Daddy's Christmas Angel

Friday, March 29, 2013

Same Title Causes Publishing Nightmare

The USA Today article about two books with the exact same title getting released within days of each other truly intrigues me. I have long known that the title means a lot--close to everything in some cases. The author of the story, Deirdre Donahue, implies that in this case the two titles released so close together may actually be a publishing blessing. After all, both books are getting lots of press because of the coincidental titles and release dates.

One of the two books--both are titled, Life After Life--is by Kate Atkinson and is the story of a woman born in 1910 who dies and is reborn again and again. It sounds like a reincarnation story which I love.

The title of these two books started me remembering Dr. Raymond Moody and his book, Life After Life, published in 1975.  Dr. Moody and my special friend, Dr. George Ritchie, collaborated on work at the University of Virginia. At the age of 20, Dr. Ritchie had his own encounter with death and returned from it to write about his experiences in his book, Ordered to Return: My Life After Dying. George created his book while taking writing classes with our mentor, Jane Deringer. He read each chapter as he wrote it to our class at Rappahannock Community College at Glenns, Virginia. While in this death experience, George saw events that came true in the future. He was amazing and so was his book.

The works by both Dr. Moody and Dr. Ritchie made me ever more fascinated with the subject of reincarnation. My interest was unveiled in my novel, Hearts Across Forever. This is my "what if" story about the "White Witch" of Rose Hall Great House. If I had never known George Ritchie, this book might not have been written. Amazing how people and events link together.
"Rose Hall Great House" pastel painting ©Mary Montague Sikes

Titles can drive the sales of books. But so can lots of publicity.

--Mary Montague Sikes

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sometimes We Get Surprised

"Spring/Winter" ©Mary Montague Sikes
News Flash: Caleb Pirtle highlighted my mystery/suspense/romance Night Watch on Venture Galleries today.  Please visit if you have time. It’s a nice site. I loved writing Night Watch because it brought back exciting memories of adventures we actually experienced while visiting Trinidad!
Late Sunday afternoon we headed as usual to our yoga class--a 20 to 30 minute drive from home. When we arrived at the Fitness Center, the weather was a little rainy and not too cold. I commented to someone coming in with me that we were lucky we didn't have snow. He replied that a few flakes had fallen on his windshield on the drive in.

What we found when we left the Center an hour and a half later surprised us. Thick, heavy snow had fallen the entire time we were in class. About two inches covered the ground and the roads. In the first miles we traveled from the Center, we encountered two accidents with cars in ditches by the highway. The clear empty road was now treacherous.

Fortunately, we made it home safely, but the trip took three times longer than normal. This is from the scene when we reached our house. A winter wonderland in spring--an unexpected surprise!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Blogging A to Z - What To Do

I've joined the A to Z Blog Challenge for the last couple of years and really enjoyed being a part of the amazing event. For this year, I've been wondering what to do and have decided on a real challenge for me!

Months ago, I started reading about artists who create a painting a day. It's inspiring. It improves their art. It makes the artist work. It helps with art sales. It's fun. Also, it's grueling and it's daunting! That's why I'm going to give making a painting a day a try. And I'm going to make it my A to Z challenge. Hopefully this will be the challenge I need to finally Just Do It!

"Just for Fun" acrylic © Mary Montague Sikes
Can I do it?

I don't know. But I'll try.

Here's a sample. I'm 322 on the challenge list. Please visit and let me know what you think about the art I post.

Friday, March 22, 2013

What Does It Take to Be a Good Writer? Organization

What does it take to be a writer? Actually to be a good writer? Recently, I've been thinking a lot about this.

Organization is a key element.
1.  Make lists. That's so you don't forget something essential, like a major deadline or a blog appearance. Post it by or near your computer.
2.  Designate a block of days, dates, or weeks--time you will use only for a certain writing project, or, in my case, art projects as well. If you are taking a workshop or class, segment that time period and don't schedule anything else to interfere with your concentration.
3. Keep a Date Book next to you on your desk. Put everything in it. Blog appearances, book signings, business appointments.
4. Make a Second Date Book Copy to take with you. (Some of you may put this in your phone or iPad, but I prefer the "reach and look" method for my purposes.)
"Landing Softly" - ©MMSikes
5. Keep a Notebook for Passwords - It's frustrating to go back to a site you use occasionally and realize you can't recall the password for it. I keep a notebook near my home computer and have another available to take with me on trips.
6. Place Photographs in Computer Files where you can find them. Pictures enhance blogs and your other writing.
7. Keep an Idea Notebook Close at Hand - Jot down ideas for your stories, novels, and blogs. You never know when an idea will strike. Carry your notebook with you while traveling in a car or watching television.

These are only a few thoughts on organization. We all want our writing to have a smooth journey and a safe landing in the proper place.

What are your ideas on this subject?

Mary Montague Sikes

Sunday, March 17, 2013

What's in a Name? Marketing the Right One Makes a Difference

The author with her correct name at Petersburg Regional Art Center
What's in a name? A lot, I've discovered, especially when it comes to marketing.

Last week, I read a good post by author Marilyn Meredith who wrote about the importance of internet visibility to gain name recognition. From her article I got the message that even if you are not making book sales on the Internet, people will see your name and start to remember it. You are working on marketing for the future.

At the March meeting of Chesapeake Bay Pen Women, I sat across the table from three lovely ladies named, Mary Ann, Martha Anne, and Mary Claire. It struck me later that all of these women have and use their double names. It also struck me that I do not use my double name, Mary Montague, when I post on the Internet. I use a nickname instead.

I started to think, there is no author by the name of Monti Sikes. There is no artist (except for a few Monti Just for Fun paintings) by the name of Monti Sikes. There is, however, an author and an artist named Mary Montague Sikes. I am that author and artist, but for almost three years, I've been promoting the wrong name. That has to be a big mistake.

