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It is said that the spaces between the notes make the music.  In the same way, the longing between separated lovers makes the story of their love.

Batumi  is a seaside city and the capital of Adjara, an autonomous republic,  in southwest Georgia.  There, at the edge of the Black Sea, Georgian artist  Tamara Kvesitadze  has created the 26-foot tall, moving sculpture called “The Statue of Love.” Her steel creation is based on the tragic love story of Ali and Nino, a Muslim boy and Georgian Christian girl who were separated by the coming of World War I and the Russian Revolution. Nino fled to Paris with the couple’s child while Ali joined the defense of Azerbajan and was killed when the Red Army invaded in 1918. The novel by Kuban Said, a Dr. Zhivago– style epic, was published in 1937.

At seven p.m. each evening, the computer-controlled statues move slowly toward each other in a spectacular light show, They join briefly in a passionate kiss, and then pass through each other,  leaving the beloved behind.  When I saw this video, I wished I could send it to Unhappy Reader, whose dissatisfaction with Ride Your Heart ‘Til It Breaks, I explained in my last post.   Perhaps viewing the video of “The Statue of Love”  would explain the story of Carrie Moon and Stan Benedict to Unhappy Reader in a way my words apparently failed to do.

At the beginning of Ride, an invisible force seems to draw Stan and Carrie toward each other evening after evening in Jazz By the Bay, just as the statues move toward each other in the twilight by the sea in Batumi.  Carrie thinks she is drawn toward Stan and his artistry as a musician without realizing her obsession stems from her need to recover her own inner artist and musician, the persona she left behind when she became a lawyer. Although Stan fights his attraction to Carrie because he thinks love never lasts for him, her unconditional support shines like a beacon in his emotional darkness and draws him closer and closer, just as the computers driving “The Statue of Love” move the lovers irresistibly toward each other in the twilight.

Stan and Carrie meet in a passionate embrace, like the the lovers in the “Statue of Love.” But they, too, literally pass through each other, as the pressure of their very different lives drives them apart.  Stan’s insecurities lead to muffing his chance  to become a big name musician in Los Angeles.  Carrie finds she cannot sustain the pressure of her legal career and the demands of wife and soon-to-be mother.

Tragedy strikes, moving Stan and Carrie apart, like the moving figures in the “Statue of Love.”  Years pass like the hours that pass before the computer activates the moving figures in Batumi once again.  And then, just as the computer switches on at the appointed time, the Universe moves Carrie and Stan toward each other once again, this time to learn love’s greatest lesson of all.

To view the magnificent spectacle of the “The Statue of Love” at twilight go here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ds9fE0tnzE

To purchase a copy of Ride Your Heart ‘Til It Breaks, click the link on the side bar of this website.  And let me know if you agree or disagree with Unhappy Reader.

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One year ago yesterday, I pushed the publish button on Amazon and Nook Press and became a published author. I knew I’d embarked on a journey that I’d always wanted to make, but I had no idea what was coming.

At first, Dance For A Dead Prinessc was an e-book only. I didn’t realize until months later how simple and inexpensive and indeed, imperative, it was to create a paperback on Create Space.

And I started the journey with a website under construction and quickly learned not having a website made me a second-class author citizen. Thus, when I wrote one blogger who offered two-day guest spots for authors, to secure two days to guest post, she replied, “Well, ok. But you only get one day because you don’t have a website.”

But the website lesson was trivial compared to the advertising lesson. For breathtaking amounts of money, I bought ads on Kirkus Reviews, thinking their favorable review of Dance For A Dead Princess would quickly produce a readership for the book. Wrong. Expensively wrong. Ads ran. No one seemed to notice.

Then I tried an all-romance website and had the book’s cover pasted up for a month for another quite tidy sum. Again, no one noticed. My book was simply embedded in a mosaic of other books – most with far racier covers. Since I was a new and unknown author, and readers were perusing this site for their favorites that involved shirtless men, Dance For A Dead Princess wasn’t a candidate for their attention. Another lesson learned.

After a certain amount of frustration, I managed to get Dance up on GoodReads. But since Amazon does not cross-post reviews on that site, all my reviews remained on Amazon.

Then I discovered the Truly Expensive Blog tour. I wonder if I thought it would be effective because it was Truly Expensive or because the owner of the business persuaded me she knew what she was doing or because I had read how some blog tours had put Indie books on the map (and the bestseller list.) But of all the money I threw at advertising in the first year of being an author, the Truly Expensive Blog Tour was the most wasted. The owner of the business and my tour director had more excuses than you can count for why the tour dates weren’t honored and why the reviews promised were never posted. To put it mildly, I’d been scammed, big time.

