Twisted

Perhaps because it was an unusually difficult day – even, twisted perhaps? A serpentine limb along the beach captured my attention. I stopped to look at it, marveling that one limb could have suffered enough injuries to cause it to fold and unfold through the vegetation around it without breaking into pieces. And, yet, this twisted and re-twisted limb was alive, thick and solid, with vibrant green leaves dressing it in showy splendor.

 

Are we not like twisted limbs? Most of us can empathize with this storm-lashed tree that has healed after each North Sea onslaught that left it broken and frayed. Just as punishing winds and water-flung fury strengthened the limb, transforming it into a unique, interesting mini-portrait of Jesus’ creative wonder, we illustrate the same elements in the character growth of our lives.

 

Had we never been injured, how could we find compassion to help something else that had been injured? Had we never known pain, how could we understand another’s pain? Had we not been grieved, how could we comfort? God is too good to be cruel, too wise to make mistakes. Every bashing, thrashing storm that God has allowed to blow into our lives has brought something new and miraculous with it. Every turbulent wind has whisked away something old, unlovely and unprofitable.

 

Because I once lived under a bridge, painting signs in exchange for meals and washing in frigid river water in winter, I understand struggle and hardship. God allowed the storms in my life to blow away self-centeredness and blow in ideas for my Christian mystery-romance-suspense “Bridge to Nowhere.”

 

Because I was sexually abused as a child and forced into two abortions as a teen to hide the abuse, God used that storm in my life to blow away my atheistic vision and bring in new vision that enabled me to write the pro-life adventure-romance “Love’s Beating Heart.”

 

What gift is God attempting to send you through whatever storm blows through your life today? Don’t be afraid to be twisted. You could be one of the best portraits God ever painted.

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Real Men Wear Skirts

Here in Scotland, real men wear skirts for special occasions, only they’re not called skirts, they’re called kilts. It takes a real man to wear a kilt for several reasons.

Reason number one that it takes a real man to wear a kilt is that in some parts of the world, clueless individuals mock and call the kilt “a skirt.” Kilts have been traditional wear here for hundreds of years. Scots people are proud of their historic clans and the colors in the tartans denote individual clans, just like the 1950s movie Brigadoon, which I hasten to add is not popular over here.

The second reason it takes a real man to wear a kilt is that kilts are worn with nothing under them. Besides the obvious danger of strong gusts of wind or leaping about with joy, it is cold here. I think it’s very brave to expose that part of the anatomy to cold with limited protection.

The third reason real men wear kilts – refer back to reasons one and two. Suffice it to say that kilts matter here because they are a badge of honor, identification and national pride.

God doesn’t demand that Christians wear kilts. But He does demand that we put a difference between ourselves and the world. We should be so like Jesus that we become walking Bibles that can be read by our words and actions. James 1:27 says, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

Christians are warned not to follow a multitude to do evil and not to envy evil people no matter how wealthy or socially respected. Christians are ordered to be salt and light, the salt for cleansing and light to lead others to Jesus, the Savior of the world. Jesus said “I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” Like real men who wear kilts, real Christians who wear the breath of Jesus are frequently mocked.

I’ve had a lot of people write to me, email me and call me to tell me that they loved my mystery-romance-suspense Bridge to Nowhere. But I’ve had people yell at me for having written my pro-life teen & up adventure-romance Love’s Beating Heart. I’ve been accused of stirring up the abortion issue to sell books, even though I wrote Love’s Beating Heart with a prayer that it will save the lives of unborn children.

Ultimately, it is not either the people who have praised me for Bridge to Nowhere, or the people who have criticized me for Love’s Beating Heart who matter. The only opinion that matters is God’s. His approval is eternal.

Real Christians wear spiritual skirts. They willingly wear the heart of God and accept mocking and derision. Then, following Jesus’ command, they step it up a notch. They forgive those who have criticized and condemned them just as Jesus did. They realize that non-Christians are clueless and need love, prayer and forgiveness.

So…kilts, skirts, or just a smile…wear whatever spiritual dress God sends to you, and wear it proudly. You don’t have to be from Scotland to wear a kilt.

