While working on a novel, I collect photos that help me better visualize characters and setting. When the book is completed, I then assemble some of the pics into a story board for a trailer.
Following is the trailer for Hope of Cherry Blossom Lane.
Hope Hunter is the star character in my new novel, Hope of Cherry Blossom Lane. She was kind enough to speak with me recently and to share some insight into her heartwarming story.
Richard: Thanks for sharing your valuable time with us today.
Hope: My pleasure.
Richard: I’m going to read a sentence from a scene in your story. I would be interested in your thoughts.
Richard: History had repeated itself. Thirty-five years ago, Hope stood at that window, clutching the same stuffed animal.
Hope: Ah, yes. My precious granddaughter, Emma. Up until that moment, I had only considered the influence Grandma Debose had on my life. She used to tell me that anything she ever gave me or did for me was miniscule compared to the blessings I gave her. That morning when I saw Emma standing at the same window where I once stood and holding my old teddy bear, it hit me. When Emma walks into the room my heart lights up. I can be having the worst day ever and she turns my dark clouds into sunshine.
Richard: Your daughter, Jessica, plays a major role in your story.
Hope: If she had only listened to me when I begged her not to marry Chase Miller. That boy was nothing but trouble. She still hasn’t recovered from what he did to her. I doubt she ever will.
Richard: I loved your encounters with the mystery jogger.
Hope: Still can’t believe I did that. But I’m glad I did.
Richard: Speaking of mysteries, your grandmother’s Memory Box was like a window into your family’s past.
Hope: Exactly. I was shocked to learn that Howard Debose was not my grandfather and she had a secret lover.
Richard: His identity is ultimately revealed.
Hope: And a total surprise.
Richard: Tell me about Cherry Blossom Lane.
Hope: Most beautiful place on earth, especially about mid-March when the trees are in bloom. Of course, I’m biased. That’s where I spent my summers as a child and where I met my friend Linda.
Richard: Linda Ware, owner of Ware’s B&B.
Hope: (laughs) I love that girl, but she can get on my last nerve. Still can’t believe how she pushed me into helping with her Save-the-Park campaign.
Richard: When did you decide you wanted a career as an artist?
Hope: When I was five. My grandmother, Henrietta Debose, was an accomplished oil painter. First time I saw her applying paint to a canvas, I was hooked.
Richard: She taught you?
Hope: Right. She was an amazing teacher. She provided the art education I could never have afforded.
Richard: Were your parents supportive?
Hope: Not at all, except for sending me off to my grandmother’s house. But their motivation had nothing to do with art. They just wanted a break from me.
Richard: Because you were mischievous?
Hope: No. Because I was a responsibility they didn’t want. Mother called me her “little surprise.
Richard: When and why did you give up on your dream?
Hope: Gave it up when I was seventeen. That’s when I fell in love with Terrence.
Richard: How did marriage interfere with your art career?
Hope: At first, I suppose it was simply because we couldn’t afford it. He and I took whatever jobs we could find just to survive. But I think the main reason was that Terrence believed all those nightmare stories about starving artists. He said art was a waste of time and that only a few lucky people made it. And we Hunters weren’t the lucky ones.
Richard: What convinced you to rekindle your dream?
Hope: About a year after my divorce, Grandma Debose died and left her estate to me. I never expected it. Skipped right over my daddy, who was the rightful heir. It was like she was saying, “this is your chance, now make the most of it.”
Richard: How did your father take the news?
Hope: He hit the roof. Called me names I would never use on my worst enemy and then threatened to sue me. No way for a father to treat his daughter.
Richard: Definitely. I was amazed at how he got his limp.
Hope: I knew he was capable of insane behavior, but that one blew my mind.
Richard: What do you want people to get from your story?
Hope: Well, entertainment, for sure. There are valuable life lessons to be learned, but most of all I want my readers to be inspired, like my signature on my paintings.
Hope: That’s it.
Richard: Thanks again for being with us today.
Hope: And thanks to everyone who reads my story. Get it at Amazon. Have it your way. Print or eBook.
That feeling you get when you finish a novel.
Hope of Cherry Blossom Lane is a wrap, and I hope it will be a blessing to you.
Hope of Cherry Blossom Lane
For this novel, places and incidents from my childhood sparked my creativity. For example, The Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester, VA. Blame my affection for chocolate covered cherries for the the switch from apple blossoms to cherry blossoms.
