Sunday, November 28, 2010

Historic Hotels, the Jefferson and Christmas

 During the Christmas season, historic old hotels dating back to the turn of the 20th Century and earlier have an unique presence and appeal. The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia is one of those glamorous, glorious old hotels that folks love to visit during the holidays. The dramatic staircase, from which the stairway for Gone With the Wind was modeled, is a major part of the attraction of the Jefferson. Each year, family and friends gather at the Jefferson to dine, take photographs, and just to enjoy the festive atmosphere.

On the West Coast, the Hotel Del Coronado is a hotel with a similar holiday attraction. I suspect the Brown Palace in Denver is a gathering place as well.
The El Tovar on the edge of the Grand Canyon with an awesome view is yet another holiday destination.

What about your family? Do you have a favorite old hotel where you like to get together with friends.?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Any Gothic Readers Getting a Kindle for Christmas?

Now that Thanksgiving is over--almost, I've started thinking about Christmas and wondering how many people will be getting a Kindle for a gift--especially Gothic readers. I'm thinking Kindle because all of my novels are available in Kindle versions. Dangerous Hearts, my latest, is available in several e-formats including Kindle.This book is part of the Shadowed Hearts Gothic Romance series from Red Rose Publishing.

Last year, Jane Toombs and other members of the Gothic Romance Writers chapter of Romance Writers of America decided to create this series to make readers more aware of Gothic books and authors. Many of us have loved Gothic books over the years but have not found as many Gothics available recently. A few years ago, because we loved the genre so much, we founded the group as a RWA chapter.

Creating the Shadowed Hearts series has been a fun as well as an intense project for the authors participating. Jane Toombs was dedicated to the series from the beginning and spearheaded a team of members who edited each of the works before submission. So far there are 12 books in the series, either completed and on sale at the Red Rose Publishing site or in the process of production or completion. It's an exciting time for Gothic Romance Writers!

Do you know what Gothic Romances are? Do you read Gothics?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Season--For What Are We Thankful?

For many years, Thanksgiving season has seemed like a passed over time to me. In my home town, I've seen Christmas trees go up before Halloween. A lot of us overlook the reason we celebrate Thanksgiving.

Our town is in the midst of the settlement area of the first English colonies. We have two Indian reservations in our county. Not far away, at Berkeley Plantation there is a celebration of the first official Thanksgiving in 1619. A few years ago, I covered that celebration in a newspaper for which I wrote feature stories. I really thought about the meaning of Thanksgiving then.

Do you think about the things for which you are thankful? Or do you fly through Thanksgiving to get ready for Black Friday? Is Thanksgiving an important holiday on your yearly agenda?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Contest Winners Are Listed

Clouds Copyright MM Sikes
It's late afternoon and I've gone over all the comments made during my seven-day blog book tour for Night Watch that ended on Friday. It was fun to read over so many great comments again.Winners please send your mailing addresses to me at monti7olen@verizon.net.

Winners are:
First place - signed copy of Night Watch - Susanne Drazic
Second place - Nancy Williams
Third place - Patricia Stoltey
(Nancy and Patricia, if you would prefer to have a copy of one of my other Passenger to Paradise books instead just let me know. Otherwise, I'll send you Night Watch.)


Thanks again to all the wonderful people who hosted me on the tour--Patricia Stoltey, Nancy Williams, Alex Cavanaugh, Marian Allen, Bodie Parkhurst, Mason Canyon, and KK Brees. Also, thanks to all of you who visited the sites and posted comments. I hope you will read Night Watch as well as my other books and will let me know what you think.

Friday, November 19, 2010

First Gift Along the Way

Years ago, I received my first Christmas gift from the young man who was my high school boyfriend. When I was only 13, I developed a mad crush on this boy who was the announcer for all the school football games. You can imagine how thrilled I was to start dating him when I was 16.

On Christmas Eve that year, he dropped by our house and placed two beautiful gift packages under our tree. I could hardly wait to see what was inside. No other gift mattered that year.

