Monday, December 19, 2016

A Few of My Favorite Things

When I released “More Fog Please”: 31 Years Directing Community and High School Musicals at about this time last year, it was gratifying to have a brief listing in the top ten books in the specific category on Amazon where this book fit best. However, being a “best seller” on one of Amazon’s hundreds of genre designations is hardly being a “Best Seller.” It was fun, though, and it was definitely a delight to write the book and recall some great memories.

Sometimes people ask me what my favorite show is. I don’t really have one favorite show. I have several: my favorite shows have great musical scores, characters I can care about, an interesting and well-developed story line, and they don’t always have a happy ending. The music in these shows is integrated into the story. My favorites are definitely musical dramas. I wrote about them in my book which (here it comes) is presently available on Amazon at a reduced price in recognition of it having been on the market for the past year plus.

So which shows do I love? I have to list Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s Carousel as number one. It’s not the greatest of the three I place at the top of my list. Carousel has a very special place in my heart, as you know if you’ve read any of my books, in particular my first novel, How I Grew Up. The novel is a roman à clef … a fictitious re-telling of actual events. My first experience with Carousel was during my high school days in the nineteen-fifties; a close friend performed the role of Julie Jordan only weeks after both her parents were murdered. Even with its dark subject matter, the show ends with a strong message of hope. I’ve directed it twice with high school students, and each time the impact of the show on those young lives was positive and uplifting. While not every piece of music in the show is memorable (a lot of people don't care for "A Real Nice Clambake," but the casts love singing it!), overall it has a score which is timeless. It also has one of my favorite pieces of music of any genre: “The Carousel Waltz” I think is absolutely brilliant.

Tied for second and third: The Secret Garden and Ragtime. Both have beautiful and wonderfully written scores and strong books, and are based on literary works. And both are an eyelash away from being operas because they have minimal spoken dialogue. I have to admit I love that The Secret Garden was written by two women, Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon, and the ladies did a great job. Using the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the writers of the musical have added elements of the era of the British Raj to deepen the meaning. There are some references in the book to Mary Lennox’s life in British India, but with music and a sense of the supernatural, the musical moves to another level. The score is stunning, with numerous exciting, poignant, remarkable pieces. I think most people who love the show would agree that the standout has to be a duet for tenor and baritone, “Lily’s Eyes.” I directed this show twice, once with adults in a community theater production, and later with high school students, who were challenged by the difficulties and did a professional, polished and passionate performance.

Ragtime is also an unforgettable piece of musical drama. The treatment by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty of Doctorow’s book is exceptional, and it’s my understanding Doctorow approved of their adaptation. He did not like the film. Hollywood simply didn’t understand what he was attempting. The musicians “got it.” The show is filled with memorable characters and events and the device of breaking the fourth wall makes the show even more intriguing. Of these three musical dramas, Ragtime is the darkest and yet, paradoxically, the most hopeful. The ending is absolutely brilliant. And the music! You can’t do this show without an outstanding pianist, because ragtime is heard throughout the score. There are so many great numbers it’s hard to name one as “best,” but my favorite is a number which begins quietly with solo lines from different characters and ends in a burst of beautiful sound from the entire ensemble. “New Music” is a piece I can listen to repeatedly and never tire of. My young cast, students from seven different high schools, had a life-changing experience by being part of this production. It’s that powerful.

There are chapters in the book about each of these shows in which I primarily discuss the challenges of putting them on stage. Here’s a link to order the book on Amazon. The $10.95 price is good until January 1. People in the Poconos can pick up a copy at the Pocono Cinema and Cultural Center any time the theater is open, for only $10.00, again a price that’s good until January 1. I name lots of names in the book … because it was my privilege to work with thousands of terrific people over those thirty-one years. There are also photos included.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Adventures in Musical Theater Land

Just about a year ago I released “More Fog, Please,” my one and only non-fiction book, a memoir of some of my “adventures” directing community and high school musicals over a period of thirty-one years. It truly was a delight to revisit some of the eighty shows I directed during that time, and to recall my interesting experiences when using stage fog … hence, the name, suggested by my terrific editor, Ashleigh Evans.

I’ve had a nice response to the book and at present it is being offered at a reduced price both on ($10.95) and at the Pocono Cinema and Cultural Center in East Stroudsburg ($10.00). I name lots of names, because every show involved a small army of people all working together to produce some pretty darned good shows! If you were involved in Pocono Lively Arts (1984-2007), Black Sheep Productions (2008-2011), Stroudsburg High School (1974-1990), East Stroudsburg H.S. and later ESHS South (1991-2015) musicals, you may find yourself in these pages. I wish I could have included every person who contributed, and I named as many as I could.

By request, there are also signed copies of not only this book but also my four novels (How I Grew Up, Eli’s Heart, You Are My Song, and Jamie’s Children) available at the theater. Books can be purchased whenever the theater is open. Don’t forget ─ books make fine Christmas gifts! People tell me it’s a “fun read.” It certainly was an enjoyable “write”! NOTE: A share of the proceeds from book sales goes to help support the theater, so you’re giving to two good causes: a wonderful community theater and a “starving author.”


