Thursday, December 28, 2017

True Story: Jessica Come Home

In 1999 my oldest son Stephen had a “Cinderella” opportunity to work at the prestigious Winged Foot Golf Club in Westchester County, New York, as Equipment Manager. It meant relocating from his childhood home in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. While he was an adult, it also meant leaving friends and family. Even though he wasn’t really that far away, his heavy schedule meant infrequent visits.

The second year he spent at Winged Foot he found a beautiful little Border Collie puppy he named Jessica. She was just an eight-week-old ball of fur, and she grew up in Steve’s studio apartment in Scarsdale and at the golf course, where she eventually learned to herd geese … the bane of every golf course. Of course, she always accompanied him on his visits home, so we all grew to love her (everyone except my cat Josey who joined the family in 2008).

Steve was single, and Jessica was his closest companion for many years. After a biblical seven years at Winged Foot (which included the 2006 U.S. Open), he returned home and established a soil treatment company, often traveling to New York, Connecticut and beyond to work on playing fields, and faithful Jessica was always with him.

Eventually Steve found the woman who completed his life, and Jessica retired not long after that to become a happy house pet to Steve's new-found family, which included two children. By now she was getting up there in doggy years and began to have not unexpected health issues: a bad back, increasing blindness, loss of hearing. But she never lost her love for life and her master.

This year, two days before Thanksgiving, Jessica went outside to answer the call of nature, and she didn’t return. We don’t really know what happened: something perhaps startled her, and being blind she became disoriented and wandered off. Steve and his family … all of us, in fact … were distraught. 

Hours turned into days, and at the age of nearly16 we all wondered just how long Jessica could survive. Notices were posted on Facebook, veterinarians and shelters were contacted, searches ensued. No sign of Jess.

Twelve days later I had a phone call from our local animal shelter, AWSOM (Animal Welfare Society of Monroe). “We think we have your dog.” Steve had been there a couple of times and they were aware she’d been missing. I immediately called him (AWSOM called me because my phone number was on the Facebook “missing” notice) and he immediately went to the shelter. Sure enough, it was Jessica. She was found near water (a stream or a creek), and while she was disoriented, she certainly knew her daddy. She had lost weight but seemed none the worse for wear, and continues to do well.

The best possible outcome, and the concern expressed by so many people (my “missing” notice on Facebook received over 800 shares and many prayers and helpful suggestions) were also a heartwarming part of this story. People do care. There are good people in the world, including the couple who found Jessica and brought her to our animal shelter, where many local people volunteer. A whole network of people who love animals, and love the people who love them.

Borders are almost scarily smart dogs. Jessica, even at her age (she'll be 16 on January 14) and with infirmities, had the will to somehow manage to reunite with the people who love her.

Our very own “Lassie” come home.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Life in the Poconos: The Bridge Street Detour

When my husband and I moved from Cincinnati to Northeastern Pennsylvania, one of the first things we heard from locals was how much the state/county/municipalities needed to address the many problems with the infrastructure. Somehow or the other, PA State Route 611 had to be widened to four lanes. Nobody could suggest exactly how that might happen, but everybody agreed it was going to become a “real problem.” That was in 1971.

Pennsylvania is an old state (one of the original thirteen, I believe) and a good many of the roads started life as Indian trails (with apologies to my native American ancestors and friends, but that was the expression). And gradually rocks were used to cover the rutted trails and eventually, pavement. Most of the time, it seems that all the twists and turns that were originally there remained.

Driving around in my county it’s difficult to get really lost, because no matter where you are sooner or later you’re going to cross another of those trails and get your bearings. Great if you’re on foot or horseback, not so much when traveling by car.

Over time (and a lot of this has happened in the 46 years I’ve lived here) commercial establishments began to appear on some of the major byways, notably state routes 611 and 209. I’m sure there are a good many more, but those are the ones I deal with on a daily basis. And the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDot for short), in its infinite wisdom, widened sections of Rte. 611, the most commercially-developed road in our area, to accommodate the ever-increasing traffic. Not the entire length of the highway, or even those sections where businesses continued to multiply. Just here and there. A few hundred yards at a time.

Imagine the resulting bottlenecks, if you can. And the cars barreling south on 611 in the right-hand lane which abruptly ended. It’s a miracle there haven’t been numerous multiple-vehicle accidents, but us locals know what to expect and are patient and kind with the folks from New York, New Jersey, and other parts of the state of Pennsylvania who don’t understand how things work in this neck of the woods.

One of the worst of these is on Rte. 611 very near the circle where I live, and one major problem is at an intersection with a road, Bridge Street,which connects 611 and 209 (the other major artery through our area). There actually IS a bridge on the street and PennDot was forced to close the road and repair the bridge, creating a major headache because the road was now one way. You could get from 209 to 611 but not vice versa. Except via a detour.

It was a lengthy detour. What worsened the problem was that below Bridge Street on 611 is a long stretch of mostly retail businesses and food establishments: the biggest mall in the area and many other stores and establishments grouped together with some common parking areas. So driving through that area is slow: a number of traffic lights and always heavy traffic.

The result is that many of us have been dealing with the No Right Turn Onto Bridge Street situation for what seems like eons. At times I would drive north on Bridge Street to try to see exactly what kind of progress was being made. It was hard to tell, and I don’t mean to be unkind, but mostly I saw groups of PennDot people gathered around a piece of equipment having some kind of conference, while others seemed to be wandering around. I’m sure that wasn’t always the case. It’s just what I seemed to always observe.

