Salve for Souls

Friday, December 18, 2015

BEAR ESSENTIALS - What if you encounter one?

Liz did everything wrong when she encountered a black bear with cubs in the woods behind her New York State home. After making eye contact, which the bear may have perceived as a challenge or threat, she ran in blind panic. The bear gave chase.
Although this opening scene in my romance/suspense novel, "Love's Sweetest Revenge," is fictional, many have had a "real life" encounter with a bear. Some do not escape.
Liz should have known better than to run. Her ex-husband was a hiker and fisherman. He had warned her.
Bears have a keen sense of smell. If you see one, don't try to run away. Back away slowly. Yell at the bear. Firmly tell it to leave. "Get out of here!" Especially beware of a mother bear with cubs.
As Liz ran, she heard the bear closing in—snapping branches, crunching on the forest floor.
Suddenly, she tripped over an exposed root, falling and striking her head against an old, stone wall. Immediately the bear was on top of her.

If only she'd heeded her ex-husband's advice. It echoes instruction given by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.


Raise your arms and speak in a loud, calm voice while backing away.
Stand your ground
If you have bear spray, dispense directly at the bear. Please access the Department of Environmental Conservation website to learn about the proper use of bear spray.
Stay together.
Do not run, but continue to back away while speaking loudly.                                  
Stand your ground.
Intimidate by making yourself look bigger by waving arms, clapping, shouting, banging sticks.
Prepare to fight or use bear spray.
Fight back with anything at hand (knife, stick, rocks, fists).
To find out more, visit:
But what became of Liz? It is all revealed in "Love's Sweetest Revenge," Book 1 in the "Castle in the Sun," series. E-book ONLY 99 cents. Paperback also available.
In Book 2, "Love's Sweetest Obsession," Liz finds herself running from something even more dangerous than a bear--a person and her past.
E-book FREE for a limited time.

Saturday, November 7, 2015


We never know when a minor change in our daily routine will alter the course of our lives. Thirty-something Liz Bertelli had other things on her mind that fateful day in rural New York State. Her husband had left for a plaything in her twenties, and it had been far too long since the award-winning artist had picked up her paintbrush. Who could she turn to?  God was not an option. "We're not on speaking terms," Liz says.

Mulling over these things, she wanders from her usual path, following one of the many centuries-old stone walls, winding through the woods. She doesn't see the mother bear with cubs until it is too late.

The bear charges and Liz runs in blind panic, falling against the wall, knocking herself unconscious. As the world gradually returns to focus, Liz finds herself face-down in the dirt, with her head throbbing. At first she plays dead, fearing the bear is nearby.  Hearing only the stillness of the forest, she gathers the courage to look around. With no bear in sight, she struggles to her feet. Just then, she catches a glimpse of a shiny object wedged between two stones in the wall. A tarnished silver locket is soon in her hand.

Liz has no idea that the locket and its secrets, will bring her and best friend, Rosa Ramirez (a young widow)  to a castle in the romantic city of St. Augustine, Florida. More clues lead to an abandoned Victorian home and handsome Latino brothers, Carlos and Jack Martín.

Sparks fly between Liz and Carlos, a  presidential aide who has flown aboard Air Force One. Jack, a rugged Army hero, roars into Rosa's life on a gleaming Harley-Davidson motorcycle. But can Liz, embittered by her husband's betrayal, trust another man? And can Rosa, still grieving her husband's untimely passing, climb behind Jack on his motorcycle and hold on tight to love's new adventure? Answers, even glimmers of faith, come on a snowy Christmas day in New York State, when a bone-chilling trek through a narrow forest trail, leads to another surprise hidden in the old stone wall.

Book available on Amazon:
Flora invites you to visit her blog:

Friday, October 9, 2015


Which cover do you prefer for my upcoming romantic suspense book, soon to be published by Helping Hands Press? You're invited to cast your vote at the link below. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015


Imagine someone saying the following to you:
Liz's husband Steve looks at her with disgust as he tells her she's too fat
and her butt is too big.

