Tuesday, August 30, 2016

JAMIE'S CHILDREN: Kudos to Laura and Niall!

It’s often said, and I will confirm it, that writing is a lonely profession and every author suffers major stage fright when releasing a new book. You’ve spent months, maybe years, pouring out your soul, ripping out your heart, and you finally feel you’ve written the book you wanted to write.

Until that moment comes when … in my case, since I self-publish through Amazon’s CreateSpace … you stare at your monitor at that box, “Publish My Book” and wonder if it’s really ready. It’s kind of like sending your kindergartner off on his first school bus trip on his first day of school.

Then you wait, and one of the most gratifying experiences an author can have is reading thoughtful, complimentary reviews. I’m thrilled to say Jamie’s Children has received a few, and since I believe these compliments are mostly for Laura and Niall and their dad, I’m sharing in this blog post. 

Here are a couple. There are more, and I’d love for you to visit the book page and read them. People are finding this a book worth reading, and of course I am posting in the hopes the person reading this right now might decide to give it a try! 

An Opus for the Ages, July 24, 2016

Jamie’s Children is a marvelous story of love, loss, adventure, and hope in which author Susan Moore Jordan paints a diverse cast of nuanced, relatable, and real characters. I came to love Niall and Laura — Jamie’s Children — within the first few chapters as they wrestled with a search for meaning in their lives.

While I would recommend this book to anyone, it is perfect for those with a love of music. Jordan’s ability to convey the subtleties of classical violin and piano, as well as contemporary guitar, is nothing short of masterful. The reader gets the experience of a backstage pass to Carnegie Hall and finds that the musicians up on stage are people too, with hopes and dreams just like the rest of us. By the end of the book I was ready to turn back time and become a classical pianist myself! A must read.

A Mosaic of Music and More, August 29, 2016

"Jamie's Children" is a novel that's VERY enjoyable and often touching -- even as author Susan Moore Jordan threads in all kinds of serious topics: mental illness, death, the struggle to emerge from the shadow of a celebrity parent, the struggle to have a satisfying private life when one is in the public eye, etc. Interspersed with all that is a fascinating look at the characters' relationship to music: Jamie and his internationally famous opera singing, daughter Laura and her virtuoso violin performances, son Niall and his acoustic guitar-playing and songwriting. Ms. Jordan clearly knows her music! Also impressive is the way the author has the novel bounce back and forth in time (between 1986 and 1990) and shift geographical locales -- including New Jersey, New York, Colorado...and readers' hearts.

NOTE: the Kindle edition of Jamie’s Children is currently available for $0.99. Sale runs from September 6 through September 8. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Do You Remember?

Thoughts on Memory

Memory is something most of us take for granted. We remember to pay our bills, we remember to feed the cat, we remember to put the garbage out. We remember to wish our family and friends happy birthday so long as we can remember when those birthdays are. (If we remember far enough ahead, we get a gift for them, or at least a card.)

Sometimes we drive past a house, or hear a piece of music, or glimpse an old photograph that reminds of a memory from some long ago time. Or we have lunch with old friends and at least once someone will say “Do you remember … ?”

What happens when that memory disappears, either slowly through disease or suddenly through injury, illness, or trauma?

It occurred to me when I woke this morning what an enormous undertaking my current work in progress, Andrew’s Journey, is. I am writing about the importance of human memory, in particular as it relates to the people we love.

My character Jake suffers retrograde amnesia as the result of a head injury in a wartime accident. He feels an outsider in his own family because he has lost all sense of what they are to each other. He’s lost all memory of the people he is closest to. I can’t imagine how that would feel. Yet I have to find a way to do exactly that.

Jake retains his cognitive memory. He doesn’t have to relearn skills such as speaking, writing, walking, even playing ball and speaking French. But his loss is frightening. Who is he?

The other side of the story is how his family reacts to this. They want him to remember. They want him to be the spirited young man he was before he was injured. They want him to recall the shared memories that made them a family. How do they handle this?

Memory and music: music is important to this book as it is to all my books. We associate music, I think, in two ways: with a memorable event is the most common. But also, the great composers wrote music that is memorable, and the music itself becomes the event which we can repeat every time we listen to a piece we love.

My book is fiction, but dramas such as this play out daily all over the world as people suffer from diseases that cause memory loss. There’s a chance Jake may regain at least some of his memory. For those suffering from Alzheimer’s, that is not a possibility, at least not at present. The patients and caregivers who live with this daily are heroes.

The next time you are asked, “Do you remember?” consider how blessed you are to be able to reply, “Yes, I remember.”

 All my novels are available on Amazon, paperback and e-book.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Adventure of Writing

When I wrote How I Grew Up at the “advanced youthful” age of seventy-five, I honestly thought I’d write one book and that would be it. A lifelong dream fulfilled, a story told that had needed telling.

But there’s this – I got hooked. I had no idea how addicting this adventure I’m on could become; how one book would grow into another, and yet another, and still another. And now I'm deep into novel number five, working title Andrew’s Journey. Two brothers: one an artist, one a warrior. Both serve in Vietnam in different branches of the military, and for very different reasons. But that’s just the beginning of the story.

The characters I create become as real to me as my family. I guess in a way they are my family – they were born in my imagination. And I know them better; I can get into their heads as I never could get into my children’s. Sometimes they do startling things. I’ve learned to let those things happen. For my current w.i.p. I needed to give Andrew, the protagonist, an art instructor who could also act as mentor and sometimes agent. I have no idea why I decided to make her young and beautiful and French. There is no romance between them, just mutual respect and appreciation.