When the crane that had been on the site for millennia actually came down I had a sense of hope. And lo and behold, a few days ago … December 21 to be exact … PennDot gave us a Christmas present. Well, kind of. Traffic was open both ways on Bridge Street … but the turning lanes which we all fervently hope will help ease the nasty traffic backups above Bridge Street aren’t open yet. Maybe an Easter present?

I posted on Facebook when I got home after seeing that the southbound side of Bridge Street was actually being used, and had some great responses. It has seemed like forever, but the detour actually was only in force for about eighteen months. Lots of “OMG … I thought that was NEVER going to happen!” My favorite from an artist friend, Will Rothfuss, who gave me permission to quote him: “I don't believe it! In the meantime, while they were working on that, the pyramids were built.” 

The infrastructure in our little corner of the world in the Poconos. Still working on the Rte. 611-Bridge Street problem, 46 years later. PennDot doesn’t like to rush things.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Memories of Jake – Reader Response

Two brothers, Andrew and Jake Cameron, both serve in the Vietnam War … Andrew as a door gunner for the Marines, Jake as a Green Beret. Both return home … but only one returns as himself. Jake is injured in a helicopter crash and suffers total retrograde amnesia. Older brother Andrew can’t accept Jake’s memory loss. From childhood, he has been his brother’s supporter and protector.
Memories of Jake has received some strong reviews since its release in late March. Available on Amazon, paperback and Kindle.

A few review excerpts:

"The story overall is very easy to read. It takes you on a journey from tragedy to growth, back to hardship and beyond. The brothers pull you in - their bond is strong, and the challenges they face together and apart ensure it stays a gripping tale." Self Publisher's Showcase, April 21, 2017

“Susan Moore Jordan’s gentle prose serves as the perfect backdrop to the horror of the Vietnam War. She also shows how not everything damaging in life needs to be permanent. People are resilient and sometimes overcoming the past is a matter of will. The other aspect of this story I really enjoyed was Cameron Family’s reliance on music and art as a means to find themselves. Andrew’s painting saved him. It was his therapy and his joy. Beyond that, what kept me reading was the love shared between these two brothers. I had to know how everything turned out for them and clung to every page until the last, waiting for that moment when I could breathe out and put the book down with a feeling of contentment and relief.”

Jake is injured in an attack that leaves him with post-traumatic amnesia, and has to rebuild his life again as he struggles to figure out who he is. Some of the scenes are powerful and heart-wrenching, like when Andrew deals with his boyhood memories and his experiences in Vietnam. Jordan's descriptions and dialog make you a part of the story. It's hard to put down.

MEMORIES OF JAKE is not just a war story, not just a story of pain and rebirth, but a story of love, family, friendship and the unstoppable ability of the human capacity to conquer that which sets out to destroy them. It is a story of hope.

The characters are all believable, each with his or her own voice. Art and music and how they help keep folks alive by keeping life worth living seep throughout the book, as with all of the author's work. (This time the visual arts play a large role as well as music.) Once Jake comes home from Vietnam, to a home and family he only remembers in shadows and fog, this book is tough to put down. Enjoy.

Or visit my website:

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Jake's Journey

An Amazon reader review for Man with No Yesterdays begins by calling the book “a fascinating read,” then elaborates on the premise: a man who suffers from total retrograde amnesia, recalling only bits and pieces of his early childhood, who comes to believe he will never remember more.

Could it happen? Theoretically, it could. Traumatic brain injury can leave the victim with little or nothing in the way of personal memory, as well as loss of the ability to speak, move, reason. Best case scenario, the patient slowly recovers most if not all of his life and returns to a normal, or very nearly normal, life.

Jake Cameron, my character introduced in Memories of Jake whose story is told in considerably more detail in Man with No Yesterdays, suffers a T.B.I. due to a helicopter crash in Vietnam. Jake quickly regains his ability to function in the world, but nearly all of his personal history has apparently been locked away for the remainder of his life. He doesn’t remember anything about his years as a Green Beret in Vietnam, even after meeting men he served with.

How would a man react to this truly awful dilemma? Jake first tries to regain his memory, spending time at home with his family, looking at photos, listening to their memories of him. And he does have moments of recall from childhood, a few very vivid; but most are snapshots, faded and foggy. As weeks and months pass and very little more is revealed to him, he begins to face the possibility he may never remember the man he was … the warrior he was. So who is he now? 

Throughout the book I strove to reflect on the daunting difficulties our warriors faced in Vietnam, both in country and after returning home. As a novelist, my aim in writing the novel was to address a “what if” situation: what if a young man who had fought valiantly in Vietnam lost all memory of himself and even began to wonder why he had become a warrior? What then? How would he move forward to create some kind of life for himself? And for Jake, this is complicated further when he vividly recalls one childhood memory that rocks him to his core.

I appreciate that this reviewer called the book “a fascinating read.” My hope is that a reader will come away with that sense. It was not an easy book to write, and I challenged myself even further by allowing Jake to speak for himself … writing in the first person. My pre-publication “beta” readers were enthusiastic about the novel. Time will tell whether all readers will share that enthusiasm!

If you are intrigued, the link to order the book on Amazon is included below, and it’s available in paperback and as a Kindle. If you read and enjoy … I would love to hear from you (my email address is on my website), and reviews are music to us indie authors’ ears!

Portrait by Ashleigh Evans
Cover Design by Tristan Flanagan

Link to Amazon book page:

Saturday, November 18, 2017

So, I Wrote this Book ...

