No Blues at the Blue Belle Inn

I went from one mostly consonant-free state to another. Ohio. Iowa. A measly two consonants between them. No wonder I got them mixed up when I was very young!

Jeff and I had been to Iowa once a long time ago. We often reminisced about a motel near Ames, the quiet location, the pond our windows overlooked (though it could have been a rain puddle considering all the rain we’d driven through). We always wanted to go back through the state, and now we never will go together. But I went back by myself and this time, I didn’t stay at a motel. I stayed at a bed and breakfast, one I’d known about for many years: The Blue Belle Inn in St. Ansgar, owned by fellow writer Sherrie Hansen, author of the wildflowers of Scotland romances. (One is named Blue Belle. Hmmm. I wonder where she got that title!)

When Sherrie bought the house twenty-five years ago, it was in terrible condition, but she restored the building, upgraded it, and decorated each of the bedrooms to reflect a story. I stayed in Plum Creek, named after a Laura Ingalls Wilder book.

Talk about being steeped in luxury! Lovely and very comfortable room room. Gourmet breakfast — egg and ham strata, cranberry scone, fresh fruit cup. Delicious lunch — chicken salad on a croissant with a salad. Fabulous dinner — cottage pie with a thatched roof (her version of shepherd’s pie) and coconut cake for desert.

As you probably figured out, although the inn is a bed and breakfast, Sherrie provides other meals for guests who stay more than a night or two.

I also had the luxury of meeting Sherrie, a long-time internet friend. We met at Gather.com, a now defunct social network site for writers and photographers. Sherrie moderated one of my favorite groups — a photography group for all things color. She would choose a color, and group members submitted photos of something depicting that color. Such fun!

Sherrie is as wise and as intelligent as she appears online, making my stay at the Blue Belle Inn a real joy.

And so another online friend has become a friend for real.

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

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Pinning Interest in Pinterest

In a recent discussion about promotion for writers, someone asked what the benefit of Pinterest would be for authors.

I answered: I’m not a fan of Pinterest, so I can’t really tell you the benefits. I do know authors post all sorts of things related to their books, things they are interested in, quotes, whatever. The truth is, though, that anything you do on the internet helps get you noticed, which is a good thing. The secret is to do what is fun for you. Me, I prefer blogging, with a bit of Facebooking. I mostly use Twitter, Tumblr, Google+ and Linkedin to post blog links. I also used to be a major presence on a couple of now defunct social networking sites that I enjoyed.

Sherrie Hansen does a lot with Pinterest. Maybe she can help answer your question. Sherrie? Sherrie? Any thoughts about Pinterest?

I’ve known author Sherrie Hansen for several years now (online only so far), and she is someone I have grown to admire tremendously. By day, Sherrie operates the Blue Belle Inn B&B & Tea House and tries to be a good pastor’s wife. By night, she writes. I don’t know how she ever manages to do anything else, but she also keeps up with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and probably all the other networking sites, too. And she posts a perfect blog every month for the Second Wind Publishing blog. She uses many lovely photos, tells a bit about her life and how it intersects with her novels, and ends with an inspiring message. Can’t get much better than that! Question Marks and Other Things That Make You Think by Sherrie Hansen is her most recent post. Check it out.

Sherrie kindly posted the following response to my question:

I agree with Pat completely when she said, “Do what is fun for you.” I love Pinterest and think of it as a big file cabinet with color-coded folders for fun things – except that I don’t have to dig through a bunch of papers when I want to go back and find what I need.

One fun way to use Pinterest is to make a folder for each of your books and use them like a story board – pictures of people who look like your characters, links to the location where your story takes places, sites you’ve used for research, clothes of the period or style your characters would wear, basically whatever you want handy when you’re working on your book, and whatever gets you in the mood to write or helps you to visualize people and places important to the story. I’ve also tagged the style of font and photos I want to use on the cover.

On a personal note, I use Pinterest to pin things that I like – songs I want to learn so I can play them with my music group, ideas of things to make with my nieces and nephew, places I’ve traveled to or want to see one day when I’m rich, recipes to use in my tea house or at church events, garden and landscape ideas, and of course, my love of rainbows. If nobody ever sees them but me, that’s fine, because I like using it to organize the things that are important to me and to keep track of things I don’t want to forget about. If someone looks at my pin and thinks – I have a lot in common with this person, or hey, we like almost all the same things, or wow – this lady has great taste, and wants to give my books a try, that’s wonderful. And I have had that happen.