"I wasted my youth on you! You've let yourself go. Look at you! I don't even want you anymore!"
That's what Steve Cavanaugh said to his wife, Liz, before leaving her for Gloria, a twenty-something plaything.
Seeing the anger in Liz's eyes, he bolts for the door as she hurls a vase at him. Barely missing his head, the vase smashes into the wall.
He mocks her. "You broke it! I was going to give that to Gloria."
This fictional scenario sets the stage for "Love's Sweetest Revenge," Book 1 in my "Castle in the Sun" romance-suspense series.
Although Steve has redeeming qualities, such as being a good father and provider for the twin sons he had with
Liz, he says and does many hurtful things. This continues even after Liz begins a relationship with Carlos Martín, a brilliant, sophisticated and of course, handsome Presidential aide. But Steve just cannot bear to see Liz happy, especially with someone so accomplished.
When I started the series, I didn't expect Steve to play a major role. He was supposed to be a background character, the ex-husband referred to in passing.
As I wrote, however, Steve kept stepping out from the shadows and I realized he has an important role. He is the antagonist or villain essential to every story. He represents the challenges we need to overcome.
Who can better appreciate home's warmth than one who has struggled through cold, wind and rain? Who can better appreciate success, then one who has tasted the bitterness of failure? And who can better appreciate hearing I love you, than one who has been rejected?
Whatever or whoever the "Steves" in our lives may be, they test us, just as the character in my book tests Liz and Carlos' relationship. These people and problems can embitter us or make us flex our mental and spiritual muscles to grow stronger.
A friend who reviewed my book had her own take on Steve. "He's a control freak, wanting to manipulate Liz and Carlos like puppets on a string."
Here is what Steve said to Carlos after learning about the motorcycle accident that nearly killed him. "Too bad about the Harley. Maybe it was just too much bike for you."
So where did I get the dialogue for this character? Much of it came from my mild-mannered husband, Dan. 
Might there be a little bit of Steve inside every one of us?
Meet Steve and other characters in the pages of "Love's Sweetest Revenge," then "Love's Sweetest Obsession, Book 2 in the series.

Book 1, E-book ONLY 99 cents.
Paperback also available

Book 2, E-book FREE for a limited time.
Just as an approaching hurricane, rattling palm trees and pushing ocean waves,
signals danger, Steve's escalating behavior forecasts trouble.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


The word is spreading about "Where Your Heart Meets God's," a devotional book by Flora Reigada.
Patsy just can't stop reading.

Paws for a read.

Furry fans are lapping it up.

It's the cat's meow.

Publisher is Helping Hands Press. Find out more:
Book available in sample kindle edition, just 99 cents.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Carlos took off on his roaring Harley-Davidson, never imagining the fate awaiting him. He stopped at an intersection, when the speeding pickup truck smashed into him, bulldozing Carlos and his motorcycle across the road.
In an instant, he went from bleeding on the asphalt, to a radiant meadow and the joyful welcome of loved ones who had gone before.
This glimpse of heaven is described in "Love's Sweetest Revenge," the first of my "Castle in the Sun" romance series. While based on actual accounts, Carlos' encounter with the beyond, is fictional.
But what happened to me is more real than the stars in the sky. I describe this glimpse of heaven in my devotional, "Where Your Heart Meets God's." I would need the comfort it imparted, because heartbreak and rejection would soon crush me to the core.
The unfolding situation bowed my shoulders as I trudged to bed that night and fell into a troubled sleep.
Suddenly, I found myself prostrate before a king on a throne and in the presence of love infinitely greater than any I had ever known. This love surrounded me like an embrace, yet it was not only external. Like the penetrating warmth from a fireplace, it reached into my every molecule. The love was more than emotion. It was alive and it had its source in the being on the throne.

Even though I could not see him, I never thought to ask why. Whatever happened, I knew this king had my best interests at heart and was committed to my care, like a father for his dear child. Kindness was at His core.
I immediately knew this King of Love was God.
As He spoke, tenderness filled His voice—a voice that in eons past, had thundered the universe into existence.
He issued two promises, one about my children, the other about the writing career of which I had always dreamed.
He issued a third, more personal promise as a wind lifted me into a tunnel that would transport me home. That's when I caught a parting glimpse of my surroundings, which seemed to be carved into a mountain. Massive stone walls illuminated in candlelight, were reminiscent of a grotto, or the holy hush of votive candles at a church altar.

Although my problems were still there when I awoke the next morning, I knew the love that had carried me to heaven and back, would never let go.
See Exodus 33:20
See 1 John 4:8

Read more about encounters with God in their many forms and how we can recognize them in our lives, in "Where Your Heart Meets God's." E-book from MillerWords, only $2.99. Paperback also available:

Friday, July 31, 2015


During the final, critical moments of a football game, I leaped to my feet with the cheering crowd when the quarterback hit a home run.
Not really—but that scenario illustrates something unbelievable about my writing career.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015


  I could see the door-to-door salesman from my window. He was large, his face was red with rage and he kept pounding on my door after I didn't respond. I was ready to . . . 