“More Fog, Please” is Susan Moore Jordan’s affectionate and witty look at her 31 years of directing community and high school musical productions. The director has selected her favorites from some 80 musicals and (she) describes perils, successes, things that made the show particularly memorable. The fog of the title appears more than once, sometimes with near-disastrous consequences. It is a testament to the excellence of the productions that many participants have gone on to careers in music and the theater. Producers and directors of amateur musicals will find a great deal to love in “More Fog, Please,” but every reader will be entertained by the lively narrative which shows the drama behind the drama.

"More Fog, Please" is an incredibly captivating, quaint, beautiful portrait of community theater in small-town Pennsylvania. With stories about some well-known musicals, and other not-so-well-known musicals, the memoirs in this book have something for everyone. Susan Moore Jordan brings these productions back to life in a way I didn't think possible, bringing a new respect to the hard work and dedication that it takes to put on a successful show. 

The book is written in a familiar, graceful style as if you are sitting across from the author sharing a cup of tea and swapping tales. She gently brings the reader through many of her productions. The ups and downs, the mishaps and calamities, but through it all, she puts a face and history to the many people, young and old who she worked countless hours with, and the many challenges they all had to face building a successful production.

Capping a remarkable musical career, Susan Jordan has published her memoir of 31 years of directing amateur theater for Pocono Lively Arts (P.L.A.) and Stroudsburg and East Stroudsburg High Schools. A reminiscence of 80 shows from 1984 to 2015, “More Fog, Please” highlights all the measures – moving, stressful, comical, scary – that confirmed the old adage “the show must go on.” For anyone connected with any of Jordan's productions, this easy read will be a delightful trip down memory lane. For those in the audience, it is a peak at the months of creative labors that bore the fruitful stage production you enjoyed. For those aspiring to be directors, it is an enlightening, encouraging, engaging must-read.  Amazon author page: 
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Cover by Tristan Flanagan

Sunday, November 13, 2016

MEMORIES OF JAKE – Thoughts after Veterans’ Day

Two brothers, traumatized as children by seeing their father murder their mother’s parents. Then as young adults, both serve in the Vietnam War.

When I began work on Memories of Jake, my intention wasn’t to write a book about the war. But what I’ve learned has become an important part of the book: it wasn’t possible to separate Andrew’s and Jake’s life experiences from the impact of their time in Vietnam.

I have a family member who served as a Marine, and it’s taken him decades to deal with what the war and its aftermath meant in his life. And I have come to believe he is a typical veteran of the Vietnam War. This nation, it seems to me, has still not really reached an understanding of what that war did to us. It divided the country as nothing has since the Civil War.

So writing about Andrew, the artist, and Jacob, the warrior, meant I needed to find out as much as I could about how their time in Vietnam changed each of their lives … and find a way for them to deal with that. Hundreds of hours of research, many first person accounts (books and articles), videos, films. We Were Soldiers is very powerful, and from what veterans tell me, very honest … the first time the U.S. military really understood what they were up against.

Many members of the military found themselves conflicted by the experience. While fighting hard while in country ─ not just against the enemy, but against the climate and the terrain ─ they did everything they could to follow orders and to function as warriors. As the years passed, these warriors began to question why they were there and what they were fighting for.

Some veterans returned home to be actively opposed to the war. They had seen too many young men die. They were against this country continuing to send more recruits into what began to be seen as an “unwinnable” conflict. Many draft dodgers fled to Canada, where they found refuge. Some returning veterans could not adjust to civilian life and made their way into wilderness areas of this country, avoiding civilian life sometimes for decades.

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with a remarkable soldier, a veteran of both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Lt. Col. Charles Vincent (U.S. Army, retired) was kind enough to agree to read those portions of the book in which the war is important and offer me suggestions and corrections. Yet after all these years and a full life as a civilian, he admitted reading the passages from my book meant loss of sleep … Vietnam is still with him.

Vietnam is now a part of me as well. While I have come to believe the war was a mistake made by administrations dating back to Harry Truman, I grieve for the nearly sixty thousand lives lost, and I salute the veterans with utmost admiration. We need a strong military to defend this country. I fervently pray for our troops currently deployed. 

War is hell. Mankind can’t seem to stay out of it. Let’s all honor our veterans and pray for peace … constantly.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Young, Talented, in Love ... and Sometimes Overwhelmed

Excerpt from Eli's Heart. Krissy and Eli are young, in love, and dealing with some pretty overwhelming problems ... primarily, Eli's severe congenital heart defect. A talk about her choices for her senior voice recital, and whether Eli will perform with her, lead to a serious argument.


Krissy had thought when she chose the Schumann that performing the final song in the cycle might be difficult for her. The thought of his death was in both their minds. They never spoke of it, because Eli embraced life; it was one of the things Krissy most loved and admired about him.

Eli never said it, but because of his damaged heart he was aware every sunrise, every sunset, every good meal, every beautiful piece of music might be his last. Despite that, he was full of hope and plans for the future.

Then he said, lightly, “Besides, if I didn’t play for you, who would? Eddie?”

Without thinking, Krissy said, “Well, I had considered asking him.”

Eli abruptly stood and walked over to the piano. He turned and looked at her, and she was surprised to see his face was flushed and his eyes were blazing. “Are you serious? Good God, Krissy. You know he’s still in love with you.” He almost yelled at her. 