About this time, I decided to do Facebook ads and Kindle Daily Nation sponsorships, although I also sat up nights hunting for websites where indie authors could post for free or nominal sums. Oddly enough, although multiple indie authors claimed Facebook ads were useless, I found them more effective than anything else I’d tried. And they were happily quite low budget. I began to think that the more money I threw at the problem, the less success I had. Whereas, when I was being cheap, I seemed to get better results.

Another example of that principle was another blog tour organizer, who appeared on top of a Google Search one day. Her rates sounded too good to be true. But this time I was careful to research her company and to ask her bluntly if she kept her promises, telling her the horror story of the Truly Expensive Blog Tour. I was delighted to learn she was everything she claimed to be. Organized, honest, efficient, and trustworthy. And she was able to produce reviews, which are the gold standard for selling books. Almost all of the reviews on GoodReads came from her blog tour (which has now continued for months for a fraction of the cost of Truly Expensive.)

And then, just as the First Year of Being An Author was ending, I received some exciting news. Dance For A Dead Princess is a finalist in the Foreward Reviews Best Book of the Year Award for 2013, with the final results to be published in June. And Dance is the Finalist for the 2014 Beverly Hills International Book Award. That award has one winner and one finalist in each category, so I’m honored to be No. 2 in Romance.

Yesterday I started the Second Year of Being An Author by writing the first press release I’d ever written in my life and sending it off to local media. Whether it gets noticed or not, just doing it felt good. And I contacted local indie bookstores I’ve been meaning to contact for months.

Most of all, so many friends have helped out during Year One. They’ve written reviews, they’ve offered encouragement, they’ve stuck up for me and the book when the inevitable Vicious Reviewers surfaced. Launching a book into the world takes friends, and I am very grateful to mine and to everyone who as read Dance for A Dead Princess. And now Year Two Begins.

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In 2004, Russell Shedd took over the music program at Scripps Ranch High. My first contact with Russ was when he called our house looking for my oldest child, Catherine, who was a rising senior at Scripps. A percussionist, she had organized the percussion cabinet at the end of the year and had left a note taped to the door with her phone number, threatening death or great bodily injury to anyone who put anything on top of the timpani. In that era, parents and students alike thought the timpani were convenient way stations for books, hoodies, and backpacks. Never mind the concept of tuning.

I had to tell Russ that Catherine was at Tanglewood in Massachusetts and wouldn’t be back for a couple of weeks. Right away I realized I’d given him the wrong impression of the Scripps music program. In those days the kids took band because it wasn’t Phys. Ed. Catherine’s trip to Tanglewood was the product of her own drive to become a musician and our family’s deep reverence for all things musical. I have studied clarinet since I was nine. We were the exception, not the rule.

But Russ had a vision for that program. He wanted to make it his own. And he wanted to teach kids MUSIC. He fought his way past the parents who didn’t understand what a music education from Interlochen and the University of Cincinnati meant. A fine clarinet player, he took the time to actually give recitals, so the unbelievers could become believers. And they did.

And because band can be fun, he thought of ways to encourage the kids to work hard but to have fun. Responding to his enthusiasm and joy for teaching music, the good kids began to come. One by one, including my youngest child, Michael. Little by little, the program grew. The marching band might be small, but everyone on the field was playing. No horn holders. And the depth of sound that Russ could create with fifty kids rivaled the big bands where half the kids weren’t playing because they were just there for the Phys. Ed. credit. And when he wanted new uniforms for the band, he led the fund raising drive by training for and entering a 50-mile run to get money for the uniforms.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the orchestra grew and thrived. It went from four violins, a viola, and a cello – none of whom had a clue about tuning – to seventy amazing musicians. So amazing, in fact, that in April, Russ won the California Association for Music Education’s Award as Orchestral Music Educator of the Year for Southern California. Oh, and in his spare time, he became the full-time choir teacher and the AP music theory teacher, too. In other words, he became the entire music department.

So how does this story of great talent, perseverance, and love for teaching end? With a pink slip. That’s right, dear reader. For all his hard work and dedication, the school district sent Russ a pink slip in May. Raises to more senior teachers – even though Russ has tenure – required the district to let some teachers go. And hire date was the determining factor – not achievement.

In my attorney life, I hear a lot about injustice. And I see some, too. But not nearly as much as you’d think. But this injustice tops the record books. No wonder qualified dedicated people don’t want to be teachers. I left that field many years ago, heartbroken because I couldn’t find a job doing what I loved, teaching writing. And watching Russ’s efforts, achievement, and education be discounted this way, hurts me to the core. And tells me I made the right decision all those years ago.

Children and their education are our future. The study of music will teach a child everything he or she needs to be succeed in life even if he or she doesn’t become a musician. We need to stand up for our outstanding teachers because the school district doesn’t appreciate them. If Russ does finally have to move on, I know there is a school district out there that will highly value his dedication and talent. It’s just that it should be the one here, right now, where he has worked so hard for the past eight years. As a local TV commentator says every night, “It ain’t right!”

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