New Online Course for Piano!

acoustic-black-and-white-chord-164935After over 20 years teaching college music classes I have launched my first online music course! I am starting by publishing online courses through the Udemy platform. In my first course, “Name that Key!” I show a very silly method for remembering the names of the keys on the piano and then a very good method for starting to learn the lines and spaces on the music staff. The course has a regular price of $49.95, but for a limited time I am offering the course free. If you want to help me get my first students, leave a review, too!  Thanks so much!

To get the course for free, click on the link and use the coupon code: FREEKEYS

https://www.udemy.com/name-that-key/learn/v4/overview

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New Covers for Christmas!

Starry Purple front coverWith the help of illustrator Sandy Silverthorne, I have updated the covers on the Follow the Star series of Christmas piano books. Also, I’m especially excited to announce that Follow the Star Level 5 is now available on Amazon and other online retailers for the first time.

Level 5 contains early intermediate arrangements of Mary Did You Know?, Pachelbel’s Canon, Russian Dance (Nutcracker Suite), O Holy Night and more!

Check out these graded piano books from Primer Level through Level 5!

Categories: Christmas piano music, Follow the Star, New Book Release, Piano Music | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Readers’ Favorite Reviewer

 

RF_Official_ReviewerI have a new fun little hobby. I have become an official book reviewer for Readers’ Favorite! Any author can submit their book to the Readers’ Favorite site for a free review. The book is chosen by one of the many official reviewers, who will read it and offer their honest opinion. Four and five star reviews are posted in various places, while three star and below reviews are only shared with the author. If you want multiple reviews or you want your review to happen quickly, you can pay a fee for faster service. I’ll be posting some of my reviews here on my blog when there are books I’d really like to recommend.

Readers’ Favorite also runs contests and the great thing about their contests is there are 140 categories, so there are lots of prizes awarded. I have entered my new book Worship at the Keys into their contest, results to be announced September 1. Wish me luck!

Check out the site here: https://readersfavorite.com/ref/15050

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New Release! Worship at the Keys: A Method Book

Cover lowresAnnouncing the upcoming release of Worship at the Keys: A Method Book!  This one-of-a-kind book is a step-by-step method, paced for teens, explaining how to play praise and worship songs with a church band. It covers reading chord charts and lead sheets, playing with different groups of musicians, understanding practical concepts in music theory and playing by ear. It includes 23 contemporary worship songs written in simple keys and user-friendly format. This book is a great place to get started for students who have taken a couple years of piano lessons and would like to learn how to play worship songs.

Songs included are: Here I Am to Worship * This is the Day * He’s Got the Whole World * What a Beautiful Name * Cornerstone * Jesus Paid it All * Lord, I Need You * Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone) * Holy Spirit * At the Cross (Love Ran Red) * From the Inside Out * Breathe * You Never Let Go * Every Move I Make * Happy Day * 10,000 Reasons * My All in All * Your Love Awakens Me * Jesus, Lover of My Soul * Our God * Open the Eyes of My Heart * You are My King (Amazing Love) * Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) *

I am very excited to make this book available to the public and hope it will be a blessing to students, teachers and worship leaders.  It contains everything about playing worship songs that I wish I knew when I was a teen! You can check it out on Amazon here!

Categories: New Book Release, Piano Method Book, Piano Music, Worship Music | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Christmas Piano Fake Book!

Follow Fake Book cover thumbnailAnnouncing the newest addition to the Follow the Star: Christmas Songs for Piano series, an entry-level Christmas fake book! Have you even seen music with only a melody and chord symbols and wondered what to do with it?  That format is called a leadsheet and fake books are filled with them.  Follow the Star: Christmas Songs for Piano (Fake Book) takes you step by step through a tutorial on how to play for carol singing or just creating your own arrangement.  The leadsheets are in easy to read print with simple chords and no more than two sharps or flats in the key signatures.

