Daddy's Christmas Angel

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas to All, My 2013 Angel

"Angel of the Sunlight" watercolor ©Mary Montague Sikes

Merry Christmas to All
Happy 2014!

About 10 years ago, I started creating an angel painting for each Christmas season. At first, I thought I would make many angel paintings, perhaps 500 by the end of the year 2012. I even started numbering the works. However, I soon realized I was not inspired to do this work. I truly believe divine inspiration is needed or there is no purpose. For the smaller, once a year body of work, there is inspiration and meaning.

Last year's angel, "Angel of the Holy Cross", was inspired by a visit to Sedona, Arizona and photographs I took of the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Last month, I discovered this drawing on Arches watercolor paper waiting for me in my studio. It was a forgotten drawing that I completed by using paint from nearly forgotten watercolor tubes and a gold paint pen. The painting became "Angel of the Sunlight". Perhaps this year's angel is inspired by the pending flip of the magnetic field of the sun. According to NASA, this reversal of the sun's polar fields happens about every 11 years and can affect cosmic rays among other changes. 

What better time to have an "Angel of the Sunlight"?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Thank you, Safe and Sound of Barhamsville VA

"Sunset of Lost Memories" ©Mary Montague Sikes
On Friday night, we were traveling along a narrow road in New Kent County en route to Williamsburg for a book signing event when our right front tire blew out. It was dark and we are uncertain of the cause--a metal object in the road or the rough tar edge with a drop-off. Whatever it was, having a tire explode from a recently-purchased new set caught us totally by surprise.

There was no place to pull off, so we couldn't stop where the explosion occurred. A short distance down the road, although it was after 5:30 p.m., we were fortunate to discover lights on at Safe and Sound in Barhamsville and four kind men who stopped what they were doing and came out to help us. They found the little temporary tire secured beneath the vehicle and discovered the way to reach it which included dismantling a floor panel. Had we been on our own in the dark without the professional equipment these men used, I don't believe we could have found and changed the tire.

Two of the men even took the time to find the telephone number for me for the William and Mary Barnes and Noble store, so I could call and explain I would be late for the 6 p.m. signing of the Chesapeake Bay Writers Club anthology, Harboring Secrets. Eventually, after learning the Goodyear Tire business near New Town was open until 7 p.m., we limped there only to discover the bent tire rim could not be repaired because it was made of aluminum instead of stainless steel. In purchasing a new car, who would think to ask about the material used in the tire rims? Not I.

Eventually, we got to the book signing at a little after 7 p.m.. Since I was working a shift with Pamela Kinney, author of the Haunted Virginia books, my tardiness was covered. I got to sign one book that Pamela purchased, and I discovered that the Barnes and Noble store had about 10 copies each of five of my titles on display in the "Local Authors" section of the store.

We now have a car in our garage with a temporary tire awaiting the order of a new rim and a new tire to replace the destroyed one. More importantly, we have special memories of the Christmas Miracle for which we are extremely grateful to the people at Safe and Sound. Thank you!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Give a Writer the Christmas Gift of Physical Fitness

"Christmas Time" ©Mary Montague Sike

This is the time of year many of us are completing our Christmas gift lists. It's the time of year when I consider what might be the most important gift for a writer, or for anyone, for that matter.

As we grow older, I hear and read complaints about numerous ailments. Good health is the most important gift of all, I've decided. Without good health and physical fitness, authors don't feel like sitting in front of a computer to write, and artists are less likely to stand before an easel or wall to create a new painting.

For writers, artists, or anyone on your holiday list, a gift of physical fitness might be the best gift of all. Years ago, my husband and I gave each other a fitness center membership. It was often difficult to make ourselves spend the time to drive about an hour round trip three or four times a week, but we did it. While he uses the fitness machines, the sauna and hot tub at the gym, I take group classes that started with step aerobics and have escalated to all the latest fads that include pilates, tabata, zumba, and, now, Shockwave! We have taken the bicycle revving class together as well as yoga. We have stayed fit and energetic while doing these classes and activities. That's why I believe a starter gift certificate at a fitness center makes a lovely and important present for anyone you care about on your list. That first fitness center membership was the best gift of all for us.
"Physical Woman" acrylic/canvas ©Mary Montague Sikes

Christmas Titles Free at Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime subscribers can get borrow Daddy's Christmas Angel and A Rainbow for Christmas free now. Please check it out. Both of these titles are sweet romances.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Trees at Fabulous Hotels

La Playa Hotel (CA) ©Mary Montague Sikes
Christmas glows from the lobbies of beautiful, glorious old hotels across the country. What a special treat to travel during the holiday season and get to visit some of those glittering trees and other sparkling decorations along the way.