So I wrote this book, Man with No Yesterdays. It’s about a young Green Beret who is injured in Vietnam. Jake Cameron suffers a head injury and is left with severe retrograde amnesia, and when he can’t remember who he is … other than a few glimpses of his early childhood … he sets out on a journey to see if there’s some way he can find himself. He’s been advised by a psychologist that sometimes being in places and with people from his past might “trigger” memories, and Jake gets more than he bargained for.

Not a bad plot, right? I thought so. And since Jake made his first appearance in a preceding novel, I felt he was almost insisting I let him tell his own story. So I wrote this book in the first person. Or rather, I’m fairly convinced it was Jake who did the writing, since I am a great-grandmother weeks away from observing her (gulp) eightieth birthday (please notice I said observing, not celebrating. When you get this close to eighty you’ll completely understand).

It was definitely a challenge. I had seven pre-publication readers who all seemed to find it worth reading and thought I had captured Jake’s voice. A few were very enthusiastic, saying they thought it was the best novel I’d written yet (this is novel number six, actually, since May 2013). Because the Vietnam War figures heavily in Jake’s experiences I decided to release the book on Veteran’s Day (we indie authors can make those choices).

I was really, really, really apprehensive about releasing this book. For all the reasons listed above. But I put it out there, and it’s live on Amazon, and I’ve even sold a few copies on line.

Here’s what’s keeping me awake at night. It’s been over a week, and I haven’t received even ONE review. Those of us who publish our own work really need reviews (I know I’m overusing the word “really,” but I’m doing it quite deliberately). They validate us and make us feel we aren’t totally lost in the vast Amazon book jungle (which grows by ACRES daily!) … a reader liked what we did enough to leave a comment on the book page.

Releasing a book is similar to sending your youngest, favorite, most beloved child off to kindergarten. You want to be right there with him at least through the first day, but you aren’t allowed inside. And I pushed Jake out the door with a great deal of trepidation (for those reasons listed above). Jake’s journey is full of diverse people and experiences. I debated subtitling it “an odyssey” but settled on “a journey.” Right at this moment I wish I’d decided to keep Jake home until at least next spring. Or maybe even for a year. I can understand why Anthony Doerr took ten years to complete his great book, All the Light We Cannot See. At the age of ten, his baby would do great in kindergarten.

I keep telling myself it’s the holidays, people are busy, even if they bought the book they probably aren’t reading it/haven’t read it. On the flip side, I wonder if they’ve read it and they hate it. I’ve had nice readers who have written some wonderful reviews for my novels. But Jake’s story is very different (or maybe I should say really, really different).

I write because I need to write, I love to write; I couldn’t stop writing because it’s become a necessity. But I hate this part. I’ll probably still keep writing, regardless. But right now I’m not so sure. One encouraging review would definitely be nice! Here's the link to the book if you're curious. (Good reviews only, though ... )

Portrait painted by Ashleigh Evans
Cover design by Tristan Flanagan
Or visit my website for links to order all my books:

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Let Us Never Again Blame the Warriors for the War

Watching the Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War over the past two weeks wasn't easy, but it was worth every minute. It took those eighteen hours to encompass all the many aspects of a complicated situation that eventually covered thirty years of this nation's history ... and was surely one of its darkest chapters.
Burns didn't hold back, and I learned a great deal about what motivated our participation in what was basically a civil war in a small country in Southeast Asia ... a war we should never have been a part of, something I think we all agree on, even though the divisions that took place during the war still resonate in the United States.
I'm still processing what I saw, and the strong emotions I felt as a result. I was a young mother during most of the period we were actively engaged in combat, and while I was aware of the war it wasn't central to my life. Perhaps it should have been. My heart aches for every person who served and whose lives were changed forever for many reasons.
My emotions ranged from anger to dismay to sorrow. Anger at the lies we were told, at the arrogance of some politicians and military leaders. Dismay at our abandonment of the South Vietnamese. Sorrow for all the young lives lost, and for what? Sorrow for the warriors - wounded in body and spirit - who were treated so despicably on returning home.
And also, gratitude and hope. Gratitude for their fortitude, for the valiant manner in which so many fought. Gratitude for the vets who built the memorial Wall; for those who have shared their stories. And hope. Hope that despite all indications to the contrary, we will NOT repeat those mistakes. Hope that I saw in the lives of some of the veterans who have reached halfway around the world to embrace their former enemies and in that way found peace. Hope that never again will we blame the warriors for the war.

My novels about two of those warriors, Andrew and Jacob Cameron. Historical fiction.
Memories of Jake, available in paperback and e-book on Amazon
Man with No Yesterdays, to be released 11/11/2017

Used by permission of Dr. Bertram Zarins

Friday, August 11, 2017

In Memoriam: Robin Williams and Jerry Hadley

(originally published on August 11, 2014)

 “All is ephemeral, fame and the famous as well” – Marcus Aurelius

It was a shock to learn today that Robin Williams, known no doubt worldwide for his many talents, died at the age of sixty-three, an apparent suicide. It was impossible not to hear about it – it was splashed all over the social media and on all evening newscasts. What we are told is that Mr. Williams was, and had been, suffering from depression.

