Author of Suspense Thrillers talks writing & stuff

Archive for the month “January, 2013”


A few mornings ago while snuggling with Emmett, our eleven month old Bully, in my oversized chair by the fireplace, sipping on my morning coffee and connecting with the world via iPad, a new email caught my attention.

TAKE NOTE the Official Blog of Sheet Music Plus

10 Tips for Improving Sight Reading

Published January 16, 2013

By Stephie Stewart

Sight reading (playing through a piece of music for the first time) has always been one of my strengths as a pianist. I’ve never given it much thought as it is something that has always come easily for me. So I was compelled to read the article in the hope that there would be some tips on helping students develop this ability. One click and I was there. The blog began…

How many times have you seen someone sit down and play music you know theyve never seen before and play it beautifully? Doesnt it make you wish you could do that too? Well, the good news is that you can, but it might take a little bit of work. The truth is most people arent naturally great sight-readers. They work at it and they practice it. Sight-reading is more often a learned skill than a natural talent.”

Okay, apparently I am not like “most people” (I think my partner would agree heartily with that statement for other reasons!) because I have never had to work at sight-reading. I think it is a gift that could best be described as a double edged sword. Since it has always been easy to play a piece relatively well at first sight, I have not always been sufficiently motivated to spend enough time perfecting the music. So, I read on…

Tip number one, like the Nike commercial, was “Just Do It!

“…Dont worry about making it perfect just concentrate on getting through it. Dont allow yourself the luxury of working out the hard parts…”

This hit me like a ton of sonatas. Amazing! The Big Picture, of course! Stephie was writing about sight reading music but she struck a major chord within me. Whenever I am faced with a big project, I get so bogged down in the little things that the task becomes more difficult than it should be, sometimes to the point where the job never gets done. The same thing is also true about writing. Paint the big picture first, fill in the details later. Okay, time to apply my sight-reading skills to everyday life. Must read on…

Tip number two, “Look before You Leap 

“Before you actually begin to play, take a minute to look at whats coming at you. Check the road map are there any repeats or codas? Knowing whats ahead will give you a chance to mentally prepare ahead of time and you wont be surprised by that D.S. right after the page turn.” 

Of course. Be prepared. Make an outline, have a plan. The Big Picture again! Can’t stop reading now…

Tip number three, “Just Keep Swimming 

“Whatever happens dont stop playing! Keeping your place in the music is essential. If you stop to go back and fix a mistake while playing with others, youre going to get completely lost fast. Going back and fixing a mistake when youre playing by yourself might not seem so bad, but youll lose the overall sense of the music and its a bad habit to get into for when you do play with someone else. Learn to let go of the mistakes. Play in the moment by always focusing on what you are currently playing and not worrying about what you just played.” 

Yes, now this is (if you’ll pardon the pun) key to sight reading. But how true is it in life? Live in the now. Sure, plan for the future, learn from the past, but be in the present. How often do we get so wrapped up in past mistakes or hurts, or
in future plans and worries that we completely miss the joy of now? Here we can take a lesson from Diesel and Emmett and all of their canine cousins. Dogs live blissfully in the present. They don’t hold grudges. They don’t worry about their next meal. Granted, our bullies are pretty spoiled and know they will be amply fed. But even those poor animals that are homeless, or abused, do not get ulcers from worrying.

So, I kept on reading. Tips number four through nine were much more specific to sight reading music (very basic, useful advice dealing with rhythm, theory, technique), but the last one seemed to me the most important of all whether the subject is sight-reading or life…

Tip number ten, “Make it fun

This tip might be listed last, but dont let that fool you making sight-reading fun is vital. If youre not having fun, how likely is it that youll keep sight-reading? Picking music you like to hear and to play, inviting your friends over for a jam session and rewarding yourself for milestones are all good ways to keep things exciting. 

What this all boils down to is that to be a better sight reader, you better get sight-reading! Dont try to do too much at once. Allow yourself to make mistakes and celebrate the victories. But most of all have fun!