But on Christmas morning I hesitated to open my presents.Often anticipation is more important than the event itself. Eventually, I removed the papers with great care, so I could fold and keep them safe for years to come. My gifts were a set of Tigress cologne and bath powder. The bottle and the box both had a velvety animal skin decor.

To this day, I love anything with the look of tiger or leopard skin. I have scarves, a vest, and jackets in my wardrobe all with the look of animal skin.

And I have the boy as well, now grown for many years. On special occasions, I never know what new gift he may bestow, but none will be more unforgettable than that first gift.


Just finished my first blog book tour. It's not too late to go back and comment on my earlier stops. A signed copy of Night Watch is first prize. The schedule is below:

Nov. 11 - Patricia Stoltey
Nov. 12 - Nancy Williams
Nov. 15 - AlexCavanaugh
Nov. 16 - Marian Allen
Nov. 17 - Bodie Parkhurst
Nov. 18 - Thoughts in Progress
Nov. 19 - K. K. Brees

Book Trailers - Love Them or Hate Them

Lots of authors are making video book trailers now to promote their books. What do you think about book trailers--love them or hate them? Maybe you're just neutral.

Today is the last stop on my Blog Book Tour for Night Watch at KK Brees. I'm blogging about book trailers and have links for my two newest trailers for Night Watch and for Dangerous Hearts. I'm also wearing the T-shirt my publisher gave me with the Passenger to Paradise logo on it! Hope you can stop by.

Don't forget my contest. The winner will receive an autographed copy of Night Watch. Just leave a comment at each site where I've been guest blogging as my Blog Book Tour. It's not too late to go back and comment on my earlier stops. The schedule is below:

Nov. 11 - Patricia Stoltey
Nov. 12 - Nancy Williams
Nov. 15 - AlexCavanaugh
Nov. 16 - Marian Allen
Nov. 17 - Bodie Parkhurst
Nov. 18 - Thoughts in Progress
Nov. 19 - K. K. Brees

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Timeshare Adventures Make Fiction Background

A few years ago, when we first bought our timeshare properties, people often ridiculed the purchases. After all there were a lot of high pressure tactics on the part of sales people at the resorts. But we bought and soon were having amazing fun making exchanges all over the world. So much exotic travel resulted in wonderful adventures that I have used and am still using as background for my books, including Night Watch. This mystery is set in Trinidad where we made a timeshare exchange to a little island off the coast.

Today I am blogging about some of those experiences at Thoughts in Progress. Thank you Mason Canyon for hosting me.

Please don't forget I have a contest going on. The winner will receive an autographed copy of Night Watch. Just leave a comment at each site where I will be guest blogging as my Blog Book Tour for Night Watch continues. It's not too late to go back and comment on my earlier stops. The schedule is below:

Nov. 11 - Patricia Stoltey

Nov. 12 - Nancy Williams

Nov. 15 - AlexCavanaugh

Nov. 16 - Marian Allen

Nov. 17 - Bodie Parkhurst

Nov. 18 - Thoughts in Progress

Nov. 19 - K. K. Brees

I really appreciate all of  the wonderful hosts along the way. Each stop has been a wonderful and memorable experience.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Finding a Little Magic at Magic Dog Press

Every time I visit Bodie Parkhurst and Magic Dog Press, I feel happy. There's a sparkle in Bodie's smile next to her blog posts. That smile gives an optimistic element to the posts.

I'm delighted to be stopping at her site Speak! Good Dog! today. I first met Bodie when we both were taking Dani Greer's blog book tour class last July. (Goodness, Danie certainly connected a lot of us.) Bodie was really kind and helpful with suggestions for my blog site Notes Along the Way. She fixed the problem I was having with the dark shadow logo having little contrast with the title by lightening the shadow figure. I shall be forever grateful for her help there!

The Magic Dog asked me a lot of insightful questions about Night Watch. Hope you stop by to see the questions and my answers.

