “A Wrinkle in Time” and the “Wizard of Oz”. My teaser read: When a Wrinkle in Time causes Camazotz and the Emerald City to collide, the witch is accidentally squished. Or was it Mrs. Which? And was it really an accident? Follow the yellow brick road with Meg Dorothea Ditz, Charles Wallace Wiz, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, the creepy computer guy nobody likes – Jay I.T. Bug, Glinda the Good, scary mafia man Scarface Crow from Central Intelligence, and nice guy Calvin Tim Mann, who wears his heart on his sleeve, to find out which one really did it. I had fun with this meun – Emerald City Soup with Green Broccoli & Garlic Herb Toasts, Over the Rainbow Fruit Wand, Starry, Starry Night Steak with Green Peppercorn Sauce, Aunt Beast’s Best Ever Vegetable Cheese Puff, Out of this World Salmon with Seafood Stuffing, and Mrs. Murry’s Bunsen Burner Beef Stew with Biscuits on Top.

Blue Belle winter

On February 7 and 8, we’re looking forward to presenting another original murder mystery entitled “Betsy and Tacy Go Downton” – a mash up of my favorite books, the Betsy Tacy books by Minnesota author Maud Hart Lovelace, and the popular British TV series, Downton Abbey. Here’s what guests have to look forward to: When Betsy Ray’s British cousin, Matthew Crawley, fakes his death in a car accident and comes to Deep Valley, MN because he needs a break from Downton Abbey, a round of parties is planned to introduce him to the Crowd. When Lord Grantham and the Dowager Countess cross the pond to put an end to his lark, the unthinkable happens and Matthew is murdered. (Yes, this time, he’s really dead.) Did someone tamper with his dance card, hot wire his motor car, or spike his punch? Or could he simply not tolerate the caterwauling during the Cat Duet? Betsy, Tacy, Tib, Bad Boy Tony, Busty Bonnie the Minister’s Daughter (who we’ve never quite trusted), Joe Schmo, and Thomas, the Valet are all suspects. The menu includes “Onion Sandwich” Soup a la Mr. Ray, Betsy’s Heart of My Heart Chicken with Garlic Rosemary Cream Sauce and Artichoke Hearts,  Tib’s Beef Rouladen with Bacon & Onion Gravy on Homemade Spaetzle Noodles, Tacy’s Irish Meat Pie with Pork and Potatoes, and Lady Violet’s Elegant Roast Beef with Chardonnay Cream Sauce, Gorgonzola Cheese and Red Potatoes – and of course, a bite of the Crowd’s Famous Fudge for dessert.


A tale based on the book “The Secret Garden” is next, in March or April, and will probably feature a mad Farmer MaGregor and that rascal, Peter Cottontail. After that – who knows? It’s been an absolute thrill to see the creative costumes the actors have come up with for each of my mysteries and watch the way they’ve brought my characters and words to life. My only regret is that I’m usually working in the kitchen and don’t get to see much of the performances. Our actors are some of the best and so creative! John Deyo’s portrayal of a hopping, green frog / Prince Charming and Lisa Deyo’s rendition of Sleeping Beauty were amazing and very memorable. Mel Schroeder has done everything from A to Z including a one-legged pirate. My favorite of Deb Stickney’s roles to date is The Church Lady but she also does a great German accent. My husband, Mark Decker, makes foaming at the mouth and dying look so realistic that it’s scary. Neil and Terri Hernan, Mark and Ken Borchardt, Phyllis Ruehlow, Brenda and Michael Esdohr, Julia Crail, Tiffany Adams, and so many more who have filled in for us on occasion are some of the most versatile, slightly crazy, very silly actors ever.

I’m thrilled to say that our new, original mysteries have been getting rave reviews from our customers, including my mother, who said, “Are all those crazy things really in your head?”, to which I replied, “They kinda are.”

If you live in northern Iowa or southern Minnesota and haven’t been to one f the Blue Belle’s mystery dinners yet, it’s high time! Like I always say, at what other event does the guilty perpetrator of a dastardly deed get a round of applause? And as always, if you guess correctly or solve the mystery, you could get your dinner free.