Yes, friends, our time on this earth is way too short not to have fun. To quote Mary Poppins, “In every job to be done there is an element of fun. Find the fun and, snap, the job’s a game…”

Let the games begin!

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Thank you to our friend, Kari G., for this touching blog about human kindness.


“She walked in the door, first thing this morning, with mutiny in her eyes.

It was patently obvious that her day was off to a rough start… I pulled her aside for a chat as my student teacher began the lesson. She stormed out of the room and threw herself down on the hallway floor, in tears. I sat down next to her on the floor and waited.

She is new to this classroom, having been transferred from another room due to behavioral issues, and I don’t know her well. She was clearly dressed in Christmas finery….purple from head to toe, tags still visible on the pants to prove to observers that they were new and not second hand. I looked at her shoes……brand new, sparkly purple and silver Vans…..but something was odd. She was stepping on the heels, pressing them down, as though they were slides.

New shoes are a Big Event in a child’s world. Usually, the first scuff will bring distress. I asked if something was wrong. “They won’t go on my feet!” she sobbed. “They’re new and they HURT!” It was the first day she was allowed to wear her special shoes, and they quite literally would not fit on her feet. She was beside herself…..and is not a girl who has much control on the best of days. And, honestly….a girl with gorgeous new shoes that DO NOT FIT? The Cinderella story is all about the shoes, and how they transform the girl, after all.

She told me where her Mom had bought the shoes, and not knowing what else to do, I called the store and explained. They had a pair one size bigger, and agreed to hold them for me until closing. I called Mom……who doesn’t like calls from school, for they happen, all too often, to bring news of misbehavior. At first she thought I was calling to complain. “I am not coming up there to bring her different shoes! She should have changed them!” But when she understood I was calling to ask her permission to exchange the shoes for her, she brought box, receipt, and a spare pair of shoes for her daughter to wear in the meantime.

Tomorrow morning, this girl will have new shoes that fit. I live 5 minutes from the store…’s a 25 minute drive for this family, 50 minutes round trip, and Mom works from 2 until 10 pm. It was such an easy thing for me to do…..I was going there to exchange a shirt for Rod, anyway. But hopefully, oh, hopefully….. by doing this one small thing, I have made a tentative bond with this very troubled child…..and her family.”

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Every 365 days, give or take a leap year, we two-legged creatures make a new resolve to be better. After a month or so of holiday-induced indulgences, we make lofty resolutions. We will lose weight, work out more, slow down, speed up, reconnect with old friends, be kinder, be more assertive, save money, invest more, and the list goes on. No matter how well-intentioned our new year promises may be, generally they last only a little longer than the holiday decorations. But we try to be good.

As we approach this new year year, Emmett, our 10 month old bulldog, has compiled his own four-legged list of resolutions. Actually, I have made the list for him, but if he could do it himself, I’m sure it would read something like this:

1. I will let you sleep until the alarm goes off and the coffee is ready. I will not grunt, groan or whimper to go out until your feet have already hit the floor.

2. I will wait politely at the door when guests arrive and greet each one calmly and quietly.*

3. I will stop chewing what is left of the bushes in our yard.

4. I will chew my food slowly and not slobber water from one end of the kitchen to the other.

5. I will not pull on my leash and dislocate my master’s shoulder.

6. I will not bury my nose in the waste baskets diving for discarded facial tissues, napkins or paper towels to chew on. Likewise, I will not “accidentally” knock the garbage can over even though I will continue to clean the floor instantly of anything that may happen to drop.

7. I will sit, stay and lie down when commanded to do so.

8. I will respect my “big brother,” Diesel and will not steal his favorite toys, deer antlers or food.

9. I will continue to give sloppy-wet-doggie-kisses and keep my mistress’ lap warm every morning as we sit in our oversized chair together.

10. I will continue to give unconditional, mad, crazy love every day.* 

* * *

To tell the truth, as appealing as resolutions 1 through 8 seem to be, as long as he keeps numbers 9 & 10, this is going to be a wonderful new year.

* Emmett would like to thank for posting these ideas December 29, 2012 and inspiring this blog.

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