Sunday, January 30, 2011

Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster and Precognitive Dreams

"Air View" by Mary Montague Sikes
Last week marked the 25th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Many of us remember where we were and what we were doing at the moment of that unimaginable event. An artist friend and I were creating a collaborative collage in a basement studio room in my house when we were summoned to watch the TV in the next room.

I was touched by a comment written last week on Facebook about a precognitive dream a woman had the night before this horrible tragedy. In the dream, she was lying dead on a coast guard cutter in the middle of the ocean, and in the distance other cutters with cranes on them were removing debris from the waters. This woman believed she was going to die the next day, but then she saw the Challenger disaster unfold on TV like she had seen in her dream. She is now much more aware of her dreams and tries to interpret the meaning of each.

Over the years, I have read accounts of dreams people have had prior to traumatic events. That account from the Challenger precognitive dream started me thinking and wondering how often people experience dreams like this. Have you ever had one? Did you have a precognitive dream right before 9/11? I would like to know more about these dreams.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday Night Lights - Only Two Weeks Left

It looks like I'm heading to another tearful season finale. Friday Night Lights has only two episodes left! Since this program began five years ago, the setting, the subject, and the characters have enthralled me. The fast-paced action with short scenes that tell so much about the people involved is amazing.

This week, the brooding heroic character Tim, who stoically served jail time because his brother, the real culprit, has a wife and baby, is back. Because funding for schools has been cut, only one of the two high schools at Dillon will have a football program next season. Tami has run off to Philadelphia for a job interview and then an offer for an excellent job with a college there. Eric is headed to championship football tournament games. And on and on ...

How will it all end?

Can it?

Please not! There are too many characters developed in short blips in time. We want to keep on following them!

I love this series. I don't want it to end. Every character, maybe with the exception of Vince's father, would make a compelling story for a book I'd like to read.

For writers who need inspiration, take a look at one of the Friday Night Lights episodes on Direct TV channel 101. Any of those dramas has potential to inspire you to write your own book...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Interview on Novel Sisterhood

Novel Sisterhood has an interview with me up today on their site. Hope to have some folks drop by and leave a comment.

Over the past few months, I've enjoyed visiting a variety of blogs that host author interviews. It always surprises me to discover how much we learn about an author during one of these interview. While author interviews may not sell books, they help you find new authors you may want to follow along the way.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Minivans Getting a Makeover

Paintings await loading into our van.
A segment this morning on the Today Show about minivans getting a makeover caught my attention. Although we have owned minivans for more than 10 years, I have always considered them homely vehicles. But they are wonderful as well. Because I'm an artist I need the big flat space in the back for transporting very large paintings. Because I'm a writer I use the entire back seat for my office (with my husband driving). The sliding door allows me to sit down inside the van while holding an armload of items, including my laptop computer. I plug the computer into one of the convenient outlets (used to be cigarette lighters in earlier vehicles) and write away.

We actually own two minivans, both are Fords. While I sometimes long for a smaller car to use on short trips, I don't think I can give up the convenience and comfort of the homely minivan. Maybe they really will "pretty it up" or make it more dramatic-looking. The description of the new Ford C-Max sounds intriguing, but the sliding door may be missing.

What do you drive? Is the minivan too homely for you?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why Did They Kill Off Joe Dubois?

As an author who likes to add a bit of the psychic in my writing, I have been a fan of the TV show Medium since it first aired in January 2005. Last night, tears streamed down my cheeks as I watched the final episode. I could not believe they killed Joe Dubois. For all the years I've watched the show, Joe was the glue that held everything together. Perfect husband he supported psychic Allison Dubois when she raced off into the night to meet detectives at the scene of a murder. Joe took care of the three kids and was an all-around good guy. This season, I was sorry to see the long hair gone and a more traditional haircut on Joe.

When last night's episode began with the crash of the airplane he was traveling on en route home from Hawaii, I was sure it was just another of Allison's dreams. After all, almost every episode began with one of her psychic dreams. However, I started to worry when the story suddenly flashed ahead seven years, and they showed Allison visiting the cemetery with an armload of flowers. Since the series is based on experiences of the real life medium, Allison Dubois and her family, I started to wonder if Joe Dubois actually had died in a plane crash. I planned to Google his name as soon as the program was over.