Several years ago we were in Carmel-by-the-Sea in California and got to see the giant tree that filled the lobby of the La Playa Hotel. Not only did we view the Christmas decorations there that year, but I also took photographs of flowers in their gardens that later inspired paintings.

On the other side of the country, in Richmond, Virginia, the Jefferson Hotel glows in spectacular beauty during the holiday season each year.
Hotel Jefferson Lobby ©Mary Montague Sikes

On July 25 of this year, we experienced Christmas in July at the Lake McDonald Lodge in Glacier National Park. It was a bit disconcerting to discover glitzy Christmas decorations along the way as we headed to the lodge from Jammer Joe's grill. Santa and an elf drove by while we waited on a bench for transportation back to the parking lot. They called out a Christmas greeting all along the roadway.
Jammer Joe's ©Mary Montague Sikes

Christmas trees. Fabulous hotels. What have been your favorite experiences?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Imagine a Time Without Good Restaurants and Clean Hotels

"St. Louis Union Station Hotel" ©Mary Montague Sikes
Suppose you could travel back in time to 1869 and have your automobile instead of a covered wagon to journey cross country from St. Louis, then Independence, Missouri and on to Denver, Colorado. Even without the problems associated with the small wooden wagon, pulled probably by oxen, the trip would still be difficult by today's standards. After all, the road was rugged. There were no real bridges to cross rivers and streams. There were no motels or hotels and few places to find food of any kind.

I thought about my heroine Meg from A Rainbow for Christmas and wondered if her journey would have been difficult even in a car. Of course, there would be no gasoline, so that imaginary trip would have been impossible. Still, it would be fun today to follow along one of those wagon trails and imagine what the journey was like in 1869.

When the rails were laid for train tracks, things changed in a big way. It's wonderful and exciting to visit amazing old hotels today and realize they came along with the emerging railroad system. The El Tovar on the edge of the Grand Canyon, the Hotel Del Coronado across from San Diego, California, the Brown Palace in Denver, Colorado. These elaborate hotels and many more grew from the needs of railroad passengers, and they helped change our way of travel. They were constructed around the turn of the 20th Century, not that many years later than Meg's journey.

One of my favorite hotels is the one built around the old St. Louis Union Station. The railroad station dates back to the late 1800s. Trains fascinate me still, but I'm very glad people no longer travel by covered wagon.

Radio Broadcast
On December 9 at 8:05, I will be the radio guest of Neal Steele, XTRA 99.1 and will discuss A Rainbow for Christmas. A podcast of the live show will be available at the Chesapeake Bay Writers web site .

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What is the Meaning of Success?

As a writer, or as an artist, what do you consider success? Must you make money at your craft to be successful? Or is success gleaned in some other manner?

In our society, people are often judged as successful when they accumulate a large amount of wealth. But is that true success? Is wealth a meaningless barometer for some?

Artists and writers walk to the beat of a different drummer, I think. Success is completing the 10th page of your latest manuscript--the goal you set for the day. It's looking out the window and sketching a leaf outlined against the sunlit sky. It's writing the words that come to you in the night. It's hearing the voice of an angel creating a poem inside your head. It's grabbing a camera and photographing the sky filled with orange clouds at sunset. It's watching the face of a loved one brighten with happiness. It's hearing the sound of laughter in the air. It's smelling the sweet scent of flowers on a spring day. It's writing down the thoughts special sensations bring. It's hanging a painting in an art show and receiving a compliment for it. It's signing a book for a stranger who receives it with a smile. It's the unexpected sale of a painting. It's looking out the airplane window and photographing clouds just below.

"Above the Clouds" ©Mary Montague Sikes
In the end, success is dancing in the sunlight and knowing you've done your best. It's acceptance of who you are and gratitude for the opportunity to be a creative soul on Planet Earth.

Thank you Alex Cavanaugh and co-hosts Julie Flanders, Heather Gardner, Kim Van Sickler, and Elsie is Writing 
for the Insecure Writer's Support Group today. That is a story of success.