See more:

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


The day I would look death in the face began like many others.

As a newspaper reporter/photographer team, my husband, Dan and I were on assignment to cover activities at a local horse ranch.

I had an odd sense of uneasiness as we drove there that dry, windy day. 

In retrospect, I wonder if that could have been God's "still small voice" referred to in 1 Kings 19:12. Maybe He was warning me to be careful. I would need to be. But as a reporter, I must forge ahead, so I tucked the uneasiness away.

It again reared its ugly head as we pulled into the driveway and large, barking dogs ran to surround our car. Dan opened his door and extended his hand. The dogs sniffed it and were satisfied, wagging their tails. I let them sniff my hand too and all was well for the time being.

The ranch's owner, Debbie, came to greet us. A children's riding class happened to be there on horseback. Debbie was about to lead the group down a sandy path to a meadow with a pond.

"Want to join us?" she asked Dan and me.

Deciding that would be an attractive setting for pictures, we said we would.

Holding a horse's reins, Debbie walked ahead of the procession, while Dan and I brought up the rear on foot.

However, walking behind the large horses left me feeling small and vulnerable. Uneasiness crept back over me as I stepped carefully among piles of manure.

Along the way, Dan pointed out an electric fence. "I touched one of those by accident some years ago. It gave me quite a jolt."

When I turned to look, the brisk wind kicked up the sand and blew grit into my eyes. As they burned and watered, I considered returning to our car and letting Dan tackle this job alone.

But then, I looked at him and the children. Everyone was having a good time. The children were chatting back and forth and laughing and Dan began taking pictures as we emerged into the meadow. What was there to be afraid of?

While Dan moved closer for better picture angles, I stayed in the background taking notes. I also began to appreciate the beauty of our surroundings. Against a sapphire sky, treetops waved in the wind. The horses circled the pond and to the delight of the children, waded in with their riders astride.

However, uneasiness tapped my shoulder when I spotted loose horses grazing to my right, maybe 50 feet away. But they were content, swishing their tails and grazing peacefully. For a while, I was able to relax and continue taking notes.

All that changed in an instant.

Suddenly, a spotted horse with a girl on its back, galloped toward the pond, kicking up its hind legs. Through my watery eyes, I watched the horror unfold.

The girl and her saddle slid sideways. She fell into the pond, thankfully unhurt. But the horse continued to gallop and buck.

Debbie attempted to grab its reins, but the horse galloped past her, around the circumference of the pond—aimed straight at me!

Although this happened in less than a minute, time seemed to move in slow motion.

Where can I run? How will I get away?

I glanced behind me. The electric fence was right there and all around was open field, with nowhere to hide.

My heart pounded. I could almost feel the horse's hooves kicking me to death right there in the muck and manure.

Help me, God, I prayed.

The next instant, one of the loose horses stopped grazing. Although facing away from the panicked animal, it turned as if on cue. It then galloped into the path of the spotted horse, blocking its way. Calmed, the spotted horse trotted off in another direction. Things returned to normal as the intervening hose went back to grazing.

Debbie later told Dan and me that the horse had "spooked" because it was new to the ranch and something had blown past its face.

As we drove home, Dan and I discussed what had happened. A common-sense guy not given to exaggeration, Dan expressed amazement.

"That horse in the field seemed to know exactly what it was doing."

I thought maybe I should have paid closer attention to my sense of trepidation. But then, I would not have witnessed the immediate answer to my prayer. Nor would have others at the ranch who agreed the rescuing horse's action verged on miraculous.

I learned an important lesson that day. Even though I sometimes ignore God's promptings, He always listens for my cries.

Friday, May 8, 2015


My husband could do amazing things with his smart phone: send and receive e-mail, go on facebook, check the weather, watch TV and so much more. He had the world at his fingertips and it made my little flip phone seem like yesterday's leftovers.

Before long, I was the proud owner of a brand new smart phone—and I learned how to turn it on!

The first place I brought it was to a women's retreat at my church, where I would be helping out. Before the retreat began, our group of about 20 gathered in a room for prayer. I was early and as the others straggled in, a friend said she needed to get her phone from her car to call her son.