Songs include: * Angels We Have Heard on High * Auld Lang Syne * Away in a Manger * Good King Wenceslas * Hark! The Herald Angels Sing * How Great Our Joy * It Came Upon a Midnight Clear * Jingle Bells * Jolly Old Saint Nicholas * Joy to the World! * O Come, All Ye Faithful * O Come, Little Children * O Come, O Come Emmanuel * O Holy Night * O Little Town of Bethlehem * Silent Night * The Twelve Days of Christmas * The First Noel * Up on the Housetop * We Three Kings * What Child is This? * We Wish You a Merry Christmas *

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“The Martian” and other out-of-this-world fiction

My childhood ambition was to be an astronaut and travel to Mars.  Plans changed and I became a teacher instead, but it’s been fun to see Mars so much in the news recently and also in some very creative fiction. I want to share about three favorites, in chronological order.

First, “The Martian.” What fun! The story occurs sometime in the not too distant future. NASA has sent previous missions to Mars and this team is supposed to spend lengthy time on the red planet. However, a violent storm threatens to tip over their spaceship and they have to get out in a hurry, leaving behind a crewmate, Mark Watney, who they believe to be dead. After they leave, Mark wakes up alone on Mars with no way to phone home. The rest of the movie is reminiscent of “Apollo 13” as Mark tries to survive and NASA discovers his existence and works out what to do next. Naturally, things go wrong, and it is very exciting.

The MartianBefore watching the movie I read the book by Andy Weir, which was very technical in regards to the science. Weir was meticulous in his research and everything is quite believable. The book is pretty geeky. The writers of the screenplay were forced to leave out a lot of the technical stuff and as a result there appear to be some holes and shaky premises, but in the book the premises are solid. The movie also left out entire crisis’s that are detailed in the book. I think the movie is better – they left out the right stuff and they left in the right stuff, including the humor. The book reads like the highly detailed geeky research that went into making the movie, not that I didn’t enjoy it immensely.

“The Martian” is rated PG-13, which I think is appropriate, but in case someone is sensitive to that I wanted to explain. There is a scene at the beginning where Mark Watney has to perform surgery on himself and it is very bloody. I don’t like blood, so I didn’t watch for a couple minutes. Problem solved. There is a fair amount of swearing, although not nearly so much as there is in the book. I don’t like it, but honestly, if there was any time where swearing was appropriate it might be when you discover you’ve been left behind in outer space! It does occur throughout the movie. If swearing bothers you skip the book, but take a chance on the movie – it’s worth it. The final item for the PG-13 rating is brief nudity. It’s mild and it lasts about a second. I think they put it in just to get the rating.

Saving MarsNow move forward in time. Cidney Swanson has written the 6-book series Saving Mars which is an exciting fast-paced sci-fi adventure for the YA market. Mars has now been colonized, but there was a war with earth and no contact is now allowed between the planets. At regular intervals the Marsians, as they prefer to be called, send raiders to earth to get supplies. It’s a very dangerous trip, not least because earth of the future is ruled by a tyrant who mandates a convoluted system of body-swapping. The heroine, Jessamyn, pilots the ship for the raiding party which includes her brilliant brother Ethan who appears to be somewhere on the autism spectrum. The story has danger and intrigue and plot twists with action so fast it can make your head spin. There is even some light romance. Highly recommended. I loved it and my very bright 10-year-old loved it.

Medieval Mars paperback coverNow go even farther into the future. A thousand years after Mars is colonized comes Travis Perry’s story world of Medieval Mars. Technology finally gets the better of the human race and civilization has collapsed. The inhabitants of Mars have been thrown back into a life that is remeniscient of the medieval days of knights and lords and where technology is so misunderstood that it is considered to be magic. There are even dragons, curtesy of early settlers who bioengineered wings on komodos. Apparently they couldn’t figure out how to make their dragons breathe fire, so they created them to spit acid instead.