In one of those life is stranger than fiction parallels, I had recently been researching a very fine American singer, tenor Jerry Hadley, who also took his own life not many years ago, and apparently for the same reason, depression. Hadley had one of the loveliest voices I have ever heard. He was opera’s Golden Boy for a time, and sang all over the world for nearly a quarter of a century beginning in 1979. From what I have read about him, he was a generous and caring colleague, with charm and wit. He was a very good-looking man. He was a fine musician and was equally at home in the standard operatic literature and in contemporary works. He was also comfortable in musical theater.

He was married to a pianist, Cheryll Drake, whose photos show her to be as lovely as Jerry was handsome. She was his accompanist and mother of his two sons. It would seem Jerry Hadley had it all. Though his fame was not as widespread as Robin Williams, he was well-known and admired by opera lovers. 

And yet. In 2002 Jerry and Cheryll were divorced, and for five years he did not perform. Apparently he stopped singing, and suffered from a deep depression. Whether the depression preceded the divorce or the reverse was true, the result was the same: a beautiful voice was stilled. I read that in 2007 Jerry had begun a comeback, and it seemed he was on the threshold of a second career. There was a new woman in his life. And then on July 10, 2007, he apparently shot himself in the head, suffering irreversible brain damage. He was put on life support for a time, and after being taken off the machines died two days later, on July 18.

I’m sure we will hear a great deal more about Robin Williams’ death in the days to come, and perhaps learn more about the depression he suffered that caused him to end his life. Williams was a genius. It would be difficult to find anyone in this country who was not familiar with his work. Of his many films, two I admired greatly were Awakenings and Dead Poets’ Society. In recent years I don’t recall hearing much about his impromptu comedy, but for those of us who saw him on various television variety shows and watched him launch into an impossibly funny and brilliant routine, it can only be described as “awesome.” He was one of a kind.

So here were these two gifted men, still young (Hadley was fifty-five when he died), famous on at least some level, seeming to have all the things so many people aspire to. Yet both in such despair they chose to leave the world they seemed to have at their feet. Hadley’s depression we know was of long duration; it’s possible Williams’ was as well.

I’d like to think there may be a lesson here. Mental illness still carries far too much of a stigma. If we have friends we think may be in trouble, we have to learn to reach out to them. We have to learn to reach out to them.

Depression is a terrible disease, as we learned to our sorrow once again today. Godspeed, Robin Williams. You gave us much joy. How sad that it seems you had lost it.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What Do You Remember?

 I’ve spent well over a year writing a two-book series about two brothers who grow up in the fifties and sixties, serve in Vietnam at different times, and are both affected strongly by their experiences. Jake, the younger, is injured in a helicopter crash and as a result suffers from severe retrograde amnesia. He loses his autobiographical memory … and it seems he may never recover it.

In the second of these books, Man with No Yesterdays, I follow Jake on an odyssey to find some way to learn who he was for the first twenty-two years of his life … a period which has been basically wiped out. He recovers a few brief childhood memories, just enough to make him even more aware of what he’s lost.

Trying to get into Jake’s head has been a real challenge and has made me dig into my own memories. What’s your earliest childhood memory? Is it really something you’ve recalled, or is it an experience your family has told you about frequently? How can you tell the difference? I’ve been in touch with some high school friends from the mid-nineteen-fifties and compared notes about experiences we shared. Some things we both remember. Some things only one of us remembers.

One memory that brought me up short and gave me a sense of what Jake’s going through was a day trip to the village of Cherokee, North Carolina. This would have been in the summer of 1954, when I was sixteen. Audrey and I had compared notes on other events during our high school days, but when she commented on this trip, I had absolutely no recall. Admittedly, that’s a lifetime ago. But even when she sent me photos of this trip … of me, her, and our mutual friend Anita … I didn’t remember anything about this. The photos didn’t bring any memory of the actual event.

On the other hand, I vividly remember other events from that year of my life. I’ve asked yet another friend if she recalled some of those and she did not. Most of my memories are pictures I can bring up in my “mind’s eye,” and they have a sound track as well. Recollections from my past I can pull up at will.

When I’ve considered what my character Jake Cameron has had to deal with, it’s no wonder he makes some bad choices as he seeks to learn more about the person he was before his traumatic brain injury. Just my inability to recall that one event … even staring at photos … made me realize how Jake must have felt, seeing pictures of himself in a football uniform, in an Army uniform, and yet unable to recall anything connected with those times in his life. And unlike the vast span of time between my sixteenth year of life and where I am now, over sixty years later, Jake is a young man when he is injured, and these are recent memories for him. Or they should be.

Jake’s story is due to be released this fall. Memories of Jake is his brother Andrew’s story, and when Jake disappears Andrew is devastated. You can pick up a copy of Memories of Jake while you’re waiting for Man with No Yesterdays. People who read it have good things to say! Check out the reviews on Amazon. The Kindle edition is offered currently at a reduced price, through the end of July.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

My Mother and the Prodigy

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom

     If you had met my mother when she was a poised, accomplished adult, wife of a Vice-President of Borg-Warner, you’d have most likely been very surprised to learn that she had grown up riding a horse on a working ranch near Norman, Oklahoma. And possibly even more surprised to learn she’d dealt with discrimination from a very young age, since her father was the son of a member of the Choctaw tribe. In other words, he was a “half-breed Indian.”

     At some point in what I laughably refer to as my adult life, I realized what an extraordinary woman had given birth to me, and I made a point of telling her how much I appreciated who she was. She married my dad the summer after her high school graduation (I realized eventually it was most likely a shotgun wedding) in the depths of the depression. I recall she took some college courses when I was in elementary school. She read constantly. She was one of the most observant people I knew, and because of that and her intelligence she remade herself as often as necessary to keep up with my dad’s rise in the corporate world. She was devoted to my father. She was the wife he needed; she kept a beautiful home; she was a gracious hostess.