I whipped out my prize possession. "You can use my phone."

She thanked me, took it and then stared at the blank screen. I quickly realized my friend knew no more about smart phones than me.

Drawing on my vast technical skills, I turned it on and some apps magically appeared.

Amazingly, there was one with a telephone receiver.

I pressed it. Nothing. I pressed it again. Still nothing. My friend pressed it too, with the same result. We must have pressed that thing a hundred times. Then viola! The screen changed and another phone app appeared. We pressed that one too, again and again. Eventually something clicked and a dial pad showed up.

Between the two of us, we managed to punch in the number and the call went through. But all our efforts were to no avail. My friend's son never answered because he didn't recognize my number on his caller I.D. He only answered when my friend went back to plan "A." She got her old-fashioned flip phone from her car and made the call.

My smart phone gave me more grief at the end of the day when I tried calling my husband to pick me up and take me home. When all attempts to call him failed, I decided to find a wall phone in the church. Yes, we still have a couple of these "dinosaurs."

As I made my way to one in the front office, another complication arose. At night, the halls were dark. Although light switches were on the wall, I didn't want to touch them, because one might set off a blasting alarm. Like most of life's lessons, I learned this one the hard way. Enough said.

At last, I groped my way to the phone, where I could barely make out the numbers. After they more or less came into focus, I couldn't get an outside line. Finally, I heard the welcome sound of a dial tone and was able to call home.

I have since learned how to better use my smart phone and I am taking life one app at a time.

Monday, April 27, 2015


It was "Sarah's" first time at our writers' critique group. Her eyes wide with enthusiasm, the young woman sat on the edge of her seat. She appeared poised to dazzle us by reading from the book she was writing. Certainly, she believed it destined to be a bestseller.

 Our group consisted of journalists, novelists, editors and beginners. We met regularly to evaluate and polish each other's writing. We divided the time, each reading aloud from a work in progress, then the rest of us offering our input. It was our policy to begin each critique with praise, before suggesting ways the story might be improved. This worked until Sarah joined us.

That meeting started out like all the others. Sitting in a circle, we each took our turn. Then Sarah's turn came.

Proudly clutching her manuscript, she cleared her throat and with a big smile, began reading. At first, I thought it was just me that none of it made any sense. There was no story or plot, only disconnected thoughts that went nowhere.

Sarah was still smiling when she finished and looked us over, as if waiting for the accolades. We were supposed to begin with praise, but none of us could think of even one positive thing to say. The room was as quiet as a tomb as Sarah's smile faded.

Kay, an editor known for her diplomacy, began. As gently as possible, she told our "newbie" the truth. Sarah did not take it well. Her eyes filled with tears.

"My husband said the story is wonderful," she blurted, sobbing.

She then ran from the room, slamming the door behind her. Kay followed, trying to smooth things over. But it was too late. The damage was done.

After that fateful day, I would occasionally bump into Sarah. I tried speaking with her and asked about her writing, but she always brushed me off. The contempt in her face revealed dislike for me and others in the critique group. We were not worthy of her time. Nor were our opinions worthy of her consideration.

That is sad because who knows where her writing could have gone, given some attention. What she read, might have been a germ of an idea that needed the guidance of more experienced writers.

Our critique group would have helped Sarah along her journey. And writing is always a journey, often one that is long and hard.

It is likely that Sarah's husband thought he was being kind by telling her what she wanted to hear, rather than what she needed to hear. She believed him and it impeded her development.
However, I know from experience that the soul of any serious writer is battle-scarred from criticism, harsh editors, brutal critiques and rejection of our work. Still, we go on. We keep writing, learning and hopefully, improving. Of necessity, we develop a thick skin like our friend below.

As far as I know, Sarah's work never went anywhere.

John Greenleaf Whittier put it well. "Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been."

Think that dream you had might mean something? Flora's devotional book explores the many expressions of God's voice.
Liz hopes to forget her troubles in the beauty of the forest. She doesn't see the bear until it is too late. How could this dangerous situation possibly lead to a hidden locket, a castle--and romance? It all unfolds in "Love's Sweetest Revenge."
Coming soon: Liz and Carlos plan to marry beneath the boughs of St. Augustine Florida's legendary Love Tree. But as an approaching hurricane rustles palms and pushes waves, Steve's escalating threats forecast trouble.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Stranger On A Train

At first, he was just a stranger on a train, but things soon got creepy.

