Sunday, March 31, 2024


 Looking for my books?  Here are some ways to get them:

1. Go to your local bookstore and ask them to order them, if they don't have them in stock. I believe in supporting local brick and mortar stores!

2. Go to online sites such as Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Search by author M.F. Erler. You may have to scroll down past some other stuff to find them.

3. Google "Books by M.F. Erler"  Sources for both new and used books will come up. (If it matters to you, I don't get any royalties for used book sales.)

4. Contact me directly at my domain:

5. Check out my site, Mary Frances Erler on the Artists and Craftsmen of the Flathead website. 

    Right now, April 2024, ACF is having an online sale. Prices listed for the online sale include shipping.

6. Come see me at The Bookshelf, 101 Main, Kalispell, MT on April 20 for my book signing!

7.  Contact my publisher at

Here are photos of the covers:

These three are my newest books, and each stands alone, not in a series.

These two are modern, contemporary stories, and don't involve time travel.
They deal with current hot topics like mental health and gender identity, among others.

These are the updated versions of my 7-book fantasy fiction series, The Peaks Saga, 
with time travel, and an underlying Christian message in the spirit of C.S. Lewis.

Here's a closeup of the cover of Book One in the Peaks Saga.

This is my first Historical Fiction Novel, based on my German ancestors.
It takes modern characters into the past to experience what their ancestors did.

I am currently working on another time-travel historical fiction novel,
based on my Irish ancestors.
I write for my own enjoyment, but I also feel I have stories that need to be shared. My hope is that by doing so, I can help others who may be facing similar life challenges to mine.

I have been writing most of my life, among other pursuits. My first work was a poem about Mexico that I wrote in third grade. My next was a little story I wrote in fourth grade called "The Mouse on the Mayflower". I followed it up with "The Mouse at the Alamo".

Sunday, February 18, 2024

A Lost Connection


As I approached the small gravestone, lying almost even with the grass around it, my legs began to weaken. Before I knew it I was on my knees, tears streaming down my cheeks, as I read the letters I’d never been able to read before.

The last time I’d seen my little sister’s gravestone I was probably only three or four, too young to read the letters. This was at least 67 years ago. I had no idea why my parents took me to the cemetery almost every Sunday afternoon. I thought it was something everyone did. I wasn’t quite three when my brother Robbie was born. They must have brought him some as a baby. All I know for sure is that we never went to the cemetery after we moved to Magnolia Drive, and that was right after I turned five. Mom probably couldn’t handle it anymore, I suppose.

          In fact Mom never mentioned a word about Roberta Lee. Dad told us when I was about eight years old, I believe. We’d just watched an episode of the old show Wagon Train. In this episode a newborn baby had died.

          “It’s so sad that the baby died,” I remember saying to Dad.

          He nodded and took Robbie and me aside. I think Mom left the room to put our baby brother to bed. “We had a baby that died like that,” he said. “She was born too soon and only lived for a couple of hours. We named her Roberta Lee.”

          As soon as he said this, I knew what those Sunday afternoon visits to the cemetery had been for.  Robbie was too young to understand, but it all made sense to me. I had a little sister who died. By this time I had a second brother, baby Danny. So I grew up with two brothers, but I always wondered what it would be like to have a sister.

          The knowledge that I did have a sister somewhere—maybe in heaven—left a huge impression in my heart. And the name Roberta Lee meant a lot, for Dad’s first name was Robert, and Mom’s middle name was Lee. I began to include my sister in my childhood bedtime prayers: “God bless Mama and Daddy, Robbie and Danny, and Roberta Lee, wherever she may be.” Neither of my parents ever commented on how I worded my prayer for her.

          As grew older, another memory was added to the story, at least in my own mind. On February 10, 1954, I was within a week of turning nineteen months old. People say this is too young to have a memory, but I know I do remember an event the night my sister was born.

          I was sitting on a brown area rug on the hardwood floor of the rental house we lived in until I was five. There is a cup of cold water or juice in my hands. Across the room I hear my father and my mother’s mother, Nanny, talking in anxious, upset voices. My mother is not in the house. Somehow I know that she would be there with Nanny, unless something was very wrong.

          The most distinct part of the memory is the feeling of cold liquid running down my chest when I spill the cup as I try to drink from it. That is another hint that tells me I am under two years old. My adult mind has now reasoned that I picked up on the tension in the room, and that’s why I spilled that cup. And I can think of no other reason for all those things to be happening—except the birth of Roberta Lee. Mama wasn’t home because she was at the hospital in premature labor, and that’s why Daddy and Nanny were upset.