     She was also an incredibly kind, witty, loving, nurturing, and considerate person. When writing Eli's Heart and recalling the friendship I enjoyed with Samuel Sanders the summer I was fifteen, I also remembered the role my mother played in that relationship. We met him one spring evening near the end of my sophomore year when he performed for our Junior Music Club while visiting his sister, who lived in my home town of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. His genius as a musician and pianist was apparent from the first notes he played, and everyone who was there that night was enthralled.

     When he returned for a longer visit during the summer he came to our house on several occasions. As I recall, he generally arrived in time for lunch and he always requested the same thing: a grilled cheese sandwich, Coke, and Hershey’s chocolate.  Mom and I were both aware of Samuel’s heart condition ─ one of the first things he told us was that he’d had an operation which took away the blue color from his lips and fingers, but that he wasn’t expected to live past the age of thirty. So we knew this extraordinary boy was dealing with two challenges, a bad heart and the burden of being a prodigy.

     His activities were restricted because of his heart condition and we were confined to indoor activities. We talked, listened to baseball games on the radio, listened to recordings of classical music. He seemed to enjoy playing piano for me while I stood next to the piano and watched and listened. He played with such confidence, and the music seemed to pour out of him. Looking back now, it’s hard to believe this prodigiously gifted boy was seated at my piano, performing solo recitals for me.

He also wanted to play piano duets with me, which I found intimidating and he seemed to enjoy immensely. Sometime during his college years, he changed his career path and became an accompanist … a collaborating artist rather than a soloist. He said he found performing with other artists much more enjoyable. Considering the isolation he suffered as a child, it makes perfect sense, and he had a vibrant career, playing with many important artists. Over the years, additional surgeries, including two heart transplants, extended his life to twice what he had anticipated. He was sixty-two when he died.

     Samuel seemed much younger than sixteen and I looked at him as a sweet, funny, slightly geeky little boy with this huge talent. Mom never said much, but she may have seen what I did not see ─ that he was most likely going through a late puberty and experiencing a lot of emotions I was totally unaware of. She said many nice things about him, but never suggested I should look at him differently or think of him as anything more than a good friend. Both my parents encouraged me to think for myself, to be my own person. Which meant making my own sometimes bad choices.

     After that summer I saw Samuel Sanders only one other time, when he returned some months later to perform with our local symphony orchestra. He played the Rachmaninoff Second Piano Concerto ─ brilliantly, passionately. He’d also grown up. He wasn’t a little boy any more, but a poised and appealing young man. I think my extraordinary mother saw what this extraordinary boy was going to become.

     My book Eli’s Heart is not about Samuel Sanders, but it was inspired by the remarkable opportunity I had to enjoy a brief friendship with him. My mother, (Lillie) Erma McKee Moore, appears in the book as Lily Porter. And Lily definitely is my mother. I’m glad I had the foresight to preserve some of her wonderful qualities in the book.

(originally published May 2015)

Eli's Heart is available on Amazon, paperback and Kindle

Sunday, May 7, 2017

That Broken Heart Disease You've Been Hearing About

When I first became aware of the trauma Jimmy Kimmel and his wife endured with the birth of their son, I understood immediately what had happened. I had researched this same condition a few years ago when my character Eli Levin in Eli’s Heart was born with this disease. It was heartwarming to learn how quickly Billy Kimmel was diagnosed and treated. A true testament to the great work done by medical researchers and to how far medicine has come with this once inevitably fatal condition. These days, children born with this "broken heart" generally live long, productive, and non-restricted lives, and can excel even in sports: Olympic snowboarder Shaun White is one such person.

My novel 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. This is why babies born with the disease were once referred to as "blue babies."

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, Sanders had a long and illustrious career as a collaborative pianist and performed with some great musicians who definitely ARE household names. He kept a schedule that would have exhausted even a healthy musician … sometimes playing as many as a hundred concerts in a year. He taught at Juilliard and at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, and oversaw a summer music festival he founded on Cape Cod. For some thirty years he was Itzhak Perlman’s pianist, but he also performed with a lengthy list of distinguished soloists. A few of his many recordings are listed 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.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Crazy Writer Lady

Since I started writing seriously … or should I say seriously writing … something has happened to me. I find that I live in whatever book I’m working on more than I live in the real world. I wake up with thoughts about my characters and sit at the computer to put them “on paper.” Sometimes I do this at 3 a.m. I live with a cat. She doesn’t mind my odd hours.

Of course, I do have to spend time in the real world. I have to pay bills and feed the cat and check on my children and grandchildren. But my worlds overlap all the time. I can be wandering through the supermarket and have a sudden answer to a knot in a plot and have to hang onto the thought (see what I did there?) until I get home. Instead, someone I’ve known for years says hello and I struggle to pull myself back into the twenty-first century (all my novels take place in the twentieth century) and remember who in the world this person is.

I’ve become the crazy writer lady. Since I’m approaching the milestone birthday that marks me as older than God, I’m sure some people attribute all this to advancing age. I don’t feel old, but I definitely feel distracted. I need to get back to the twentieth century to work on my book.