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Taking the Bridge to Nowhere to the Loch Ness Monster

When I was in the fifth grade, I read about the Loch Ness Monster in our SRA Reading Program. I informed all my friends that when I grew up I was going to Scotland to search for the Loch Ness Monster.

Prophetic boast? Because here I was some fifty years later taking a tour of Loch Ness and waiting for Nessie to appear. I had a present for her. Such a mysterious creature, I felt, would love reading my mystery-romance-suspense Bridge to Nowhere, published by Sunpenny.  Just in case her reading tastes were not what I expected, I took along a typed copy of my pro-life, adventure-romance Love’s Beating Heart (electronically published) and my husband’s two time travel-adventure books The Scent of Time and The Scent of Home.

Yes, I understand that Nessie lives in a 755-foot deep lake which contains more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined. But she’s been in there a long time. Surely she needs some place to get out of that cold water and I’m envisioning a cozy little cave carved into the rock sides of the lake where she can rest, read, relax – and enjoy all the non-monster pursuits that her heart desires. She has often been spotted around Urquhart Castle, which reportedly sits on a rock shelf with deep water underneath. Strange claims have been made of 30-foot eels frightening divers away when they searched around the castle.

Not everyone believes in Nessie. She was mentioned back in the 7th Century. Legend states that Saint Columba rescued a swimmer under attack by ordering the monster away in the name of Jesus. Since then, there have been more than 1,000 sightings, the most recent of which began in 1933. The evidence for Nessie’s existence is anecdotal with disputed photos and sonar readings.  Many of the sonar studies have recorded creatures of up to 30-feet long and more than five-feet wide following boats at great speed and depth. Sound recordings have monitored strange clicks, knocks and swishing noises.

Famed monster hunter Jeremy Wade looked for Nessie without success, but noted that with so much evidence having been accumulated over so many years – something strange lived in Loch Ness. His best surmise was that a rare Greenland shark chased salmon into the loch from the North Sea.

Back to my own personal search for the Loch Ness Monster. I can’t claim to have seen Nessie. So I didn’t get to give her a copy of Bridge to Nowhere or any of the other books. However, I did discover something that gives me hope for future searches. Loch Ness is so huge and deep with so much water – that she could easily be real. There is simply no reason to assume that Nessie is a hoax. So you are welcome to go online and buy my books or even private message me for a signed copy – but I’m keeping Nessie’s copy for next time I get to search for her. She doesn’t know me yet, but I feel we share a special connection. She’ll want to meet me.

Some people search for God with all the inconclusive results that professional Nessie hunters have accumulated. Not only do they mock and scorn Christians, they attempt to push an atheist agenda hard enough that Christians and their faith in God will decline like the Nessie sightings of recent years. How sad. The evidence for God’s existence is all around these non-believers, pulsing with every beat of their heart and borne on the wings of the wind. Nessie might not have popped up on my monster-hunting expedition, but God’s awesome majesty reflected from sky to waves and bounced off the mountains, trees, flowers and wildlife along the shore. God made it all. It’s His perfect creation. And Nessie, if she does exist, is a mysterious creation of God. Mysteries belong to God. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy writing them so much!

See you soon, Nessie! I’m keeping your books for you!

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Seagull parents & baby battery

Unlike the U.S. where most schools have running tracks, the sports field here in Fortrose, Scotland, is a grassy field. When I went running today, I got dive bombed by two seagulls. The birds repeatedly swooped down at head level and split the air with high-pitched shrieks and constant chortles, clearly angry. About halfway around the field, I discovered the source of their anger. Three babies were sunbathing in the grass and attempting short, floppy bursts of flight. The parents were defending their babies.

Oh, for human parents with the love, compassion and action to defend their children with the courage of those gulls. I must have outsized and outweighed those parents 50 to one, yet they were fearless when confronted by what they perceived as a threat to their young. Every human parent should follow the example of those gulls.

Miz Mike, in my Sunpenny-published Christian mystery-romance-suspense Bridge to Nowhere, is Texan to the core – and kind. Her kindness evaporates when a kidnapper snatches her youngest grandson. When the kidnapper is finally captured, Miz Mike is on the culprit like ticks on a wild deer. A human version of protective seagulls.

If seagulls, deemed “nuisance birds” by some, can be such loyal parents, why can’t humans? The label of “child abuse” shouldn’t exist because there should be no child abuse.