          My brothers had no memories like this. Robbie was born just over a year later in 1955, and Danny came along in 1958.

          There’s another strange twist in the story, though. When our father died, in August 2010, I was in Montana and my brother Robert (no longer Robbie) was the one who saw Dad the day before he died.

          As soon as Robert had come into his room at the nursing home, Dad had told him this story. “I had the most wonderful day yesterday. I spent it with my daughter.”

          “But Dad, Frances is in Montana, not here.”

          “No, my other daughter,” said Dad. “She has such beautiful eyes.”

          After Robert’s visit that morning with Dad, he had to go to work. Dad died a couple of hours later.

          When he called to tell me about Dad’s passing, one of Robert’s first questions was, “Did our parents have a baby girl between you and me who died?”

          “Yes,” I said. “Dad told us about her when I was around eight, You would have been only five, so you don’t remember. And of course, if they took you to the cemetery when I was three, you were just a baby.”

          That event left me wondering that somehow as he approached death, Dad had crossed over just far enough the day before he died, to see the daughter he’d never known on earth but would know in heaven. And the more I wondered, the more I wanted to go find that little grave and see it again.

          The website told me she was buried in Arlington Memorial Cemetery in El Dorado, Arkansas. This was the town we’d lived in until I was eleven. There was a photo of the gravestone, and this was the first time I found out exactly when she was born.

          Arkansas is a long way from Montana, so I wondered if I’d ever get back there. But in February 2024, we were visiting my cousin in Jefferson, Texas. When I discovered El Dorado was only three hours’ drive away, I convinced my husband to take a day trip to my birthplace.

          The first thing we did was find the cemetery, but it was huge. Since we had no idea which section to look in, it would take all day and maybe more to find one small grave. After wandering and searching on foot for about half an hour, we finally found a phone number on a sign at one of the cemetery entrances. My husband Paul called the number, and a woman answered. He explained our situation, and she told him the information office was right across the road from where we were sitting in our rental car.

          With great relief, we drove to the office and showed her the photo I’d printed from the website. I think she recognized the name of the person who had posted the picture. It didn’t take her long to locate the gravesite, and she printed a map for us.

          “I’ll take you there,” she said.

          “Oh, that’s very kind,” said Paul.

          “No problem,” she replied. “I do this often.”

          So we followed her car as she drove back through the cemetery gate. We hadn’t gone far when she stopped and pointed to a corner lot. It had only a couple of gravestones, and no tall headstones like most of the rest of the graves in the cemetery. Fuzzy childhood memories of trips to the cemetery fell into place: the grave was near one of the cemetery lanes, and there was a woodland several yards to the left. She drove away, as we walked toward the place my heart so desired to see.

That’s when I fell on my knees. I had no words, just tears of joy that I’d found my little sister at last. There was grief, too, for the years that she had missed. We were there on February 5, 2024—just five days short of what would have been her seventieth birthday. An entire life missed. Yet as I sat on the damp ground, I couldn’t help but think perhaps she was the lucky one. She’d gone straight to heaven, while I had endured seventy-one years of the trials and heartbreaks of life here on earth. Oh, there had been joys, too. But right at that point my joy and pain all merged as I sat and talked to my sister.

          Paul gently told me, “Take all the time you need,” and went to the car.

          As I looked at the stone and ran my hands over it, I was amazed that it still seemed new. The letters and numbers were still sharp and deeply cut. There were no signs of weathering. Running my fingers on the polished granite around the name section, an eerie sensation came over me. My brothers and I had chosen the same shade of pink and grey granite when we picked our parents’ headstone for their grave in Rochester, Illinois.

          I told my sister about her younger brothers. As I told her the color of everyone’s eyes in the family I wondered what color her “beautiful eyes” were.

          “I’m looking forward to finally meeting you,” I said, as the tears kept cascading down. “I’ve wondered my whole life what you would be like. Someday I will know.” (Even as I write this, the tears are falling again.)

          With a quavering voice, I tried to sing some favorite songs to her. The only one I could get all the way through was Jesus Loves Me.  I forgot to tell her that this was one of our mother’s favorite songs when she was in her eighties, had Alzheimer’s, and was approaching death. For some reason I talked more about our father, for he was the one who had told me about her. I know the two of them are together in heaven forever, and now Mom has joined them.