One of these days, I’ll get around to finishing Blue Belle and Shy Violet, but in the meantime, if you’ve wondered what I’m up to – this is it! I hope you’ll also watch for another instance when my innkeeping and writing worlds are scheduled to collide… Second Wind Publishing will be hosting a Pitch the Publisher event at the Blue Belle Inn B&B sometime this summer or fall. Stay tuned for further details!



Filed under Sherrie Hansen, writing

In The Works by S. M. Senden

People have been asking me when my next book will be coming out since they loved the first one so much.  There are a couple of reactions that immediately come with that question.  First is being so pleased that people love my writing, characters and story.  An author never knows how the public will react to a creative offering, and hoping for the best launches it into the world, optimistically expecting the best.

Then comes the obverse side of that coin ~ will they like the next book as much?  Since it is not part of a series, will the characters grab them?  Will they be propelled through the book because they have become involved in the lives of people they will only know on the page; or device depending on what you read?  The committee of negative activities lurking in the back of my mind will whisper that it is a fluke and will never happen again.

All I can do is swat those negative thoughts away and after writing, polishing, rewriting and polishing some more, then release the manuscript to the publisher.  So that finally once in print, the reader tell me what they think.

So what is the next book about?  It is a story set in a small town in 1939 as Germany is making advances on Poland, and the world watches with horror as they spark another world war.  As they watch, people go on living their lives in cities, the country and small towns.  This story is set in the county seat of MontgomeryCounty in the city of Red Oak in Iowa.  It is a story about the secrets people keep in this small town, the lies people live and live with.  How they deal with truth when it is revealed.  It is about memories buried deep under the dust of time, of the people who move in and out of our lives, some slipping away almost unnoticed and nearly forgotten.

And that gets me thinking…

In a poem by Dory Previn, she states ~

We never stop to wonder till a person’s gone,

We never yearn to know him until he’s packed and traveled on.

As I worked on this story I thought of the many people who have come and gone in my life.  Some are there for a long time, some pass quickly through.  Each person I encounter gives me something, recreates something in me, for better or for worse.  Every time my being interacts with someone else; I am changed, transformed in some way, even if it is a very small and hardly noticeable change.

Think about the people you have known in your life.  Some teach us so much, some give us joy and laughter, others give us pain and hard learned lessons, but each has had an impact on who we are.  I think about some of the people who have died, and I wish I’d known them better.  I wish that I’d been able to know more about them, their lives growing up, and their experiences.  But I thank them for being a part of my life.

From all this pondering, I hope that I will be a positive impact on people, their lives, and that in future people will say ~ she made me laugh, or think or taught me something wonderful.  These are the things I think about as I create a story and characters.  I want them to touch the reader’s lives, and hope they will not soon be forgotten.

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Taking real life and blending memories into a story… by S. M. Senden

Taking real life stories/incidences and blending them into a story…
People often ask ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ It is a question common enough to all writers. For me, there is always some nugget of truth in what I write. I have been dubbed as the protector, guardian and repository of the family memories ever since I was a child. Those pieces of information have made their ways into the many stories I have written. Here is an example of what I mean.

There is a scene in Clara’s Wish about the young man, Bergin Halverson, being invited into a big time poker game in Omaha and winning lots of cash. This may sound a little far fetched, but it was exactly what happened to my Grandfather in the early 1920’s.

When I was about twenty-three, one rare night my Grandfather, Father and I sat around the kitchen table drinking shots of whiskey and my Grandfather began to talk. I don’t remember how it happened, he was not much of a drinker, and I barley touched the stuff, and it was not the usual cocktail my parents enjoyed. However, the whiskey, the night, the company created a once in a lifetime event for us all. Usually a reticent man, it was wonderful to hear my Grandfather relate tales about his life before he got married in 1924 and settled down.

What I learned that night was that my Grandfather’s life, before marriage, was right out of an adventure book. In some ways his life experiences took up where Mark Twain left off. He was a ‘River Rat’ where the Missouri and Mississippi rivers came together in St. Charles, Missouri. He was one of ten children and grew up on the family farm. He told a story about snow coming in their room in winter, and sparrows, that he called chippies, that would be there in spring.

