Thursday, June 30, 2011

Signing the End on a Book Manuscript

Signing the words "the end" on a book manuscript has usually been a magic time for me. After weeks of intense work and dedication, it's fulfilling to accomplish a special goal.

Last Saturday, I typed those words on my latest manuscript, Jungle Jeopardy. I was happy, and I was sad at the same time.

You see, along the way, I fell in love with the characters. I relished the adventure in the jungle. My characters took over the story and wandered off in directions I never imagined when I began writing this book in March. I had a villain at the beginning whom I loved in the end. That was certainly never planned nor was it expected. I even had a jaguar play a major part in the plot.

Imagine that!

It was so much fun that I want to return to the jungles of Central America for more adventures. I want to find my way back into the unexplored Maya ruins. And I want to continue to wonder why I never heard much about the amazing Maya civilization in history classes.

What happens when you complete your manuscript? Are you willing to leave your characters or do you want to keep on going?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Painting and Writing - Sometimes They Conflict

"Checkered Cloth" MM Sikes
Painting and writing. Sometimes they relate, and sometimes they don't. And sometimes they even conflict with each other.

Next Friday, I'm scheduled to hang a month-long art show of my "Monti Just for Fun" paintings at the Glen Allen Cultural Arts Center in Richmond VA. The show will be displayed on the Slantwall Gallery from July 1 to August 1.

On July 14, during that time, "The Colors of Haiti" will open in the Gumenick Family Gallery at the Center. I love Haitian art and was invited to be a part of the opening reception at the Center from 7 to 9 p.m. on that date. Sadly, I will be unable to participate because of a writing event conflict.

"By the Chair" MM Sikes
The paintings in my show are unusual for me because they are small and painted with very bright colors. Much of the work starts on an orange background which I think relates to much of the Haitian art that I enjoy.

Here is the description from the Cultural Arts Center web site: "This series of light- hearted paintings are a departure from artist Mary Montague Sikes' more intense and powerful art. They explore pattern and design on canvas with a carefree delight and without concern for realism."

"Just for Fun" is just that, but sometimes I long for a return to the serious and the intense. And sometimes I wish there were no conflict between the writing and the painting. Sometimes I wish my writing and my painting would always relate and always fall into separate slots on my calendar.

Conflict is good in novels but not so good in real life.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Art for Science Fiction

"Jupiter Rising" with Olen in reception room, Womancare
Science fiction images intrigue me. They always have.

Today, I had a chance to revisit a painting I created a few years ago. This acrylic painting on canvas, "Jupiter Rising," is owned by Womancare of Williamsburg. It is part of a series in which I painted planet images in unusual ways, sometimes with forceful waves crashing in front of the fantasy planet.

Because I enjoy this type of imagery so much I often wonder if I should write science fiction or fantasy.

Perhaps not. After all, it is the imagery I love, not the fantasy writing.

What kinds of images do you like? Do you enjoy science fiction or fantasy? Does the imagery you prefer influence your writing in any way?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sunset Taken from the Air

"Sunset from the Air" MM Sikes
En route home from an awesome trip, I took yet another sunset photo. We were flying from Los Angeles to Chicago and were about an hour away from our destination when this picture was taken. Digital photography is truly amazing because the smudgy airplane window was partially covered with frosty ice particles.

Years ago, when I took my first photos from the air, they inspired a fascination with air views. Although the quality using 35mm film was not great, I used many of my pictures as working sketches for a series of large acrylic paintings that I called "Air Views." After that, I did another series--this time of mountains as seen from the air.

Do you like to take photos from the air? Have you sometimes been excited with the results? I would love to hear about your photos.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Another Sunset


Another Sunset in the Sierras - MM Sikes

From what we've heard we were lucky to have wonderful weather while in the High Sierras. The day before we arrived, it was snowing. The week before, it was raining and unpleasant. Since I'm always on the lookout for pretty sunsets, I was happy to find this one.Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sunset in the Sierras



Sunset in Sierras - MM Sikes
 
Living in humid Virginia with a very long summer that often begins in April, I was surprised to discover it's still winter in the Sierras. Where we visited is 6300 feet above sea level. Our home is perhaps 14 feet above sea level which creates quite an adjustment as well as a different look to the sunsets.

It's amazing to view sunsets in different parts of our magnificent country. Seeing the mountains in the late afternoon light creates exciting views for the photographer. Comparing views from the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains with those in the Sierra Nevada Mountains is intriguing.

How many of you enjoy creating your own study of sunsets in different parts of our country?Posted by Picasa

Friday, June 3, 2011

Night Watch, a Painting and a Title

Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn is one of the world's most famous paintings. Although I've never liked the dark colors, this intense painting has intrigued me from the moment I first saw it in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Apparently, over the years, it has drawn negative as well as positive response resulting in attacks on the painting by people who wanted to inflict major damage to it. One incident, in 1975, resulted in zigzag knife slashes in the canvas which I've read are still evident despite restoration.

Because my novel, Night Watch, features art theft and work by Rembrandt in the story plot, I decided to use the name of the painting for the title of my book. When I checked out the title on Amazon, I found there were other books with the same name which I thought might be a good thing for promotion and visibility of my book.

It wasn't.

There are so many books with that same title that I have to type in my name along with the title to find it. A new release, May 31, 2011 by Suzanne Brockmann, has the title, Night Watch. I have a Google alert for Night Watch, but the information I receive almost never includes my book.

It surprises me that anyone would want to attack a painting created in 1642. It also surprises me that the choice of a popular title for a book can be a big mistake. My advice to other authors is to take care in the words you choose to put on the cover of your next book. The best choice may be a title that is one of a kind, if that's at all possible.