In my mind’s eye, I saw cobblestone streets lined with blossoming trees, quaint specialty shops, Victorian and Colonial style buildings, and friendly people. A place of harmony. Welcome to 118 Cherry Blossom Lane in Harmony Springs, Virginia.
The protagonist in my previous two books, Alexandra Zakharov, in Alexandra’s Song and Miracle at Gabriel’s Rock, was a concert pianist. I like to write about music because of my background as a musician.
The lead character in Hope of Cherry Blossom Lane is a professional oil painter, chosen because my wife, Janet, is an artist. Fewer Google searches with a ready resource by my side.
From there, the story took shape as 41-year-old divorcee, Hope Hunter, gets a second chance to pursue her dream of becoming an artist.
And so it began. A forgotten dream, rekindled, and tested by all manner of adversity and ill-willed people. Such is life. Right?
Hope of Cherry Blossom Lane is an against all odds story in which good triumphs over evil.
As always, you can get your copy at Amazon in print or eBook format.
Have an awesome life,
This was my second trip to Divinity Falls and once again, it didn’t disappoint.
Alexandra is back and so are her friends: Casper Knight (her love interest from Book 1 –Alexandra’s Song), Norma Price (her best friend), and Tony Calhoun (the Sheriff’s Deputy).
Alexandra’s love life is definitely kicked up a notch in Book 2, The Miracle at Gabriel’s Rock. I’ll leave you to guess which one of her previous suitors wins her heart. You will be surprised. I know I was.
I’m happy to report that between the two books, Alexandra’s dad, Yuri Zakharov, married his longtime personal secretary, Belle Meade. He also resigned as conductor of the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra to manage his daughter’s career.
The gang at the Diner was there to greet her upon her return: Rose, Reggie, and Pops. Yes, Pops came back. That sixth marriage didn’t work out.
Of course, Alexandra gained an unexpected blessing in Alexandra’s Song. She was reunited with her birthchild, Amadeus. (Now, Danny Price.) But her joy was short-lived. In Book 2, five-year-old Danny is kidnapped and Alexandra’s old nemesis, Helel Ben Shazar, is behind it.
But someone from her past, Johnny Hinson, takes on a vital role in the new adventure. This is a twist you won’t want to miss.
Remember Alexandra’s guardian angel, Angelica Lopez? Angel revealed Alexandra’s destiny and helped her to attain it. Well, part of it. As Alexandra discovers in The Miracle at Gabriel’s Rock, the best was yet to come, but she would have to go through hell to get it.
Wait until you meet Alexandra’s new friends, a girl’s trio, called Grace. Their talents are not only musical but also supernatural.
What I hope for in all of my books is that the reader feels something. Emotion. Tears. Laughter. Fear. Joy. Passion. Of course, you will be the ultimate judge of my success. But I know this, I was moved when I wrote it.
And I want the reader to be able to identify with the characters. The greatest compliment I ever received was when a reviewer wrote: “The characters feel like family. My family.”
Oh, yeah. During the writing of this book, I took on an exercise regimen. I now walk four miles a day. I tell you that for two reasons. One, because I never saw myself doing it. And secondly, because most of the ideas for the twists and turns in the story came to me while walking. In fact, one scene was inspired by a bunch of blackbirds attacking a neighbor’s garbage can.
So, with all that said, I sincerely hope you enjoy, The Miracle at Gabriel’s Rock. It goes on sale on October 1 through Amazon.com.
All the best,
Since concluding my last novel, Alexandra’s Song, I have taken a month off from writing. Well, sort of. Actually, I have devoted time to revising my previous works with new covers and a few touchup edits where needed.
This old dog still likes to learn some new tricks. I was determined to master GIMP (because it’s FREE) and step up my marketing efforts. Mission accomplished. What is GIMP, you say? Like Photoshop without the hefty price tag.
Additionally, I have set up a little side biz at Fiverr for those interested in professional custom book trailers. Gives me a chance to use some of my background in production and voice talent. You can check out the service here.
This blog marks the end of my lengthy To-Do list. Tomorrow, I’ll knuckle down on the second book in the Angels Diner series, Alexandra and Grace. Target date for release in October 1.
In the new book, Danny is missing and so is Molly’s guardian angel. Determined to get the boy back she must take on Helel Ben Shazar and the angels of darkness. Can she succeed without the help of Angel? For that matter, can she survive?
In a previous post, I observed that finishing a novel is an exciting event. Close to that euphoria is what is happening with Alexandra’s Song. It is selling like hotcakes, which I assume is a good thing if you run an IHOP. Seriously, best book launch to date and it has also resulted in an uptick in sales of my other novels.
