Daddy's Christmas Angel

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Destination Jamaica--A Great Gift No Matter the Season

"I Saw and Angel Standing in the Trees" ©MMSikes
Years ago, my husband gave me the gift of a trip to the luscious island nation of Jamaica. I don't recall if the gift was for Valentine's, but it could have been.

That first visit was amazing, exciting, and transforming. For an artist, the scenery could not have been more lovely. In those days, I always carried my 35mm camera with me no matter where I went, so I took dozens of photographs every day we were there. When I got home, I went into my downstairs studio and stretched new canvases. Some were 4 by 6 feet. Others were 3 1/2 by 4 1/2. I tightened each canvas on the stretcher bars, then carried them to the upstairs studio to gesso the foundations for my new series of work.

Using my Jamaica photos as reference materials, I first created a pastel working drawing for each image. Then, I pulled out my tubes and bottles of acrylic paints and began painting my new canvases that now hung on the studio wall. An entire series of "Tropical Fantasy" paintings grew in the studio as my visions became realities. (One of those paintings was later enhanced with my angel vision.)

"Red Bud" ©MMSikes
During that trip I had my first glimpse of Rose Hall Great House rising above the landscape overlooking the sea along the coast of Jamaica. It was an eerie sight; it was a beautiful sight. I was drawn to visit the old building that once belonged to Annie Palmer, often called the "white witch" because of her treatment of the slaves that worked her sugar plantation and because of her ties to the strange Obeah rituals that came with her from stays in Haiti.

When I returned from Jamaica, the story of the"white witch" haunted me. I wrote about her in travel articles that appeared in the Chronicle-Telegram (Cleveland, Ohio) and other newspapers and magazines. When we went on another trip to the island, we stayed at the nearby Wyndham Rose Hall.

Everything I saw and learned led me to include Rose Hall Plantation in my coffee table book, Hotels to Remember. Annie Palmer was an unforgettable character. She kept returning to my thoughts, and, although I never painted her, I was compelled to write about her. She had to be a character in my novel, Hearts Across Forever.

The paintings in my studio continued to evolve. So did the writing of my novel. Jamaica mesmerized me and persisted to invade my thoughts, so we returned again and again for more than a dozen visits.

My book still enthralls me. It is filled with "what if's" that might be "could be's". The paintings illustrate the visual power of Jamaica. The writing explains the magic.

Jamaica still beckons me. I long to return and to take with me copies of Hearts Across Forever.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Hart of Dixie - What a Colorful Netflix series

"Southern Shores" ©Mary Montague Sikes
I don't consider myself a television addict, and I don't often "binge watch" a network series. However, recently I've become hooked on "Hart of Dixie", a series from a few years back that is showing on Netflix. At the moment, my viewing is nearing the end of Season 3 with the short, 10-episode Season 4 ahead. So far, I've watched well over 50 programs. It will be a sad time when I reach the final episode.

Blue Bell is a mostly sunny place to live. Located in southern Alabama, near Mobile, the town celebrates any and everything. Extravagant costumes show up right away when a new, unusual event is conceived. Beautiful, lavish cakes and pies adorn the streets for these celebrations. The bar, Rammer Jammer, is filled with people at all times of the day. When and where do these people work?

Lavon Hayes, the mayor of Blue Bell, is a retired NFL player who lives a life of drama, along with most everyone else in the town. One of stars of the series is named Lemon, often called Lemonade by her father who is the town doctor. George is a lawyer who doesn't have much to do, apparently. He and Lemon were together for 15 years, starting in high school when they were 15 years old until he left her at the altar in a much-touted wedding.

Dr. Zoe Hart, the protagonist, came to Blue Bell from New York City when she inherited a practice from a newly-discovered father. Her short, short skirts and outlandish outfits add to the color of the town and the series. Her love affair with Wade was a highlight of the show for me. The town bad boy, with a drunken father only he can rescue from the roof of the local church, Wade sometimes appears to be the most adult person in the show.

With so many violent programs on television, "Hart of Dixie" is refreshing and bright. With all its craziness, the show reminds me of Xanadu, the place of happiness and peace in the universe that my art series is seeking to discover.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Not As Simple As I Hoped

Well, I started off the year 2020 with the plan to set up my Goodreads account properly and to write a blog each week. So far, I have found that because I neglected Goodreads for many years, getting it in proper shape is taking longer than I thought. Also, I am behind already with my blog a week, but I plan to catch up.

