Lost & Found

Coming of Age, Coming Clean

An eighteen year old leaves his home in Philadelphia to get away from a drug- addicted mother and her abusive partner—and to track down the man he thought was his deadbeat dad. His bus trip across the country and adventures in San Francisco, bring him answers and unexpected discoveries—and a new friend. When an accident brings both mothers and dad together for a reunion of opposites, we just might discover that we can respect and appreciate our different journeys.

lost and found - book cover

Book Synopsis

The first section of Lost & Found began as a screenplay, a contemporary coming-of-age discovery story. And so it became the first in the trilogy. The second part of the story brings together two mothers whose life experiences and aspirations could not be more different.

Emily & Terri are together in Oakland. Both mothers want to be there for their college-age students—very lucky to have escaped from the Ghost Ship warehouse fire. Terri’s recovery from sexual abuse, domestic violence, and addiction, are just what entitled and self-absorbed Emily needs to understand—for herself, in her own midlife love affair. However, Emily is so put off by Terri: to think her daughter, a bishop’s daughter, would even consider marrying the son of such a poor, working-class woman is appalling.

Robin, independent minded and wary of her mother’s intentions, had rescued Ryan from the fire that claimed the lives of thirty-six others. She is recovering well, but Ryan—after three days in the hospital—is still suffering from smoke inhalation. Even though Terri has spent what little money she had, coming to Berkeley from Philadelphia, Ryan does not want to see her. Will he recover? Can he forgive his mother for his lifetime of her neglect? Will Emily listen to Terri’s advice? Terri persists.



Eighteen-year-old Ryan from Philadelphia, struggling with resentment toward his mother, needs to find out for himself why his father left them ten years before. He is unprepared to meet his father. 


Robin is based on The Bishop’s Daughter, second in the trilogy — Robin (17), discovers her mother’s infidelity to her husband, is also a betrayal to herself and her own expectations of what a mother should be. Coming to terms with this, she tells her mother to keep her infidelity to herself, thereby protecting her father, his ministry, and their marriage.


Terri is the “pull it all together” third section of the book. Finally breaking through her oxycodone addiction and domestic abuse, Terri now sincerely wants to make amends to Sean and her son, Ryan.


Emily is the daughter of a conservative Episcopal bishop in Texas. She married to please him, but is now recently divorced. She is finally free to enjoy the attentions of an attractive and financially successful man. 

Behind The Scenes

The 1967 Summer of Love was a truly crazy but exciting time to be in The City, especially for college-age students. Momentum was building for protests against the Vietnam War, not just in San Francisco but worldwide. Then in the fall of ’68 the Black Student Union and the Third World Liberation Front brought further attention to the needs of people of color to get equal opportunities and college educations. A few teachers, honoring the five month-long college strike, meet with students off campus. So much history was playing out most boldly on the streets, yet somehow, I did manage to fulfill all my requirements to graduate in 1969.

Then a mere 42 years later, I’m sitting in the same classroom of the School of Cinema. Now more focused, I worked in earnest to craft my first feature-length screenplay. It was accepted by the faculty to represent the school in the hope of winning the Humanitas prize. 

Once in the program, I just kept writing. It seemed that my characters just told me what they needed to do and what they wanted to say. I would follow them on their adventures, including submitting my work to many screenwriting contests. The Moondance Competition awarded me a prize for what is now “Terri’s Story.” 

An actual incident on San Francisco’s vintage F-Market & Wharves streetcar became the basis for three screenplays and ultimately this novel. One afternoon, coming home from State, I lost a my wallet when the old trolley lurched forward. I did not notice then that it had fallen out and was hidden under the seat in front of me. Inside that wallet I had a note to please call me if found.

What a surprise, within two days I did receive a call. The young man who found it was from the East Coast in search of his father. His returning my wallet became the inspiration for this entire story. Yes, I have tried to reach him, to thank him, but to no avail. My younger brother, Martin Gerrard, has been something of a muse in this whole ten-year process. So, thank you, Marty.

Thank you Chad Lewine of ChadWorks for the wonderful website design. I love your work.

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For Audiobook Listeners: Notes from the Print Version

Pure fiction and every word is true—that is what I strive to offer. And to that end, I wish to acknowledge the people who helped me bring my characters to life and to resonate with the realities ordinary people face every day. 

My editor, Cris Wanzer, has spared you the inconvenience of confirming the correct American spelling of words. More important than that, she has also improved my clarity in transforming the film scripts into the novel now in your hands. Ironically in film school, I was reprimanded for sounding too much like a novelist! Also, Cris was not afraid to challenge me to clarify my characters’ motives and actions—even tracking details just as an experienced travel guide makes sure that everyone’s luggage gets on board the bus. And off.

