Daddy's Christmas Angel

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

When Art and Writing Collide, Experimenting with Yupo

"Dream Ship" Acrylic/Yupo Copyright Mary Montague Sikes
Sometimes art and writing collide in my life. Although I have a new book to promote and other writing obligations, the call to paint is always there.

I love the feel of a paint brush on stretched canvas. More recently, I've enjoyed experimenting with the movement of watercolor pigments and ink on the surface of Yupo.

What is Yupo? It's not canvas and it's not paper. It's a sheet of plastic that was not designed as an artist painting surface at all. When I first heard about Yupo, it was in use as a material for printing lots of things, including labels. A few artists got hold of it and started trying out different kinds of paints to see what would happen. I experimented and loved the way the colors glowed on the surface of Yupo.

My first experience with Yupo was in the mid-1990s. I went down to the manufacturing plant in Chesapeake, Virginia, and they were kind enough to give me a few large sheets of several different weights of Yupo. I brought them home to my studio and tried out a variety of inks and Golden paints. I loved what happened with the colors. I discovered the paint and ink kept moving around on their own which was surprising and fun!

Now Yupo is found in art catalogs everywhere. Cheap Joe's Art Stuff has a variety of weights and sizes on display in the Boone, NC showroom. Workshop instructors offer demonstrations of its possibilities. I've bought more and have it all over my home studio.

Art is a distraction and a joy. It's an escape from political ads and real life turmoil and tragedy. It will continue to collide with my writing life, and I'm glad.

--Mary Montague Sikes

Monday, October 29, 2012

Weather, Especially a Hurricane, Trumps Everything

A pleasant day on an Atlantic Coast waterfront
I always seem to have a calendar full of scheduled events. Then along comes a weather event, and things fall apart like a tent of cards. Especially when it's a mega storm like Hurricane Sandy.

Look a New York City right now. Much is closed down because of vulnerability from the waterfront. We all love water. We like to live on it. We like to take boats out on it, but it's not much fun when trouble comes and the sea rises bringing tons of flooding, trees uprooted, and much more.

Airlines cancel flights, trains stop running, roads are closed. We are so dependent on the weather.

Now my calendar is confused and upset. But the power is still on. I'm thankful for that!

Please visit my interview today on Celebrate with a Book.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Body Language - Does it Concern You?

Recently I ran across a presentation about body language and how it affects the way buyers relate to you. The article and video related to artists selling art at outdoor events and in galleries. Of course, this also relates to authors promoting books at signings and to anyone who works in retail.

What I gathered from reading and watching is that you can turn people off when you close up by crossing your arms over your body and crossing your legs. You are crunching up to take up a smaller amount of space. Buyers reject this kind of posture. At least, according to what I gathered from watching the video and reading the article. They relate more to the person with an open stance who takes up more space.

The person who stands with hands on hips has a more inviting posture. That one surprised me because it might appear to others that person wants to dominate. I don't know. However, I often find myself in that pose just because it seems more comfortable. I'm not trying to dominate. At least, not consciously.

Message for authors and for artists: Open up. Be sincere. Invite conversation.

What do you think?

Ready for Halloween

Secrets by the Sea (Passenger to Paradise)My novel, Secrets by the Sea, features a ghost, so I'm pretty happy to be part of Leah Price's Daily Press blog for Halloween. Secrets is set in a haunted house, and it holds a special place in my heart. It's also a prequel to Jungle Jeopardy which with its black jaguar could be a Halloween story as well.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Completing A New Book Manuscript Brings Excitement

Completing a new book always brings excitement to me. My newest project, Daddy's Christmas Angel, has been a story of my heart for several years. I always call it my "Sleepless in Seattle" book because it's the story of a child's dream of having a mother of her own.

Kathleen's mother died in a tragic car accident when she was only a year old. Her father blamed himself for the tragedy and has spent the last six years trying to make up for the loss he brought to his child. He never wants either of them to be hurt again. That means staying away from any relationship that might make him vulnerable. Although David has a trustworthy older housekeeper who has cared for Kathleen since she was a baby, he does not realize how very much his young daughter wants and needs a mother.

When she inherits a rambling old house and land on the outskirts of a small town in Virginia, Angie picks up her life and moves from city life in St. Louis. She takes a job as a teacher, and Kathleen is one of her second-graders. The little girl takes a special liking to Angie and connives to connect them.