Eli had never raised his voice at her, and she was shocked. “Why would you say that? I never see him. I don’t know when you’ve seen him.”

Krissy had no idea what was going on in his head. She was shaking inside. “Tell me what you’re thinking, Eli. I can’t read your mind. I can tell you’re upset, but I have no idea why.” She wanted to touch him, but he seemed untouchable at that moment. “There are some things we’ve never really talked about that we probably should.”
All this was staring them in the face because of a piece of music she wanted to sing. Maybe her performing the Schumann song cycle was a very bad idea. He turned his face away from her.

She took a deep breath and composed herself. They had to talk about this. She moved over so she was sitting directly opposite him. “When you were fifteen, when I first met you, you told me you probably wouldn’t live to be thirty. You were twenty-one in May. You never talk to me about any of this. Why is that? We talked about how things were when you were younger. We’ve never talked about ...” she stopped again. He was looking at the floor. “Eli, please look at me,” she said. “Please talk to me.”

He finally looked at her. “We never talked about what would happen if I should die suddenly,” he said flatly. It wasn’t easy to say. He didn’t want to die. He didn’t even want to think about it.

“My parents were told I could die. Just like that. They were told I’d probably make it to thirty. That’s just great, isn’t it? Is this the talk you’ve been waiting for, Krissy?”

 He stood and started to pace the room. He sounded as if he were daring her to say anything at all.

This was ridiculous; she was his wife. He had to stop this. She took his hands and said, more firmly, “Why did you get so upset when I said I’d thought about asking Eddie to play for me if you couldn’t? Why can’t we talk about this, Eli?” She moved her hands to his shoulders. Her voice softened. “I’m your wife. We’ve been married nearly a year. You must know how much I love you. Why in the world are you jealous of Eddie?”

Eli looked at her, his anger spent. His shoulders sagged. He couldn’t believe he’d spoken so harshly to her. He moved away from her and slumped down on the sofa, put his head in his hands and looked at the floor. He spoke so softly she had to put her hand on his shoulder and bend down to hear him. “Because he, he loves you, and he doesn’t have a damaged heart. He wouldn’t die on you. He’d be around to take care of you.”

Krissy knelt beside him on the sofa and put her arms around him, pulling his head to her breast. Her voice shook as she spoke. “It’s you I love, Eli. It’s you I want to be with. I told you that when I asked you to marry me. Have you forgotten?” 

He took a deep, shaky breath. “We need ... I need to talk to you more. I can’t pretend I’m okay, because I’m not.” He paused. “I get scared. I get angry.”

He stopped, and she saw the anguish on his face. “I want to live forever. I hate that I have this ...” he stopped for a moment, and his mouth twisted. He pressed a fist against his heart as he said, “ ... this broken heart.”

He had never said this to her. He had alluded to it in a letter, but hearing him say it made her ache for him. She felt her own heart break. She put her arms around him again, and pulled him as close to her as she could; he clung to her. The room grew very quiet.


Eli's Heart and all my novels are available on Amazon, paperback and Kindle.
Please visit my Amazon author page or my website,,
for links to the books.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The War That Still Haunts Us

My first novel, How I Grew Up, is a roman à clef ─ the fictitious re-telling of an actual event. In real life, in January of 1954 a man named Bob Duke entered the home of his wife’s parents and shot and killed three people. His wife’s mother died instantly, her father died sometime during the overnight hours, and their other son-in-law lingered for some three months. My book is about how my close friend Anita Barker auditioned for our high school musical less than a week after burying her parents, won the leading role of Julie Jordan in Carousel, and performed brilliantly.

Three other books grew from this story, and I have gone back to that event again as I am at work on a two-book series. Anita’s two young nephews, Bob Duke’s sons, were in the house at the time their father murdered their grandparents and uncle. With every book I write, I strive to improve my craft, and occasionally I will re-read one of my novels with the thought of perhaps revising it and smoothing out the way I’ve told the story. So far I haven’t done that. I’d prefer to continue to write new stories.

I re-read How I Grew Up with the idea of possibly doing some rewriting, but decided against it. It’s written in first person, and I tried to give Anita her own voice. But I was struck by a thought: what if those little boys actually witnessed the shooting? I don’t make clear in How I Grew Up whether they did or not. I’ve learned that in real life, those two boys grew up to serve in Vietnam, one as a Marine, the other in the Army. Their mother remarried and had apparently a successful second marriage.

I’ve completed the first draft of a novel, Memories of Jake, about these brothers. While the conflict in Vietnam was taking place, I was a young mother, busy with an elementary school daughter, and sons born in 1965 and 1969 … the height of the war. I knew it was happening, of course; I had a brother-in-law serving in the Marines. I remember Johnson’s announcement that he was not running for re-election, the riots at the Democratic Convention, My Lai, the fall of Saigon, and the Pentagon Papers. News stories.

But since I’ve decided to tackle this book and realized from what little I had read that being in Vietnam would have become integrated into my characters Andrew’s and Jacob’s consciousness, I realized I needed to learn more. So along with numerous on-line articles, some videos and films, over the past several months I’ve read a number of books about the war: some novels, most first person accounts. I just completed Philip Caputo’s A Rumor of War, and I’m still dealing with this remarkable piece of literature and how deeply it affected me.