Traveling from Florida to New York, we were seated together on the crowded train. The long trip was made longer still, by heavy rain pouring down the windows and flooding the tracks.

To pass the time, The Stranger and I began to talk. This was amid the drone of passengers talking and laughing, their chatter occasionally punctuated by the cries of restless children.

Everything seemed normal as The Stranger told me about his job at a large ministry. He also told me about a near-death experience that had changed his life and inspired his conversion to Christianity.

As a newspaper correspondent and freelance writer, I'm always on the alert for an interesting story. Sometimes this has gotten me into trouble. This would be one of those times.

The Stranger was pleased to hear I'm a writer and I took notes as he spoke. When I told him I would write his story and try to get it published in a magazine, he was thrilled. He would have nothing less than one of the most popular—Guideposts.

Mentioning I had a few stories published in Guideposts, I said I would give them a try. That's when things began to get weird.

With no warning, The Stranger began praying at the top of his lungs.

Not knowing what else to do, I bowed my head. But I realized the train, just seconds before filled with chatter, had become deathly silent. I glanced up to see questioning faces staring our way.

After that, the trip dragged on as The Stranger talked non-stop about himself and the story he was certain would be published in Guideposts.

As the train approached New York City, we exchanged business cards and I told him I'd be in touch if I had any questions or news about the story.

I breathed a sigh of relief when we finally parted ways at Pennsylvania Station. But that would not be the last of The Stranger. No sooner had I unpacked my suitcase, than he began emailing me.

"Did you get it written? Did you send it? Do you have a contract?"

It was obvious this guy thought my entire life revolved around writing his story. Forget about my husband, children, cooking, cleaning and newspaper deadlines.

I imagine he pictured editors at Guideposts on the edge of their seats, waiting for his article to arrive. In reality, it would take its place at the end of a long list of stories vying for attention. The process can drag on for months, even years and ultimately, most are rejected.

Such is the world of publishing.

I was relieved to finally send the story on its way and get it out of my hair—but not the Stranger. His endless messages took on an increasingly creepy tone.

I thought you were going to get my story published. What happened? Did you lie?

When Guideposts rejected it, the messages got creepier still. He began addressing me as "sweetheart, dear" and "darling."

I kept my responses business-like, telling him I would submit the story elsewhere.

During this time, my husband Dan and I attended services at our church. We had a guest speaker that day, a well-known Christian musician and artist, touring churches around the country, mentioning them throughout his talk.

 Hearing the name of the ministry where The Stranger worked, Dan and I looked at each other in surprise. I didn't know, but Dan had hatched a plan.

Following the message, we went up to greet Mr. Famous Guy.

We told him we enjoyed his message, then Dan asked if he knew "so-and-so" (The Stranger) who worked at such-and-such ministry.

A big smile spread over Famous Guy's face. "Oh yes, I often speak at that ministry and I know him very well."

"My wife's a writer," Dan explained. "She's writing about the near-death experience that changed his life."

Famous Guy was familiar with the story. "That's great. It needs to be told.

At home, Dan composed an email to The Stranger. He told him we'd met Mr. Famous Guy and discussed the story I had written.

"And by the way," Dan added. "From now on, I'll be handling my wife's correspondence, so send all your questions and comments to me."

When the message was sent, Dan explained that he was making The Stranger accountable to someone influential, who could make or break his career.

"He probably never expected the connection between his personal life and his work," Dan said.

After that, I never heard from The Stranger, although Dan contacted him when his story was published in a Christian newspaper distributed throughout the nation.

I was glad for that, but the incident left me more wary of strangers. Maybe that's not such a bad thing.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

More Than A Kid

As a shy, overweight child growing up in a working class neighborhood on Staten Island, New York, I always felt like an outsider.  Even in my first-grade class, other children had friends, cliques and little "romances."  Few befriended the unpopular girl they called "fatso."
I remember wishing I could become invisible.  That way the teacher wouldn’t call on me and ask math questions I couldn’t answer.  Classmates would snicker as I struggled and stammered.
After I entered second grade, a new student joined the class.  Our teacher introduced the blond boy with a cherubic face and eyes mature beyond his years.

"This is Michael.  He moved here from California, near Disneyland."

 My classmates and I looked approvingly at each other. Michael seemed to come from some magical, faraway land and we all wanted to be his friend. But he would seek me out, whether in the lunchroom, the schoolyard, or walking me to and from school. 