The best of his tales was about a poker game.

He was a young man in his early twenties, and liked a game of craps or poker with his St. Charles friends. One evening he met someone from a big poker game in St Louis. Grandfather was invited. They probably saw a young man that would be an easy mark, and they would fleece him of his hard earned cash and send him back across the river and never think about him again. But fate had a different hand to deal.

Grandfather was made welcome, and began to play cards. It was not that he was so a great poker player, but the cards are fickle, and have a mind of their own. Just ask any gambler about Lady Luck! They played late into the evening. My Grandfather kept winning. In fact, he won enough cash that night to go on a shopping spree the next few days. He bought some clothes and had three suits custom made; he bought a new car and a few other items. One of which were brass knuckles. He wanted to be prepared in case the guys at the game got a little touchy when he went back the next weekend.

Grandfather was smart enough to go back to the poker game, and though he was still pulling winning hands, he threw them away, and managed to lose three hundred dollars to the men in the room. He also agreed never to return to their game again.

This story about the poker game was too good not to include in Clara’s Wish. It fit with the direction of the story, and was a way to honor and preserve the recollections of my Grandfather’s experiences.

Though my Grandfather is no longer alive, I still have the brass knuckles, and the memories of that night when I learned so much about the reticent man who was my grandfather.

To read Clara’s Wish, go the Second Wind Publishing  and order your copy today! From the reviews that have been coming in, you will not be disappointed.

Clara’s Wish is a page-turner! I did not put it down till I was finished. January 31, 2013 By If I like it, I want to tell you. From Amazon

Clara’s Wish blends old-fashioned real Midwestern history with thoughtful and fascinating psychological profiles. Sweet-and-sourness-of-life dramas, truthful character assessments, soul-enlightening judgments, criminal motivators. All people portrayed in this book, from fine upstanding characters and horrible criminals, all get the lush language treatment from S M Senden. Reading her words, I became one with the character’s sensory experience. Very, very EVOCATIVE. Also, very spooky! I recommend!

Comments from C. Major about CLARA’S WISH ~
Your book is awesome, just finished it. I really liked it, started this morning and didn’t put down till just now when I finished it. Really keeps you wanting to read more. Thanks again!!!

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Compelled to Compare by Sherrie Hansen

I’ve been at two conferences in the last two weeks. The first was a writing conference, the second a conference I’m attending with my husband, who is a minister. No offense to St. Louis, but I must say, when I compare the two cities, I have to say I prefer being in Des Moines where I have a nephew and niece, several friends, and no exes.

We’re staying in a beautiful, award winning B&B – Butler House on Grand. It’s a three story, brick English Tudor with a very impressive façade… and that brings me to my topic today.

Butler House on Grand, a B&B in Des Moines, Iowa.

Mark Vander Tuig, one of the speakers at the LCMC (Lutheran Congregations for Ministry in Christ) Conference we’re attending, spoke about envy today. The word was mentioned at the Christian Writers Conference I attended as well.

It’s hard not to compare ourselves to others, whether writers or pastors. Published or unpublished, published by a large press or published by a small press, self-published, or getting 6 figure advances, there’s always someone to compare yourself to. Maybe your e-book sold 3 dozen copies and someone else’s sold 2000. Maybe you both write for the same publishing house, but one of you gets smaller advances than the other. Maybe your friend won two awards and you got nothing.

Comparing ourselves to others is a great temptation no matter what stage of life we’re in, and yes, envying the person who seems to have it better than we do is an easy trap to fall in to.

If you’re a pastor, you may be envious of the person whose once tiny church plant has grown to a 6000 member mega-church with six services because you’re lucky to get 150 at church on a Sunday. The pastor who gets 25 – 35 may be envious of you. One pastor might have a church overlooking the Pacific Ocean, another in the beautiful city of Colorado Springs, whereas you’re in the middle of nowhere surrounded by cornfields and hog barns.