Finally, my tears ebbed and I rejoined Paul in the rental car. We drove around my old hometown. Many things had changed, but some hadn’t. I recognized the school where I had attended first through fifth grade, and started sixth, before my dad’s work forced us to move to Illinois. We drove around my old neighborhood, and it was good to see that almost all the houses still looked loved and cared for. The magnolia trees on Magnolia Drive were fifty feet taller than I remembered. But everything else looked smaller than I remembered. Our former house looked beautiful, as the owners had bricked the front. I could still see the rectangular wrought iron Mom had chosen for the front porch; she wanted nothing to do with curls and leaf patterns.

          We even found the rental house where I had spilled that drink on myself almost seventy years ago. It looked well cared for, too. And down the hill there were the railroad tracks that Dad liked to walk me to. Sometimes we even saw trains going by. Dad loved trains.

          Our visit to El Dorado ended with a late picnic lunch in a park near the rental house. Perhaps it was the park I remembered walking to with Mama on sunny days when Daddy was at work.

          A Bible verse came to my mind, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace…for my eyes have seen…” The verse is telling about a priest seeing baby Jesus, as God had promised he would before he died. I guess I was feeling that I can die in peace now, too, for I have seen with my own adult eyes the place where some treasured childhood memories dwell, of the sister I hope to get to know in heaven.


Monday, January 8, 2024

A Whirl of Confusion

 Whatever date the Winter Solstice was this year, we've made it. We've been in fog here all week, and my brain is foggy, too. Seeing my doctor today to see if some adjustments need to be made in meds.  This is where it started getting confusing. On December 22, 2023 I was told by my doctor that all my symptoms of anxiety, tremors, vertigo, high blood pressure, confusion, etc. were Serotonin Syndrome. In other words I had too much of the brain chemical that was supposed to elevate my mood and ward off depression, But too much serotonin can be deadly.  It could have led to extreme muscle spasms and even heart failure.


The really frightening part was that I’d been taking the over the counter supplement SAMe for at least 5 or 6 years. My neurologist never cautioned me not to take it with antidepressants. When my family doctor found out, he immediately said, “You should not be taking that!”  No one had told me, and the “warnings” on the box were vague. I guess it was partly my fault for not asking more questions, but I thought I had. At every doctor visit, we go over my list of medications, both prescribed and OTC.


The main trigger of this episode was a simple misdiagnosis, I think. In early November I told my doctor that I was feeling more depressed, but actually I was more anxious. Yes, I did have symptoms of depression, like lack of motivation and feeling sad. Both Thanksgiving and Christmas were not very joyous holidays for me.  But now I see that the increase of the antidepressant Lexapro, was the opposite of what I needed. I had too much serotonin in my system, instead of not enough. (I wonder if there’s a blood test they can do to determine this? It would be a lot better than just trying to analyze symptoms that can become confused. Almost 2 months after the low dose (only 5 mg) of Lexapro was added, my doctor could finally see that my real problem was too much serotonin, just the opposite of what he’d first thought. I’m not blaming him, because brain chemical imbalances are tricky to diagnose. I blame society’s attitude toward people with mental health problems. There hasn’t been enough good information given to the doctors or the public. And every person’s biochemical makeup is unique, so what works for one may not work for another.


Anyway, he instructed me to stop the Lexapro for one week and then restart it. But only a few days after restarting, my previous symptoms got much worse. Here’s what happened on January 4, 2024:


Next stage of my shaky new year. Anxiety turned into bad vertigo. Paul and I went to the health club. He walks the track while I go to Taichi class. Only tonight, as I leaned over to change my shoes, the whole room started rocking. I clung to the bench and felt like I was on a carnival ride, not a fun one either.


A friend from the class saw me and went to get a staff person to help. After several minutes they found Paul. He had to go change out of his running clothes while they got me a wheelchair. Got wheeled to our car. Now that I'm home in bed I feel better. But so much for getting my exercise done! My doctor thinks I have been getting too much serotonin, which helps fight depression. But too much gives anxiety, tremors, and vertigo. Other bad stuff, too. Not a good way to start the new year.😥


BUYER BEWARE! After over 20 years of doing the wrong things unknowingly, I have learned a lesson I must share. It took hours of internet research to find the actual scientific research--which we consumers, and apparently many physicians and pharmacists are unaware of. If you take any antidepressants or migraine medications (and in my case I take both), you must NOT take any common cold or allergy remedies. No antihistamines, decongestants, expectorants, cough suppressants, or pain and fever reducers. There are a couple of nasal sprays that are okay and acetaminophen is okay short term, but be careful to avoid overdosing this one. The old fashioned things of stay home, get rest, and drink plenty of non-caffienated fluids are the best.