Michael would also step between taunting classmates and me.  Although gentle, he spoke with authority.  

"Leave her alone!  She’s my girlfriend and she’s pretty and smart."

Pretty and smart—me?

My mother had said those words, but that's what moms are supposed to say.  Michael made me wonder if they might be true.
I began inviting Michael to play at my apartment after school.  Each day, Mom greeted us with milk and cookies.  Despite the treats and good times, Michael would keep glancing at the clock, then suddenly run home. When I asked him why he did this, panic rushed into his voice.
"My daddy wants me home on time! If I'm not there, he'll spank me hard."
One wintry day as Michael and I played outside, my mother made some shocking observations.  Michael wasn’t wearing a coat.  His shoes had holes. Rummaging through our closets, my mother pulled out an old jacket of mine and gave it to Michael.  She also gave him an old, but intact pair of my shoes that didn't look girlish.  I was glad to share what I had. 

The rest of that school year, Michael and I enjoyed each other's company.  And when he visited, my mother watched the time for him.  But when school closed for summer vacation, I lost track of Michael.  When classes resumed in autumn, he wasn't there.

"Where is he?"  I asked several classmates.
"I think he moved back to California to be with his mom," one answered, treating me with new respect.  

This attitude extended to other classmates.  But I started treating myself with respect, too—talking with and befriending other children.  After school, we’d ride bikes, play stick ball and visit each other in our homes.  That year, lasting friendships were made.  No longer did I feel like an outsider.
Even though I continued to struggle with math, I discovered I had other skills, such as reading and writing.  I wished Michael could have shared my joy, especially after I began losing weight.  Although I never saw him again, I knew that even if I remained forever awkward and overweight, Michael would still have been my friend.  He understood my pain, because he knew it so well.  I hoped he was finding a better life and being rewarded for his kindness.

"He was like a little angel," my mother said after he left.
Maybe she was right. Michael came to me just when I needed him and left when his job was done.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

So, you wanna be a writer?

"I've been thinking of you," a woman I barely knew said when we crossed paths at the supermarket.
Her radiant smile told me she had wonderful news.
"I've decided that you can help me write my book!" she exclaimed.
As a newspaper correspondent, I should have known. This has happened before.
My response was probably too abrupt, but it was truthful.
"I'm sorry. I don't have the time."I neglected to say that my fourteen-hour workdays are crammed with rushing to meet writing deadlines, as well as cooking and cleaning for my family.
Her smile now faded, my acquaintance reeled backwards as if she'd been struck. I tried to offer a few pointers, but all she heard was that I could not help her.
It was clear she had no idea about the time-consuming work involved in writing a book, even a short story or a newspaper article.
Ecclesiastes 12:12 says it well. "Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body" (NIV).
Writing a book requires first drafts, second drafts, third drafts and more until we get it right. There is also research, re-writing and editing. The process can take years. Then, once the book is finished, there is no guarantee a publisher will pick it up.
But I can understand my acquaintance's dilemma because I was there myself.
When I asked an English professor to write my book, she offered sage advice.
"No one can put their passion and heart into your book like you can. Maybe it's your life's calling. Just take that first step; write that first word, then keep going, no matter how long it takes, or how many revisions it takes."
I took the good professor's advice, even though my journey to publication would take a dozenyears.
Here are some steps I took along that journey.

  • I attended writers' conferences. Yes, these can be expensive, but they are an investment. Knowledge is gained and valuable connections made.
  • I joined critique groups in which we evaluated each other's work. These are valuable because it is important to get input from those who will tell us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear. Our spouses and mothers can do that. Information about local critique groups and writers groups can be found at most public libraries, or online. Naturally, there are also online groups. Each has its own flavor and if one does not fit, keep trying.
  • You might want to enroll in a writing class. These are offered at many community colleges and online.                                                

And no matter what, never give up.
As we read in the "Come Away My Beloved" perpetual calendar by Frances J. Roberts.[1]
"Perseverance is to the human spirit what the rudder is to a ship. It will steer the ship dead ahead in spite of the contrary wind. You must have holy determination, pressing on in defiance of all odds."

My ship came into port and yours can too.
Meanwhile, please enjoy a scene from my favorite writing class as seen in "Throw Mama From the Train," with Billy Crystal and Danny Devito.

[1] See February 27 entry.                                         

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Grammatical Crimes I Have Committed

That one click of my computer’s mouse almost spelled disaster.  I was putting the final touches on my inspirational thriller, The Face Behind the Veil, and about to e-mail it to my publisher, when I decided to change a character’s name from Joseph to Stanley. 
 It only took an instant to do this "globally"  throughout the 600 page, three-part document, which traces the legend of the birth veil through three generations.
 That was the only alteration I made after the book was edited.  Confident it was error-free, I clicked "send" and off it went.   It wasn’t long before I received the galley proof for me to approve, so the printing process could begin.
Weary of the seven-year project, I almost didn’t review the galley.  But something in me couldn’t let it go until I did.  That must have been Providential.  Imagine my shock when I discovered how the name change I made affected a scene where the Christmas story is told.  In horror, I read the following.
 "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Stanley, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Stanley her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Stanley, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost . . .. Then Stanley being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife."
(Matthew 1:18-20, 24)
After getting over my initial shock, I made the necessary changes.  However, rather than globally, I did this the old fashioned way, one at a time.
Some of Flora's Books
Might that dream  you had might mean something? What about that stranger who came to help at the right moment? Flora's devotional explores the many expressions of God's voice and loving care. Ebook ONLY $1.99. Paperback also available.
As if things couldn't get any worse, Liz's husband had left and she was about to be supper for a hungry bear. How could this possibly lead to a hidden locket filled with secrets, a mysterious love letter--and romance? It all  unfolds in "Love's Sweetest Revenge."



 In a car with no heater, I shivered all the way to the hospital that cold January day.  But I was also trembling with fear.  Suspicious lumps had been discovered and I was scheduled for tests that would determine if they were malignant.

If you let me have my life, God . . . I bargained

God did let me have my life, as the lumps were benign.  However, being confronted with my own mortality made me yearn to know more about immortality—and heaven.  Does the Bible paint a picture of heaven that I can understand?  I believe it does.  For me, it paints a picture of home.

"A happy family is but an earlier heaven," said the late Sir John Bowring.

Warm memories of growing up in a secure Victorian home with my mother, grandparents and aunt, help me to appreciate Sir Bowring's words.  Even though my family members were not believers, they treated me with great kindness.

Recently, my eighty-year-old mother and I cracked open an old family photo album, to recall those bygone days.  Most of the black and white photos were taken in that elegant home, which my grandfather had restored from ruin. 

In rural Staten Island, New York, it was sheltered by trees and across the street from peaceful woods.  With a grand stairway, polished hardwood floors, spacious rooms with beamed ceilings and crackling fireplaces, the house was like a mansion to me.

But when my grandparents died and the house was sold, the door to that "mansion" forever closed. The sorrow these losses etched into my heart makes me grateful for the promise of a heavenly home—beyond the reach of death or time.

"In my Father's house are many mansions" Jesus assures his disciples and all who believe (John 14:2, KJV).  "I go to prepare a place for you."

Although my finite mind could never capture the wonders of such a place, my family photo album offers hints. My mother pointed out an old snapshot.  It showed me at two years of age, beneath the boughs of our family's majestic Christmas tree.  Just as he did every year, my grandfather had purchased the large spruce, then set it up beside our grand stairway.  Antique ornaments would shimmer while the fragrance of evergreen mingled with home-cooked food wafted through our home.  I looked overjoyed among toys that my folks had lovingly chosen. 

Only after my grandparents were departed, did I realize how blessed I was to have experienced such personalized attention.  But God lavishes His personal love on each Christian--as if there were no other.  Every one is "the apple of his eye" (Deuteronomy 32:10, NIV).  That is but one reason why I believe our mansions will be tailor made. 

"I go to prepare a place for you" (emphasis mine) Jesus reassures His own in John 14:2. Those words tell us that heaven's mansions aren't cookie-cutter sprawl.  He, who created humanity in such a beautiful tapestry of sizes, shapes and colors, has to enjoy variety.  Our Creator, who worked as a carpenter, must be preparing mansions as unique as our DNA—each according to a personalized blueprint.  Because Jesus cares about our every heartache, individual touches might involve situations and desires that earth left unfulfilled. 

What disappointments have we suffered?  What prayers have gone unanswered?  In heaven's glittering mansions, I believe we will find the fulfillment of lost dreams and desires.  We will also find earth's heartaches understood in heaven's light.

