Thursday, August 11, 2022
Thursday, May 26, 2022
In my book Memories of Jake, the first in a series of two about brothers who served in Vietnam and how they managed to survive it, my character Andrew Cameron is an artist. Yet music is vital to his very existence. Andrew listens to music as he paints; it inspires him. Music provides hope, comfort, and healing throughout his life, through whatever challenges he must face. Music is also part of the happiness he experiences.
Music is in every book I write. How could it not be? As a child, my engineer father, whose avocation was playing the trumpet, frequently had recordings playing on the stereo in our home. Mostly classical orchestral music, which he loved and which I came to love as well. Like many young girls, I studied piano and ballet, learning more musical literature, and I eventually discovered opera at the age of 14 by listening to a Saturday Metropolitan Opera broadcast. It was, as I’ve said before, like falling in love, a love that has lasted a lifetime. Music has never failed me.
That was my second novel, and I am now at work on novel number 15. The main character in this latest one is Andrew Cameron’s daughter Lindsey, who has wanted to be an opera singer since she was seven. The book begins in 1996, just before she completes her bachelor of music degree. It is definitely “music-centric,” and there is a great deal about the world of opera…among other things. (Maybe I should offer my one-star reviewer a complimentary copy?) Once again, my characters face challenges, and the music in their lives helps them to meet those challenges. So if you’ve read ”The Cameron Saga,” and choose to read And This Shall Be for Music when it’s released, you’ll revisit old friends and follow Lindsey’s path and that of her close friends and the man she comes to love.
And all the glory of man is as the flower of grass.
For lo, the grass withers,
And the flower fades away.
See how the farmer waits patiently
To receive the rain.
And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
The remains uncovered in North Carolina, Andrew learns, are not Jake’s. Hope remains alive for his missing brother.
Monday, April 18, 2022
I’m staring at a page that’s about three quarters written, and the heading says “Chapter 27.” But I’m wondering if this book is ever going to be finished. This is first draft, and I feel like I’ve been swimming through a river of mud and driftwood during the last few chapters. I’m supposed to enjoy writing. I want to enjoy writing. I have enjoyed writing. Right now, though, it feels more like an arduous chore.
Monday, January 3, 2022
One of the things I enjoy most about writing is research. And my favorite part of research is finding remarkable people who are willing to share their time and expertise to assist a writer pursuing a subject they are passionate about.
After writing several historical novels, the last two of which were intense because they were about brothers who had served in the Vietnam War, I decided four years ago to go in a completely different direction and try my hand at a cozy mystery. I chose to set my story in a city I love, Cincinnati, when I lived there during the nineteen-sixties.
Almost immediately I was stymied by police procedure in that city in that era. I found online good information about how the Cincinnati Police Department operates today. My memories of the city were that we admired the local police and felt protected, but since I was never on the wrong side of the law, I’d had almost no personal interaction with what I’ve since learned was maybe the greatest police department in the country at the time.
During an internet search, I stumbled across the Facebook page of the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society. A further search took me to the organization’s website, and I wondered if this might be a place where I could get some answers. I sent a message through the Facebook page, explaining who I was and what I hoped to do. Fairly quickly I had a very nice return message from retired Det. Lt. Stephen Kramer, then president of the organization, saying he’d be happy to help me. I had done as much preliminary research as I could, so I sent Lt. Kramer my list of questions about police work in the city during that era, explained my story in more detail, and again in a short time received a remarkably complete and wonderfully written response addressing my questions.
Eight books later, I can’t even imagine how many e-mails have flown through cyberspace between Steve Kramer and myself. I know that without his input, interest and guidance, “The Augusta McKee Mystery Series” would be sadly lacking in accuracy and interesting details, and also in the personality of one of the main characters. Homicide Detective Malcolm Mitchell has become a significant part of all the novels in the series.
I lived in Cincinnati from 1955-1971 and remembered Sheriff George Ratterman and April Flowers, and knew Newport wasn’t the picturesque town it appeared to be from the Eden Park Overlook. But I never knew about master bootlegger George Remus, and even more, his wife Imogene’s ghost. Lt. Kramer recommended a book which gave me a wonderful insight into that story. Imogene is discussed in the second book in the series when Augusta is directing an opera workshop production that includes operatic ghosts.
We (notice I moved from “I” to “we” by book #3) need to stop this suspect from getting on a plane on her way to flee the country and to complicate matters further, we want her to be arrested but released. Fortunately, Augusta’s best friend is involved with a criminal defense attorney. A wild drive to the airport and while Malcolm tracks down the suspect to detain her, Augusta calls Garrett and tells him to get over there ASAP because the suspect needs his assistance.
More recently: need to check out a downtown Cincinnati car chase? I put together the route from my vivid memories of driving in the city often and with the help of Google maps. Steve and his wife Pat “surveilled” it for book #8 by driving it! (Aside: The Case of the Bogus Beatle, which begins with an actual Beatles concert at Crosley Field in August, 1966, along with all other books in the series are available on Amazon, Kindle and paperback. You can find them on my author page, Susan Moore Jordan. Note: end of the shameless self-promotion pitch.)