 Please don't forget I have a contest going on. The winner will receive an autographed copy of my new novel, Night Watch. Just leave a comment at each site where I will be guest blogging as my Blog Book Tour for Night Watch continues. The schedule is below:

Nov. 11 - Patricia Stoltey

Nov. 12 - Nancy Williams

Nov. 15 - AlexCavanaugh

Nov. 16 - Marian Allen

Nov. 17 - Bodie Parkhurst

Nov. 18 - Thoughts in Progress

Nov. 19 - K. K. Brees

I really appreciate all of you having me as a guest on your great blogs. Thank you for your magic! 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Next Stop on the Guest Blogging Tour for Night Watch

Marian Allen is kind enough to host me on her blog today. I'm excited she's reading Night Watch. Since she is heavy into the NaNo challenge, I feel especially privileged to be her guest. Both of us were students in Dani Greer's Blog Book Tour class last summer, and I suspect that she, like I, learned far more than we ever expected or hoped. I've been following Marian's blog ever since and feel I've gotten to know her just a little.
I 've enjoyed seeing her recipes and her photographs, and I've learned, if I didn't already know it, there's something special about mid-West people!!!

Don't forget I have a contest going. The winner will receive an autographed copy of my new novel, Night Watch. Just leave a comment at each site where I will be guest blogging as my Blog Book Tour for Night Watch continues. The schedule is below:

Nov. 11 - Patricia Stoltey

Nov. 12 - Nancy Williams

Nov. 15 - AlexCavanaugh

Nov. 16 - Marian Allen

Nov. 17 - Bodie Parkhurst

Nov. 18 - Thoughts in Progress

Nov. 19 - K. K. Brees

Monday, November 15, 2010

Science Fiction and Down on the Earth Mystery

Will There Be Peace Anywhere Copyright MM Sikes
Space has always intrigued me. As a child, I looked at the stars and wondered "what if I could fly there". Although I've never been a reader of science fiction books, I have loved Star Trek and other sci-fi series. But I am a painter who covets the thrill of space and who likes to use the concept of other worlds and planets in my work. I have an outer space painting underway now in my studio. Fractal imagery intrigues me as an inspiration for space paintings.

Alex Cavanaugh is a writer who is drawn to space. Today, he is launching my blog tour for the week for Night Watch at his site.My down on the Earth mystery may seem a little mundane to space lovers. I hope not.

Please visit  Alex Cavanaugh's Blog today. Please leave a comment for my contest.
I hope you will visit the sites where I will be guest blogging as my Blog Book Tour for Night Watch continues. The schedule is below:

Nov. 11 - Patricia Stoltey

Nov. 12 - Nancy Williams

Nov. 15 - AlexCavanaugh

Nov. 16 - Marian Allen

Nov. 17 - Bodie Parkhurst

Nov. 18 - Thoughts in Progress

Nov. 19 - K. K. Brees

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Enjoying Art and Artful Settings


On the way home from a writer's meeting today, we stopped by the home of art collectors who own three of my abstract paintings. Their modern home, set on seven acres of wooded land, is a perfect setting for art work. Each of the clear glass windows and French doors are pieces of art themselves--showing glowing autumn colors. Falls in the river below their house can be seen clearly from several of the windows and doors. Each room is decorated perfectly, bedspreads, lampshades, and vases all selected to enhance walls filled with beautiful, mostly abstract pieces of original art. Seeing exquisite art work in this natural wooded setting was like visiting a museum or an art gallery only much better. I love woods, and I love original art.

My blog tour and contest continue. I hope you will visit the sites where I will be guest blogging as my Blog Book Tour for Night Watch continues. The schedule is below:

Nov. 11 - Patricia Stoltey

Nov. 12 - Nancy Williams

Nov. 15 - AlexCavanaugh

Nov. 16 - Marian Allen

Nov. 17 - Bodie Parkhurst

Nov. 18 - Thoughts in Progress

Nov. 19 - K. K. Brees

Friday, November 12, 2010

Keeping on the Virtual Trail

Today, I'm a guest at Writing Fantasy with Author N. R. Williams. I'm proud to be her first guest blogger.