I blame part of my tardiness on my art activities. Last week, I taught an oil/cold wax workshop which required a lot of time for preparation. Sometimes art sabotages writing, but it is a part of my life that I wouldn't change.

"Hearts on the Line" ©Mary Montague Sikes
As I mentioned in an earlier blog post about my writing marketing campaign this year, I will be using art more vigorously in my plan. On January 25, I have a book signing scheduled at the William & Mary Barnes & Noble in Williamsburg, VA. I plan to use a Valentine's promotion for my book and will give a blank greeting card with envelope to the first 10 people buying my book, Hearts Across Forever. This book is a romantic tale set on the beautiful island of Jamaica. People who travel on cruise ships in the Caribbean or who love to vacation on tropical islands will especially enjoy my book. I'm making a list now of the many ways Hearts Across Forever can be promoted. Books are written and never found. The right promotion is the key. This is a romance for all seasons, but it will make a special Valentine's Day gift. Perhaps, it will be given with the promise of a special all-inclusive trip to Jamaica.

In addition to promoting Hearts Across Forever,
the next part of my plan is to update my Amazon Author Central page. When my original publisher passed away, everything on my page was thrown off. Now I need to replace or change the information that is no longer valid. However, some of my books might never get re-released, so I want them to remain visible in some way. Ideas abound in my head, and I look forward to creating new books for them.

Right now, for the remainder of January, my promotion plans are:

1. Good Reads - Complete the update
2. Amazon - Tackle the Author Central page
3. Book Signings - Use art to devise promotional plans for book sales

Promotion is not as simple as I hoped, but deep down I never expected it to be.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

The Year 2020, Let the Marketing Plan Begin

Here we are in the year 2020. This year always seemed so far away. The number has a special ring to it.

1818. 1919. Those years don't sound nearly as special. Perhaps the "Roaring 20s" of the 20th Century make it sound a bit foreboding. I don't know.

For the year 2020, I'm not making any resolutions--only plans. My first plan is to write a blog each week for this year.

My second plan is to write about my marketing discoveries and ideas. I have a lot to learn about marketing, so research will be key to fulfilling my plans.

For this week, my plan for writing is to revitalize my Goodreads connection. Long ago, I had books on Goodreads and probably an author's page. Now, I don't recall what I did or how. Getting things up-to-date and going on the Goodreads web site will require some time, but I am determined.

Blog first, then Goodreads. That's my plan.

Also, along the way, I need to filter in my artist as well as writing plans. This week, I plan to enter the Gloucester Arts on Main juried show. That requires choosing photos of work to enter and will take some time. Also, "Winter Blues" is an invitational art show, of which I am a par,t at Gloucester Arts on Main in Gloucester, VA with an opening on January 3, 6 to 8 p.m. that I plan to attend. My 4' x 6' oil painting and a pastel painting are part of this show. The oil painting has not been on view ever in this area. It was part of my Graduate Thesis Show at Anderson Gallery (Virginia Commonwealth University) in Richmond, VA and a One-Person Show at 20th Century Gallery in Williamsburg, VA.

People often don't keep their new year's resolutions, but plans are more difficult to discard. I intend to keep my plans going throughout the new year.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Building a Marketing Plan

Building a Marketing Plan. That's something I've been thinking about most of this year and many times before that.

After all, I have a few published books, languishing in the darkness, waiting for the light. Years ago, when my first novel was released, I had a few good plans and had scheduled lots of book signings. It was September 11, 2001. I had my first big signing set for that evening at a large Barnes & Noble venue in Richmond, VA. You know what happened to that.

"Hilton Head Waves" ©Mary Montague Sikes
The next week, we headed to Hilton Head Island into the most morose setting imaginable. Everything and everyone had fallen apart; no one wanted to promote anything, nor plan ahead. The art gallery owner with whom I had a prior business relationship told me she was only interested now in promoting the work of local artists. She was clearly upset.

Very early one morning, I slipped down to the beach to watch the waves roll in and to listen to their sounds. No one else was there. Had those waves started at an earlier time on a far away shore along the coast of Africa?, I wondered. Now with an ancient rhythm, they splashed along our sandy beaches.

The waves calmed me that day. I continued with plans to promote. Doing something was better than not doing anything at all.

My book promotion and my art marketing were not organized. I was younger and filled with the enthusiasm of a first-time author, even during those days of darkness for our country. Now, older and wiser, I am setting up an organized plan.

My goal for 2020 is to see clearly with 20-20 vision a marketing plan that will reveal an audience and buyers for my work. I will build a detailed marketing plan.