Abortion is the ultimate form of child abuse. Action-centered, caring individuals flock to good causes: saving marine life; supporting no-kill shelters for dogs and cats; running retirement centers for horses; protesting the slaughter of wild animals to feed the fur industry; saving whales, trees and spotted owls. But where are those same compassionate activists when unborn children with beating hearts are impaled, sliced and diced and tossed into garbage cans like debris? Why aren’t some of these animal-loving humans speaking for unborn children who can’t speak for themselves? Why aren’t they demanding that unborn children be given the choice of life?

Love’s Beating Heart, a parallel adventure, paints a pro-life choice that allows readers to decide the abortion VS pro-life issue. Teen Natasha North is pregnant. Her stepfather threatens to kill her if she doesn’t get an abortion. Not sure that abortion is right, Tash and her best friend Dena run away. Hiding sends the teens on a wild river ride on a flooded Texas Hill Country river. Meanwhile, Dena’s older sister Cat escapes from an abusive boyfriend and is rescued by a Christian family. The more Cat helps Dallas homeschool the children, the more Cat decides the Creekmore family suffers from religious insanity…and yet…she would like to replace Dallas as Sky Creekmore’s wife. Love’s Beating Heart is non-stop action, adventure and suspense, with the sweet spice of romance tossed into the redolent mix. Called “inspirational” and “life-changing” by readers, Love’s Beating Heart was written to paint the possibility of adoption as a loving option. The regret and guilt that frequently stalks women who have had abortions are twin giant joy killers. The inspiration for Love’s Beating Heart? As the Bible says, “ask the birds of the air, they will tell you.”

As human parents, the choice is ours. Are we seagulls or baby batterers?

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Fire the Rocks with Beauty

Bloom where you are planted. Light up the rocky ground with the fire of the gifts and enthusiasm that God has given you. If lovely flowers can bloom vividly on the slate roof of a building, we can light up the rocks where we’re planted with God’s glory.Image

I’m a Texan. I love Bandera, Texas, “Cowboy Capital of the World.” It’s my home and the setting for most of the Christian mystery-romance-suspense books that I’ve written: Bridge to Nowhere, Love’s Beating Heart, Shadow Chase and Until the Shadows Flee. Heart Shadows is set in the Nevada desert.

When my job ended in Bandera, I left. I’ve left Bandera before, but I’ve always gone back. I call it the boomerang effect. The LORD told me to leave, but I fought against going. I prayed and begged God to change His mind all the way to Alabama. Alabama had an even higher unemployment rate than Texas – which made me wonder why I was there. It took me a couple of months to find a job. I had never been out of work before in my life. But it gave me time to write my next Sunpenny Publishing release, Bridge Beyond Betrayal, and when I did find a job, it was a great job with a great boss. God blessed me for blooming where I was planted – even though it wasn’t Texas.

Now that I’m in Scotland, I realize why I was in Alabama. The LORD moved me there to shake the soil out of my roots and free me to marry my wonderful husband, author Alan T McKean (The Scent of Time & The Scent of Home). Surviving in a colder, wetter climate and adjusting to culture changes sometimes made me feel like a weed clinging to a rock, more likely to fall off than bloom. But with God’s grace, my life has blossomed around me in spite of all my human errors and weakness. Besides having a great husband, a lovely rough collie dog named Angel Joy, and living by the sea in a place that simply has no ugly views in any direction, the LORD has given me time to write. That resulted in the pro-life adventure-romance, Love’s Beating Heart, which has been acclaimed by critics as “inspirational” and “life-changing.” God blesses us when we bloom where we’re planted.

So if you find yourself planted in rocky ground, decide to fire the rocks with your beauty. You are beautiful because God created you and He doesn’t make junk! God gives all of us gifts. You may not be a writer, but God has a plan and a purpose for your life. He has a reason for sticking you in the rocks. Think of the lovely roof flowers waving cheerfully from their lofty heights on slate and be encouraged. All things really do work together for good to them that love the LORD, just like the Bible promises. If God sticks you in the rocks, He will water you with a special blessing that you wouldn’t get anywhere else.

Fire the rocks with beauty!