Although part of last night's episode was a dream, it wasn't the one I hoped for. Joe actually died. The writers killed him off, leaving no hope for the return of the series at some point. And at the end, when the credits rolled, it said that Joe and Allison were still living happily in Arizona with their three daughters.

While I am glad Joe Dubois didn't actually die, I wonder more than ever what last night's unexpected final episode was all about. Why did they kill off Joe Dubois?

Does anyone know the answer?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tid Bits from Friday - the Demise of Cursive Writing

After my concern earlier this week about the demise of handwritten notes, you can imagine my shock when I heard this morning that a school district is considering dropping cursive writing from its teaching curriculum! Plans are to replace it with extra instruction on computer skills.

Soon we'll be unable to write and heaven help us if something happens to the calculator! This was on one of the news shows this morning. I didn't catch the name of the school division and don't think it really matters where this is happening. But the idea of not teaching cursive writing does matter.

As an art teacher, I always have my students sign their names on their art work when they create it. When these children first learn cursive writing, they are always excited and ask to sign their art in cursive!

Cursive writing is an art. It's a skill that should not be put aside and lost.What do you think?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Handwritten Notes Make an Impression

Handwritten notes are almost a lost art. That's sad, I think.

A couple of days ago, I received from a friend a beautifully-written, heartfelt note that I shall keep and treasure always. I thought then about how these days not many of us take time to write meaningful notes and send them by postal mail.

Most of us are so busy that we write quick messages and post them on Facebook, Twitter, or in our e-mail accounts. Those messages are great to receive and certainly keep us aware of what others are doing, but they will never be as special as a well-written note, crafted by hand, and sealed in an envelope.

I have a close friend who always sends a handwritten note to me as a thank you for gifts or other special gestures. Another acquaintance is quick to write letters to acknowledge a visit or to send a newspaper clipping she has saved for me.

I always write little thank-you notes to school children who bring me small gifts for Christmas or at the end of the school year. Since I use cards that feature my paintings, they are especially pleased to receive them. This example, I hope, will encourage the children to someday write their own thank-you notes to friends.

Do you write notes by hand and mail them to your friends? Do you treasure those you receive?

I love the ones I receive. Heartfelt notes make a real impression on me. I hope it never becomes a completely lost art.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Dangerous Hearts Reviewed

Nathalie Brault  has an interview with me and a review of Dangerous Hearts posted on her review site, Book Eternity today. I was pleased that she gave my first journey into the realm of e-books four stars.

This book is actually a novella that is part of the Shadowed Hearts Gothic romance series. Eventually there will be about a dozen novellas in this series, produced by Gothic Romance Writers chapter members of Romance Writers of America (RWA). Originally I had planned for this to be a longer book, but when the opportunity arose to be part of the Gothic series, I took it.

Nathalie also posted the review on Goodreads, but was unable to place it on Amazon because a reviewer must have an account for the review to be accepted. Of course, that places a hardship on anyone living in Canada or outside the United States. Over the past several years, I have had several readers who reside in the U.S. tell me they were unable to post on Amazon and couldn't understand why. From now on, I think I'll go ahead and post the reviews (which they usually send me because they don't know what else to do) even though it will show them coming from my account.

Dangerous Hearts is a book of my heart because the story centers around a priceless necklace given to my heroine's great-grandmother at the turn of the 20th Century. Maria met the crown prince of a small European country when going to tea at the historic Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia. The romance took place at the Jefferson where the dramatic staircase is central. When the prince was forbidden to marry Maria, he gave her the necklace which my heroine has inherited. Now, murder and mayhem follow my heroine...

This is my first review for Dangerous Hearts, and I thank Nathalie for writing it.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Book Trailers Along the Way

My Night Watch book trailer won third prize in the Spunk on a Stick trailer contest, and I'm very pleased. Diane Wolfe was gracious to host this contest, and I'm excited to win her series of YA books for the high school or public library of my choice!

This contest that brought in many new people to view some of our book trailers has started me thinking once again about how important is it to have a trailer for your book. Does it really matter when it comes to sales?