My grandparents might have spent a month preparing the Christmas gifts.  Compare this to the 2000 years Jesus has so far spent preparing our heavenly homes.  Imagine the wonderful surprises He is tenderly tucking away in heaven's mansions.  "More than all we ask or imagine" (Ephesians 3:20, NIV) awaits God's dear children.

Another picture my mother pointed out was taken in my grandparents’ dining room, during the 1940's.  Beneath the beamed ceiling and crystal chandelier, the Chippendale, "claw foot" table was spread with silver platters of sumptuous food.  The juicy roast beef, buttery vegetables and fresh bread were for a wedding reception, held in the home.  Surrounding the table, were the happy bride and groom, along with other family members.  All wore the glamorous styles of the day—women in dresses of silk, satin and velvet, men in military uniforms or tweed suits.

Looking at that picture, I could almost smell the food.  The laughter of my loved ones seemed to echo down the corridors of time.  And God will not let that laughter forever fade away.  I look forward to joining my heavenly family of believers, at the "wedding supper" of heaven's King (see Revelation 19:9).  Even now, I get a preview of this great day by gathering with fellow Christians for communion.

I was reminded of this by yet another picture in the old album.  Also at the wedding reception, my entire family had assembled in the massive entrance hall.  Almost everyone I knew and loved still smiles at me from that photo.  Without any of those dear ones, the picture would have been incomplete.

 I'm amazed to think Jesus feels the same about each of us.  Our individual faces make up His portrait of family and home.  From time immemorial, He has carried us in the locket of His heart.  I don't doubt He "opened" that locket while He purchased our salvation on Calvary.  For just one of us He would have left heaven's mansions for a manger and a cross.

And there is always room in God's family picture (and in His heart) for one more.  Empty seats remain at His banquet table.  The good news is that reservations can still be made.  Christ asks those who believe, to carry this invitation to others through the presentation of the gospel.  In Luke 14:23 we are instructed to, "Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full" (NIV).

However, as my mother looked up from our family album I saw tears in her eyes. "They're all gone," she wept of the loved ones to whom we had bid sad farewells, "all gone."

A trip my mother and I took to our old neighborhood was likewise disheartening.  Abandoned and deteriorating, the house had again fallen into ruin.  Gone were the peaceful woods across the street.  In their place were tall buildings that overshadowed my former home.  My mother and I walked into the yard, now overgrown and strewn with trash.  Peeking through the faded windows, we saw only decaying clutter. 

The old house was just a shell without my family members.  I regret that most of them were gone before I knew Christ, and I had nothing eternal to offer them.  However, a solitary, purple iris poking out from the weeds in the yard, rekindled my hope. Like that flower, my maiden aunt remained after the others had passed away.  I told her of my new found faith, which she accepted as her own. "I'll see you in heaven!" I exclaimed, overjoyed with her decision.

Not long after, a shocking phone call came.  My beloved aunt had suffered a heart attack and died.  Today, I still see her in those old pictures.  And I know we will meet again.  She waits with our heavenly family of believers, who will die no more.  Because Christ conquered death and the grave (see 1 Corinthians 15: 54-57) death casts no pall in heaven's light.  Therefore, sad farewells have no place in a picture of heaven.  Nor do aging bodies, decaying buildings or altered landscapes.

But, what does belong in a picture of heaven?  One more photo in my family album helps bring this into focus.  The picture is of my maiden aunt, smiling from the front steps of our home.  Her hand is on the knob, as if she is about to open the door and bid me welcome. 

If  I could re-enter those secure, old doors I would be greeted by the waiting embraces of loved ones.  I would be enveloped by the beauty of elegant rooms, warm with firelight and the glow of love.  I would also find a place at the dining room table, prepared just for me.

So much more awaits the Christian, when Heaven's gates of pearl (see Revelation 21:21) open to welcome us home.  Earth's dearest delights are but fleeting shadows compared to the wonders God is preparing for those who love Him.
As Robert Browning wrote in his poem, Rabbi Ben Ezra; "The best is yet to be."

Flora is a novelist and journalist. She invites you to check out her devotional book, that explores the many ways God whispers our name.
Devotional also available in "sample" kindle edition, just 99 cents.
Flora also invites you to fly away on a dream Florida vacation in her "Castle in the Sun" romance/suspense series. Book I is "Love's Sweetest Revenge."
The saga continues in Book II, "Love and Obsession."
Meet WWII's "Greatest Generation" and explore the secrets of the mysterious birth veil in Flora's historical novel, "The Face Behind the Veil."