More than any of the other books I’ve read, this one put me right into the country, into the battles and frustrations and agony and yes, the excitement, Caputo experienced during his tour of duty. I understand now why I had often seen this book recommended as the definitive work on the warrior’s experience in Vietnam. It took the author ten years to write, partly because of the overwhelming impact from his tour of duty. He shows us a clear-eyed, heart-wrenching, totally honest look at the things war can do to a man. And the things a man can do while he is at war. I salute his courage, I admire his skill, and I thank him for his service.

And I wonder: how would I have reacted if subjected to what these military men had to deal with? My Native American ancestors have a saying my mother made part of who I am: do not judge another until you have walked a mile in his moccasins. Philip Caputo took me much farther than a mile into the darkness that was Vietnam.

One thing that I saw while doing online searches: we as a nation have still not resolved our feelings about Vietnam. In May of this year, more than forty years after the fall of Saigon, a bipartisan bill was presented to Congress to set aside a day to recognize our Vietnam Veterans. Co-sponsor of the bill was my senator from Pennsylvania, Pat Toomey, and I sent him a message thanking him for this action and received this response:

“I was proud to introduce S. 3002 on May 26, 2016. This bipartisan bill would encourage the display of the flag each year on March 29th, National Vietnam War Veterans Day, in order to properly recognize and honor the many proud veterans who served in Vietnam.”

My copy of A Rumor of War is a re-issue in 1997, twenty years after it was first published, and the author’s thoughts as he looked back over those two decades included this:

“Vietnam was the epicenter of a cultural, social and political quake that sundered us like no other event since the Civil War …it was an anomalous chapter in our national mythology. Our self-image as a progressive, virtuous, and triumphant people exempt from the burdens and tragedies of history came apart in Vietnam, and we had no way to integrate the war or its consequences into our collective and individual consciousness.”

My feeling is we are still searching for some resolution to what happened forty years ago. We still haven’t completely recovered from the Civil War. And in its own way, Vietnam divided the country as nothing has since the Civil War. I have the greatest respect for every casualty of that conflict. I can understand the vehemence felt by those who opposed it, and I vividly recall that the Tet Offensive finally made those of us here in the United States understand this was not going to be the quick and easy conflict we had been made to believe it would be. Yet for several more years, we continued to send young men into what we understood was an “unwinnable” war.

My works-in-progress are not about the Vietnam War. They are about two men whose lives were forever altered by their time in Vietnam. As with all my novels, it is the power of music and in the case, art as well, that helps them find a way to begin to heal their wounded souls.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Mending Fences

In my novel Jamie’s Children, Niall Logan’s bipolar disorder disrupts his life and affects the people who love him and want to help him in any way they can. The disease is difficult to diagnose, and in many cases ─ as in Niall’s ─ the patient resists seeking help for numerous reasons.

Niall’s sister Laura has been his best friend as well as his loving older sibling from their earliest years, and she does everything she can for him. As often happens with this disease, though, he lashes out at her and then doesn’t see her for months. When he is finally receiving treatment, she goes to visit him at the clinic where he is finally receiving treatment.

Here’s an excerpt from early in the book:


     She hadn’t seen her brother in months and wasn’t sure what to expect. He smiled when he walked in. She went to him and put her arms around him. He was too thin and he looked pale to her, and she didn’t like the smudgy circles she saw under his eyes.
     “Hey, Roger,” she said, using his middle name. It was their private joke: both had been given their maternal grandparents’ first names as their middle names.
     “How’s it goin’, Ruth?” He stepped back and grinned at her, and she saw in his eyes a glimmer that told her he was there; he’d leveled off.
     They sat together on a sofa. He sighed and relaxed. “This had to happen. I’ve been crazy for way too long.”
     “I should have done more to help you,” she said.
     “Nobody could help me until I acknowledged I was sick.” He took her hand. “You tried plenty. You tried pretty much everything you could.” He smiled wryly. “I didn’t want to hear any of it. I liked being crazy when I was up.”
     “Yes, you did. Mom says that’s the way this disease … what’s the word she uses? … ‘presents’ itself.”
     “Yeah. Mania. It’s beautiful, Laura. The problem is, sooner or later you crash, and you don’t even want to be here anymore.” She saw the haunted look in his eyes.
     “You can smoke if you want.”
     “I would, but lithium makes cigarettes taste like shit.” He gave a short laugh. “I’m told it’s going to take my body a while to adjust to the drug. Not a whole lot of fun.”
     “I’m sure.”
     He ran his fingers through his hair. “Here’s my goal, big sister. I want to come and hear you play Brahms with the Sinfonia. I want to be out of here before that concert.”
      She was touched. “I can’t imagine playing it without you being there.”
    There was an easy, comfortable silence between them. “I’m sorry,” he said finally. “I’m sorry for everything I’ve put you through. Put all the people I love through. I wish it had never happened.”
    “You’re sick, Niall. You didn’t do any of it on purpose, we all know that.”
    “Well, I could have reached out for help sooner.”
    Laura was thoughtful. “You know what I believe?  Things happen when they’re meant to happen.”
   “Well, that’s new.” He looked closely at her. “Sounds like something Dad would say. There’s a little bit of the mystic about him – comes from being part Irish, maybe?”
     Niall’s eyes shone as he added, “He came to see me yesterday. Flew all the way from Milan right in the middle of his run of Aida just to spend a couple of hours with me.”
     “I would expect nothing less from him. I can tell it meant a lot to you, though.”
     “It sure did. Just like it means a lot that you’re here now.” He grinned at her again. “Has it ‘happened’ that a man has come into your life recently?”
     She punched him lightly on the arm, but felt color rise in her face. “Now what makes you ask that?”
     “You look extremely pretty tonight. New dress? New hair style? What?”
     “Both. But I did them for me, not for … anyone else.”
     Now he was teasing. “C’mon, tell. You know you tell me everything. Who is this guy?”
     “It’s just a friendship, Niall. He’s the pianist I’m working with now.” She knew she was blushing.
     “How old is he?” It didn’t surprise her that he would ask. As a teenager, she’d had crushes on older men more than once and thought herself hopelessly in love. Then she went through a period of several years when she swore off men, period. She was too busy perfecting her violin technique to bother with them.
     “Actually, you’ll be very surprised to hear that he’s two years younger than you.”
     “He’s twenty-three? Holy shit. Laura the cradle-robber. I can’t believe it.” He laughed heartily.
     “He’s a lot more mature than you are. In fact, he’s more mature than I am. He’s … well, he’s really something.” She dropped all pretense and warmed to the subject. “His name is Leon Weiss, and he completed his master’s last year at Juilliard. He’s teaching there now and is a fine collaborative pianist.” She took both Niall’s hands.
     “I’m not here to talk about me, Roger. I know I’m not allowed to stay long. Is there anything you need? Anything I can bring you? I’m sure Bonnie and Mom see you whenever they can, but if you need anything at all, or just want to talk, will you call me? It’s really not a bad train ride.”
     He grinned. “I’d like to hear more about Leon the Wise. It’s great you finally have an age-appropriate man in your life, Ruth.” She punched him again, this time on the shoulder.
     “I’d say the lithium is a good thing. You’re acting like the snotty little brother you always were.”
     A nurse approached them and said to Laura, “I’m sorry, Miss Logan. Niall needs to be back in his room in just a few minutes, but I can tell your visit has been good for him. Please come back when you can.”
     She walked away and Laura said, “She seems nice.”
     “She’s okay. A little firm sometimes, but she’s no Nurse Ratched.”
      Laura’s eyebrows went up. “Niall … are things okay here?”
     He laughed again. “Just kidding. This is no ‘Cuckoo’s Nest,’ honey. Good folks run this operation. They really care about us crazies.”
   They stood and embraced. Laura found herself close to tears. She wanted to spend more time with him. “I wish I could stay longer. I should have been here sooner.”
     “Stop it, Laura. You’ve always been my life line. You’ve bailed me out so many times over the past few years. Mom and Bonnie needed to get me in here, and Mom knew just who to call.”
     He hugged her again. “Tell that guy Leon he’d better treat you right.”
     She laughed and wiped her eyes. “I’ll give him the message. I’ll be back this weekend.”
     “I’d like that.” He put his hands on her shoulders and looked at her levelly. “I’m going to be okay, sis. Finally. I’m going to get better.”
    “I know you will,” she replied. She walked away and turned back to wave, leaving a piece of her heart with him. He looked very young and a little lost.
     Be well, Niall. Please, be well.

Jamie's Children is available on Amazon, paperback and e-book. Please visit my website at for links to all my books.

cover by Tristan Flanagan

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Laura's Misadventure with a Tenor

In light of recent events, a chapter in Jamie’s Children seems to be pertinent to the ongoing discussion about some men’s proclivity to look on women as objects intended for their pleasure. Sometimes it’s much more subtle, but the end result is the same.

Laura Logan is a virtuoso violinist, former child prodigy, who is also a lonely young woman who longs for a romance. Unfortunately, she has an encounter with a man who turns out to be not at all what she had hoped for, and she becomes one of those “sadder-but-wiser” girls Harold Hill sings about in The Music Man. Harold himself doesn’t have a very good track record until he is tripped up by actually falling in love. 

Here’s Laura’s first encounter with the man for whom she has high hopes. He’s a talented tenor, handsome, suave, sophisticated. Laura is twenty-two. Andrei is forty-one. They are both in Aspen, Colorado, as  members of the Aspen Music Festival staff, and performers for the summer. She’s had very limited experience with males; she’s devoted herself to her music, and she is vulnerable. 

Anita is her accompanist for the summer. Ardith is a therapist she had seen in the spring when she had learned some important things about her obsession to perfect her technique on the violin to the detriment of her emotional involvement with the music.


