Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book? When did it come out? Where can we get it?
This book was released on March 11, 2014 to very positive feedback from my readers. Most of my sales are delivered by digital means although the book is so beautiful. My publisher did a great job.
Till Heaven Then Forever is the story of Lily and Brian. They were the “golden couple.” Others thought that they had everything, at least by the world’s standards. Their idyllic life in Abaco, Bahamas, inside the house of their dreams, should have caused deep contentment. While they were not necessarily unhappy, there existed a deep yearning. There seemed to be a core problem with their life. Lily thought that once she found her love, a powerful man who had achieved great success, surely she would be happy. Brian believed that if he was able to retire to the islands permanently with this lovely younger woman, he would obtain bliss. It was not disappointment in their choices; it was much more.
After trying to fix things by the world’s prescription with more houses, fancier cars and a lavish lifestyle, they discovered that while such things were nice, they did not result in deep contentment. There must be more. Finally, Lily exposed the missing link.
This small book is a life changer. Lily and Brian discovered there is so much more to life than wealth. They even found a way to stay together, Till Heaven Then Forever.
The inspiration for all of my writing comes from my first book, Beaufort Betrayal which began as a vision. This vision stayed with me for a very long time until I prayed. I found myself in front of my computer writing obsessively for two weeks. There was a fear that if I stopped, I would never be able to finish the project. When I did complete it, I was more amazed than those around me. I have never read it, I don’t know why but it will always be a great source of pride and wonderment to me.
Although I would rather write than read, my favorite authors are: Nelson De Mille, Jeffery Archer, James Patterson, and Nicholas Sparks.
Do you write in a specific place? Time of day?
I seem to accomplish more in the winter months. Living by the pristine waters of the Gulf of Mexico with the love of my life, it is difficult not to walk on the beach or just enjoy life together. My only grandson spends several weeks with us each summer, I dote on him then because I see him so seldom. Writing is only put on hold during those times. Even then, I arise early or stay up later so that I can write. When not writing, I edit or work on promoting my six published books. Winter finds me writing long hours each day.
Never would I offer advice. At least not until I am a bestseller. Writing is so important to me. My purpose in each book is to show the redemptive love of our God. If just one person can understand that no matter what he/she has done, God is standing close to pick up the pieces. We can never stop his love and forgiveness. We are all children of the Most High God.
Till Heaven Then Forever is a story about an older man and a younger woman. Deeply entrenched in the world, surrounded by wealth, they “had it all.” Or did they? Their desire was
to remain together until death, but that was becoming increasingly harder in their world. They found the way, the only way, for a couple to remain together here on earth and then forever. This is a compelling story that will draw the reader into island life in the Bahamas. Yet, even living in paradise cannot prevent the pain that every couple encounters—pain so strong that it often tears apart even the most loving. Lily and Brian find the key to Till Heaven Then Forever.
Here is an excerpt.
April 3, 1990, for a brief moment, my heart actually stopped. This sudden feeling surprised me as much as it could anyone. You see, always considering myself to be strong, tough, and not easily swayed, I had never experienced such a strong emotion. Let me explain. I left home to join the merchant marines when I was sixteen. That was what young men everywhere were doing.
I quit school because I admired the men returning from World War II. Their stories of bravery and daring were an inspiration. Adventure! I longed to experience greatness. At around the age of sixteen, I boarded a Liberty ship named the Felix Grundy in Newport News, Virginia. That lovely vessel was bound for Danzig, Poland. When we boarded, there were already seven hundred ninety-nine varieties of horses waiting for us. My “brave adventure” was to feed and water a section of those horses. By the time we reached Danzig, we only had about seven hundred surviving horses that were happier than us to finally disembark that stinking ship. All the accumulated manure from the journey across the pond had never been removed. The horses
were standing in such a deep pile of waste that they were tilted head down in the stalls.
Fortunately, when the time came to return home, the grateful Polish workers had cleaned every inch of the ship. I will never forget the difference. It had been scrubbed and smelled refreshingly clean. The smiles of the Polish people and the gratitude they demonstrated toward the Americans
as we fulfilled our promise to rebuild Poland in the Marshall Plan was indeed touching.
I was not special, but I was tough. Throughout my life, I never whined or complained. Doing what was necessary was normal to me. I just did what needed to be done. But when I met her at the age of sixty-four, my heart did melt. It was very apparent to me that I would never be the same, so there was an overwhelming feeling that I could not do anything to, in any way, jeopardize this relationship. Women had come and gone from my life since my separation from my only wife many years before. I had remained separated, not divorced, because that gave me the ability to explain to some love-starved woman that I really could not marry again.
“It is all financial, you see. I would lose all my assets if I marry you. We would have to start over without a cent. I wish that I had not structured it as such, but that is the way that it has to be. I would be penniless, but if that will make you happy, so be it.” The next morning, a call over our tragic parting would come, interspersed with sobs and tears.
“I love you with all my heart, Brian, but I can’t do this to you—make you lose all that you have worked for all your life. I have decided to return to my old boyfriend, Rob, Harry, Glenn, etc.” Or she may explain, “My job has become so difficult that…” I would smile in relief and once again wipe the perspiration from my forehead as though I was saved from a terrible ordeal.
In the past, phone calls professing love would escalate to demands for justice. Callers who would hang up whenever I answered would disturb me throughout the night and that might continue for weeks. It was all so predictable—until her.
Frequently, we would have brief encounters at the local hardware store on a Sunday afternoon. She would run inside to pick up something after her time at church. She would look so beautiful as I stood there looking like a frog in my shorts on just another Sunday.
“Brian, you really should consider going to church. It just makes the day right.” She would smile and rush past with her household purchases. For several moments, I stood there watching her like a cow in the pasture waiting to be fed. Then I would return to my day of making deals and more money. Life had been empty and futile for so long. I did have two grown sons, but they had their own lives. No one really depended on me or even needed me.
About fifteen years before, I had purchased a condo in the Abacos, Bahamas. There, I found solace sailing and walking on the beach most days. Away from the deals and business bartering, I spent my time reflecting. I also read profusely while sitting on the beach. I found that I was surrounded with great friends who knew when to give me space. I felt alive when I returned to
my island. Everything about that island was pleasing to me. I had become an intricate part of island living.
Now I dreamed of showing her life at a slower pace. I had recently built a beautiful home for her. Believe me, I know how pathetic this may sound, but in my heart, I knew. I knew that she would change my life. Once we finally got to spend time together, she would know that what I felt for her was real. When I looked into her eyes, I saw my soul mate for life, even if our time together was sporadic and sparse at the beginning. I hoped, however, that once we came together, it would last forever, and we would find joy that we had never known. That was what I saw as I looked into her eyes.
I had no idea of the depth of joy that I was about to know. Not just the joy from Lily but the joy that my eventual relationship with God would provide for me.
That day in my restaurant when I saw her for the first time, I was involved with someone. I can’t even remember who. Walking to the table where she sat, my knees were shaking and my palms were sweaty, but I managed to ask her out. She smiled, as if considering my request for dinner, but a mutual friend ruined the moment by declaring that if I ever asked Lily out again, she would kill me and break both of Lily’s legs! That was courtesy of my wild reputation at the time.
Lily threw her head back in laughter and smiled as she shook her head. “Maybe someday, Brian, but I have just left a marriage that was a catastrophe. I can’t afford any more of those.” I nodded and smiled but felt sick inside. That could have been the beginning, but I would not give up. She was worth the humiliation. I would beg if necessary, although I truly hoped that I would not have to get down on my knees in my restaurant and grovel at her feet.
Time went slowly past during which she sold real estate, and I worked on building various projects and enjoying my latest restaurant. Since I had hired a great manager, I really did little to ensure the success of my restaurant Chandlers. Now I was spending more time in Abaco making sure the house was completed so that it would be perfect when I finally took her home.
About a year passed. I found myself one day sitting in my Rolls-Royce Corniche at a traffic light wondering which decision to make over possibly purchasing a new restaurant. Recently, I had finally divorced my wife after years of living apart. I know this sounds selfish, but I wanted to come before Lily with the truth, not the lies and deceptions of the past. Thoughts of her were always on my mind.
When I turned to my left, I was delighted to notice that she was stopped at the same light. There was a lane between us, but it was empty due to the early hour. She was on her cell phone. I could hear her since I had the top down that spring morning. Without a thought as to what I was doing, I left the Rolls-Royce’s engine running and ran over two lanes to where she innocently sat. When she saw me, she looked a little irritated. At that moment, I realized that she too loved the deals.
Just another thing in common. I smiled.
“Lily, will you consider going out with me now? It has been at least a year. Look, I’m going to my home in the Bahamas tomorrow. I am going to end a relationship that is not working. When I return, can I phone you? It would really mean a great deal to me if we could have dinner.” How lame was that?
She removed the phone from her ear and smiled. “Sure, Brian. Why not? I could use some diversion. Let’s have lunch, nothing serious like dinner. Call me.”
With that statement, both of our lives were changed forever as she handed me her business card with the treasured phone number.
I ran back to my car just in time for the light to change and watched her drive away. Laughter wracked my old body as I realized that this was it. This old soldier who had suspected that he would never know real love and commitment may have just found what he had always hoped to discover. I knew at that moment we would be together till death.
Linda Heavner Gerald is retired with her husband on “The Forgotten Coast of Florida.” There she finds inspiration in each sunrise and sunset or just walking the beach. Currently, she has three mystery/thrillers and one children’s book. Only writing now for two years, Linda feels that she has been blessed. She desires to convey in each book a promise of hope and love from God. “If I can help just one person, then my writing is not in vain.”