Daddy's Christmas Angel

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Dancing in Pink Light - I Love Art

"Dancing in Pink Light" acrylic/canvas ©Mary Montague Sikes
For the past months I have been considering my passion. Is it art or is it writing? I've done both for most of my life. I have to confess, color has won.

I love color. I love art. The wonder of paint spreading in every direction on a blank canvas intrigues me. Abstract art fills my heart with joy. For now, I consider myself an abstract artist.

We are working on my artist website so that I can display many of my paintings where collectors and just interested folks can browse through them. Right now, we are planning to have them categorized with the following divisions: pastels, acrylics, oils, watercolor and mixed media which will include my encaustics. All of the categories will have sub-divisions including: landscapes, seascapes, still life, portraits, and more. The website is now a work in progress.

Experimental mixed media is my focus right now. I love using many methods to create new textures. Watching colors evolve in unusual ways on various substrates fascinates me. I have a different type of paper I have not used before in my studio right now waiting for me to try it out. Perhaps I will take photographs of happenings along the way.

In the meantime, I continue to work on the first revision of my new novel, Dragonflies in the Morning. I intend to finish that draft before devoting most of my time to the paintings. I also plan to take down my "Animal Alphabet" exhibit at Crossroads Art Center some time this week and replace it with an abstract art show of Experimental Mixed Media Paintings.

When you visit an artist website what categories of art work do you want to see?

Should an artist website be combined with that of a writer?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Promoting Two Books That Have the Same Lead Characters #MFRWauthor

Product DetailsWhen I started writing Jungle Jeopardy, I had not planned to connect it with another book in my Passenger to Paradise series. Then, as often happens to a writer, my characters took over. Dana Sinclair and Clifton Wilder were the heroine and the hero from Secrets by the Sea. They decided they should be part of Jungle Jeopardy as well, and thus their new adventure began.

I have a special attachment to Maya Ruins, and Dana and Clifton got involved in a treasure hunt that led to  unexplored imaginary ruins in Central America. The couple also continued their quest for a precious gold coin, the Brasher doubloon, that Dana's grandfather sought for many years to find. Along the way, my characters are kidnapped and then face a variety of dangers in the jungle.

This is the fifth book in the Passenger to Paradise series. Eventually I want to write another book in the series, all of which are stand-alone novels. Whether or not , Dana and Clifton will be part of that next book, I do not know yet. We will see what they have to say.

In the meantime, I am working on a new novel scheduled for publication later this year. Dragonflies in the Morning is a mystery set in a fictitious small town in Virginia. Since no exotic destinations are involved, it cannot be a Passenger to Paradise book. Unless those wayward characters decide otherwise.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Race Completed - How Flying a Race and Writing a Book Are Alike

Photo Team Friendly Fliers -Alicia Sikes and Emily Lewis completed the Air Race Classic cross country yesterday in the early afternoon. Whether or not they win any prizes, finishing the race a day early is quite an accomplishment. Especially when they faced problems with weather and also an engine that wouldn't start. That happened in Danville IL. They were fortunate to have a mechanic named Mike there who hand-started the prop for them. They knew that once the engine was started that way, they would be unable to restart it again until it is repaired. That meant flying non-stop from Danville to the final destination, Harrisburg PA. Overall, the team flew 2810 miles across the United States at an average moving speed of  210.7 mph. A final awards banquet will take place Saturday night. Alicia and Emily hope their goal of inspiring other women to become pilots has been accomplished.

"Weather Along the Way" ©Alicia Sikes
While closely following the progress of Team Friendly Fliers on my computer screen, I started to think about how flying this race was a lot like writing a book. For the race, the team made lots of plans ahead of time. They planned their route; they researched the weather across the nation; they documented their trip. Now they are evaluating what happened. Planning the route is like creating an outline for a book project; research ahead of time is really important in the process of writing; documentation of the writing journey helps in the marketing process at the end. I suppose evaluating is a little like writing the blurb for the cover of a book.

What do you think? Are flying in a race and writing a book a little bit alike?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Air Race Classic Promotes Aviation Pilot Careers for Women

Next week, I'll be following the progress of one plane, a 1961 twin-engine Beechcraft Travel Air, piloted by Alicia Sikes (our daughter) and Emily Lewis, in the Air Race Classic. They will start the race in Concord CA on June 16 and continue to the final destination, New Cumberland PA, a distance of 2300 miles. This event is designed to encourage more women to enter careers as pilots. (Fewer than seven percent of all U. S. pilots are women.)

Air races for women began in 1929 with the First Women's Air Derby that started in Santa Monica CA and ended in Cleveland OH. These races continued on through the 1930s, were halted during World War II, then resumed as All Women's Transcontinental Air Race (Powder Puff Derby). The final AWTAR event was held in 1977. The Air Race Classic, Ltd. took its place and was reincorporated in 2002 as Air Race Classic, Inc., a non-profit 501(c)3 organization.