     Another member of the audience who spoke with her was Andrei Potrenko. She had met him briefly at a get-together for staff and faculty the first weekend they were there, but it had been a casual moment in a crowded, darkened space and Anita had whisked her away almost immediately.
     Now she had a chance to really see him. He was a strikingly handsome man, with dark blonde hair and unusual light eyes – gray, she thought; taller than she had realized, trim and broad-shouldered, with an air of aristocracy about him. He held himself confidently and moved with a certain amount of grace; she realized she was attracted to him.
     It made her wonder about the two failed marriages; he probably didn’t want for willing female companionship. Maybe the wives had grown tired of extramarital affairs. She reminded herself it wasn’t her business, but she was definitely curious.
     He spoke to her warmly, complimenting her on the performance. “I am looking forward to making music with you, Laura. You play with such passion … such elegance.” He had the tiniest hint of an accent and she couldn’t place it, but it was charming. He was charming. Maybe his family spoke Ukrainian or Russian at home as he was growing up? He was gazing into her eyes as she spoke, and she was flattered by the attention and the frank interest he seemed to be showing her.
     Ardith Mossman’s cautionary words came back to her: Don’t jump into bed with the first guy who looks interested.
     She thought as he walked away, Was he hitting on me? He definitely was checking me out. She liked the idea; she shivered slightly. He was definitely easy on the eyes. Time to leave the drawbridge down, she thought, or maybe even blow it up.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Excerpts from JAMIE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 1

In Jamie’s Children, as in all my books, the characters are faced with challenges which they meet with the help of the music in their lives. Niall Logan, the son of a renowned operatic tenor, has aspirations of becoming a successful singer-songwriter. And he has the talent and the passion. Unfortunately, Niall also has a frightening mental illness … he is bipolar.

In the first chapter we meet Niall, who has finally accepted the fact he may not survive if he doesn’t agree to seek the help he needs in dealing with his illness. He’s now in a clinic in Westchester County, New York, thinking back over the recent events which brought him here.


Chapter 1: Niall
Life on lithium.
Could be the beginning of a song lyric, thought Niall.
Life on lithium, how things have changed.
Not as much fun as when I was deranged.

He was sprawled across the bed in his room at the clinic, one arm over his eyes, fighting back tears. He was thinking of his sister Laura; he needed to see her. She had been good to him his entire life, and the last time he’d seen her he had been awful. Why would he have done that? When did his life turn upside down?
He wanted it to be spring, and for the two of them to be in the park with their parents, getting ready for a Sunday morning picnic. He wanted to be six again, flying a kite with his dad, playing badminton with Laura, sitting close to his mom as she read to him.

He sighed and sat up, stretching carefully. Muscle aches were part of Niall’s “adjustment” to lithium, and his shoulders and back and hips were painfully stiff and sore. He looked at the light on the table next to the bed. No halos, that was good. He looked around the room. No weird shadows in the corners. No musical sounds that weren’t there.

When did I start analyzing my sensory perceptions? he thought. Since I started taking lithium. What a stupid name for a drug. A drug with a lisp. Or a lithp.

. . . His heart began to pound when he saw the shadows in the room begin to pulsate and writhe. There’s something in them. He backed away, his stomach churning, and felt Bonnie’s arms encircle him. She soothed him, took his hands and gently led him to the bed. Defeated and confused, he lay next to her, trembling, shaking, beating a pillow with his fists, his throat aching with sobs he couldn’t release. She wrapped her arms around him and rocked him as if he were a child, and he relaxed enough to fall into a fitful sleep.

He woke the next morning feeling as if six inch spikes had been driven into his eyes and through the top of his head. His stomach was on fire. When he tried to move nothing worked. He knew what it was: a killer migraine. When he finally managed to open his eyes he shut them again immediately. The world had changed; he didn’t even want to be there. He curled into a fetal position. He refused to even drink water.

 I guess this is what it is to hit bottom, he thought. I’ll die if I keep doing this, flying and then crashing. I’ll end up killing myself.

Jamie’s Children is available on Amazon, e-book and paperback.
Please visit my Amazon author page or my website to find links to all my books.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Jamie Logan and the Wonderful World of Opera

You Are My Song is the final book in my “Carousel Trilogy,” a trio of books about three high school students whose lives are changed by a small town tragedy in the 1950s. When we first meet Jamie Logan, in How I Grew Up, he is performing the role of Billy Bigelow in Carousel. His leading lady is Melanie Stewart, a high school senior whose parents have just been shot to death by her estranged brother-in-law.
My thanks to Anita Lock for this excellent review of the book in this week’s issue of Underground Book Reviews, a great website which encourages and promotes independent authors in many ways. It was exciting that this was the second book the website selected for an in-depth review. Eli’s Heart was also reviewed by Ms. Lock.

The Rundown
Jamie Logan’s love for singing was set in place at a young age. By high school Jamie gets involved in theater and his lilting tenor voice wins him the lead role in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. Although he’s attracted to the lead lady in the musical, Jamie is too enamored of Sarah, his longtime sweetheart—so much so that Jamie dreams of the day when he will be a dad. A few years pass and Jamie and Sarah finally wed. But the marriage is not a happy one since Sarah forbids Jamie to pursue his other dream of singing. Dissension brews eventually leading to divorce. Now with his dreams dashed, Jamie feels like a failure, especially when Sarah snidely comments that maybe he’ll “find a job as a professional rainbow chaser.”
Getting back on his feet, Jamie decides to contact Ed Davidson, his high school vocal teacher who inspires him to train for entrance into the University’s opera program. Passing with flying colors, Jamie slowly begins to build his career as an opera singer. Yet as highly talented as he is, Jamie has no idea the trials he will have to face on his musical journey. Jamie periodically finds himself plagued with nervousness prior to performances and low self-esteem as competition auditions become more taxing. It doesn’t help that a family crisis gets added to the mix. Amid all his problems, Jamie knows that the only one who can help him achieve the highest career goal is the woman he loves. But whether or not Jamie can overcome his worst enemy in the process will be his ultimate challenge.
In the final novel of The Carousel Trilogy, Jordan gathers the featured characters (Melanie Stewart, Krissy Porter, and Jamie Logan) from her series together in one glorious romance tale. Based on her “experiences as a voice teacher and stage director” and “inspired by real people she has encountered,” Jordan’s 1960’s plot shines a light on the complexities of professionals in the opera realm. While men and women’s roles were defined differently in general as well as in the musical arena, so too were issues of race and gender—all thought provoking concepts for readers to ruminate on to compare then and now. As she weaves in these troubling aspects in the midst of Jamie’s intriguing life, Jordan includes a delightful array of all things opera.
The Recommendation
You Are My Song creates a nice closure to a great trilogy! There is no doubt that the largest draw of readers will come from those who are musically inclined—whether instrumentalists or listeners. Yet Jordan incorporates so much more than the opera scene to grab the attention of anyone looking for a captivating read.
The Rating Reviewer Rating: 5 Stars
5 Stars (out of 5): Highly recommended. This book did exactly what it set out to do, with originality, style, and maybe even a twist. It stands out next to popular, traditionally published novels in its genre.
The Pros & Cons
Pros: Believable, Characterization, Page Turner
You Are My Song (Kindle edition) is currently on sale on Amazon for ninety-nine cents. A great chance to pick up the book!

Cover by Tristan Flanagan

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Stage Fright

Performance nerves. Performance anxiety. Stage fright. Whatever you choose to call it, it’s something most musicians have to deal with, and it can be awful. It can precede a performance by hours or even days, or it can be a moment of heart-pounding, gut-wrenching fear just before the performer steps onto the stage. It’s an adrenalin jolt that some performers manage to use to their advantage; a rush of energy that some can learn to channel in such a way their performance is enhanced.

I’ve never known a performer who didn’t experience it to some degree, because we all want what we do to be flawless, perfect and awe-inspiring. That’s asking a lot of ourselves, but it’s what we strive for. It’s rare for a performer to finish a performance and be totally satisfied with it. The nerves are usually vanquished when the first notes are played or sung and the performer realizes he is going to live through this. He thinks of the music, and it begins to be an experience that’s enjoyable if not exhilarating. After all, we do this because we love to do it, to share our music.

The musicians in my books experience stage fright. Jamie Logan, the tenor who strives to conquer the world of opera in You Are My Song, describes it as a combination of fear and excitement he experiences just before the curtains open. But that’s when he’s a mature artist: as a younger singer, he had serious trouble with stage fright. I think Jamie has learned how to use that adrenalin rush to his advantage.

Eli Levin, the main character in Eli’s Heart, sometimes has terrible attacks of nerves. In this excerpt from the book, he has one of the worst cases of nerves in his young life when he has limited time to prepare a difficult and demanding piece which he plays with a string quartet. He practices like crazy (well, that’s not new – Eli always practices like crazy). He cuts a class or two to practice, has trouble sleeping and isn’t his usual loving self with his wife.

The piece is the Brahms Piano Quintet in F Minor, and if you’re intrigued there are quite a few performances on YouTube. One I especially love is with the great pianist Arthur Rubinstein and the Guarneri Quartet.


Eli asked Krissy to sit in the auditorium for the first half of the concert, two Bartok quartets. She wanted to stay with him, but he told her he’d really rather she didn’t. She tried not to look hurt, but he saw in her face she felt he was shutting her out. She was right. He needed it to be him and Brahms right now. He studied the score, his hands trembling.
At intermission Walter told him not to worry, it was going to be great. Krissy found him and walked into his arms, and he held her tight. She didn’t say anything, just held him as close as she could. He relaxed enough to feel he could walk out to the piano. “Hold these for a minute, will you?”  He handed her his glasses as he wiped his face and hands with his handkerchief. It distressed her to see his hands shaking. Have I ever been this nervous before a performance? he thought. Krissy replaced his glasses and kissed him, and he relaxed a little more. She smiled and touched his face, love and concern in her eyes, and went back to her seat.
As Eli waited to go onstage with the Quartet, he tried to turn his thoughts inward, to find that place in himself where he had gone so many times to find the muse. He knew she was there; she was always there. He caught a glimpse of her and held onto it as he walked onstage. He sat at the piano, opening the score. He looked at the score as he heard the strings tuning, focusing on what Brahms was asking from them to bring the printed notes to life.
Think about the music, Eli said to himself. Think about the muse. He heard the music in his head. His hands were no longer shaking; they were steady as he lifted them. He looked at Walter and nodded slightly; he was ready. On Walter's signal Eli brought his hands down on the keyboard, a brief thought crossing his mind: Here we go. He felt and heard the opening unison passage, all of them moving as one.  Eli attacked the keyboard for the rapid arpeggios that followed, playing them cleanly; he heard the strings accenting what he was doing. He caught Walter’s signal as they began the main theme, and the music swept through him. He became caught up in the beauty of what they were doing together and the connection he felt with them.
The first movement went almost perfectly, and he began to feel more confident. Eli loved playing with these men. He was part of a team; it was the musical equivalent of playing in the infield with the New York Yankees. The nerves were gone. By the time they began the third movement ... the Scherzo ...everything felt right. His fingers flew over the keyboard with surety, elegantly arcing phrases, weaving the piano part perfectly with the strings. This was why he played; this incredible feeling of making the music soar. There was another rush of adrenalin as they approached the end of the final movement; after the last strong chords there were glances and smiles exchanged on stage. Eli breathed a huge sigh of relief, feeling slightly giddy, elated by the joy of having lived music here in this hall with Brahms, with his colleagues, with this audience. The audience stood and responded with enthusiastic and prolonged applause.