California Dreamin'

Midwestern Reality

There’s always a man or woman who’s skinnier, prettier, or has more of whatever it is you want – money, kids, cars, whatever. If I’m honest with myself, there are plenty of reasons for me to envy Clark and Lauren, who own Butler House on Grand B&B. When they opened, a group of designers did a showcase at their B&B. They’ve been featured in a zillion magazines, and Meredith Publications has done all kinds of photo shoots at their property. (One of my dreams.) Midwest Living named them as one of their top 30 B&Bs… American Historic Inns, one of the top 10 romantic inns in the US (or is it the world?) I could go on, and on and on. They’ve won a great many honors – every one of which is well-deserved.

The master bedroom suite at Butler House on Grand.

I’m sure there are B&B owners who whose dream is to have a place like the Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House. It’s all relative, isn’t it?

The Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House, Saint Ansgar, Iowa.

Our speakers point is that you should be thankful for what you have, and accept yourself – limitations and strengths – for what you are.

So why is it that we’re so compelled to compare ourselves and our situations to others? Perhaps it’s because we feel better when we compare and find ourselves on the top of the heap. We feel better about ourselves when we realize that we’re better off than this person or that person. Perhaps by comparing ourselves to others, we’re inspired to follow our dreams – that if this or that person could accomplish this, maybe we can, too.

But even when applied in a positive light, comparing ourselves is usually unproductive. Why? Because while the Blue Belle Inn B&B may be wonderful in just as many (but very different) ways as the Butler House is, it will always be in St. Ansgar, a quaint little town of 1000 in northern Iowa. It will never be a couple of blocks from the governor’s mansion, the art center, downtown Des Moines, and Better Homes and Gardens magazine.  It is what it is, and so am I. If I want to be successful, I have to find my own niche and capitalize on my own strengths.

The church where my husband is currently serving, in a town of 600, nearly an hour from even a moderately sized town, will never draw the kinds of crowds or have the resources to have the kinds of programs that Hope Lutheran in Des Moines or Hosanna Lutheran in Lakeville, MN have. I’m guessing they have more members in their church than we have in our entire county.  That doesn’t mean God can’t and won’t use them – ordinary people in an ordinary town – in extraordinary ways.

Jealousy is unproductive and a negative influence. It can destroy your self-confidence, eat away at your goals and aspirations, and sabotage your efforts to be the best you can be. Yet how easy it is to begrudge our many blessings and covet what another has.

As for me, I’m going to choose to appreciate all that I have. I may not get a hefty advance on my novels since I’m published with a small press, but when I look at what I’ve earned in royalties and profits in the last three years, I realize I have much to be thankful for. Given the odds of success in this business, it’s a miracle that any of my books are even in print. And in all honesty, if someone had offered me the amount of money for my books that I’ve currently made, I definitely would have signed the contract. Don’t get me wrong – if I’m ever blessed enough to make it onto the bestseller list, I’ll definitely do a happy dance, but in the meantime, I feel honored that people are simply buying, reading, and liking my books.  (Which, if you’re interested, you can buy at www.SecondWindPublishing.com.)

And with that, I’ll close. We’re at a banquet, and I couldn’t help but notice that my husband’s piece of chicken is bigger than mine. It’s been a long day, and I’m hungry, and yes, I’m feeling a little jealous. Maybe if I’m nice, he’ll trade plates with me. (Just kidding.)


Filed under life, musings, Sherrie Hansen

Christmas in Hawaii by Sherrie Hansen

I was supposed to blog on Christmas Day. In snowy Iowa, where I live, it’s 7 a.m. the day after Christmas. But as my husband pointed out when I remembered I had forgotten to blog, it’s still Christmas in Hawaii.

I woke up bright and early Christmas morning and prepared breakfast for two overnight guests at my bed and breakfast, the Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House. I served fresh fruit,  still-warm-from-the-oven cinnamon rolls and Sherrie’s Special Scrambled Eggs, rolled up inside a thin slice of ham, as though it were a tortilla. I garnished the plate with a nice, red cherry tomato and a sprinkle of green onion slices as garnish to add a little Christmas cheer.