"Alicia's RG at West Point Airport 2008" ©MMSikes
In the past few years, I've learned a lot about airplanes, flying, and the pioneering career of one woman who fell in love with aviation and became a pilot, much to my surprise. Alicia's career started near the end of her senior year at the Honors College of the University of South Carolina when she began taking flying lessons at Eagle Aviation, Columbia Metro Airport. Once she received her private pilot's license, there was no looking back, even though she also had just earned a BS degree in computer science. She began instructing at Eagle and then at Midlands Aviation at Owens Field, Columbia. From there she went on to become a Beech 99 Captain for Air New Orleans, based in Birmingham, Alabama. Her career eventually took her to TWA where she was the first female to checkout on the B767. At one point, I recall her flying into Egypt. Most of her time with TWA was spent flying the B727 which she loved. During that period, her sister Amy and I stayed with her when she was in Vienna, Austria, flying to Istanbul, Turkey. Alicia is currently a MD80 Captain with American Airlines (which purchased TWA). Along the way, Alicia inspired her sister Allison to become involved in aviation. Allison earned her private pilot's license while attending graduate school in polymer science at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Emily Lewis comes from an aviation family. Her grandfather ran a flight school, and her father is a Captain with American Airlines. She started flying at age 14 and earned her private pilot's license at age 17. She is currently in her third year at Salisbury University where she is studying atmospheric sciences and environmental and land use planning.

For the Air Race Classic, Alicia and Emily are Team Friendly Flyers (Team #48).

Emily "would love to inspire others not only to pursue the field of aviation, but to pursue their own ambitious dreams as well."

Alicia "is looking forward to viewing a lot of fantastic scenery from lower altitudes, and helping Emily figure out how to do a successful long cross-country flight in a twin engine." She "would love to help the other teams by passing along any wisdom to other pilots."
For the race, I hope they have good weather all the way. Following Alicia has always been an exciting journey for our family. This is yet another adventure. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Be More Specific With Your Goals

"Soar Like an Eagle" ©Mary Montague Sikes
It's that time of year when you start wondering whatever happened to my New Year's resolutions. They are so inspiring when you write them. They give you a special kind of energy at the beginning of a hopeful wonderful year. But, by now, time has sapped the energy, and the inspiration might be little more than a memory.

That's what happens in many, perhaps most, cases. The dream is there, but the means to fulfill it is lacking.


According to a blog I read today by Michael Nichols, it's the specifics that are missing. Nichols points out that making your goals more specific can provide the energy and momentum you need to accomplish your goals. That is the secret.

What a great idea!

It's like my writing mentor, Jane Deringer, used to tell me. Be specific in your descriptions as you write and revise your novel. Be specific in the details you give in your story.

The journalist is urged to use what, when, how, and why as they write an article for publication. It's like an outline for your life.

Be more specific, Nichols says. 
  • Be specific in exactly what the goal is you wish to accomplish.
  • Be specific about the time by when you plan to achieve this goal.
  • Be specific as you decide how the goal will be met.
  • Be specific about the help you need to reach your goal.
Take your most important New Year's resolution and type it at the top of a page. Put down each specific step you will follow to achieve this goal by a specific time that you specify. Now see if you accomplish this resolution. See if your dreams soar like an eagle!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What's Behind a Book Title - Symbolism or Something Else

"Dragonfly" detail, acrylic painting ©Mary Montague Sikes
What's behind the title of my current book project? I started thinking about that last night when a friend at the Fitness Center where I workout asked about it. Dragonflies in the Morning is the title, I told her. Her face lit up and she wanted to know the meaning of my title.

It's complicated. It isn't worked out yet. There's lots of back story.

My book is a romance about relationships, danger, intrigue, and the death of a mother my heroine never really understood. The title is symbolic in many ways, some of which I don't yet know.

Worrying about the meaning of my title is a perfect topic for the insecure writer. There are too many questions. Too many ways this might go wrong?

Thank you Alex Cavanaugh for the Insecure Writers Support Group. It is much needed for writers of all levels. Perhaps we never cease being insecure.

Now I am waiting for the characters to take over. They are late in doing so.

What about you? Does the underlying meaning of your title concern you?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Flying in the Air Race Classic -- A Transcontinental Air Race for Female Pilots

When she was playing tackle football with the boys at age four and winning trophies in Pass, Punt, and Kick competitions as the only girl, I should have known our daughter, Alicia, was destined to grow up as a competitor in some unusual field. However, I didn't expect her to become a pilot. When she received her private pilot's license the day before she graduated with honors from South Carolina Honors College, I was shocked because I had no idea she was flying. She started instructing and flying and eventually became a flight engineer, then a first officer, and later a captain with TWA. Currently, she is a captain with American Airlines, is working on her third Master's degree, and plays ice hockey along with tennis and other sports.
Two weeks from now, Alicia and Emily Lewis will participate as Team Friendly Flyers in the Air Race Classic, A Transcontinental Air Race for Female Pilots. This is an adventure in the tradition of Amelia Earhart. Emily, a student at Salisbury University, earned her private pilot's license at age 17. Alicia met Emily through her father, John Lewis. While with TWA, Alicia and Lewis flew the first westbound polar operation on the 767 from Charles De Galle in Paris  to Los Angeles International Airport.  
Both Alicia and Emily are excited about the race that goes from California to Pennsylvania, approximately 2400 miles.  Emily has a blog on which she is writing posts about the race adventure.
What about you? Do your children sometimes surprise you with interests far different to your own?