Daddy's Christmas Angel

Thursday, December 30, 2010

So Much Power Is Found on the Internet

When possible I listen to, and sometimes watch, segments of NBC's Today Show. More and more, these segments are about what's happening on the Internet. I can't help but think, "Wow!" What a lot of power is found hidden on that small screen in my writing office. What a lot of collective power we have as writers connecting on the Internet!

The segment this morning was about iVillage and its 10 most popular conversation starters of 2010. The sad passing of Elizabeth Edwards was number one on that list. The number two subject, that of suicides relating to bullying in our country, is near and dear to my heart. As a teacher, I am horrified that children can be so cruel to one another. It is gratifying to have attention drawn to this subject. If everyone will work together, perhaps the evil of bullying will be diminished in our schools.

As women and as writers, we have more power than we've ever had before. What we write on our blogs is published immediately. That's amazing to me because, as a freelance writer for many years, I waited for weeks and sometimes months for my feature articles to appear in print. Now Twitter and Facebook have become sources for news stories on CNN.

Amazing, the power!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It's That Time of Year!

Reflections, rediscoveries, rejuvinations, resolutions. For many of us, these words are part of our end of the year ritual.

After all, it's that time of year!

Time to reflect on what has taken place over the past 12 months.

Time to rediscover hidden treasures from the past. Perhaps time to reorganize these treasures. Maybe we'll even find a few we no longer want but might be a real treasure to sell on Ebay or elsewhere. And it's time to box up the rest for disposal or storage.

Perhaps it's also time to rejuvinate our bodies with plans to exercise, eat right, and rest well. That might be the number one resolution for the new year.

Did we actually achieve any or all of the resolutions we made last year? It's time to find that list and check it out.

For writers, new year's resolutions are especially important. Did you have a new book published this year? Resolve to revitalize and rejuvinate sales for that book. Do you have a new book coming out in 2011? Resolve to make plans for promotion beginning right now.

After all, it's that time of year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I love the sight and the smell of a live Christmas tree, but we haven't had one for years. Even though live trees are beautiful, they also are messy and need to be watered.

My photograph was taken of my friend, Mary Jane Tolley's tree. She invited us to see her live tree and the many special ornaments she has used to decorate it. Among her most treasured are the handmade ones her late husband, Rick Tolley, purchased in Germany. Rick was the head football coach at Marshall University who died in a tragic plane crash along with most of his football team. Mary Jane Tolley was supposed to be on the plane, but stayed home when their dog was taken ill and needed the attention of a vet. Several years ago, she was involved in the movie production--We Are Marshall--that depicted the painful rebuilding of the team. Her Christmas ornaments are indeed precious and very special.

Often, we do not stop to think of the reasons we have to be joyful during the holiday season. I can think of many right now. Merry Christmas!!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Book Covers Uncovered

CBS Sunday Morning is one of my favorite programs each week. Yesterday, one of the segments was "Book Covers Uncovered" which showed many great book covers that have become iconic. One that I remember especially from the program was the cover for Jaws. The image on the cover became the unforgettable movie symbol that people remember. From my Google search, I found there were several different cover versions, but one stands out from the array of covers shown. Take a look.

Jurassic Park is another book with an iconic symbol on the cover. If I remember correctly (I wasn't taking notes), the dinosaur symbol was intentionally chosen for future branding. What a great idea! Thinking about future promotion when deciding on the right cover for your book.

When considering iconic imagery, I think of the Starship Enterprise which is on many of  the Star Trek books. We see that image and immediately think of Star Trek--the TV series, movies, toys, and so much more.When I see Alex Cavanaugh's book cover for CassaStar, I admire the space ship imagery he has selected and expect it to become iconic.

Sometimes items of clothing appear prominently on book covers. One in particular that stands out is a high heel shoe. That may denote "chick lit" to the reader. A weapon on the cover usually leads a reader to expect a murder mystery or suspense novel. The cover designer for my book, Dangerous Hearts, first put a knife on my cover. Since I dislike knives, I asked her to remove it. She replaced it with a couple which indicates romance. Perhaps I shouldn't have changed the sinister look of the knife. That symbol would have signaled murder mystery which the book is more so than a romance.

More than anything else, the lesson for me from the CBS program was that covers are more important than we think--even for e-books. We, as writers, should plan carefully what we want on our covers. Our iconic symbols might be around for a very long time!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Night Watch Doesn't Show Up in Searches

I've waited and wondered. When will my Passenger to Paradise mystery/suspense novel, Night Watch, start showing up on my Google and Amazon searches? It's still not coming in on the Night Watch Google alerts. I hear about everything else with Night and Watch attached but not my book. Even on Amazon, I have to go to page five or six in the search and then it shows up as number 66.

Night Watch is a new book that came out in April 2010. All the other Night Watch books showing on Amazon are older. Those books listed on the first page of the Amazon search have publication dates of  2006 and 2003. The Kindle version of Night Watch was released at the end of May 2010.

Obviously, it was a mistake to title a book with a popular name that has been used many times before, but I did not know at the time. From now on, I will search carefully and not choose a title that I find already in use. My first novel, Hearts Across Forever, comes up number one on all the searches, including Amazon. It gained renewed life when my publisher made it a Kindle book in February 2009. There are no other books with that title on Amazon.

If anyone else has experienced similar problems with a book title, I would like to know about your story. Everything seems to be a learning experience in this crazy publishing business that we all must love a lot since we are still here.

I'm waiting and hoping that one day I'll receive a Google alert about the real Night Watch--my book!!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Versatile Blogger Award

Earlier this evening, I was delighted to discover that Nancy Williams had given me The Versatile Blogger Award. Thank you, Nancy! I treasure this because I truly want to be a versatile blogger.

This award has three rules: 

Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them.
List seven things about yourself.
Give the award to seven friends.

About me:

1. I love to play tennis and was disappointed today when snowy weather forced closure of the indoor tennis center where I play so tennis was 1 1/2 hours instead of the usual Thursday 3! Although the snow is beautiful, it creates dangerous roads that cause closures including the fitness center where I take aerobics also on Thursdays.
2. I spend more time than I should reading e-mail and the blogs of friends. Soon I'll need to spend more of that time working on my next book.
3. Every year I'm late sending out Christmas cards, but the ones I send are unique.
4. I love to encourage children to use their imaginations as they create art work.
5. I'd rather write or paint than spend time in the kitchen cooking.
6. It's fun to travel with my husband to exotic tropical destinations. I'm not sure where those places are now. I understand even Key West got temperatures down in the 40s.
7. My favorite colors are green and yellow. I think I'm a springtime girl!

Seven outstanding bloggers--my picks for The Versatile Blogger Award:

1. Bodie Parkhurst
2. Country Fried Mama
3. Marilyn Meredith
4. Thoughts in Progress
5. Sylvia Dickey Smith
6. Bobbye Terry
7. Giggles and Guns

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I Love Angels

For the past several years, I've created a Christmas card from one of my angel paintings. This year I didn't have a new angel painting I liked so I had almost decided I wouldn't have a Christmas card.

But that didn't seem quite right. So today I went into my studio and completed a small angel acrylic painting that started out as a demo piece for my second grade art students at the elementary school where I teach.

What is it about angels that fascinate many of us? Do we each have a guardian angel? Many believe we do.

I love angels and collect pins, necklaces, and numerous other items with angels on them. Whenever I receive an angel card at Christmas, I put it into a special pile to use as reference or as resource materials for the children I teach. I can hardly wait to read my new book, Earth Angels, that a dear friend who also loves angels gave me for Christmas.

Several years ago, I decided I would create a large series of angels paintings and would complete the project by the year 2012. Somehow that project never seemed quite right for me. Perhaps you must be called to paint such a series and I was not.

But sometimes angel paintings do seem right. The one reproduced here does, and the one I completed tonight seems perfect for a Christmas card.