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Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Inspiration for ELI'S HEART

A Courageous Musician

Eli’s Heart was inspired by a friendship I had decades ago with a brilliant teenage pianist born with the congenital heart condition Tetralogy of Fallot. Samuel Sanders was fifteen when I first met him and heard him play. He was visiting a sister who lived in my hometown and he came to my house several times, and we listened to recordings of orchestral music, played piano duets (which was definitely daunting for me!), talked about books and baseball. His activities were restricted because of his congenital heart defect.

With a lot of help from Dr. Aarti Asnani, a cardiologist with Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, I finally developed a grasp of the condition. There are four separate defects of the heart: a hole between the lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart, which means unoxygenated blood is mixing with oxygenated blood; a narrowing of the valve between the right ventricle and the lungs, which means not enough blood is getting to the lungs to be replenished with oxygen; a thickening of the wall of the right ventricle; and an aorta which is misplaced and is drawing blood from both ventricles. 

The result is a considerable reduction in the amount of oxygenated blood distributed to the body. The average person receives between 90 and 95% oxygenated blood. TOF patients receive sometimes less than 50%. Breathing is a struggle. Any physical activity, even walking, becomes difficult and can be life-threatening. Many children died in infancy, or did not survive puberty. Cyanosis (blue coloring of the skin, especially fingers, toes and lips) is a primary symptom.

In 1944, Drs. Alfred Blalock and Helen Taussig, with considerable help from Blalock’s assistant Vivien Thomas, developed a procedure to alleviate these children’s suffering. A shunt was created by attaching a branch of the aorta to the pulmonary artery which increased the flow of oxygenated blood. Sometimes this increase was dramatic; sometimes enough to at least ease their symptoms. From my understanding, patients who survived the procedure lived more normal and longer lives. However, the heart was not repaired. The Blalock-Taussig procedure was considered “palliative” ─ it eased the worst of the symptoms, but all four defects of the heart were still there.

About ten years later an open-heart surgery (called the “total correction” or “total repair”) was performed which patched the hole between the ventricles and widened the opening to the lungs, giving the patients a chance at a better quality – and quantity – of life. Over the past decades, as TOF patients have lived longer (some into their seventies and even eighties) other surgical procedures have been developed and refined, and a range of medications also exists to help treat the condition. It was at first considered a congenital heart defect. It is presently considered a congenital heart disease, a life-long struggle with a heart which can never be made “normal.” From my understanding, there is no one “standard” procedure for these patients. One comment from Dr. Asnani in our extensive correspondence stands out in my mind:

“With regard to treatment options for (adult) TOF patients, it’s definitely not a straightforward decision to pursue surgery, so we will often try to manage with medications for as long as possible.  Newer technologies like cardiac MRI are helping us figure out when the heart dysfunction is progressing to the point where heart surgery is absolutely necessary to prevent a further decline, though we’re still wrestling with defining the exact timeline.”

One of the first things Samuel Sanders told me was that he didn’t expect to live past the age of thirty. Other than that, and telling me about the cyanosis and that he’d had surgery, he didn’t discuss his condition and I didn’t ask questions. We concentrated on enjoying the time we had together.

After hearing him play – brilliantly –  the Rachmaninoff Second Piano Concerto a few months later, I lost touch with him. Some thirty years later I met a young man who was studying accompanying with Sam at Juilliard, so he’d have been in his early forties at that time. His student also told me Sanders had opted to work professionally as an accompanist rather than pursuing a career as a virtuoso pianist. I was very glad to hear he had survived past the age of thirty and was still sharing his extraordinary gift.

I thought of him again when I watched the HBO film “Something the Lord Made” (highly recommended) and wondered how he was. Internet searches revealed that he had died at the age of sixty-two. He’d had the B-T procedure when he was nine and two additional surgeries (the total correction and a heart valve replacement), and eventually not one but two heart transplants. The second one failed, sadly. While not a household name, he had a long and illustrious career as a collaborative pianist and performed with some great musicians who definitely ARE household names. I list a few of his many recordings in the discography at the end of the book.

My book is fiction, and my character Eli Levin is the product of my imagination. I did not know Sam Sanders beyond that brief friendship when we were both little more than children. However, his passion for music certainly had a lasting impact on me; he was indeed an extraordinarily gifted pianist and musician. We don’t meet many musical prodigies in our lifetime, and if and when we do, we never forget them. The fact that this one also had a damaged heart made him even more unforgettable.

(First published in July, 2014)

ELI'S HEART is available in paperback on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and most online book stores; and as an e-book on Amazon, Smashwords, Nook, iBooks, and Kobo. 

cover by Tristan Flanagan