A few years ago, I sign a contract with a publishing company for this story as an e-book. Then, I decided the timing was not right for e-books, and I wanted to wait until it could come out in print form. So I asked to be released from the contract.

"Angel in the Trees" copyright MMSikes
The story has waited until this year. Several weeks ago, I pulled it back up on my computer and started revising it into a 75,000-word manuscript. It is not a "Passenger to Paradise" book because there is no exotic destination. It isn't a mystery, and there are no paranormal elements in it. It isn't a western novel. It's a love story. Remember the movie, "Love Story"? It is a little of that sort of story mixed with "Sleepless in Seattle" but with a happy ending.

It's exciting!

--Mary Montague Sikes

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fractal Energy and the Beauty of Art

Fractal Art
Polka Dot Explosion Fractal Art by AsaLegault

Several years ago, a wonderful artist by the name of Mary Ann Beckwith introduced me to fractal art. She used fractals as inspiration for some of her paintings.

I was intrigued and found great inspiration in them for my own art work. I also introduced fractal art in the classroom for my elementary art students. Using fractals I found on the Internet, I placed prints around the art room for the children to use as reference materials. Studying these beautiful fractals, they created wonderful imaginative pieces of art.

Now, I've made another fractal discovery. This is of fractal mandalas. Here is a link to an absolutely awesome Fractal Mandala.

Thank you, Mary Ann.

Are you familiar with fractals? I would love to know your experiences.

--Mary Montague Sikes

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Discovering Book Reviews Along the Way and a Jaguar

 Authors always enjoy discovering a positive book review for one of their creations. I found this today when I went to the Barnes and Noble Nook Books site. It's part of a five-star review by Sandra Heptinstall for Jungle Jeopardy, my adventure novel set in Central America.

"This book is filled with adventure, suspense, love and mystery. You will walk along with Dana, Clifton, Tyler and Mick, as they make their way through a wild jungle trying to find a lost cave that is filled with all types of treasures that Dana's grandfather hid there.

They are confronted with drug dealers, and a black jaguar that Dana called Billy, that follows them and has saved them more than once. I have really enjoyed this book, and know that if you like suspense, adventure, mystery and a romance that came alive again you will enjoy this book. It has something for everyone. Rated G"

"Billy, the Jaguar" copyright MMSikes
Knowing that someone else has discovered and enjoyed your book is always satisfying for the author. I'm glad this reviewer mentioned Billy, the jaguar. I hadn't planned to include a jaguar in my story; then, suddenly, he just appeared. At first, I thought he would be dangerous, but things changed, and my heroine, Dana, gave him a name...

I hadn't planned to paint him, but I did. And I hadn't planned to write about him today.

But I did.

--Mary Montague Sikes

I'm being interviewed at Romancing the Heart. Please stop by and visit.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Blog Stats and Copyright Issues

Since my discovery of the Blogspot Overview and Stats information, I've been looking at it and comparing it with my StatCounter at the bottom of my blog. The information is different, and I don't know why.

For example, the Blogspot Overview shows more page hits than StatCounter, yet the overall number of visits listed is the same. The StatCounter gives some more detailed information like exactly where the visitors are from.

The Stats information shows me that my post on Statistics a couple of weeks ago is almost as popular with visitors as the post I wrote in 2011 about Joe Dubois. It's really interesting to see which posts have created the most interest.

Copyright MMSikes
However, some of the hits are giving me concerns about copyright issues. I have a copyright statement at the bottom of my blog below everything else on my site. Do I need more copyright statements after each individual blog and under every photograph?

I hadn't thought much about it until I found a lot of hits on the subject of beach scenes. They went to the blog with this photo. While I want lots of blog traffic, I don't want others to use my photos or other material.

Has anyone else been concerned with this issue? I would like to know you opinions.

Mary Montague Sikes

 Please visit the Romancing the Heart blog where I am guest author this week.

Also, please visit the Oak Tree Press site - I have a post there about book signings.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Where Art and Writing Collide

Write or paint?
Mary Montague Sikes, Will There Be Peace Anywhere?, Mixed water media, 41"H x 33"W, 2008.
"Will There Be Peace Anywhere?" copyright MMSikes

That's always a big question for me.

Which do you like best?

I don't know.

Writing is hard, but it's useful. I need the skill to promote my paintings.

Painting is hard, but it's fun. I can lose myself in the process. I love the joy of working in experimental water media. And I've discovered encaustic painting. I had no idea the excitement I would find in moving paint and wax around using a heat gun.