An enormously important element of this book series is Lt. Kramer’s insight into what drives a dedicated law enforcement officer. There are numerous times in the books when the words that come out of Malcolm Mitchell’s mouth originated in Stephen Kramer’s emails. My female protagonist (there’s a spark there even at their first contentious meeting) eventually asks Detective Mitchell why he became a cop. And more specifically, a homicide detective. Here’s what Steve Kramer sent me, which almost verbatim became Malcolm’s explanation to his new love interest:
“Being a homicide detective has to be one of the most satisfying occupations on God’s earth. Mentally, it’s challenging. It’s like playing a different puzzle every day, except the outcome is very important to another human being. Actually, if you’re successful, two human beings. No, if you’re successful, many human beings, considering what happens if you don’t catch the perpetrator…he just keeps perpetratin’. When you’re doing a homicide investigation, you see the person who’s dead and you have a physical reminder of what’s going to happen if you don’t catch who did it. When you catch him, it’s hard to explain how it makes you feel. The endorphins scatter in your brain like fireworks. It may be the best thing you ever feel.”
I’ve never asked Steve Kramer why he’s willing to have emailed me thousands and thousands of words (along with more photos) to assist with these books. Maybe I’m afraid he’ll decide enough, already, at some point, but I have a feeling he enjoys sharing his knowledge and memories of his lengthy service to the city we both love.
He’s done all this to date for copies of the novels and a gift certificate to Skyline Chili (one of the things I really, really miss about living in Cincinnati). We’ve never even spoken on the phone. Maybe it’s the twenty-first century equivalent of being pen pals?
Steve Kramer is definitely my favorite person I’ve never met face to face, but I feel he’s become a valued friend.
... and now
Tuesday, October 12, 2021
One brother can’t forget. The other can’t remember.
The Cameron brothers’ books, Memories of Jake and Man with No Yesterdays, required considerable research. While I didn’t write war scenes, my characters talk about their experiences. I spoke with veterans, read many first-person accounts, read online articles and veterans forums’ entries, and watched films and videos in order to try to understand the impact of service in Vietnam on those who served. Coming back was difficult for many of those who made it home. I was fortunate to find a consultant, a veteran of both Korea and Vietnam, retired Army Lt. Col. Chuck Vincent, whose assistance was invaluable.
For nearly two years I immersed myself in that period in history, and it was an intensely emotional experience. I found on YouTube television coverage of the fall of Saigon and watching it again, all these years later, I had the same visceral experience. But I learned about Operation Frequent Wind … a herculean effort by helicopter pilots to rescue as many South Vietnamese as possible for 48 hours after the city fell. It’s a little-known story about the war, I believe. I have a description as an appendix to Man with No Yesterdays. Our warriors fought with valor.
I’ve received gratifying reviews for both books from Amazon readers. One of my favorites:
Man With No Yesterdays is a relatable story … for veterans and the people who love them. This is a story for those who have returned home, body intact, but a mind in downfall, suffering from crippling mood disorders like PTSD, depression, and anxiety. It is a well-researched and engaging story full of hope, love, forgiveness, and survival. A must-read.The Kindle edition of both books is currently available at a slightly reduced price, $3.49, and Memories of Jake is free to readers who are members of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited.
Thursday, September 9, 2021
I should ask an expert if memories and imagination are somehow intertwined because at this point in my long life I'm putting memories and the ideas they sometimes produce down on paper, so to speak. Since 2013, I’ve written thirteen novels and am currently at work on a fourteenth.
Currently, I’m writing the eighth—and perhaps final—novel in my mystery series, which is set in Cincinnati, Ohio in the nineteen-sixties. My time in that lovely city began in the fall of 1955 when I matriculated to the College-Conservatory of Music. Locating “The Augusta McKee Mystery Series” in a city I fell in love with at seventeen and delighted in for sixteen years has awakened many happy memories. Thanks to the marvels of the internet, I've been able to affirm nearly everything I need to double-check particulars about my time in Cincinnati. (Not the least of these tools are Google maps which have helped me numerous times revisit different areas of the city and trace the exact routes I drove.)
poster for The Pocono Cinema and Cultural Center
designed by Katy Schulz Burton
For more information please visit my website, www.susanmoorejordan.com
Wednesday, August 18, 2021
Due to the events in Afghanistan over the past few days, there have been many references to “The Fall of Saigon.” Many of the younger generation may wonder why.
May 2, 1975 - 3:00 a.m.
Thousands of South Vietnamese abandoned to fend for themselves. People who had aided the United States in its fight against communism, left to the mercy of the invading North Vietnamese to do God knows what to them. Seeing those people surrounding the embassy hoping for helicopters to return…and it never happened.
I’ve got to tell you, watching those choppers being ditched in the ocean. God, that was the worst. I felt like I might have been reliving the crash I was in…it made me shaky and sick to my stomach. I managed to hide it from my co-workers who were in the room with me. Probably nobody would have noticed anyway…we were all riveted to the television monitor.
photo by Dr. Bertram Zarins
photo by Dr. Bertram Zarins
used by permission
used by permission