Professor Joseph McBride at San Francisco State University, film historian and critic, especially focused on the legends of Hollywood, was an inspiration for all the screenplays including the conversion of the trilogy into a novel. He encourages all his aspiring writers to recognize the diversity in America and to have their work reflect that. Professors Scott Boswell and Julian Hoxter, also at SFSU’s School of Cinema, helped me structure the storylines in the original film scripts and keep the characters authentic and their plot progress compelling. 

To that end, much of the dialogue comes from real conversations overheard or dialogue I heard growing up. Emily certainly channeled my mother, Rita Curtis. Her advice to my sisters on how to be alluring to young men still stings. 

What about the challenges of parents going through separation and fighting for child custody? Why not consult a court-appointed clinical psychologist with over 13 years in family dispute cases? With an insider’s view of people tangled up in domestic trauma, Charles Roth, PhD, my husband, was most helpful in the development of Terri Gallagher’s character. I had such a hard time understanding how a woman could be so terrible as a mom. 

The Redwood Writer’s 2020 Anthology, Sunset Sunrise, edited by Crissi Langwell, included my opening chapter—but not without important feedback. The judges reminded me that readers need to empathize with Terri. Then my first beta reader for the entire novel, Elaine Vickery, said we needed to cheer for her, to have hope for her recovery. She needed to have more humanity. 

In addition to Redwood Writers and Elaine, Beverly Ford gave me invaluable reassurance in her thoughtfully reading my rough draft.  Researching domestic abuse was daunting. In addition to the many women with whom I shared Terri’s story, I found an amazing resource. San Francisco’s La Casa de las Madres—once I was allowed into the highly secured facility for women seeking shelter from abuse—was most informative. With printed resources, including TED Talks, I have since learned that domestic abuse and sexual abuse, are far more pervasive in our society than I originally thought.



 * The opening setting is Kensington—think Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky. The neighborhood my husband grew up in the 1950s now has the unfortunate ranking in the entire state of Pennsylvania for highest levels of poverty, drug addiction, domestic violence, and incest. How are we to climb or crawl out of these circumstances? Lost & Found is my exploration into that. It is also a success story for families of all kinds.


 * Scrapple is a mélange of pork scraps of head, heart, and liver, plus trimmings, corn meal and spices. “Waste not, want not.” Right? It is considered an ethnic food originating from the Pennsylvania Dutch. Vegetarians relax. It’s not available everywhere.


*  Margaret is inspired by what my mother would have said and done if she were Sean’s mom—a “spitting image” as she herself would have said. Growing up, we would see the Maryknoll magazine proclaiming the heroic efforts of that American Catholic religious order serving in foreign missions. Mom contributed to them every month from her college years to her passing. 

* My brother, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph R. Moran, USA, Retired, assisted me in his experience as a career officer and his understanding of many things military. He helped me honor Sean’s father and grandfather—and of course, all the men and women who have served.

* Yes, Childhelp is a real entity—1-800-4-A-CHILD, childhelp.org. They do good work in spite of some parents’ efforts to outsmart the system to get what they want. Sean may not have tried hard enough to prevail over Terri. It’s complicated.


* In all my research and in conversations with friends, I get a mix of views on just what is the best way to identify people. Black or black or Afro-American or African American without the hyphen… We know negro and colored are quite dated. And what about people of Asian or Filipino descent? Latino, Latina, Latinx. And while we’re at it, what about the LGBTQ+  alphabet string to be inclusive? So the point of this note is to say that I believe we need to appreciate the great stew of American mixed races, religions, cultures, and more. We do not need to become a homogenized mass. We can appreciate how different we look and accept our unique heritages. We just need to respect one another.

* This lady on the bus is as close as I can create a character based upon a dear friend, Beverly Sallee Ophoff. She has been so influential in my life and so many people around the world, I just had to include her in this story. Check out her books: Sunday Morning: A Step by Step Journey to Wholeness. Also: A Woman’s Guide to Bootstrapping a Business and Hitting the Highest Notes. On Goodreads or Amazon.


* The character Ryan is the fictional name for the honest and thoughtful young man from Baltimore. He introduced me to a real character, here known as Whiskey Bill. Whiskey was required to live at the Seneca Hotel and not on the streets—or in the parks. He was a good storyteller and claimed to have been close to Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane. Though I find that hard to believe, it did inspire me to include “White Rabbit” for the bus ride. 


* Only in the last couple decades has the alphabet string LGBTQ+ come into common usage. When I myself was coming to terms with my sexuality, I attended the Gay Fathers Association in Seattle, wp.gfas.org. I believe Sean’s story resonates with men coming to terms with their orientation. They may not yet understand or may not be in a psychologically safe enough place to admit they are gay. Times change. A little. 


* Trinity Episcopal Cathedral is a lovely community of Christian believers who do aspire to put into practice the teachings of Christ. However, Malcolm and Emily and Robin are entirely my own creations. They are not based on any members past or present. 

