Salve for Souls

Saturday, March 19, 2016


Ma'am, you have an ugly baby.

That's what a young editor at a writers' conference years ago, seemed to say after she gave my manuscript the harshest critique I had ever received.

None of my experiences with editors before or since can compare.

Fresh from college, she had landed a prestigious position as acquisitions editor at a major magazine. Now she was considering articles for publication—mine among them. Not only was it rejected, it bled red ink from criticisms and corrections.

As I watched her talking and laughing with her little circle of cronies, I could have smacked her smug face.

Unfortunate as this encounter was, it was not a total loss. It taught me the value of ground rules at the writers' critique group to which I belonged. Our members included an acquisitions editor, a line editor and several professional writers. But there were also beginners and we believed it our duty to build people up, not tear them down.

This involved:

  1. Asking the writer what he or she expected from the meeting. Was it an edit, a listening ear for flow, help with a troublesome transition, maybe a scene or character development? It could be guidance as to what publishers might be interested.
  2. Find positive things to say about the writer's work. Respect the time and effort that went into it.
  3. Offer suggestions as to how a work might be improved. Remember we are just giving an opinion. Our words are not etched in stone and the ultimate decision remains with the author.
  4. Encourage the writer to persist. Most books and articles are not finished in their first draft. They undergo several re-writes and edits.
  5. If a work is rejected, encourage the writer to keep submitting. My devotional, "Where Your Heart Meets God's" and "Castle in the Sun" romance series were rejected ten times before being picked up by Helping Hands Press.

Those are just a few of our guidelines. Naturally, we encountered problems and challenges. But considering that our writers signed contracts with major publishing houses, I would say our guidelines worked well.

My current writers' group: Pen & Prayer Writing Ministry

Things also worked out for my article rejected by the editor from hell. My experience with her could simply have been a matter of preference and personality The next publisher who reviewed my work, gave a glowing report and the article was published in a magazine.
Maybe my baby wasn't so ugly, after all.

Flora's devotional, "Where Your Heart Meets God's," published by Helping Hands Press, explores the many expressions of God's voice. These can be as close as a Bible, nature's beauty, music, the words of a friend, even our dreams.
Find out more:
Also available in "sample" 99-cent Kindle edition.
In "Love's Sweetest Revenge," the first book in Flora's "Castle in the Sun" romance/mystery series, Liz encounters a mother bear with cubs. How could this dangerous situation possibly lead to a mysterious locket, a dream Florida vacation--and romance? Series also published by Helping Hands Press.
Find out more:
In "Love and Obsession" second in the "Castle in the Sun series," Liz and Carlos are planning a romantic wedding at St. Augustine Florida's legendary Love Tree. But Liz's ex-husband, Steve is hell-bent on stopping them and he's ready to duke it out with Carlos. Can he get past Jack and his motorcycle buddies to accomplish his evil?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


The Jewel of God's Power
(Sample devotion from "Where Your Heart Meets God's," available from Helping Hands Press.)

" God has rolled up his sleeves. All the nations can see his holy, muscled arm. Everyone, from one end of the earth to the other, sees him at work, doing his salvation work" (Isaiah 52:10, The Message).

I wasn't expecting a fight the morning I set out to visit my mother at her home in Queens, New York. I was busy pushing my daughter in a stroller, plus holding my sleeping infant son and an over-stuffed diaper bag.

Photo by David Reigada
Our trip involved riding the New York City subway and I was already exhausted as we stood on the platform, crowded with commuters on their way to work. At last, I heard the train thundering through the tunnel. When it screeched to a stop, the crowd pushed toward the door. Hemmed-in by towering adults, my daughter cried in fear and I found myself struggling.

A smartly dressed couple among the commuters was soon beside me.

"May I help you?" the man in a business suit asked.

"That would be great" I replied, moving the diaper bag his way.

"No!" he growled, shoving it away. "I'll take that little boy."

I felt large hands wrapping around my son and pulling. My arms tightened like a vise.

This all happened in a matter of seconds while the crowd was disappearing into the subway car. I knew its doors would soon close, leaving my children and me at the mercy of this couple who I knew would stop at nothing to accomplish their evil.

As the last few people filtered away, great strength came from somewhere outside myself and I yanked my son free. I dashed into the train with my children. We barely squeezed through the closing doors.

My heart pounding, I dropped onto the one empty seat, my daughter still wailing and my son still blissfully asleep—his face peaceful as a cherub. But the incident woke me up to the evil around us. Though not yet a Christian, I realized I must have had angelic assistance wrestling my baby from this larger, stronger man, likely stalking the city for babies to sell, or worse. Until that point, I had felt immune from such dangers.

Photo by David Reigada
Years later, I realize how much we are all subject to danger, but also to attack from demonic forces, which prowl the earth, ravenous for prey. In John 10:10, Satan is called a murder and a thief. If we are not prepared, he will steal what he can, even our treasure of communion with God through impressions, visions and dreams.

And this enemy doesn't come with horns and a pitchfork. Like the couple who tried to kidnap my son, the thief can come in a suit, with a smile and smooth words. He will try to instill doubt, as he did Eve, in the Garden of Eden. "Did God really say …?"[i]

I remember a pastor saying, "Don't let the devil steal your lunch." I would add, don't let him steal your dreams.

Pearl to Ponder: How do you interpret these words of Jesus? "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10, NIV).

Love Nugget: Hold on tight to your dreams, just as God is holding onto you.

[i] Genesis 3:1 (NIV)
Where Your Heart Meets God's devotional is available from Helping Hands Press: 
 How could a dangerous encounter with a bear possibly lead to a castle and romance? Find out in Flora's romance novel, "Love's Sweetest Revenge,"also available from Helping Hands Press.

Saturday, March 5, 2016


In St. Augustine Florida's Castillo de San Marcos, mysterious words are engraved on ancient castle walls. No one has been able to decipher their meaning. For hundreds of years they have been a story waiting to be told. There are many such stories in St. Augustine. They echo in her regal buildings, grand Victorian homes and the clip-clop of romantic horse-drawn carriages. This mystique inspired me to write "Love's Sweetest Revenge,"(Book I in the Castle in the Sun series)  published by Helping Hands Press.
How could a dangerous encounter with a bear possibly bring Liz to the castle, the mysterious words (seen at end of blog) and romance?

The saga continues Book 2, in Love and Obsession:
Liz and Carlos are planning a romantic wedding at St. Augustine's legendary Love Tree, but Steve is hell-bent on stopping them. Can he sneak past Jack and his motorcycle buddies to accomplish his evil? Kindle edition just $2.99.
Liz and Carlos enjoying each other
and a visit to the Castillo de San Marcos
If you look close, you can see words engraved into the wall of the Castillo de San Marcos, near centuries-old quarters for Spanish soldiers. The meaning of the words remains an unsolved mystery.