Daddy's Christmas Angel

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Setting a Book in a Small 1980s Town

Earlier this week, I wrote "The End" on my book manuscript, Evening of the Dragonfly. Writing those words at last gave a feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment. It also offered the opportunity for reflection about the setting.

Unlike my "Passenger to Paradise" books, this story features no exotic destination. Instead the setting is Jefferson City, Virginia. This fictitious town is a little like the community where I live but not exactly. Jefferson City is the same town I used for my novel, Daddy's Christmas Angel.

Small Town VA 2006  MMSikes
Creating a fictitious location gives the author a lot of opportunity for use of the imagination. While actual places can be sprinkled into the story from time to time, it's fun to watch completely fictitious locations develop and become real in a book.

This book, like Daddy's Christmas Angel, is set during the 1980s. I've chosen that time period because it's a time prior to 9 11 when we were more innocent and didn't know as much about hatred in the world. It was an era when people strolled along streets and looked around them at the scenery, not at the cell phones in their hands.

As in Daddy's Christmas Angel, the heroine of my story is a school teacher. Farrah Ferand is also an artist, and her paintings play a big part in the story.

In coming weeks, I'll write more about my new book.

Do you set your stories in fictitious locations? Do you set them in the present time or do you have a different time period that you like better?


Monday, October 20, 2014

Baseball and Using Slight Fame to Sell Art and Books

This is World Series week in baseball. My St. Louis Cardinals are not there this year which is disappointing because a couple of missed opportunities, wrong choices, and an injured star player made the difference in the Championship series with the San Francisco Giants. As a dedicated fan, I hang on every pitch of every game. Now I have four months off before Spring Training starts in February. Yesterday as I read the art marketing newsletter by
Barney Davey about fame, I started to wonder how I might combine my baseball interests with marketing efforts.

Marketing newsletters can be helpful and often provide ideas I haven't considered before. I certainly never thought about the fame rub off effect that a video by Derek Halpern of Social Triggers describes (included in Davey's newsletter). The video suggests that photographs taken of you with a famous person can heighten your fame in the eyes of the viewer. Halpern even suggests, in the video, that just having a photograph of a famous person in a sidebar of your blog can raise the level of your fame.

I started thinking about photographs I have with well-known people and realized that most all of them are baseball players. A photo taken with Cardinals ace pitcher Adam Wainwright is my favorite. I also have photos with pitcher Shelby Miller, coach Jose Oquendo, former Cardinals batting coach and star Mark McGwire, 2011 World Series star David Freese, Hall of Famers Red Schoendienst and Tony LaRussa, and more. I even have a photograph taken on the lap of former pitching star and current broadcaster Al Hrabosky. (The "Mad Hungarian" pulled me onto his lap after a man shoved in front of me in a spring training autograph line.)
Artist Mary Alice Braukman (left) and Joe Miller (Cheap Joe) with me

 There are photos in my files taken with artists and a few writers. They are nothing like the ones I have with baseball stars.

According to Barney Davey, artists need to be only slightly famous to sell their work. He believes in building a following of 100 or more collectors for artists to be successful in their careers and finances.
Writers must develop a following of many more readers than that to gather fame and fortune.

After reading Davey's post, I believe fame and reputation will help sell your work. Now I need to develop a plan to create "rubbed off" fame from baseball players. Perhaps a series of paintings about A Field of Dreams. Isn't that how most artists and writers work? We are always inside our own "field of dreams". We need only "slight fame".

Monday, October 13, 2014

Combining Creativity with the Imagination of an Artist and the Skill of Many Writers

Chuck Scalin with work ©Mary Montague Sikes
When I saw the array of examples artist Chuck Scalin brought to show as part of his program for Metropolitan Richmond Artist Association, I realized he was truly a kindred spirit. Among the intriguing collages of paint, glass, paper, and rust, there was an amazing box featuring the collaboration of his work with that of 15 writers. How exciting.

Scalin, Professor Emeritus at Virginia Commonwealth University and a current instructor at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Studio School, first discussed the making of some of his collages. One was created with rusty metal pieces supplied by friends from all over the country, including China Town in New York City.

He talked about walking the streets of Paris where he found portions of buildings and streets that interested him.  He took pictures that later became art photographs resembling images from outer space. Later, he showed a new limited edition coloring book featuring the work of 30 artists, a collaboration for which he was responsible. This man is a remarkable artist.