Nancy and I met last summer when we both were members of Dani Greer's book tour blogging class. Since we both were novices at the time, we probably are among those who learned the most!

Not only did we learn from Dani, but other members of the class taught us a lot as well. Patricia Stoltey was kind enough to direct me toward links as well as share a great deal of information about how to work with Twitter. I haven't followed through as I should have, but I plan to eventually use the help she gave me to learn how to do Tweets correctly. I really appreciated Pat having me as her guest blogger yesterday.

Please go by and make comments on the blogs where I am guesting to promote my new book, Night Watch.
I'm conducting a contest with a signed copy of Night Watch as first prize. Just visit each site of my blog tour beginning Nov. 11 and ending on Nov. 19 and leave a message. I will count the comments to determine the prize winners. In case of a tie, I'll have a drawing. I expect to have second and third prizes as well.

Nov. 11 - Patricia Stoltey

Nov. 12 - Nancy Williams

Nov. 15 - AlexCavanaugh

Nov. 16 - Marian Allen

Nov. 17 - Bodie Parkhurst

Nov. 18 - Thoughts in Progress

Nov. 19 - K. K. Brees

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Going on Tour the Virtual Way

My latest novel, Night Watch, is the newest book in Oak Tree's Passenger to Paradise series. Today I'm on the first stop of a virtual Blog Book Tour with Night WatchPatricia Stoltey is hosting me. Please visit her blog site and leave a comment. I'm conducting a contest with a signed copy of Night Watch as first prize. Just visit each site of my blog tour beginning Nov. 11 and ending on Nov. 19 and leave a message. I will count the comments to determine the prize winners. In case of a tie, I'll have a drawing. I expect to have second and third prizes as well.

Nov. 11 - Patricia Stoltey
http://patriciastoltey.blogspot.com/2010/11/just-little-bit-of-paradise-in-every.html
Nov. 12 - Nancy Williams
http://nrwilliams.blogspot.com/
Nov. 15 - AlexCavanaugh
http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/
Nov. 16 - Marian Allen
Nov. 17 - Bodie Parkhurst
Nov. 18 - Thoughts in Progress
Nov. 19 - Karen Brees

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Writers, Boats, and a Blog Book Tour for Night Watch

Over the years, I've always loved activities with creative people, especially writers. Writer's conferences are a great place to meet and make friends with other writers. When I heard about the Writer's Mystery Cruise that many of the other Oak Tree authors and our publisher, Billie Johnson, all planned to be on, I was torn. I wanted to be there, but the thought of a big cruise ship with thousands of people was just not appealing.

In the end, traveling with author friends was not attraction enough to overcome my fear of claustrophobic spaces on the water. Yesterday, when I learned about the fire on the Carnival cruise ship that was crippled in the Pacific, I knew I'd made the right decision. That was the same ship and the same itinerary the writers were scheduled to take next Sunday. Fortunately for my friends, the accident occurred a week before they were set to board. Because of the damage to the cruise ship, the Mystery Cruise has now been canceled. I'm sorry my friends are disappointed, but I now know I will never change my mind about traveling on the high seas on a cruise liner.

My latest novel, Night Watch, is the newest book in Oak Tree's Passenger to Paradise series. Starting tomorrow I will be on a Blog Book Tour with Night Watch. My first stop will be with Patricia Stoltey tomorrow. Please visit her blog site and leave a comment. I'm conducting a contest with a signed copy of Night Watch as first prize. Just visit each site of my blog tour that starts tomorrow and ends on Nov. 19 and leave a message. I will count the messages to determine the prize winners. In case of a tie, I'll have a drawing. I expect to have second and third prizes as well.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Deer Are Getting Tame - Oh My

When I came home from school this afternoon, I went out on our back deck and found a surprise. A young deer was standing just a few feet from the deck's edge staring at me. I watched for a few minutes expecting the animal to race off into the woods, but it never did. Instead it remained there munching on the abundant crop of acorns lying on the ground.