Travis Perry invented this world and then invited other authors to write stories for it. The result was Medieval Mars: The Anthology which contains stories about Medieval Mars by nine authors. Stories include Perry’s “The War Between the Mons,” “The Search for Eden” by Mark Venturini and my “Sam and the Dragon.”  Medieval Mars: The Anthology is published by Bear Publications.

Final Cover 1Sam and the Dragon is the story of a boy and his cousin who travel through the wilderness of Mars in search of a dragon who has been eating the family’s goats. The anthology is suitable for YA and up, but Sam and the Dragon is also published separately as a middle-grade (4th-6th grade) chapter book. The stand-alone version includes illustrations by concept artist Phil Wade.

So there’s my favorite Martian fiction. What’s yours?

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‘Tis the Season for New Releases!

Follow 4_5I’m excited to announce the release of new piano books from Spencer Meadow Press: Follow the Star: Christmas Songs for Piano Levels 4 & 5!

Follow the Star: Christmas Songs for Piano (Level 4) for the early intermediate student contains arrangements of Deck the Halls, Away in a Manger, Good King Wenceslas, Silent Night, March of the Toy Soldiers (from the Nutcracker Suite) and more!  Arrangements are by Donna McFarland, Cherry Wilson and Tami Wilson.  Cute black and white illustrations by artist Sandy Silverthorne.

Follow the Star: Christmas Songs for Piano (Level 5) is a collection for the intermediate piano student. Selections include the beautiful Mary, Did You Know?, a Pachelbel’s Canon with a Christmas twist, Russian Dance (from the Nutcracker Suite), O Holy Night, a sing-a-long carol medley, an original carol by composer Gene Skinner and a lively First Five Days of Christmas, which is based on the traditional 12 Days of Christmas. This fresh new version ends with a boogie woogie on Day 5 as the gift recipient pleads for no more birds. Arrangements by Donna McFarland and Cherry Wilson, illustrated by Sandy Silverthorne.

Both books are available in print in the new Spencer Meadow Press store. Level 4 is also available on Amazon in print and kindle formats.  To celebrate these new releases, the kindle version of Level 4 is available for free download on Amazon today through 10/21/15.  Click here to get your free copy!

Categories: Follow the Star, New Book Release, Piano Music, Promotions | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Time Ever — Free Promo for Sam and the Dragon

Sam cover thumbnailHi book fans! In honor of the release of the Medieval Mars Anthology, on this Wednesday and Thursday (8/5-8/6) I am running my first ever free kindle promo on Sam and the Dragon, which is included in the anthology. Sam and his cousin Ahni set off across the wilderness of Mars in search of a dragon who has been eating their family’s goats, but their quest turns into more than they possibly could have imagined. This heartwarming story includes illustrations by concept artist Phil Wade and a map by author Bill Sullivan.

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A Most Unusual Piano Duet

As you can tell from the books I’ve written, I like elephants and I like piano.  So what could be more perfect than an elephant playing a piano?!!

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New Release: Medieval Mars: The Anthology

Medieval Mars AnthologyI am excited to announce the release of Medieval Mars: The Anthology!  This anthology is a collection of stories that take place in Travis Perry’s world of Medieval Mars.

It’s been about a thousand years since Mars was terraformed and settled by people from earth, but then the civilization collapsed and people returned to a way of life reminiscent of medieval times.  Knights called Riders patrol the roads and contend with dragons, bioengineered by the early settlers who added wings to Komodos.  Apparently they couldn’t figure out how to make the dragons breathe fire, so they made them spit acid.  Yipes!

Read about the war between the mons, a wild west style snake-oil salesman, a young man who would brave anything to save his bride from a mysterious illness, a woman who finds herself too old to continue her passion as a racing bird jockey, and more!  My novel Sam and the Dragon is included, along with stories from eight other authors.

Available in kindle and print versions.  Check it out!

Categories: Mars, New Book Release | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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