The limited edition box was the object that I found most fascinating. For a solo exhibition in Ghostprint Gallery in Richmond, Scalin created groups of evidence collages for cold cases. He used archival photo boxes and pieces of Plexiglas made to look aged and wiped away in the middle to reveal the "evidence." The work was so convincing that people believed the cases were real. However, they were actually developed completely from the imagination of the artist. Scalin got so many questions about the cases and the boxes of "evidence," pieces of crime stored away that he started to think about getting writers to create short stories of 600 words or less about the 15 cold cases he had made up. The project was a big success. He made 100 limited edition evidence boxes that contain the stories, photographs of the actual collages, and much more. Not only did he have a gallery art exhibition, but he had a "book" as well.

Creative minds are astonishing. Collaboration of artists and writers is truly a marvelous experience. Scalin's work is a Body of Evidence that demonstrates the possibilities.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Travel to Exotic Places Adds Color for Writers and Painters

"Rainbow's End" ©Mary Montague Sikes
When I read about the travels of Samuel Clemens, AKA Mark Twain, I was a little surprised. He is most famous for his Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn novels, both set in the Midwest. However, his first best-seller, Innocents Abroad, published in 1869, was based on his journeys to Europe and the Middle East. Reports of his travels were printed in San Francisco and New York newspapers. Thus his book was born.

Novelists, newspaper and magazine writers, painters--all can be inspired by their travels. As a child, I could only dream of travel to far away places. I read about exotic and beautiful lands and determined I would one day visit some of them. Perhaps I was creating a bucket list even as a child.

"Waters Far Away"©Mary Montague Sikes
Last month, we visited Puerto Rico for a few days. Although we have stopped in San Juan to change planes a few times and have gotten stuck there overnight twice, I had never spent time on the island before. The temperature was perfect, the air fragrant, and the sea rolling over the sand was beautiful. Our resort featured the quiet beauty that I love most about the tropical islands of the Caribbean. It was ideal for the R and R we had not enjoyed all year long. Another time, we might journey to stroll along the streets of Old San Juan. Another time we might visit the Bacardi rum facility. But not this time.

"Tropical Paradise"©Mary Montague Sikes
"Even at Night" ©Mary Montague Sikes
 The writer made notes; the artist took photographs. The color was there to remember and to use. Travel to exotic places is perfect for writers and for painters. No wonder Mark Twain loved to travel.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Passenger to Paradise, a Collaboration of Artist and Writer

Several years ago my publisher, Oak Tree Books, created the "Passenger to Paradise" series for my novels that are set in exotic destinations. These books have included settings in Jamaica, Trinidad, Antigua, Costa Rico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Sedona AZ. When deciding the name for my one-person show in the new Ward Center for  Contemporary Art, I thought about the "Passenger to Paradise" books and how I had not only written about the many beautiful places we have visited but I have also painted them. In an "aha" moment, it occurred to me that "Passenger to Paradise" is the perfect title for my exhibition that will be on display when the Ward Center opens during the months of November, December, and January.

Whenever we go on a trip anywhere, I always have a camera dangling around my neck or tucked away in a fanny pack. I enjoy photographing foliage, beaches, buildings, sunrises, sunsets--anything that tells a story and can be used as reference material later on. I also have handy a sketchbook filled with heavy-duty Canson drawing paper. Most of the pages contain notes made with a black marking pen and are illustrated with a small drawing here and there. When we return home, I enjoy having photographs as well as my notes to remind me of the places we have visited.

The tropical island of Jamaica is one of my favorite destinations in the Caribbean. The glorious scenery there has been the subject of a novel, Hearts Across Forever, and many paintings, including several of the spectacular Dunn's River Falls. At least two of those paintings will be included in the "Passenger to Paradise" exhibition. The acrylic painting on canvas featured in this post is 52" x 76" framed.

"Dunn's River Falls II" ©Mary Montague Sikes

 

I look forward to hanging the "Passenger to Paradise" show in the brand new Ward Center for Contemporary Art. The paintings included will represent scenes from Trinidad, Antigua, and other scenic and tropical destinations. It will be a collaboration of both the artist and the writer.

What about you writers and you artists? Can you find a talented friend with whom you can collaborate for a show and a book-signing? Perhaps even a poetry reading? Writing about a painting or creating art inspired by a poem have become popular activities for clubs and sometimes even galleries.

Art and writing make a great collaboration.