Why don't doctors warn about this? My own theory is that the makers of OTC drugs, put any warnings in the very small print, if they mention at all "a very rare side effect called Serotonin Syndrome. " In my recent research, I've found that: yes the extreme side effects: heart problems and muscle spasms and delirium are rare. And these other symptoms I'm having are easily mistaken for other conditions. That's what has been happening with me. As a result, some of the drugs I was told to take have actually made matters worse. When I look back, I'm surprised I've made it to 70!


I'm not out to sue anyone, I'm just hoping to keep others from my mistakes. Off and on for 20 years, I've had those little whirls of vertigo, slight tremors, anxiety, occasional irregular heartbeats, hot and cold flashes. Sounds like menopause, right? That's what I thought, too. But I passed that 20 years ago. In the past 15 years, these symptoms have gotten worse. I've had 3 major vertigo events. One was last night at my health club. The whole world was rocking and rolling while I held onto a bench for dear life.


I know the next thing people will tell me is to switch to the "natural remedies". But the truth is they are chemicals, too, just like the drugs. Anything we put in our body has the possibility of nourishing it or having ill effects. There are lots of plant products out there in nature that are toxic to humans. So again I say, Buyer Beware. Try to find the most up to date research from reputable, third-party sources. And remember even too much of a good thing, even vitamins and supplements, can be bad.


My hope now is that all these adverse reacting chemicals will flush from my body, that I will regain some strength and equilibrium, and be able to enjoy life again.  But these symptoms have been going on in my life for a long time, and it may take a long time to get back to equilibrium. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

What Are You Taking for Granted?


In our modern world, we take so many things for granted.  A couple of weeks ago, the pump on our well stopped working.  All of a sudden, there was no water when I turned on the faucet.

A call to the well-driller brought the suggestion to shut it all down for an hour and then try to restart it.  So we did.  It worked, but then the same thing happened the next day!  Another attempt was made to reboot it with the hour-long shut off.  It worked again, and Thanksgiving went smoothly.  Then the well pump quit again on Christmas Day and then on New Year’s Day, 2023.  This time the driller came to our house and tested the pump, but still hasn’t been able to figure out what is wrong.  “Wait and see,” was the only advice he could give.

I realize our house is past ten years old, and nowadays that means things are going to break down.  Some of our appliances have already had to be replaced.  Not complaining.  It’s just life.

But this whole experience has made me realize how many things we do take for granted.  Like the water coming on every time we turn the faucet handle.  Or the lights coming on whenever I hit the switch.  Even my phone and my computer making it so much easier to do research and to write.

Many of us are old enough to remember the days of typewriters and rotary-dial phones.  (My first two books were originally typed on a manual typewriter!)  But I fear our numbers are dwindling.  What kind of things will our children and grandchildren never experience?  Kind of like how we (and often our parents) never experienced travel in a horse-drawn covered wagon, homes without indoor plumbing or electricity, and travel from Kalispell to Eureka taking days rather than under two hours.

Right now our well is working again, after the second reboot.  But I don’t take that water in my sink or shower for granted anymore.  I realize it could disappear any day now.

I think the timing of this wake-up call event was good, with Thanksgiving just around the corner again.  I have a lot more things to be thankful for than I realized, and I hope to stop taking them for granted.

UPDATE 2023: In the end we had to spend a thousand-some dollars to buy a new part for the pump. At least for now I can turn on the faucet without fear. 

A Life of Ups and Downs

     I want to apologize to my friends for burdening them with my periodic bouts of depression. It's like waves on the ocean. They go up and down. Sometimes I'm on a crest and see a hopeful world around me. Other times I'm in the trough, and all I can see is the angry wave crashing toward me. Once in a while there are even calm seas, and I can relax and bask in the sun.

What my counselor has helped me learn is to not get stuck in any of those places. The sea of life is always in motion. The most important thing I can remind myself is that those low troughs don't last forever. Another wave will come eventually and lift me up again. And perhaps, when I need it most, Jesus will help me walk on the waters.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Caught in a Downward Spiral


Teachers should NOT be expected to work in a war zone!  This I see and hear of happening almost daily, somewhere in the US. Guns are too easily available, even to children. Our popular literature, movies, and TV programs tell too many of us that the way to solve problems is through violence.  But to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. -- Violence only breeds more violence. Darkness can only be defeated with light. Hate can only be defeated with love.

