I never know what my wife is doing in her art studio. Occasionally I hear some clunks and rattles, but basically she paints in silent seclusion.
Frequently, she emerges to share her progress on a painting. Studies it for a while and then scampers back upstairs to her studio.
Today, she brought me an early Valentine’s gift with special meaning. The painting is from a scene at Orkney Springs, Virginia.
In past articles, I have shared my love for this historic spot. In the 19th century, it was a resort for the wealthy in search of the healing powers of the mineral springs. They stayed at the Grand Hotel, a strikingly amazing structure still in existence today. It’s one of those places off the beaten path that causes you to wonder, “How the heck did that get here.”
In the mid 1960s, Orkney Springs hosted symphony workshops. That’s when I discovered it. Offered my first opportunity to study trombone under a professional classically trained musician.
I later learned that my grandparents grew up nearby. You can read about there experiences in and around Orkney in my book, In the Valley of Hope: Faith Conquers Fear.
But what made Orkney memorable was what happened there in October 1970.
It had rained that day, and it was miserably cold. When you’re young and in love, who cares.
In my mind’s eye, I can still see the trail and the multi-colored leaves along our path. The weather added to the ambiance by adding a gray tint to the landscape.
We walked hand in hand, both of us trying to summon the nerve to express our feelings. Much to my surprise (and relief), Janet said it first.
“I love you,” she said.
Three incredibly powerful words that changed my life.
That was 46 years ago. So her painting is the best Valentine’s gift ever. It depicts a time, place, and event that remains indelibly etched upon my heart. Arguably, the best day of my life.
What can I do to reciprocate? I’ve got 10 days to figure it out.
My last novel, Hope of Cherry Blossom Lane, was dedicated to her. But that was January.
One thing for certain, I won’t attempt a painting. The good Lord didn’t bless me with that talent. Even my stickmen are unrecognizable.
May you be blessed with such wonderful memories.
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,
Do you believe in miracles?
Alexandra Zakharov is thrilled to have her five-year-old son, Danny, back in her life. But then the unthinkable happens when her old nemesis Helel Ben Shazar kidnaps the boy and the only way to get him back is to surrender her soul to the Devil.
As the deadline rapidly approaches for her decision, Alexandra is summoned back to Divinity Falls where she is reunited with the man who abandoned her before the child was born.
Alexandra reluctantly teams with Johnny Hinson, the man she had vowed to hate forever, to battle evil and find their son. Their adventure lands them in the middle of a terrorist plot to destroy the United States of America.
The largest force of terrorists ever to set foot on American soil gather in Pennsylvania’s Hope Valley at the site of the 1779 Miracle at Gabriel’s Rock. According to legend, an angel intervened to protect Hope Valley settlers from an Indian attack and ordered both sides to coexist peacefully. Their reward would be a future of friendship, prosperity, and blessings.
Alexandra and Johnny’s only hope is…a second Miracle at Gabriel’s Rock.
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,
Two milestones this month. 45 years ago, June 19 to be exact, Janet and I were married. And this month also marks the 50th year since graduating from Strasburg High School.
As anyone my age will tell you, time passes quickly. I’ll rephrase that. Time passes too quickly. One day, you’re worrying about tripping on the graduation stage or your knees popping when you kneel at your wedding. And then suddenly, your hair is gray (if you’re lucky enough to still have it) and you’re the oldest living creature on your block.
It was September, 1970 when we met. Just out of the Navy, I came home hoping to find gainful civilian employment. I had already been given a part-time gig as the choir director at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Strasburg, Virginia.
Opened the door and, borrowing a title from a Beatles’ hit, I Saw Her Standing There. On the stairs, to be exact. Who was this beautiful stranger with the most amazing smile I had ever seen? I had only been away from home for four years and Strasburg was one of those small towns where everybody knows everybody. But I didn’t recognize her, although I had seen her before.
Turn back the hands of time to 1966, the year I graduated from Strasburg High School. In those days, I was a shy kid with low self esteem, no girlfriend and no prospects. But I did have one thing going for me. Faith and belief in the power of prayer. Consequently, every day I prayed for the Lord to reveal the one for me.
Those prayers became fervent and continued right on through the Navy Band years. Often times, as I prayed, I could see the image of a girl I had never seen or met, that is, until that September day in 1970. Which is why, the first words out of my mouth were, “Haven’t I seen you someplace before?” Yeah, I know. Oldest line in the book, right? However, this wasn’t a line. I meant it.
That night, we went to Pizza Hut. Soon after, on a chilly fall day, we drove to a magical place in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia called Orkney Springs. I had attended symphony workshops there while in high school. As we walked beneath the breathtakingly beautiful trees of Autumn, it is there that we gained the courage to say the words already written upon our hearts.
Through the years, we occasionally observed old couples walking hand in hand and hoped that someday that would be us. Thank God, we have arrived at someday.
Fast forward to last night. Turned off the TV and we talked. That’s all. Just the two of us. Best friends for 45 years. God’s gift that keeps on giving.
Barbra Streisand (also Gladys Knight) had a hit song from the movie of the same name called, The Way We Were. I am so thankful that my song is not just about the past but about the present. THE WAY WE ARE.
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.