My background is music and theater. Primarily musical theater as I directed musicals for over thirty years. I experienced some of this while working on a production, because along with the many other people involved we recreated the world of that particular show. But a key word here is “recreated” ─ we were bringing the work of the composer and authors of the musical to life as best we could. We tried to understand what the creator of the work wanted to tell the audience and were acting as a conduit for those truths. I was part of a team and we were all working together to make this happen
Here’s where being a show director is gratifying. With an audience, there’s an immediate response to your work. The audience applauds, sometimes cheers, and sometimes stands in appreciation.

Releasing each book is difficult. It’s like sending your child off to kindergarten and hoping she will be safe and happy. But being a creator is exciting and fulfilling in ways directing could not be. These are my words. This is a world I have created and am inviting people to enter. These are my characters that I want people to care about. It’s not a task undertaken lightly. I know I have a good story to tell, and with each book I believe I learn a little more about how to tell it better.

My characters talk to me. They argue with me. They do things I never intended for them to do and refuse to behave themselves. They are very real and I come to love them. I’ve heard other authors say this, so I understand it goes with the territory, and if I don’t love them and believe them, neither will my reader.

 I’ve come to understand that while there is an audience, they aren’t all there at the same time. They come into the world of my story one by one. Sometimes they speak to me in the supermarket or in a parking lot to tell me they enjoyed a book. Sometimes they send me a message to let me know the same thing. Occasionally they write a review, and that’s especially nice because other potential readers see that review and are intrigued enough to buy a copy of the book.

When I first started on this “third act” of my life, a theater friend, who happens to be a writer, reminded me often: “There is no opening night.” He was cautioning me not to rush to publish. And then I realized there is also no closing night. People continue to find their way into the world of my books. One audience member at a time.

All in all, I love being the crazy writer lady. It’s a great third act.


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Tuesday, April 4, 2017


So I just released another book, Memories of Jake. This makes six … five novels and one non-fiction memoir.

For thirty-some years I was part of the theater community where I live, directing high school and community musicals (that’s what the memoir, entitled “More Fog, Please”: 31 Years Directing Community and High School Musicals” is about). So when I released my first book in the fall of 2013, How I Grew Up, it was a Big Deal. People knew me as a theater person, and now I was trying my hand at writing. I appreciated the congratulations and the book sales. When I released the second novel, Eli’s Heart, it also created a bit of a stir.

Since then hardly anybody blinks when I release a new book. I suppose that’s what happens to most of us, though, and one of the reasons writing can be a lonely endeavor. I keep remembering Anne Lamott’s comment in Bird by Bird, “Writing is its own reward.” And in most ways, that is a truth.

I really love it, though, when somebody buys a book. I love it even more when somebody buys a book, reads it, and WRITES A REVIEW! That’s a standing ovation. With each novel I have worked at improving my craft. I think all the stories I’ve told are good stories, and people seem to have enjoyed reading them. I think Memories of Jake is my best effort to date, without question.

So this blog post is pure, shameless self-promotion (it comes with the territory). I would love for you to read my story. And if you love it, please write a review. Here’s one that was definitely that standing ovation:

Susan Moore Jordan’s extraordinary new novel, Memories of Jake, is dedicated to “all those whose souls have been bruised by war and with admiration for those who found their way back to life through the power of creativity.” In Jordan’s story, wars can be personal struggles as well as political conflicts, and the power of creativity may extend to the expression, pain and redemption of love itself.

A horrific childhood trauma forges the bond between brothers Andrew and Jacob Cameron. As adults, their experiences in Vietnam seem somehow to resonate with the childhood drama. Amnesia enters the picture, but to say more would give away the intricate and sometimes shocking plot. As in Jordan’s other novels, music plays an important part, in this case the glorious requiems of Verdi, Fauré, and Brahms, especially Brahms. 

Although Memories of Jake is a free-standing book and may be read on its own, many of the affectionately-drawn characters will be familiar from Jordan’s Carousel Trilogy (How I Grew Up, Eli’s Heart, You Are My Song) and Jamie’s Children. In fact, Andrew and Jacob are the little boys who witnessed a murder in the first book of the trilogy. In Man With No Yesterdays, scheduled for release in the fall, Jacob’s account will take front and center. - Michaele Benedict

 cover by Tristan Flanagan
Memories of Jake is available on Amazon, paperback and Kindle:
or visit my website

Saturday, March 18, 2017

A Montréal Connection in Cincinnati

I’ve been spending a lot of virtual time in Montréal, a city I would love to visit again. Recently while reading about the Basilica of Notre-Dame I came across the name of the pipe organ company Casavant Frères, which opened a flood of memories from a time in my past, while I was parish secretary for the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Hyde Park, Cincinnati.

Sometime in the early 1960s, I believe 1964, the church opted to have a pipe organ installed, and purchased the instrument from that Quebec company. A search revealed the company, considered one of the best in the world, is still active and producing these wonderful instruments. I don’t recall what kind of organ our Casavant replaced, but I’m guessing probably an electronic instrument of some kind.

We were aware the installation would require a considerable amount of time and had made accommodations for that. What we didn’t understand was how much space it would require. When the team pulled up to the church in a large eighteen-wheeler, our immediate problem was language. They spoke very little English. Nobody on the staff spoke French … I had one year of college French, primarily a diction class which had been a requirement for my vocal music major at the College-Conservatory of Music.

So beyond wishing them good day, asking their names and introducing myself, asking them how they were and were they hungry, we were at an impasse. Fortunately, a young member of the parish had spent some time in France, and a phone call resulted in her arriving on the premises pretty quickly.