 

 

Missing the Click

Photographers know the feeling well. They miss the picture of a lifetime because they miss the click. One second sooner, one second later…Missing the click transforms what could have been an incredible capture into an average, okay picture.

Writing is the same. You can have written one of the greatest books of all times, yet if no one reads it…it sits in limbo with all the other millions of unread books. Promotion for the book can be off by a mere click in time. Promotion for my pro-life adventure Love’s Beating Heart hit one week too late to ride the tidal wave of public outrage when it was revealed that babies born alive at an abortion clinic had their spinal cords clipped with scissors to kill them.

Christian mystery-romance-suspense Bridge to Nowhere, published by Sunpenny Publishing, just missed the tidal wave of publicity that was generated when my husband Alan McKean – a Scottish minister – released his first book The Scent of Time, which was deemed by some as “too sexy to have been written by a pastor.” When press releases went out for Bridge to Nowhere, sales increased only slightly. I had missed the click. The fact that I had gone from living under a bridge to writing a book with bridge in the title; the fact that I was living under the bridge after fleeing childhood sex abuse; the fact that the abuse had produced two pregnancies when I was a teen – followed by two forced non-medical abortions that nearly killed me – none of those facts increased sales. It was almost as if no one cared about about what I had suffered or wanted to know how I had overcome and recovered so other victims could be encouraged. Really, it wasn’t that no one cared – it was that I missed the click.

Our Christian lives are like that. Sometimes we miss the click. Being a Christian does not prevent us from having problems. Living for Christ is hard. Even if there were no other trials, atheists can be rabid. Why they attack Christians and their beliefs and spend so much time and money fighting a God Whom they don’t believe exists, I cannot imagine. But because they do, they can cause problems, especially in the workplace. Remember, what doesn’t make you bitter, makes you better. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. All things work together for good to them that love the LORD. Pressure and criticism sometimes make us silent when we should speak. Constant attack on our beliefs can keep us from taking needed action. We miss the click.

Jesus forgives us for missing the clicks. Yet when we get it right, our life becomes the perfect symphony God orchestrated for us. So don’t miss the click!

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Twisted Perfection

Bandera, Texas, “Cowboy Capital of the World,” used to be called the place where misfits fit. It still is (as Three Prongs) in the Christian mystery-romance-suspense book Bridge to Nowhere, published by Sunpenny.

Ross was a deaf mute. He rode his tractor up to the main road and caught a ride into town, visiting with friends at the coffee shop. He talked with his hands and everyone understood him.

Harold Jenkins was so twisted and gnarled from birth that he frightened children. His hands were like claws and his arms were bent and deformed. His face looked like it had been trampled on and then half-eaten by a wild hog. He had a heart of love that made him beautiful. He loved Jesus and told everyone. He was a volunteer ambulance driver and firefighter.

Occasional unkind remarks claimed that Gerald wasn’t much smarter than a mop. But even those who questioned his mental capacity lauded him as honest and hardworking. He rode his bicycle into town each day and waited until someone hired him for the day. He was always positive and never complained, even when he was dying of cancer.

Lou Colburn was long labeled a “hopeless alcoholic.” Then he got saved and exchanged the bottle for Jesus. He led trail rides, entertained guests at a local dude ranch and eagerly shared his salvation experience. Lou had TEXAS written in gold across his teeth.

Three sisters. I’m the author of Bridge to Nowhere, Love’s Beating Heart, Heart Shadows, Shadow Chase and Until the Shadows Flee. I’m blessed to be married to author Alan McKean, author of time travel adventures The Scent of Time and The Scent of Home. I am also blessed to have an extraordinary son, Luke, in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Leslie P. Garcia is the author of Unattainable. She has four lovely, talented children – all teachers and coaches – and nine great, lovely and talented grandchildren.

Vicky Potter is a talented editor and animal trainer. Her dogs visit in nursing homes and children’s homes, bringing joy to the housebound. Her dog Lucius is a star now in the musical Annie.

Abortion advocates believe that children in the mother’s womb who might experience physical or mental problems should be killed. Scientists are taking two or three human eggs, removing genetic imperfections, and putting the eggs together to create perfect babies. Had they tested us three sisters in our mother’s womb, we might never have been born. All three of us inherited a genetic weakness in math.