Eventually, I decided to go inside for my camera expecting the deer to have disappeared by the time I returned.

It hadn't..

In fact, when I returned I edged as close as I could without leaving the deck. The deer didn't give ground and stared back at me even as the flash on my camera went off for several different shots. I went back inside, and when I looked out later the deer was still there feasting on the acorns.

I've been watching our herd--sometimes as many as eight--for quite a few years. This is the first time I've seen one this tame. I'm not sure it's a good thing!

Here are a couple of the photos I took. Because the deer's coloring has changed to match the foliage and it was growing dark as well, the photos are not as clear as I hoped.

 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Exploring Jungles and the Journey to Palenque

"Portal to Forever" copyright MM Sikes
A few years ago, we vacationed at Club Med Huatulco on the southwestern coast of Mexico. Although this was a glorious beachfront resort, we longed for more adventure. So with 35 mm camera in tow, we boarded a small six-passenger Cessna 414 and headed to the jungles of southern Mexico to investigate the Mayan ruins under excavation there. After a two-hour flight, we landed on a small airstrip outside the village of Palenque in the state of Chiapas.

The sight of massive stone structures rising from the jungle rain forest was awe inspiring. There was so much to see in this amazing place where the Temple of the Inscriptions is the focal point for visitors that the scant few hours we had to explore was not nearly enough.

Discovered in 1773 by local Indians who came across stone houses rising through the jungle foliage, the ruins cover an area of about 15 square miles with hundreds of buildings still lying concealed beneath dense vegetation. Climbing the rugged steps to the top of the Temple of the Inscriptions was a challenge as was the descent by a slippery interior stairway into a secret passage leading to a tomb that was not entered until 1952 after several years of study and excavation.

I found a quiet sanctuary in one of four small temples known then as the northern group. From there I gazed through a small opening in a wall and saw gazed at the lush jungle rain forest that spread across the adjacent Guatemalan countryside. Standing there among the ruins and looking out into the jungle was a spiritual experience. I could not help but wonder about those who had gone before and had lived and worshiped in these once massive buildings.

The Mayan ruins became an obsession with me, and I painted dozens of canvases and drawings on paper from the photographs that I took. "Portal to Forever" is an award-winning painting of the interior of a temple looking out over the jungle.

In the end, the journey to Palenque was far more meaningful and memorable than the few days spent in the exotic beach side resort at Huatulco near Puerto Escondido. So, for us, visits to other Mayan ruins had to follow. And they did.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Kindle Books and Blog Book Tour

David Wisehart has a great blog site for Kindle authors. I was thrilled with the interview he did with me and posted on the site. Please check out the interview and post comments, if you'd like.

I'm excited about my upcoming blog book tour for Night Watch. I'll be posting more about it later this week.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Near Death Experiences




"Mystical Embrace" MM Sikes

On the CBS Sunday Morning show yesterday, Katie Couric interviewed Dr. Raymond Moody. This interview was inspired by the new movie, "Hereafter," and by Halloween.

I like to watch this program each week because I usually learn something of interest or significance. During the Couric interview about Dr. Moody's work with near death experiences, a photograph of my dear friend, Dr. George Ritchie, flashed up periodically. George had a near death experience in 1943 when he was dead for nine minutes and had an incredible journey that was documented in two books that he wrote. One of those books was written and read chapter by chapter during a class he and I took at a local community college. Much of Dr. Moody's work was inspired by George Ritchie's story.

It was a little surreal to see the Ritchie photograph appear during this interview. His story has inspired some of the paranormal elements I like to include in my books, especially the "walk-in" aspect from my novel Night Watch.

And strangely enough, George Ritchie died near Halloween three years ago.