"Angel Close Beside Us" copyright 2009 MM Sikes
I love angels.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Dream to Reality

"Dream Reaching" MM Sikes
Have you ever focused on a thought or problem and asked for a dream about it? I've heard about people who do this but have had limited success trying it.

Dreams are strange and complicated. I own several books written about symbolism in dreams. Two of these books are dictionaries of dream symbols that I sometimes consult. There are numerous online sites such as "An Online Guide to Dream Interpretation."

Years ago, three days before her death, my grandmother told me about a dream she had the night before. In that dream, her mother knocked at the window and beckoned her to come. Because of that dream, she anticipated her death although she was home and had not been in declining health.

I'd like to learn more about dream research and am glad to see so many sites available to study. If you have a dream story, I'd love to know about it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Writers Are Brave People

A few weeks ago, when I accepted an invitation to be a guest on Bobbye Terry's blog, Mystery Happens, I had no idea what a strong and brave woman Bobbye Terry is. Early Thanksgiving morning, Bobbye lost her beloved husband of 25 years. She discovered him lying on their kitchen floor--a shocking and unexpected loss. Bobbye has handled all of this trauma with a grace that I cannot imagine. Even her writing support group is far away from her--six hours drive from her Texas home.

I did not expect Bobbye to want to follow up on her schedule, but she is continuing with it. The Internet is a great support and draws new friends together. Bobbye strengthens my belief that writers are brave people!

Please visit her blog site. Below my post you can read her tribute to her husband, Ted.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Apologies to My Mother

In the middle of last night, I realized I owe my mother an apology. I misquoted her in my last blog and some of you probably realized it. What she actually said was, "You can't tell a book by its cover."

She, of course, was giving me a life lesson about not judging people by the way they look or dress. She always told me what a person was like under their facade was what really mattered. That may be a good lesson about characterization in our stories, as well.

These days my mother might have a hard time knowing anything about people by looking at how they dress. She would probably just shake her head because everything is becoming more and more casual. Up until the last couple of years, people at our church dressed up to attend services and all the men wore suits and ties. Now you see everything at church services including shorts and blue jeans. The new trend appears to have improved church attendance which is a good thing. However, I suspect my mother would be shocked by the change.

Yesterday was Christmas Marketplace day at Tides Inn, a beautiful little historic hotel located on the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers. It was fun to be one of the artists and writers invited to participate in this annual event. And, of course, I love being with creative people. As I looked around the spacious room where each of us had wide tables with linen cloths provided for our setups, I realized how true it is that you can't tell a book by its cover. Many of the artists wore jeans or other casual clothing while others were dressed up quite a bit.

All of this has me thinking that life lessons aren't as simple these days as they once were. But it's fun to learn some of them at the Tides Inn.
"Tides Inn - Reflected Waters" MM Sikes photo

Friday, December 3, 2010

You Can't Always Tell A Book By Its Cover!

"You can always tell a book by its cover." That's one of the expressions my mother often used.

No, you can't! I just learned my lesson the hard way.

Yesterday, when I pulled a book from the supply I recently ordered from my publisher's printing company and opened it to sign, I got a big surprise. It was my book, Night Watch, on the cover, but the inside was a completely different book by another author! At first, I thought the front page was an ad for someone's book, but after flipping through the pages I realized that nothing about Night Watch was inside my cover. Besides that, the book inside was from a completely different publisher. How could that  happen?!

I pulled more books from the box and discovered some were actually the real Night Watch and others were the book by the other author. All had my cover. In the box of 40 books, 20 were really mine, the other 20 contained the other book.

Do you normally check each book you order to see if the printer has made an outrageous mistake like this one? You should.

I have two events within the next week for which I'll need books. If I had checked my order sooner, the printer might have replaced the books in time.

The ironical thing about all this is that I learned last night the author of the other book lives in my native city (not where I now live) and is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington from which I earned my undergraduate degree. I had not heard of her before.

I also learned this is not the first time this has happened to her. She had incorrect copies in an earlier order this fall!

So just remember, you can't always tell a book by its cover. My mother would be very disappointed!