I then prepared breakfast trays for eight overnight guests who were scheduled to check themselves into the Inn sometime on Christmas Day, to spend the night after celebrating with their families. My husband is a pastor, so I can’t be at the Blue Belle on Sunday mornings. I prepared fresh fruit cups, white chocolate raspberry scones, and a sausage and colby jack egg strata with mornay sauce and a sprinkle of freshly shredded Parmesan cheese.

We then tried to finish wrapping the gifts for my nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters, and mom and dad we had started before breakfast but finally gave up, packed everything up, and headed over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house. The roads were snowy and not plowed very well in Iowa – Minnesota did a much better job of snow removal. My parents said they heard on the news that Austin, MN had 37″ of snow in December, a new record. Their house is nestled in a grove of oak trees by a creek, and it does look like a winter wonderland.

When we arrived, we met my newest great nephew, Jeremy, for the first time, then had a late lunch of chicken lasagna and salad, compliments of my nephew Josiah and his wife, Nikki. When we were done, we started on our task for the day – to prepare food for the 24 hungry family members who would be coming for our family Christmas  celebration on Sunday after church. Several hours later, we had made two huge pans of spaetzle (homemade German noodles boiled in beef broth) and turned a whole pork loin into German jaeger schnitzel. We made a wonderful gravy with milk, sour cream, beef broth and mushrooms, in which the meat will simmer until it’s melt-in-your-mouth tender. I can hardly wait!

While I was cooking, and later, decorating my mom and dad’s Christmas tree (more memories  as I unwrapped ornaments from Germany and Colorado that I’d given my mother over the years) ,  my husband dashed off a Christmas letter, which I approved after a few minor changes. Soon, copies were popping out of the printer on decorative Christmas paper and we started addressing cards, stuffing Christmas stockings, and wrapping Christmas gifts.

When we were in Provence, France earlier this year, we bought scented soaps in every color of the rainbow and herbs de Provence, along with several other delectable-smelling seasonings, at a market in a little French village. What wonderful memories were stirred up as I wrapped the sweet-scented soaps and savory herb mixtures in individual containers to tuck in our stockings!

I give an ornament to my nieces and nephews each year – this year I found glittery, glass, gold adorned acorns in red, olive green and purple – symbolic of the oak grove we grew up in. It’s part of our heritage – acorns falling from tall, strong trees to start new little oak trees in the forest.

When we left for Iowa, Mom and Josiah were making pfeffernut cookies just like my Grandma Hansen (1900 – 2000) used to do. I had several, still warm from the oven. (Someone had had to eat the ones that weren’t pretty enough to pack in gift jars…) There was water boiling on the stove for lime jello with pears and pineapple, and my Dad was watching a DVD of a comedy routine he did at the talent show at church earlier this month. Baby Jeremy was having “supper” and all was well.

It took an hour and a half to get to the parsonage because the roads were so snowy. I checked email, still forgetting that I was supposed to blog, then practiced the songs on the piano that we’ll be singing for both services on Sunday morning. It was after midnight when I read another chapter of Sandra Brown’s Rainwater, and tumbled into bed, where my husband was waiting to snuggle me to sleep.

Yesterday’s events are replaying themselves over and over in my mind, as writer’s are prone to doing… Caching them away in some the secret compartment of my mind, until someday, they become fodder for a scene.

It was a very Merry Christmas!




Filed under musings, Sherrie Hansen, writing

To a Truly Beautiful Person… by Sherrie Hansen

I’ve always been amazed that a flower so delicate, so perfect, so truly beautiful could rise from the murky waters of my fish pond. My basement was once flooded with water from my pond, so I can testify to the fact that it is not at all nice and smells awful, too – algae, fish excrement, scum, dead bugs and rotting leaves all add to the mix.

Yet a bevy of beautiful water lilies float serenely on top of this water throughout the summer – shining in the sunlight, radiantly blooming despite their humble beginnings and shadowy pasts.

My new release, Water Lily, is the second novel in a trilogy about three sisters set in fictional Maple Valley, Iowa and Red Oak, Minnesota. Water Lily, which begins on the night of Jake Sheffield and Michelle Jones’ 20 year class reunion, takes a look at topics like beauty – inner and outer, the self-esteem issues women and men face as they mature, and for two characters, a dance with breast cancer.