“French Canadian is quite different from that spoken in Europe,” she told us. “But I’ll do the best I can.”

Our new French Canadian friends broke into broad smiles when Barbara started talking to them. The language barrier between two different kinds of spoken French was surmountable, especially because when they needed they could write things out. The written language is the same.

The next obstacle was a real game changer. None of us had given serious thought as to what a pipe organ actually consists of. The team began to unload the tractor-trailer, and as pieces were brought into the sanctuary the magnitude of this undertaking became apparent. Some of the pipes were over half the length of the sanctuary. A number of these large pipes had to be laid across rows and rows of pews. And there were so many of them! All summer events that year had to be moved to the church’s undercroft or to an outdoor location. Services, weddings, baptisms … anything and everything.

To the best of my memory, it was about a three month process to install the instrument. But it was worth every second of it. The sound was glorious, and we had an inaugural concert by the great concert organist E. Power Biggs. By then our friends from Quebec had returned to Canada, but they left a memory of dedicated craftsmen who loved what they did. And could they ever put together a pipe organ.

Casavant-Frères, je vous salue!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

I Was Cyber Attacked and Lived to Tell About It

I hesitated to tell this story because I still feel incredibly stupid that I allowed it to happen. I know, I know … but still. I thought I was smarter than that. It was a few weeks ago. I finally decided to share because maybe somebody will read this and avoid the mistakes I made.

It all started as I took a few minutes away from writing and scrolled quickly through my Facebook News Feed, pausing at what looked like an interesting link. MISTAKE #1: I didn’t check to see if a friend had “liked” the page. It was three images of three fingers on a hand. There was a diagonal line across the fingers in each image, each lined up somewhat differently, and there was a comment something like “Learning this saved my life!”

Clicking on it resulted in very nasty stuff happening. First a siren blasting through my speakers, then dire warnings flashing on my monitor advising me to call “Microsoft Support” IMMEDIATELY with a phone number. I called. That was MISTAKE #2.

Male voice with heavy accent telling me I probably had a Trojan or some other equally horrible infection and my computer was on the verge of disappearing before my very eyes. Mind you, I’m still buying that this is Microsoft Support I’m talking with. Eventually … MISTAKE #3 … I gave this clown permission to operate my computer remotely. NEVER EVER DO THAT.

He showed me all kinds of stuff about all the errors in my computer that the infection had been causing for MONTHS on end and offered to set me up with a sure-fire fool-proof one hundred percent guaranteed super-duper anti-virus/malware/spyware/kitchenware program that would mean I would never ever have to worry about my computer being infected again.

Then the money pitch came, and the guy on the other end of the phone admitted well, no, I wasn’t talking to Microsoft Support anymore, but some other outfit and for a measly $199 for a year they would take my computer and put a fortress around it. Or, if I’d pay $499, they would do it for five years.

The alarm bells finally started going off and I FINALLY started asking the right questions and eventually just pulled the plug. Literally. Had I ever been had. So I took a deep breath, rebooted the computer, immediately went into all my banking websites and changed all passwords, changed passwords on my email and anything else I thought might be sensitive, ran scans with everything I have installed on my PC (including Malwarebytes, which is running constantly). I also found the software he’d used to access control of my computer and uninstalled it.

Then I contacted my “computer guy” Bob. “You’ve probably have had calls like this before.”

“Every day,” he said cheerfully. “They just want money. You did all the right things. Just keep an eye out for anything weird, and if something shows up bring the computer down and I’ll take a few more steps to wipe it clean. Oh, and if somebody calls you and wants to do a remote fix, because now they have your phone number, just tell them you took your computer to your computer guy.”

Well, I was lucky. For about two weeks I was hit with a barrage of emails attempting to lure me into clicking again onto a link which might have caused a repeat of the experience I had, or maybe worse, but eventually those stopped because I kept throwing them into junk mail and requesting the sender be blocked.

Lesson learned. These days the first thing I do when I boot the computer is run a scan of Advanced System Care and then Windows Defender. So far, my computer is doing great. And I hear all you Mac users snickering out there. That’s okay. I LIKE my HP PC. 

And I have a great computer guy. If you need one, PM me and I’ll give you his contact information.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


An invitation last week to meet with members of a local book club resulted in excellent feedback for Jamie’s Children, my most recently released novel (July, 2016).

            This was only my second book club meeting and it was great. The members were very welcoming; there were a dozen people present who had read and apparently enjoyed the book, and they had excellent questions. We enjoyed a lively discussion for nearly two hours. I loved sharing with them my reasons for writing the book, how I had created the characters, and why I had chosen to deal with bipolar disorder through my character Niall.

            It was also great to hear that they enjoyed reading about the music in the book. It's a challenge to try to describe the emotions evoked by music, and knowing I succeeded encourages me to continue writing about it.

            It was a lovely evening and a confirmation that I had written a book which people not only enjoyed reading, but which made them think. I don’t believe an author can ask for more.

            Earlier that week I also received a new review which again was a confirmation that Jamie’s Children opens a door on a subject which needs to be better understood, mental illness. Reviews are so important to a writer. This one was thorough, but really, just a line or two saying you enjoyed the book and/or found it meaningful is important.