I personally know of teachers who have been told to search their students' lockers for firearms. I personally know of a school that was nearly set on fire by two students, but these perpetrators have gone unpunished, or given merely a slap on the hand.  A great many of our schools, and not just those in inner cities, have a teacher shortage because teachers are afraid to work where they have to be police, while still trying to teach.

What is wrong here? What is causing this downward spiral? In part I see that parents and administrators are expecting students to do their jobs for them. If this continues, it's no wonder that fewer people will see teaching as a good choice.

Teachers are unsupported and underpaid. Teaching is one of the most difficult and dangerous jobs in our country. If we don't start giving teachers the support and help they deserve, the downward spiral in this nation is going to continue.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Some Things Forgotten That Should Not Be


            Rough wood planks beneath my feet were rocking so much that I couldn’t regain my balance. I vomited into the bucket again.

          “Where am I?” I gasped.

          “There, there, Maggie,” came a gentle male voice. “They say the voyages to America aren’t always this rough.”

          “America?” I murmured. “Why?” As I lifted my head away from the smell in the bucket, my nose was assaulted by even worse scents—human waste and many unwashed bodies.

          “Don’t you remember?” the gentle voice said. “Ah—but perhaps it’s the Sea Fever. It makes you forget, and some people lose their minds completely.”

          I turned to look at this man, as he patted my back. He must have seen the confusion on my face, for he said, “I’m Thomas Cantlon, your husband. Do you remember me?”

          Then my mind opened like a door, letting in some light of understanding. “Of course I remember, you oaf of a man.” O hoped this sounded enough like recognition. Just then, the floor lurched again, and I fell into his arms.

          “’Tis all right, dear Maggie. You just need to rest. Our wee son Johnnie is asleep at last.”

          Thomas led me to a rough plank raised about three feet off the floor. It just over a foot wide, and the length of a grown man. With his help, I climbed onto what must be my bunk. A pile of soiled clothes was the only pillow and a ragged blanket lay beneath on the plank.    

          On the small bunk beneath me, I could hear a child’s deep breathing in sleep. I assumed this was ‘wee Johnnie’. After I was settled, Thomas climbed onto the plank that stretched three feet above my head. 


          Where am I, Cinda?

          ‘You’re in an emigrant ship from Cork, bound for North America. It’s the year 1847.’

          But why?

          ‘Because of the famine.’

          Famine?  Are you talking about the Potato Famine?

          ‘Yes, but I think I made a mistake in bringing you to 1847. This is in the middle of everything—the worst winter on record, and the largest number of emigrations in a single year. I think I should have taken you back a few more years to when it all started.’

          I sighed, but I couldn’t tell if it came from my real self or from Maggie—or both of us. Okay, Cinda. Let’s get this over with. I hope it means I’ll get off this wretched ship.

      As Maggie fell into a fitful sleep. I felt myself—the Emilia part of me—rise and disappear into those flashing amber lights.

          Cinda’s voice whirled into my mind in the same way as the colors, which were now changing to a harsh vermillion. ‘Maggie Cantlon’ is your great-great-grandmother. Wee Johnnie grows up in America and becomes just John. When he marries, he has a daughter named Mary, your grandmother.

          All right, I get that. Why wasn’t I put into my great-grandfather John. He’s the one Grandma always talked about.

      ‘Two reasons: He was born during the famine, and he was only a child of three when this ship sailed. But we are here to learn history. You can’t go ‘within’ a person of the opposite sex, though.’

          I hadn’t thought of that. So are you taking me farther back to when Maggie was younger, and to when the famine started?

      ‘That’s the plan.’

          You’d better get it right this time.

      ‘Don’t worry, I will. This my first time being the guide instead of the one being guided.’

          Wait! What?

        No reply came. Her voice faded like a gull winging into a fog.

The colors ebbed away, and next thing I knew, my bare feet stood on green grass. It was day, but fog was drifting and curling around me. My eyes made out a small stone cottage, roofed with thatch. The man who’d called himself Thomas was gazing at me from the single doorway in the stones. He had to duck to come out, for the door was only about five feet tall. He looked much younger, and his brown eyes sparkled as he smiled at me.