Yeah, I write because I love it. But it does make me feel good when people read my work and speak kindly of it. So, thanks so very much for your support.
Here’s to a great summer. Stay cool and if you get a chance, share a review of my books at Amazon.
Wholesome isn’t cool or popular. “You write clean books. Really?” Sounds like writing intended for children. In fact, WHOLESOME is a dirty word in that it is a turnoff term to many if not most potential adult readers. Clean. Family Friendly. Wholesome. Safe enough to tell the parrot belonging to the town gossip.
I have my grandmother to thank for the censor that monitors my writing style. Or, maybe it’s the era in which I grew up or the influence of a small town. Whatever the reason, there’s a governor onboard this writing bus.
That’s why you won’t find overt sex or vulgarity in my manuscripts. It’s just not in me. On the few occasions I attempted to push the envelope, the scenes were removed in the first edit. Makes me uncomfortable.
Flashbacks to my childhood provide some clues. My mother threatened to wash my mouth out with soap. Never suffered those consequences but I watched a friend go through it. I did, however, lick from the bar, just to see if it was a punishment I thought I could endure. It wasn’t.
Then there was the time when I was walking home from school with a buddy. Fourth or fifth grade, I think. We played the cursing game. Rules are simple. Whoever can string together the most different curse words in a sentence, wins. I was on a roll. Blew him away. Unfortunately, my grandmother’s best friend, and the head of the Lutheran Ladies Guild, was sitting on her front porch when we passed by. One phone call was all it took. My grandmother shamed me so badly that I never played that game again.
Admittedly, I grew up in a time where there was tempered violence on TV and in the movies. Lots of people killed. Plentiful mayhem. The limited flow of blood was reportedly only ketchup or catsup. Pick a spelling.
Back in the day, in my hometown, there was little to no cursing. Wholesome speech and entertainment were the way of life. Then came the Navy where I was introduced to Salts, salty language, and a jaded worldly view. But my values had already been firmly set. Made me feel like an outsider.
When I turned my ambitions toward writing, a wholesome style seemed unrealistic. My G/PG mindset didn’t fit the stories I wanted to tell. In my adopted profession, wholesome was profane.
Here’s the thing. I believe that integrity is integral to all we do. At the end of the day, we must be true to ourselves. The challenge then, was to pen sagas that make you feel by still leaving something to the imagination. The seedier parts of life and language are implied. Great artists do it all the time. Give you just enough to allow your mind to fill in the blanks.
As a musician, I learned the importance of expression. Music is so much more than just the notes on the page. Good writing also requires richness of feeling. Relatable emotion. Seeing yourself or someone you know in a character or a circumstance causes you to become engaged in the story.
One of the comments that meant most to me from a reader was that “the characters feel like family.” Uncle Harold. Aunt Maude. Cousin Henry. Your mom. Your dad. Your sister or brother. That kid in school or coworker who made your life miserable. The people who make you laugh, cry, angry or sad. The ones who make you feel love, joy, ephoria and romance. A setting that engages your senses.
Expression. Feeling. Relatability. Stirred passions and heightened imagination. All in a wholesome/family friendly style. The reader fills in the details that matter to them.
Wholesome writing is not intended to be judgmental or preachy. It’s just a writing style that enables me to be true to myself and real to my readers.
My new novel, Alexandra’s Song, is hot off the presses and available in print and electronic media. It’s the first in the Angels Diner series. I have started work on Book II, Alexandra and Grace. Release is targeted for mid September.
If you read my books and enjoy them, it would be helpful if you would share a good review at Amazon or Goodreads. And tell your friends. Your support is greatly appreciated.
My new novel, Alexandra’s Song, began with a seed idea. “A girl is running.” Planted it at bedtime. Nurtured it while trying to fall asleep. Woke up early with a story concept which I immediately used to construct an outline. By lunchtime, Alexandra’s Song was born.
Obviously, there is nothing new under the sun. Googled it just to be certain. Yep. The name is used for teaching grades 3-5 how to write. At least my process is different but just as simple. In fact, so elementary that I showed it to my eleven-year-old granddaughter in under fifteen minutes.
Seed idea. “A girl is running.” Then you expand upon it.
- Who is running?
- Why is she running?
- Where is she headed?
And you just keep using those basic questions you learned in journalism class: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? And then the vital question from your creative writing course. “What if?”
