Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

Today I’m on the Blog Hop: The Next Big Thing
The last blogger was Marilyn Meredith. After you’ve read this post, hop on over to her blog where she answered the very same questions: 
Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:

What is the working title of your book?
Our latest book is an historical novel based in San Juan Capistrano between the years of 1820 and 1890, entitled The Memory Keeper.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
Larry and I both had read Molokai and Honolulu and loved them. Larry said, “Why don’t we write something similar about San Juan Capistrano. It has such great history. So we began doing research. The more we discovered, the more we became excited about the book.

What genre does your book fall under?
This one will be an historical novel. We keep exploring different genres (nonfiction, sweet romance, mystery, fantasy). I guess we’re just easily bored!

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Since our characters are Juaneño Indians, maybe A. Martinez as the adult Tomas with Sacheen Littlefeather as his mother. Since the book takes place over so many years, we’d need actors of various ages. We’d need Hispanic and American actors as well.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Tomas Romero recounts the events of his life as a Juaneño Indian from his birth in 1820 through his seventieth year.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It will probably not be self-published, but it might be published by an indie publisher.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
We’re still working on it and anticipate it will take about two years to complete because of all the required research.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
We hope it will compare well with Molokai and Honolulu, two of our favorites.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
We live in Dana Point, CA, right next door to San Juan Capistrano. We know several descendants of the Juaneños. Their history has fascinated us for some time, and we now think we’ve found a good vehicle for recording it in an interesting way.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
It is the history of the area, told from the point-of-view of a native. It also includes all the various changes that occurred to the mission during the Spanish, Mexican and finally American administrations. We’ve tried to capture the real emotions of the actual people who lived during this turbulent era.

Learn more about Lorna on her website:

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Power of Music

Saturday night we hosted four of the performers in the Kiev Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. This is about the fifth time we have provided beds for the talented performers from this group.
We became involved about ten years ago when we were asked to host two orchestra members. At their first concert, we were completely blown away! They are perhaps the finest performers I have ever heard—and that’s saying a great deal. For years, we had season tickets for several venues, including the Hollywood Bowl. We have heard some of the best groups in the world. And these folks can compete with any of them.

They are part of Music Mission Kiev ( founded by Roger McMurrin in 1992. The group usually does a US tour every other year, often performing here in Southern California.

We’d previously hosted two male performers. This time we had four.

Until the last tour before this one, we’d had instrumentalists. However, the last time, we hosted two of the younger singers, Vilen Kilchenko (Tenor) and Lev Remeniev (Tenor). They were also part of another Ukrainian award-winning vocal group, ConCord. (Lev is fourth from the left, and Vilen is fifth in the photo below.)
These young men received a great deal of adulation as competitors in the Ukraine’s Got Talent competition ( There are two other videos on YouTube with short clips of a few of their songs, including their actual competition on the TV show. ( and The videos are in Ukrainian, but it is easy to understand what is happening, and the music is fabulous. (I have their CD on my iPod, and I love it.)

After they performed on Saturday night and again during worship on Sunday morning, the two young men accompanied Larry and me to see my mother. At the time, she was living in a nursing home. She was quite senile, but she still remembered who we were.

When we visited, I quite often played the piano for my mom as music was one of the few ways in which she could still be reached.

On this day, these dear young men performed a terrific a cappella mini-concert for her and the other residents of the nursing home. Instead of the indifference and lack of enthusiasm which was often her response to our visits, Mom came alive with the sounds from these sweet guys.

She smiled and obviously enjoyed every minute of their visit.

On Saturday night, we saw Lev again and were able to thank him once more for bringing joy to my mother. She died last year, but the visit from these special young men is one of my favorite memories of her final years.

At the end of her life, when she had lost nearly all her memory, music still remained a way to connect to her. I will always be grateful for the music she brought to my life and for the music I was able to bring into hers, even as she faded away.

I hope we will have another opportunity to host musicians from Kiev again on their next trip. Each time has been a very special experience for us, and we hope for them as well.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Sharing Memories

Our new book, The Memory Keeper, begins, “In the end, only memories remain.”

This came home to us dramatically during the past couple of weeks.

A week ago Saturday, we attended Larry’s fiftieth high school reunion, where we saw many former schoolmates and renewed friendships. Since we grew up in the same neighborhood, and I attended the same school, graduating two years behind Larry, I also knew many of those in attendance.
Some people had changed; others hadn’t. But we all had shared life experiences. The economic and cultural differences in our childhoods seem to have disappeared along with the years. We found that what we shared was far more valuable than what we didn’t. And most of us still remembered how to sing the alma mater—which we did.

One of the folks had put together a short video with photos of the classmates we’d lost over the years, and our mutual sadness and sense of loss filled the room. At the same time, we also shared our gratitude for having known them.

That same sentiment recurred this week when we attended the celebration of the life of my former sister-in-law, Sheila, who died last week.
The event was held at her sister’s home with the entire family present. Since we’d all grown up in the same neighborhood and attended school together, there were few strangers.

When our kids were little, Sheila and I had been quite close, and Kim had been even closer to her auntie. So we felt a genuine loss at her passing.

The remarkable thing was that the three sisters (Sheila, her twin, Sharon, and their older sister, Sue) had all been married twice. And two of the three ex-husbands came. As one told me, “I’m still a member of this family. In fact, my ex-wife and I are better friends now than we’ve ever been.” That says a lot about the love that surrounded everyone.

Our nephew-in-law had put together a slide show of photos of the girls throughout their lives. It played all day. We enjoyed seeing everyone as children. Because the three girls were close in age, we’d thought they were triplets when they were small. They were all about the same size and dressed alike. In fact, their mother told us she often referred to them as ‘the triplets.’

We attended the event primarily to support our niece and nephew. We had a chance to talk to each one of them and were very pleased to hear that they’d been able to spend some quality time with their mom at the end, bringing closure to some childhood issues. We had certainly prayed for that, and our prayers seem to have been answered.

Many of those present had attended our high school, so we heard stories of mutually-shared experiences. Many conversations began, “Remember when…” And we did.

One of the couples looked familiar to us, but we couldn’t place exactly who they were. They finally approached us with the same question. It turns out that he is the brother of Sue’s husband, and he and Larry were in the same class. They had been at the reunion the week before, but we were seated inside and they were outside. We’d probably passed each other several times during the night, but we weren’t able to talk. On Saturday, we did.

Seated at the same table with us at the reunion was a woman who was the girls’ first cousin. Although our hometown of Alhambra, California wasn’t terribly small, our housing tract was. Most of the families bought their homes when the tract was first built, and the majority of them had small children. We’ve always referred to it as an extended family because we all knew each other.

This cousin’s sister had been in my grade, and she was in Larry’s. I said, “I guess you’ve heard about Sheila.”

She gave me a questioning look and answered, “No. What about her?”

At that point, Sheila was in a coma from which she did not emerge. I felt badly about breaking the news at this occasion, but I also felt she should know.

We then learned that the families had been estranged for many years following the death of the girls’ grandmother. The cousin, however, was deeply shaken to discover that Sheila was near death.

She took the initiative and called her cousin Sue. They have agreed to remain in touch and to get together soon.

On Saturday, Sue told me that she’d talked to her mother about her cousin’s call. Sue said she’d like to invite her cousin to come for a visit and that she’d like for her mother to be there.

Her mother’s surprising response was, “That would be very nice.”

So I expect that soon that the family will be sharing more memories and, hopefully, some much-needed healing.

In the end, only memories remain. And we all ought to be grateful that we’re still here to share them.