And how much poorer the memories of Bandera without its “misfits” – who fit?

Today I was feeling honored and blessed by God for having been allowed to write the pro-life teen & up action, adventure, romance Love’s Beating Heart. I was thinking about a world in which only perfect people were allowed to live. (Yup. I’d be out!) Without the Harold Jenkins of the world, how would we learn that true beauty is on the inside, not outside? How would we learn to look past the face and see into the heart?

Without a Ross, how would we learn to really listen, even without words?

Without a Lou Colburn, life would be boring.

Without a Gerald, how would we learn that God creates gifts and places them inside each individual and a person doesn’t have to graduate at the top of the class to be a success.

Without people who are allowed to live in spite of their imperfections, would we learn kindness? Would we learn to be thankful for our own strengths? Would we have the chance to be a blessing to others by helping someone less fortunate than us? Every life is precious. Every life is a gift from God. A world of perfect people would be horrible and twisted…and incredibly sad and empty place.

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Jump out of the Box!

Alan and I are on vacation for a week. We’re not going anywhere, but we don’t have to – because we write. Alan is the author of two enthralling time travel adventures, The Scent of Time and The Scent of Home.

I write Christian mystery-romance-suspense books like Bridge to Nowhere, by Sunpenny Publishing, and Heart Shadows, Shadow Chase and Until the Shadows Flee. My most recent book is a pro-life, pro-homeschool, teen and any age adventure-romance, Love’s Beating Heart.

When we stay home, we can write. I can write my way out of a cardboard box. I did it once.

While attending UTSA, I had a socialism…I mean a sociology professor who was nuts. He couldn’t help it. He wasn’t from Texas and he was an atheist. He was always late to class. On three separate occasions, the entire class walked out because we had waited for more than 15 minutes. On the coldest day of winter, he arrived one minute short of the class leaving,  wearing swim trunks, an inside-out T-shirt, and a red and black tie with white skeletons dancing across it. Without apologizing for being late, he said, “Jeans are all dirty and I lost my coat.”

Another time when he was late,  he scurried into the room checking the number on a piece of paper against the door number to make sure he was in the right class. He had been teaching our class for six weeks. He smelled so strongly of gasoline that we gagged and moved to the back of the room. “Had a bit of trouble at the gas station,” he said. “Was pumping away when I realized I had the nozzle stuck in the back window of the car instead of the gas tank.” And he was teaching us?

A week before finals, I learned to jump out of the box. He arrived only a few minutes late and began yelling at us. “You’re all liars! You’re all pretenders! You’re all playing games!” As an adult with a full-time job, who was also a full-time student, the mother of a teen and the caregiver of a terminally ill husband, I resented that. I didn’t have time for games.

“Here’s what I want you to do,” he shouted. “Every one of you has a big cardboard box by your desk. That’s right – you, too!” We all looked perplexed, but I felt sorry for the student he had singled out.

“Now. Get into your boxes. Climb in and close the flaps. Sit in your box and go inside yourselves. Get to really know who you are. Find yourselves. When you have the truth, write it down.”

I tried. I really did. I visualized myself in the box and obediently closed the flaps. I looked around inside and thought how pretty it would be with the right combinations of colors splashed about. Then…the story came. I could see the twelve-year-old boy. Lanky and loose jointed, he walked along the desert path kicking tumbleweed, sending puffs of alkali dust over the top of his shoes. His parents were divorcing. His dad had left. His mother’s job had transferred her from cool, green Georgia to the barren  Nevada desert. He had left all his friends behind. Instead of spending the summer fishing and playing ball, Garrett was stuck in a strange, empty land with no friends and nothing to do. I felt his pain. Saw him squeeze back tears of loneliness and frustration. Then Garrett kicked a box and it yelped. Looking inside, he found an abandoned puppy. Tansy later repaid her rescuer’s love and kindness by rushing between him and a rattlesnake in the backyard. I jumped out of my box and finished the story.

After reading my story, the socialism…sorry…sociology professor flailed the air as if beating off insects. “No, no no! This is all wrong! You were supposed to go inside and find yourself.”

“I did,” I told him. “I’m a writer.”

He gave me a “D” on the paper. It didn’t matter. I’m a writer. I sold the story to a Christian magazine. The check made up for the close encounter with misplaced gasoline.