Water Lily… Once upon a very long time ago, Jake Sheffield and Michelle Jones graduated from the same high school.

Jake can’t wait to take a trip down memory lane at their 20th class reunion. Being with his old friends is like guest starring in a favorite episode of Cheers. Everybody knows your name. Everybody’s glad you came.

The last thing Michelle wants to do is dredge up a lot of old memories and relive a part of her past that wasn’t that great in the first place.

Will the murky waters of the past destroy their dreams for the future, or will a water lily rise from the depths and bloom?

“Hansen’s Water Lily captures the emotional upheavals of a woman’s lifetime struggle with her self-image. Will that struggle come between her and the man she loves, or will outside forces do that instead? Hansen is a natural story-teller, adept at presenting frustrating circumstances, likeable and unlikable characters, misunderstandings, tender moments, and steamy love scenes. Water Lily kept me reading and touched my heart.”   Christine Husom, author of Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, and An Altar By the River.

It has long been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, yet as a society, we often define beauty and sadly, measure our self-esteem, in terms of movie stars and football players. What makes a person beautiful to you?

I’ve been signing each copy of Water Lily I’ve sold “To a truly beautiful person”  because I’m sure that on some level each of them is beautiful – whether fat or skinny, short or tall, big-nosed or small.

While we’re talking about true beauty, I’d like to ask you to think of someone you love – mother, father, spouse, friend or hero, and write a brief response about what makes them beautiful to you. (Make sure you leave an email address so I can contact you.) My objective husband and I will be reading your responses, and on October 7, choosing someone from those who respond to win a free, autographed copy of Water Lily .

You can learn more about Sherrie Hansen at: http://www.BlueBelleBooks.com, http://www.SecondWind Publishing.com, or http://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/.


Filed under Sherrie Hansen, writing

Have You Heard the Latest Forecast? Stay Tuned for Stormy Weather!

It didn’t take long for Rachael Jones, the oldest and indisputable trend-setter of a trio of sisters raised in a home where nothing you did was ever quite right, to learn that if you were ever going to get anywhere in this world, you had to use the mind the good Lord gave you, stretch the limits, stand up for what you wanted, and not to give up until you had it. No wonder she’s had to endure so much stormy weather over the years…

If her current dilemma with Luke, the handsome business partner she wishes were more, and Mac, the rogue photographer whose lap she fell into one night when she just needed someone to hold her, follows true to form, she’s in for yet another rough time before the skies clear.

It all started when Rae decided to move back home to the quaint little town of Osage, Iowa after more than a decade of big city life. It wasn’t long before Rae found herself caught up in a major squall involving Wilmer Putt, a good old boy from the bank, and Mrs. Armerding, an elderly widow who inherited a treasure trove of architecturally significant houses. Wilbur wants to bulldoze the houses to make room for much-needed senior housing. Rae is determined to find folks who will renovate the houses and turn them into B&B’s, teahouses, and antique shops.

The only bright spot of the hostile city council meetings that ensure is that charming Mac McPhearson, the charming photographer from the Mitchell Country Messenger, is always on hand to snap a few shots. Rae might be as stubborn as all get out, but she soon learns that bucking an entire town’s infrastructure on your own is not a good thing – plus, a girl needs a little love once in awhile. Rae thinks her dreams are finally about to come true when her best friend, Luke Bruggeman proposes an intimate rendezvous – until Rae discovers what Luke has in mind is a business alliance instead of a romantic one.

Is Rachael meant to weather the storms of life with Luke, the friend who has come to know her heart and soul so intimately, or will she find the rainbow after the storm with Mac, who knows each sweet secret of her body?

Stormy Weather - Have you heard the latest forecast?

Stormy Weather - Have you heard the latest forecast?

You’ll find the answer in Stormy Weather… a novel by Sherrie Hansen, coming in October 2009. (If you liked Night and Day, you’ll love Stormy Weather!)

Stay tuned for the latest weather forecast!


Filed under books, fiction, Sherrie Hansen, writing