When you pin things, you can click a box to have them shared simultaneously on Twitter and or Facebook. The general rule for social media is to post 80% personal posts so that you are building relationships (which is what social media is all about), and no more than 20% business posts designed to promote yourself or your books. When it comes to sharing personal things or what’s going on in my head, or the bigger scope of my world, it’s a lot easier to quickly pin something than it is to stop and try to think of something clever to say about my day. Both are windows to your personality. Both are important… but it’s nice to have variety – and pictures for those of us who are visual learners and relaters.

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Thank you, Sherrie. You’ve even got me interested in playing around with my still mostly empty Pinterest site.

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Sherrie Hansen writes romance. Her novels, Shy Violet (coming soon), Blue Belle, Wild Rose, Thistle Down, Love Notes, Night & Day, Stormy Weather, Water Lily & Merry Go Round are available from SecondWindPublishing.com.

Wishing . . .

waterlilyfrontI just read a lovely blog by Sherrie Hansen, author of Love Notes, Wild Rose, Water Lily, and whole lot of other romances. In her post Give Me a Kiss to Build a Dream on…And My Imagination Will Make that Moment Live, Sherrie talks about her life, the wild times interspersed with times of drawing back and being the one taking the pictures instead of the one in the center of the photo.

I envy Sherrie’s self-proclaimed wild times — at least she has that to look back on. I was never wild. I was responsible from the time I was five, always doing the right thing (or trying to) and I was sensible, always weighing the payoff against the pain or pleasure. I acted silly at times, both as a child and as an adult, and I often felt lighthearted and even carefree, but never wild. (My adventures were the literary kind. All I ever wanted to do was read.) Now, however, I’m learning to be bold, to embrace my untamed soul, which is a good alternative for me — fearlessness without recklessness. (Though some people are appalled by my recklessness in thinking of traveling alone, either on foot or in a vehicle. I guess one person’s recklessness is another person’s deliberateness.)

What really struck me about Sherrie’s piece, however, was her cry: It’s time to start wishing again, to go to the places I dream of seeing and – more importantly – experiencing. It’s time to live life to the fullest and seize every opportunity – because a kiss to build a dream on is fine, and I do have a great imagination, but sometimes a kiss isn’t enough. Sometimes, I want wild, passionate lovemaking all night long. I want to live. I want to fly – to be the one in the picture instead of the one holding the camera.

Oh, my, yes.

I’m trying to teach myself to wish. Whether by nature or nurture, my wishbone seems to be missing, but I can see that wishes are important. Wishes can help us fly (even if only on an airplane), can help us find a way into an unimaginably wonderful future, can be the impetus to find the wild woman within.

Still, for me, for now, there’s dancing. In a way, dancing is about wishing, about big dreams, about taking us a step further than is comfortable, about being bold, about just . . . dancing.

Click here to read Sherrie’s article:

Click here to read interviews with Sherrie Hansen.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

 

Does your understanding of the story you are writing change during the course of the book?

Before I wrote A Spark of Heavenly Fire, I did extensive research into pandemics and into the government’s response to such emergencies (I based my fictional response on actual executive orders that Clinton signed), so there wasn’t much change in my understanding of these matters during the course of the book, but there was a big difference in my thoughts about what “they” want us to know and what they don’t. When I learned about Pingfan, the Japanese biological warfare installation where they did horrendous experiments on POW’s and nearby villagers, I thought I’d stumbled onto something really explosive. Yet, as happened to a character in A Spark of Heavenly Fire, the very next novel I picked up used Pingfan as a setting. It got me to thinking about the nature of cover-ups, and many of the discussions in the last half of the book were actual discussions I had with a friend while I was writing the book.

Here are some responses from other authors about how their understanding of the story changes during the course of the book. The comments are taken from interviews posted at Pat Bertram Introduces . . .

From an interview with Sherrie Hansen, Author of “Love Notes”

I start the story, my characters finish it. Themes come to me as the book goes on, and often, when it’s totally finished. Sometimes I have to rewrite the beginning of the book, because by the time I’m done, I know the characters so well that I think they would never say or do the things they did at the beginning of the book.

From an interview with Cynthia Vespia, Author of “Sins And Virtues”

Sometimes. That makes it fun though. You expect it to go one way and instead it veers off course and takes you to an entirely new level. For me, when that happens, it feels like I’m reading it myself.

From an interview with Alan Place, Author of “Pat Canella: The Dockland Murders”

My understanding is constantly changing as the character evolve their own lives, I never try to force them to do things that I feel don’t fit.

What about you? Does your understanding of the story you are writing change during the course of the book?

(If you’d like me to interview you, please check out my author questionnaire http://patbertram.wordpress.com/author-questionnaire/ and follow the instruction.)

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.