So jump out of the box. Find out what God has planned for your life and go after it with all your heart.

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Orkney, Guns & Collies

Just got back from a lovely trip to the Scottish island of Orkney. Even though Orkney’s history was written in spilled blood from Viking longboat invasions along the coast, the island is quiet and peaceful now and you don’t need a gun.

My past was written in the western drama of Texas. My Christian mystery-romance-suspense book Bridge to Nowhere (Sunpenny Publishing) is set in the imaginary Texas town of Three Prongs, much like Bandera, “Cowboy Capital of the World” – a place where misfits fit. Guns are important to folks in Bandera. If you find a rattlesnake in your driveway, a wild pig killing livestock, or a rabid coyote chasing your dog – you’re gonna want a gun.

Fish Soup (Sunpenny Publishing) author Michelle Jayne Heatley, from Brixham here in the UK, inquired about becoming an honorary Texan. It was suggested that she get a gun, an answer she quickly negated. To folks in the UK, including picturesque Orkney, guns are not needed and are despised. They are not written into the fabric of the country.

I never owned a gun in Texas (but I can shoot one) for the same reason I don’t train collie dogs. You have to be smarter than the dog to train it. And if you’re using a gun for protection, you better be smarter than your attacker – or he will get the gun away from you and use it against you. Why make it easier for him? I know the sum of my intelligence. I failed high school math.

But not owning a gun doesn’t mean that I can’t protect myself. I have a mobile security company on the job. I own stock in the company. “God is our refuge and strength a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear.” Psalm 46:1. “I will lift up my eyes to the hills – from whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.

So I would encourage you wherever you are in the world to seek your protection from the Source of security Who will never let you down. You don’t have to be smart enough to train a collie or own a gun and you don’t have to live on an idyllic island like Orkney. Only one condition is demanded for 24/7 security…faith.Image

Island Awry

Our plans showcased a great weekend trip that included visiting favorite friends and spending the night on a lovely, peaceful island. The host at the bed and breakfast cooks an amazing breakfast with eggs from his hens that are so fresh you can still smell the chicken.

We started out in Glasgow visiting Alan’s 96-year-old mother and his brother. Both are remarkable folks. Alan’s brother is a dedicated street preacher, working nearly every day. His mother still reads the Bible, prays, and sings praises to the LORD. In fact, she sings and hums all the time. Even in moments of quiet reflection, her face wears a cheerful smile. So the problem with our trip wasn’t how it started out, but rather how it ended. Clearly, we were meant to stay in Glasgow and it took three tries for God to message us.

We left early Saturday morning to keep our afternoon appointments. We were a couple of hours down the road when we realized we had forgotten Alan’s insulin and left it in the refrigerator. We went back for it. Thinking we were gone, Alan’s brother had gone to work. Wisely, their lovely mother has been instructed not to answer the door when she’s alone. So it was a two-hour wait to get the insulin and start out again, this time running late for the afternoon appointments – but still determined to keep them.

What stopped us that time was a taxi that didn’t. We stopped at a red light and the taxi behind us kept going. Our poor little car was severely crunched. The back window shattered, the hatchback sprang open, glass rained down on all our cases in the back…That disaster stopped us. We went back to Glasgow and spent the rest of the weekend with Alan’s family. I hadn’t seen them in two years and Alan hadn’t seen them in a year. Sunday was Mothers’ Day in the U.S., which made it even more special for me to be spending time with Alan’s mom.

Two Bible verses frame my life: “In everything give thanks,” and “All things work together for good to them that love the LORD.” We have already sorted out some of the things that are working together for good in our lives because of the accident. And our time here on this earth is short, no matter what our present age is. How precious to have spent that extra time with Alan’s family.

I came back on the bus and began answering emails about our books: Bridge to Nowhere, Love’s Beating Heart, Shadow Chase, Heart Shadows, Until the Shadows Flee and Alan’s The Scent of Time  and his newly released The Scent of Home. Emails included a request for a press release for The Scent of Home. So as I labor over the keyboard in an attempt to catch up on everything, I realize that an island awry stole a weekend of writing. Instead of following The Scent of Home, I was following the scent of fresh eggs.

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