(5 Stars) Beautiful Book Lighting the Darkened Corners of the Mind, February 20, 2017
This review is from: Jamie's Children (Paperback)

I was hesitant in reading this novel as it confronts in stark, realistic detail, the mania, rock bottom and everything between of a major depressive disorder. While the main characters struggle with several different aspects of depression, anxiety and mania, the novel addresses all of the mental health conditions with a subtle rawness of a skilled composer.
Jamie’s Children is a lovely novel about family, love and hope. It also shines a light on many of the dark corners we do not want to acknowledge. As a woman who has faced several different facets of depression from manic, to major, to suicide, with her immediate family, the descriptions of these debilitating diseases can at times be difficult to read. All of that being said, I would encourage anyone interested in understanding the meaning and depth of what is experienced by the person with any mental illness to read this book. While it supports the family it also reflects the struggles of living with someone experiencing mental illness.
While mental illness is a theme in the book, the savior of creativity in all forms, music, written, and observed is a good balance to the heaviness of the topic. Handled with reverence and love, Jamie’s Children is definitely a labor of love by author Susan Moore Jordan and I applaud her on a beautiful and inspiring story!

            Jamie’s Children is available on Amazon, paperback and Kindle, and the print edition is on sale at the Pocono Cinema and Cultural Center whenever the theater is open.

Monday, January 30, 2017

An Excerpt from JAMIE'S CHILDREN

My most recently released novel, Jamie’s Children, has received excellent reviews but it would certainly be great to have more! Here are a couple of thoughts from reviewers:

Jamie's Children is beautifully written and moving, flowing like a well-orchestrated symphony with complex interludes and counter melodies. But it's the character development that really makes the story engaging and causes you to keep turning the pages. Jordan has a knack for getting inside her characters and making them come alive. Her vivid descriptions of Niall's manic-depressive episodes drew me in to his character and showed me another side of this disorder. The love scenes between Laura and Lee were beautiful and tender.

“In Jamie's Children, I found stirring, in-depth characters that became like part of the family. Susan Moore Jordan has detailed the agonies and triumphs of Jamie's Children, Niall and Laura, so that you are feeling their pain, and rooting for their happiness. With a lovely flow and elegant imagery, this book was compelling to read and thought-provoking ... well worth the read.”

All my novels are available on Amazon, Kindle and paperback, and local folks can pick up a paperback copy at the Pocono Cinema and Cultural Center whenever the theater is open. Here’s an excerpt from the book: it’s Niall’s twenty-first birthday, and he and his sister Laura are in Aspen, Colorado, where Niall has met the girl of his dreams.

When Nate started playing “Turn, Turn, Turn,” everyone in the room was singing along, and several other guitarists started jamming. Niall was annoyed with himself for not having brought his guitar, but how was he to know he’d find Nirvana in Aspen, Colorado? Bonnie excused herself, and Laura had an amused look on her face.
“Should have brought your guitar, honey,” she said.
“Yeah, you’re right. I sure should have. But it’s fun to listen, anyway.”
Bonnie was standing beside him and said, “Why listen when you can play?” and pulled a Martin guitar from behind her back. “Happy birthday, my love.”
Niall couldn’t believe his eyes. Bonnie and Laura laughed and high-fived each other.
“How on earth … ? Where did you … there’s no guitar store in this town. Is there?”
Bonnie said, “No, but there’s a local gentleman who was willing to sell one of his Martins to us. Happy birthday, Niall!”
He took the beautiful instrument and ran his fingertips over the polished wood, feeling how expertly it had been crafted. He’d held a Martin before; Jack used one and he let Niall play it a couple of times. He handled the instrument almost reverently. Jake, the tavern owner, brought the guitar case over.
“Everything you need, I believe. Extra strings, picks, a capo, a tuner, the strap,” Bonnie said.
Niall set the bottom of the instrument on his knee, held it upright by the neck and turned it slowly, admiring the workmanship. I have a Martin. I can’t believe it. He continued to examine the guitar, and it dawned on him he was holding a D-28. Holy shit. Not just a Martin. The best Martin.
“Bonnie … do you know what a great guitar you and Laura gave me?”
Bonnie laughed. “Oh, you mean because it’s a D-28? Yes, we were told that’s kind of special. A special Martin for a special man.”
People nearby overheard, and when the song was finished one of them spoke to Nate who said, “We’ve got a birthday boy in our midst, folks. How old are you, son?”
All three of them … Niall and his two women … answered in unison, “Twenty-one.”
Cheers, claps and whistles from the group. “Give this man another beer!” “Hell, give him however many he wants!”
Niall was busy tuning the guitar. It was a magnificent instrument and he thought about protesting the gift; he had a good idea what it had cost. But he had fallen in love with it. No way am I going to give it up. And besides, they must have gone to a lot of trouble to arrange the surprise. How could he deny them the fun they’d obviously had?
The next song was John Denver’s “Country Roads,” and Niall didn’t require much urging to join in. Bonnie was sitting close enough to hear him sing, and she said to Laura, “Niall really does have a nice, smooth sound. Perfect for folk music.”
Others sitting nearby heard him as well, and when they’d finished the Denver song, someone spoke to Nate who turned to Niall and asked him, “What’s your fav’rite, bro?”
“‛The Sound of Silence,’” Niall said immediately.
“Come and sit here with me … what’s your name, son?” Niall told him. “Good Irish name, Niall. You Irish?”
“Yeah, I am. Well, my dad’s folks were.”
“Come sit with me and let’s you and me sing your song, whaddya say?”
Niall moved over willingly to join Nate, and on the night of his twenty-first birthday, Niall Logan gave his first public performance, singing Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” with a guy named Nate at a folk jam in Aspen, Colorado, while his sister and his new-found love listened with pride and delight.

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