But wait. I can get lost as I develop the characters in a book and then become part of the story myself. That's fun, too.

And sometimes my art and photography illustrate my articles and my books. That's useful. I love combining the two.

I'm very excited that my painting "Will There Be Peace Anywhere?" was selected for the 2012 National Juried All-Media Exhibition  at the Petersburg Regeional Arts Center. The show has 65 artists from all over the country featured.

Romance. Happy endings. Exciting paintings. Meaningful art. These are all wonderful to have in your life--even though sometimes art and writing collide, and it makes you a little crazy.

Mary Montague Sikes

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Passenger to Paradise - Love of St. Martin Tainted

Tropical Fish near Caribbean Waters MMSikes
The Passenger to Paradise has long held a love affair with tropical islands of the Caribbean. In recent years, St. Martin, the half-Dutch, half-French island, has been her favorite Caribbean destination. Not only the beaches and beauty of the island beckoned, but also there was a comfortable sense of serenity and safety. With the September murders of a South Carolina couple vacationing in a condo on the island, the atmosphere of St. Martin as a safe destination is no more for the Passenger to Paradise.

Of course, she has created a few murders along the way as parts of her books. But those were not based on real events. Many of the adventures in her books do relate to actual happenings in the life of the Passenger, including her arrival, wet, soggy, and uneasy, to a small island resort off the coast of Trinidad. That story is part of her novel, Night Watch.

For the Passenger to Paradise, travel in the Caribbean has always brought adventure along with the excitement of the journey. A few years ago, she discovered much about Jamaica as an owner of one of the resort chains transported her by private plane and by car from one destination to another all over the island. At each resort, she created a painting to document the essence of that location.

Travel to Guadeloupe was always an experience. One night, she awakened to discover an intruder rummaging through her belongings on a dresser in the bedroom. In a sleepy haze, she mistook him for the dryer repairman she'd requested earlier. "Carlos, why are here now?" she asked. He grabbed her belly pack with everything in it, including passports, money, and tickets and raced away. Her husband took chase but could not catch him. No one at the resort came to their aid. There was no security guard. The Passenger plans not to return to Guadeloupe.

Now, she will probably never go back to St. Martin either. However, she feels sad for the tourism industry there. But there are other places to visit. She understands that nowhere in the world today is safe.

For the Passenger to Paradise, murders are better in fiction. A book can be closed, and it's okay. In real life, that is not true.

--Mary Montague Sikes

Friday, October 5, 2012

Clydesdales Pass By During Williamsburg Art Crawl

Budweiser Clydesdales in Williamsburg - MMSikes

An eight-horse traveling hitch of Clydesdales visited the Williamsburg Budweiser Brewery on Thursday afternoon to make "old fashion beer deliveries." This was celebrating the 40th anniversary of the brewery that opened in 1972 and produces more than 40 brands, including Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob and Shock Top.

It was fun to go out the door of Applewood Bed and Breakfast where I was set up as an artist for the Art Crawl and see these beautiful animals pass by on the street. The iconic Dalmatian seated on the wagon got a lot of attention as well.

Clydesdales in front of Applewood Bed and Breakfast - MMSikes

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Williamsburg Art Gallery Crawl Takes Place October 4

  On Thursday, October 4 , 5 to 11 p.m., I'll be one of the artists participating in the Gallery Crawl 2012 in Williamsburg VA.

Deluxe chartered buses will carry folks from one gallery spot to another where they get to sample great wines, try out cheeses, and see and maybe buy lots of art. Tour guides will be on board to help people stay on track.

Tickets cost $40 and include a keepsake wineglass. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to the website.

I'll be at Applewood Bed and Breakfast on Richmond Road. I understand from Denise who operates the lovely colonial B & B with her husband, Monty, that we will have music next door throughout the evening. Artist Bob Oller will also be showing work at this location.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Passionate Cooks - Free Book Release


Crab Dip Appetizer - MMSikes
 Although I spend very little time in the kitchen, I'm pleased to share my favorite recipe for an appetizer -- Crab Dip in the Passionate Cooks recipe book released today. It's free!

Passionate Cooks: Free Recipes From Today’s Hottest Romance Authors, over 150 authors of the genre have put their pens and computers aside to don aprons, get down and dirty in the kitchen, and share their love of food. Much like romance novels themselves, the dishes range from spicy to sweet. There is something for every taste and every level of culinary expertise.
Best of all, they are FREE!