That's hard to determine. It could be that sales don't show up immediately. Maybe someone will see a trailer and remember the title of your book for a purchase later on. Maybe it doesn't matter at all about sales. Just having a book trailer to show might be an end in itself.

It's a little like how important is a blog? A blog gets you in touch with the world. Your name becomes better known to at least a few people. And, of course, blogging is addictive. Right now, I'm a little worried because I've discovered that blogging has made me need eight days a week!

No matter. I'm happy that some more people have looked at my blog and helped make it a winner. I'm happy for Betty Ann Harris who created the blog for me and has made a business of it.

Thank you, Diane Wolfe, for making this contest possible. Congratulations, Alex Cavanaugh and Bill Walker.

Eight days a week! Book trailers and blogs along the way...

Friday, January 7, 2011

Unclutter to Gain Focus

"Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and focus on ....." That's what I tell my art students every day at the beginning of each class.

Focus.

That's what we as creative people must do to be successful. And some of us need to unclutter our spaces in order to gain focus. But that's hard. It takes time that most of us do not have.

This morning, I was interested to read Annie Tobey's article in V Magazine for Women about her decision to unclutter her work space. Inspired by Feng Shui columns by Debbie Bowie, she'd been thinking about organizing her at home office for a while and is "thrilled with the results."

When I look around at my own work space clutter, I am overwhelmed. With each item moved from my desk, I run the danger of not finding it next time I need it. After all I've gotten used to digging into a pile at just the right place and pulling out a valuable resource. Is it possible to be too organized?

Not only do I have my writer's desks and bookcases inside my office, but I have an artist studio, a drawing room, and an art closet to manage. Thankfully, they are a little better organized than my writing life.

I wonder if other writers face similar troubles.
In my art studio
Does clutter detract from your focus? 

 *******
Night Watch book trailer is a finalist on Spunk on a Stick . Thank you to those who voted and made it a finalist. Thank you Diane Wolfe for creating this contest!

Please take a look at the trailers and vote. Here is the link to my Night Watch trailer which was created by Betty Ann Harris:

Night Watch You Tube

Monday, January 3, 2011

Keep a Journal to Keep Up with New Year's Resolution Progress

Gathering Book MM Sikes
This morning the NBC Today show had a segment about keeping New Year's Resolutions. One suggestion was to maintain a journal, even if only to write a brief sentence concerning progress. A lot of resolutions are about losing weight. If you document a small weight loss of even one pound, it's more encouraging than seeing you have not met your goal of losing 10 pounds and giving up entirely.

I really like the idea of keeping a journal. If nothing else, journals help you remember what you've done throughout the year. Since I have a goal to write 5,000 to 7500 words a week for at least the first two months of the year, I want to document whatever progress I make in my journal. Some weeks I'll be lucky to write 2,000 words, but other weeks I'll write 10,000 or more. If it all evens out, I'll be in good shape.

A few years ago, an artist I admire and follow told about keeping a gathering book for her art ideas. I love that idea and now have my own gathering book. As a visual person, I like to print out photos that may inspire me in my future work and add them to my big hardback book. The astronomy pictures of the day are especially intriguing to me. Since I take many photographs myself, my gathering book contains quite a few of my own inspirations from nature.

To follow up on the journal idea, I think I will incorporate the journal notations in my gathering book. That will help inspire me. Also, seeing my photo collection at least once a week could offer additional writing inspiration for my new books.

What do you think about keeping a journal to document your resolution or goal progress? Do you have one already?

___________
Hope you'll take a look at the book trailers in Diane Wolfe's contest. Please go to Spunk on a Stick and vote. I'm hoping Night Watch will make it to the second round. First round voting ends tomorrow.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

This and That

Alicia Sikes - Over Colorado
Since I've seen some reports from the ground of the snow in Colorado, I'm posting a photo I borrowed from my daughter's facebook account that she took flying over Colorado. Some of you in Colorado have been talking about being snowed in, so this is how you look from above!

What a difference a week can make, especially in Virginia. Here are photos from last Sunday and from today:

We have rain today which looks and feels much drearier than snow!
January is a dreary month anyway! But we do need the rain...