* Our regional and ethnic accents are wonderful and as I appreciate and respect them, I have sought out confirmation and correction for what you hear in this novel. Thanks to Jacalyn Kinney for help with Emily and Grace. 


* Oregon Episcopal School is a very real school and, like the Trinity Cathedral, it’s characters are my own.  

*  Likewise, SBG, the gym where Robin learns jiu-jitsu, is real. When I began developing Robin’s character—or was she calling the shots?—I took my original descriptions of jiu-jitsu moves to the local martial arts school in San Francisco’s Japantown. When the owner of Bay Jiu-Jitsu, Stephan Goyne, said I could join the other adults even if I was seventy-whatever, I accepted. So glad I did. He has created a very welcoming environment. Even the members respect and adjust to each other’s skill level. That way nobody gets hurt.


* The Raven Steals the Light is a 1996 reissue of a timeless collection of Haida myths by Bill Reid and Robert Bringhurst  with a new preface by Claude Lévi-Strauss. Of course, there are additional beautifully illustrated books and calendars on Raven.


*  English Now is my own name representing the extensive list of organizations offering ESL. The Multnomah County Library:  multcolib.org/learn-english  and Portland ESL Network is another: portlandesl.com.


* My sisters deserve thanks here: Kathy for taking me to her AA meetings and sharing her decades-long sobriety; Georgia for recounting stories about her church-sponsored work with alcohol, drug, and unsheltered people in downtown Spokane, Washington. Empowering Women is my own name for a composite of organizations that provide different shelter and support options for women in Philadelphia.


* Luis Ochoa is a tattoo artist and fellow teammate at Oliver’s Market—yes, I work a few hours a week there. He gave me the lines, “You take it. And you like it…” His use of the phrase was only in playful jest, never a setup for abuse. Special thanks to Caren in Wellness and Coleen in Gourmet Cheese for reading segments of the story. Also customers, Michelle Ferguson and Barbara Brennan for their thoughtful review of my characters. 

* Whole Foods Market, in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood where I worked, inspired several characters for my story. Special thanks go to Aya, Brian, Dion, Gonzalo, J.C., Karen, and dear friends Cathy and Stephanie.


* Joe Braden was my apartment building manager when I returned to San Francisco State to pick up where I left off my screenwriting pursuits. He read my script version and declared that Robin most certainly would not flee the burning warehouse without returning to rescue her Ryan. So obvious for her character! Thank you, Joe. 

And while seeking authenticity in reporting the disturbing news, I combed through the coverage by local TV stations and newspapers. I especially appreciate my neighbor, Alex Eberle. As a paramedic, he confirmed some of the basics in fire rescue work and the resulting damage done to patients with smoke inhalation.

Questions for Discussion

For use by book clubs, focus groups or for personal exploration of topics brought up in Lost & Found.

  • When you began reading or listening to the story, were you able to feel some empathy for Terri, even if you wouldn’t approve of her as a mom? What do you think about people like Emily who just cannot resist a dangerous sexual attraction?

  • Lost & Found brings up major social issues like domestic abuse, homelessness, sexuality, religion, and so on. How does plot and suspense or humor and words with double meanings (like the word choice) keep you engaged?

  • How do literary references such as fairy tales and lyrics of songs, help keep the story light enough to keep you reading?
  • Who were your favorite characters and whom did you dislike?
  • How early on did you know when Sean was gay, when Kevin was a thief, when Patrick was setting up Emily?
  • How do you deal with people you don’t agree with? How about when someone seeks your forgiveness?
  • Which characters make the most change? Can you cheer them on? Which characters are as steady as a rock?
  • Do you know anyone personally who needs to recover from domestic or sexual abuse? How are they supposed to get over those traumas?
  • What about Ryan? He is studying psychology, but is it possible he needs to learn from Terri? And might Terri come to a deeper spirituality? Should we even consider Emily? Should Malcolm take her back? Will Robin continue on her path to police work?

  • Do you think Lost & Found could help anyone you know work through issues? What about homophobia itself?
  • Does the author feature enough racial, ethnic, and cultural variety that realistically represents the cities where these people live? Even if he loves all his characters—yes, all—he does make fun of them. Hopefully, they are good sports about that… Any favorite examples? How about Whiskey Bill not getting the proper name of his Chinese grocer—how hard can it be?

About the Author

J. Curtis Moran

Summer of Love and protests on campus at San Francisco State University was a very crazy time. But I did graduate. I worked in the nutrition industry for many years until I became a caregiver for my parents with Alzheimer’s. It was then that I was inspired to bring their stories to life through cinema. So I returned to my alma mater to pursue screenwriting. There I completed five feature-length scripts. It was then that Professor Joseph McBride, film historian and biographer at SFSU, recommended I convert my trilogy to make it more accessible. Known as a reverse adaptation, this coming-of-age story is my debut novel.

J Curtis Moran

J. Curtis Moran – San Francisco, CA

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