But then Jake, the younger brother, is on leave and home to serve as best man at Andrew’s wedding to Mary. Mary’s a musician – a pianist. Yes, there’s music in this book: mostly choral music. Andrew’s passion is painting, but he loves to sing. Brahms’ Requiem is important in the book. Andrew is more complicated than I realized when I first met him.

Where was I going with this? Oh, yes. When Jacob meets Isabel, the gorgeous young French woman who is his brother’s art teacher, sparks fly. He’s twenty. She’s thirty-three. They both told me that was immaterial. When I met Isabel I had no idea she’d become involved with a much younger man. Here’s Jacob’s first look at her:

I knew she was French: Isabel Jeanseau. Nobody had told me how stunning, youthful and chic she was. I couldn’t keep myself from glancing at her amazing legs as she moved smoothly toward me on three-inch heels.
She smiled as she extended her hand: “And you are Jacob.” Only she pronounced it Zhah-kov, and it made my head spin.
“Yes, I am,” I said, returning her smile. “And you are my brother’s art professor. What should I call you?”
She looked up at me – she was tiny, probably just over five feet – and replied, “Your family calls me ‘Issy.’”
“I like Isabel,” I told her. Slightly tilting her head, she looked at me again, and I nearly drowned in green eyes framed by impossibly long lashes that looked real.

Yes, it’s pretty clear where this is headed.

Or maybe I did know that Jake and Isabel would get together. Maybe somewhere in my subconscious, where this story was churning, that was an element that would eventually surface. Isabel becomes an important part of the story, in fact. Who knows where these thoughts come from? We like to think our characters tell us what they want to do. The human mind is remarkable.

All I know is, it’s fascinating and I can’t believe how fortunate I am to have found this passion at this point in my life. I just hope my eyes and hands hold up so I can keep writing until my family finds me keeled over at my computer. I can’t think of a better way to go.

All my novels are available on Amazon, paperback and e-book.

Monday, August 1, 2016

More than Music

In my recently released novel, Jamie’s Children, Laura Logan spends time preparing to perform the Brahms Violin Concerto. She sees it as a milestone in her career as well as in her personal life.  When she finally takes the stage at Carnegie Hall to play this difficult work, she is doing more than playing. For Laura, this is more than music … it’s life.

This has always been a favorite piece of mine, and like Laura, for me the greatest performer of this work is the incomparable Jascha Heifetz. I heard him play it in January of 1956 with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, in Cincinnati’s wonderful Music Hall.

My program from those performances (in those days, the CSO performed twice on a weekend, Friday afternoon and Saturday evening, and as a college freshman I generally went to both) bears the maestro’s autograph. I’m not sure I know how I managed to get backstage and request it, I was so in awe of his artistry. But I will never forget the impact his performance had on me.

While I was writing Jamie’s Children I listened numerous times to Heifetz’s recording, trying to hear it as Laura did. In the book she is spending time in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania at a private home which has been lent to her at a lakeside community. While she’s worked on bits and pieces of the concerto over time, she feels for the first time as an artist – and as a woman – she is ready to attempt this piece. One thought she has, which speaks to what I heard when I listened to Heifetz all those decades ago: You can’t just play this music. You have to live it.


     Time to get serious about this, she thought. One reason she found the concerto daunting was because she had always been told it was the most difficult concerto she would ever perform. There’s so much emotion, so much depth. It requires playing with such expression. I want to play it the way the composer intended it to be heard; to find the richness and majesty and tenderness and beauty that’s there. I hope I’m finally ready to do this.
     She opened the score and turned on the recording by Heifetz, the twentieth-century virtuoso violinist considered by many to be one of the finest violinists of all time, and an artist she admired immensely.
     The opening section really sets up the listener, she thought. You hear these wonderful, strong musical statements, and they have to be followed by something dazzling. And it doesn’t disappoint, right off the bat you’re challenged with some difficult playing, almost like a streak of lightning splitting the air.
     She’d been practicing the opening ascending run for years. It had to be perfect. And it had to be strong; as strong as the music which preceded it. It has to grow out of what the orchestra has been playing. It’s all one thought. That’s one thing that makes this music magnificent. It’s almost a symphony with an incidental violin solo.
     Then the violin introduces the third theme and it’s unbelievable, it’s so meltingly lovely. She felt a thrill run up her spine and she had tears in her eyes. Almost like a stormy night followed by the clouds breaking and the most beautiful sunrise ever. So it has to be played completely differently. And oh, Heifetz certainly does that on this recording. Brahms could sure write pretty tunes! These diverse ideas … the strong, kind of … well, Teutonic feeling at the beginning, then the slightly melancholy music that follows … and next the lovely, sensitive third theme, which evokes everything beautiful in the entire universe. All these ideas have a kind of dialogue. They weave through and around each other, never coming to rest. You can’t just play this music. You have to live it.
     The lyrical second movement she felt confident about. The third movement had more challenges; the orchestra bounced into a brilliant, exciting theme that seemed to Laura very Hungarian. Brahms loved Hungarian folk music; he loved the Gypsy violin. All of that was in the third movement, and the demands on the soloist were extreme: repeated rapid runs ─ dear Lord, Jascha, that’s fast! ─ which had to be played powerfully to be heard above the storm of the orchestra. Large jumps that were awkward to play.
     It’s so long. It requires a lot of strength; a lot of endurance. I’ll need these two years, she thought. But she was exhilarated and now excited to feel she was almost ready to play this magnificent composition. What a thrill it will be to share this incredible music with an audience.
     And that’s why I love to play, she thought. To share the music. To make it soar.

Jamie's Children is available on Amazon, $13.50 paperback, $3.99 Kindle.