Just keep expanding on your seed idea and soon you will have a full blown story and an outline.
Conceptualizing new stories with this method is a breeze. Nailing down a title, not so much. Before settling on Alexandra’s Song, I was determined to call my book, Angel’s Diner. Seemed fitting. That’s where Molly Sanders meets Angelica Lopez, her guardian angel. Then I thought about calling the story, Divinity Falls, which is the fictional town where the story is set. Ultimately, there was what I believed to be an exciting twist in the narrative that dealt with Alexandra’s Song. Bingo! Book title. Regardless of that minor struggle, the title also came from the original seed idea.
That little seed is now growing into a series of novels which put Angel’s Diner back into play. Book II is in the works, and it will be entitled, Alexandra and Grace. New but similar seed idea: “A girl is frightened.” Book III: “A girl is fed-up.” Book IV: “A girl is heartbroken.” You get the picture.
This method also prevents rabbit chasing. As long as the plant and the resulting fruit emanate from the same seed, you will stay on track.
My first three novels were written in the historical fiction genre. Fifth Sunday: The Loving Hands Murder is set in the 1980s in Alabama. In the Valley of Hope: Faith Conquers Fear is primarily rooted in 1919 and set in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. And Farewell PFC POLK: The End of a Nightmare belongs to the 1950s and is located in my hometown of Strasburg, Virginia, and Japan.
By the time I got around to conceptualizing the fourth novel, I wanted to remove the historical restraints and rely solely on my imagination. Pure invention. Total creativity. Unbridled fantasy. Believable. Real. Enter the supernatural and the inclusion of angels all from a seed.
Struggling for a story idea? Then plant a seed idea. Nurture it. And watch it grow.
Molly Sanders has been given the unique ability to see beyond the physical world into a place where a war rages between the forces of good and evil.
My first novel in the Angels Diner series is complete. Introducing, Alexandra’s Song.
To date, my books have been works of historical fiction. Alexandra’s Song is work of contemporary fiction with shades of suspense, the supernatural, and romance.
The story is set in Divinity Falls, PA, population 400. “Salute!” (Trivia question: Name the TV show that popularized that expression?)
Molly Sanders is the 20-year-old protagonist with a painful past, a big secret, and a forsaken dream. Driven by a anger, hurt, hatred, and a vendetta against her father, Molly runs away from home, hoping to find peace and isolation from his tyranny. Surely, the tiny Pennsylvania town near the Allegheny National Park would be far enough off the beaten path to achieve her goal.
On her first day in Divinity Falls she lands a job at Angels Diner and befriends four colorful co-workers: Rose, Lizzy, Pops, and Reggie.
Next day, she encounters Angelica Lopez, an elderly woman with a walker who knows more about her than anyone could possibly know. But that’s no big deal for a guardian angel, right?
Angelica, aka Angel, invites Molly to live at her place, a not so modest secret mansion in the woods. It is there that Angel prepares Molly to embrace the Master’s 3-part destiny for her life. Molly reluctantly agrees to Angel’s plan which brings the wrath of Helel Ben Shazar (Satan) and the angels of darkness.
Enter Casper Knight, handsome eligible bachelor. (If following her destiny wasn’t enough to destroy all hope for her desired peace and tranquility.) Yep. They fall in love. But then Casper gets blamed for the murder of Marge and Joe Wilson, that sweet couple from the antique store.
While Casper is in jail, Molly cares for his house which leads to an incident in which she is nearly killed.
On the first Saturday in August 2016, Molly travels to Upton, PA, to… Better not tell you that. That would be giving away her secret and her destiny. Turns out to be the greatest day of her life prompting the forces of evil to turn up the heat. The opposition becomes so great that Molly abandons her guardian angel, her friends, and her destiny and runs again.
Things go from bad to worse and in a shocking turn of events, Molly realizes the second part of the Master’s plan. Again she comes under demonic attack that leads to a coma and intensive care in a hospital.
When Molly awakens she sees the man she despises and is confronted with the question that will determine how her life ends. “Will you forgive him?”
Alexandra’s Song was fun to write. In fact, it wrote itself. I was as surprised by the twists and turns as you will be. And that one thing I always hope for in my books happened. It made me cry, especially the part where I discovered why the book is entitled, Alexandra’s Song.
I sincerely hope that you enjoy this book. Work on Book II, Return to Divinity Falls, is already underway.
If you like Alexandra’s Song, please share your thoughts with a review at Amazon.