The Pen Women taught me a big lesson. Thank you! I've added my name in the title of this blog. I'm going to make changes elsewhere on the Internet.

What about you? Are you marketing yourself in a correct way? Are you using the name you want people to remember? Is your name in the title of your blog?

What's in a name?

Probably a lot more than you realize,

--Mary Montague Sikes

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Dining Out in South Florida

The Islander Grill and Tiki Bar - MMSikes
For the past few years, we have traveled to South Florida for some of the baseball spring training games. The first year, we discovered Palm Beach Shores on Singer Island. Although glitches occurred during our initial stay, we decided to try the resort again the next spring. We were glad we did because not only does the facility front directly on the ocean, but it also features an outstanding restaurant that we love.

The Islander Grill and Tiki Bar is located inside Palm Beach Shores Resort, so we never have to leave the facility for dinner unless we want to go somewhere else. We have enjoyed getting to know Larry who is always friendly and helpful. This year, Marco, our waiter, made the Friday Night Lobster event especially memorable by aiding me with special instructions for removing the meat from the shells. The Maine lobsters are flown in each Friday--1 1/2 pounds each. They are served with baked potatoes and salad from 5 p.m. until they are all gone, usually well before the restaurant closes at 10 p.m. This year, we also enjoyed the prime rib night, the grouper special, and the seafood trio evening that featured a combination of shrimp, scallops, and the fresh catch of the day.

Inside the Islander - MMSikes
Although we travel to Florida for Cardinals baseball at Jupiter, we also look forward to the special dining experience the Islander Grill provides. I can't wait to go back again next year!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Insecure Writers Create Amazing Support Who can give better support to writers than other writers? Probably no one. That should come as no surprise to writers.

I have met some amazing writers through blogs on the Internet. They are writers who inspire through their words. They are writers who make me long to write better. They are writers who make me want to be a better person.

The writers I most admire strive to inspire through their words. That is evident in their choice of words and the way they use them.

Positive thoughts.

Insightful deliberations.

What about you? Do you seek to inspire through your words?

Writers can give amazing support. I'm glad to have met so many wonderful writers along the way.

--Mary Montague Sikes

Friday, March 1, 2013

Notes Along the Way Gets a Liebster Award


Thank you, Sharon, at Shells, Tales and Sails for the nomination for the Liebster Award which is for bloggers with fewer than 200 followers. (I'm at 173 followers now and hope to eventually cross the 200 threshold.)

Liebster Award Rules:
1. Thank the blogger who presented you with the Liebster Award, and link back to his or her blog.
2. Answer the 11 questions from the nominator; list 11 random facts about yourself, and create 11 questions for your nominees.
3. Present the Liebster Award to 11 bloggers, who have blogs with 200 followers or less, whom you feel deserve to be noticed. Leave a comment on the blogs letting the owners know they have been chosen. (No tag backs.)
4. Upload the Liebster Award image to your blog.

 Eleven questions from me:
1. What is your favorite form of recreation? Tennis and travel to beautiful, warm destinations
2. What kinds of books do you read? Biographies when I get a chance to read which is not often.
3. Why did you start blogging? Because I love to write. Some days, I especially like the opportunity to express what's on my mind. It's a little like writing an editorial giving my opinion.
3. Do you read books on an e-reader or prefer printed books? I prefer print whenever possible. I do see the advantage of having many books loaded on my iPad for travel.
4. Name two actors or authors you admire. Diane Chamberlain because of the quality books she writes that incorporate her knowledge of psychology. Mary Alice Monroe because of the extensive research evident in the stories she writes.
5. What makes you laugh? I don't laugh as much as I used to. The world seems a less nice place to be in. So much war, a Congress that can't get along, elected officials who spend too much time on vacations they have not earned--the list goes on. I'm happiest in my art studio creating paintings using happy colors.
6. Which do you prefer and why: dogs or cats? Cats. They have interesting personalities and are quite independent.
7. When or where do you feel most creative? Anytime I have a lot of consecutive hours in my writing studio, I feel creative (once I take care of the most important e-mails, check Facebook, etc.)
8. What is your favorite fast food or snack? Fried chicken
9. Do you have a special place you go to relax? Fitness classes at the gym
10. Do you have a favorite comic strip? No. I used to enjoy them in the Sunday newspapers, but that was long ago.
11. If you could travel back in time, where would you like to go? To Paris in the age of the French Impressionists.

Eleven random facts about me
1. As a child, I couldn't find enough books to read.
2. I still love to daydream about beautiful and exotic destinations.
3. In the summer, watching St. Louis Cardinals baseball on TV takes precedence over all else.
4. I enjoy visiting National Parks with our family.
5. I love looking at the water but don't like being on it.
6. I was girls tennis coach at a private school where I taught.
7. When I was a child, I would find figures in the clouds.
8. I used to write lots of rhyming poetry.
9. I spend too much time in front of the computer.
10. I've always wanted to be an artist.
11. I fell in love with my husband when I was 13.  

Eleven questions for Liebster Award nominees
1. Knowing what you know today, what would you choose to be (profession)? Why?
2. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be? Why?
3. Would you rather visit the mountains or the sea? Why?
4. Tell about your favorite dinner.
5. What part of your home most inspires you? 
6. Do you like to read fiction or non-fiction?
7. What is your favorite book?
8. Did you have a favorite subject in school?
9. How many vacations would you like to take each year? Where?
10. Do you prefer to fly or to drive?
11. Are you an extrovert or an introvert?  

I'm checking out blogs and gradually adding to make my list of 11. If you have time, I hope you will accept and follow the instructions for the award. Here is my growing list: