Daddy's Christmas Angel

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Don't Chase Fire Engines

"Don't Chase Fire Engines" ©Mary Montague Sikes
Years ago, John Gunn, the state editor of The Richmond News Leader (an afternoon newspaper that no longer exists), came to our home to interview me for the job of area stringer for the paper. Gunn contacted me after reading my letter to the editor that was published in The Tidewater Review, the local newspaper where I lived.

"You don't have to chase fire engines," he told me that day.

Be alert, carry a camera, and be ready to promptly file a story, he said. The News Leader was always in competition with The Richmond Times-Dispatch (the morning newspaper) for stories. My job was to "beat" the competitive reporters which was hard to do unless I was attending a morning meeting and could file the story before the press deadline.

I loved this job with the newspaper even though, when officials decided to go into closed session to block public coverage, I was thrown out of meetings, along with the other reporters. This happened most often with the boards of supervisors of the three counties I covered. Until we were readmitted, we would sit together in narrow corridors, in stairwells, and occasionally outdoors when there was no other place else to go. Sometimes the closed sessions lasted for hours.That happened so often in those days that Gunn decided to do something about it. He co-authored Virginia's Freedom of Information Act that became a law in 1968.

Although I was often in rooms filled with dense clouds of smoke, I learned so much from the experiences there. I learned about local governments, schools, people, and I learned about writing and doing interviews.

Yesterday, as I watched one tornado warning after another come up on the television screen for our area, I thought about those early experiences with the newspaper. I thought about how that young reporter would have gathered the news somehow. She would have typed out her story and dictated it over the telephone the next morning. Then she would have taken her camera and gone hunting for tornado damage photos. Finally, she would have removed her film from the camera and taken it to the post office to send by special delivery to Richmond.

What a different world from the one in which I learned not to chase fire engines.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Finding Joy in the Moment

"Sunset on a Tropical Beach" ©Mary Montague Sikes
You know how much I love to travel, especially to Jamaica. That's why I can't help but feel disappointed about the closure or changed ownership of some of my favorite destination resorts.

Earlier this week, I was researching hotels and resorts in Jamaica for a friend who wants her annual trip with sorority sisters to be to a Caribbean destination. She read about the Wyndham Rose Hall in my coffee table book, Hotels to Remember, and was so fascinated by the story of the White Witch of Rose Hall that she wanted to visit the legendary Great House. Since my book, published in 2002, is a "Snapshot in Time", I knew the hotel was no longer a Wyndham. It is now Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa, a property I have not yet visited and am unable to recommend from personal experience.

While the Rose Hall change did not surprise me, other transformations in Jamaica did. I discovered that both Grand Lido Negril and Grand Lido Braco are closed and have been for several years. Grand Lido Sans Souci is no more. During many trips to Jamaica, Olen and I stayed at all three locations and have fond memories of each destination. Braco has reopened as Melia Braco Village, a Spanish-operated resort. Grand Lido Negril which closed in April 2015 is now owned by Blue Diamond Hotel Groups which is renovating and expanding the property that will reopen in Fall 2016 as the Royalton Negril.

We loved visiting Jamaica, but things change. You can never go back and expect it to be the same. Moral of the story: Stay in the present. Never take anything for granted. Find joy in the moment. Take photographs. Make memories you'll never forget. Create paintings. Write a book. I did.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

February At Last - Looking Forward to Spring

I'm excited that January is over, and February is here at last. This will be a very busy month.

Thank you, David Carr and Chesapeake Bay Writers, for putting me and my novel, Evening of the Dragonfly on your front page for this month. I am looking forward to my appearance on Monday, February 8 on the Neal Steele morning radio show.

On February 16, I will be a guest on Barbara Hodges' No Limits talk radio show discussing my book, Evening of the Dragonfly. This month might fly by as we look forward to spring.

Here is the front page of Chesapeake Bay Writers:

 Like Chesapeake Bay Writers

Member Showcase: February 2016
Mary Montague Sikes
Author of
Evening of the Dragonfly

Tune in to XTRA 99.1FM to hear the Author interviewed by Neal Steele on CBW's Second Monday monthly broadcast, February 8th at about 8:05AM. If you miss the live broadcast, click the icon below.
About the Book

Threatening telephone calls and strange cars with dark-tinted windows plague artist/teacher Farrah Ferand. Recovering from the tragic loss of her mother, Farrah is trying to adapt to the life of a small-town art teacher when she encounters Dirk Lawrence, a mysterious stranger. Her attraction to him is immediate and electric until Farrah discovers Dirk is part of the Lawrence and Pendesky investment firm that led to her mother's downfall a few years earlier. Farrah's not too perfect dating relationship with Tom Douglas, the town favorite football coach, worsens. An unexpected encounter leads to dates with Dirk and his help with the construction of a dream art studio in her rented house. But trouble looms with Tom who believes he and Farrah are engaged, and the entire town appears to be drawn in. Haunting dreams and lost memories overwhelm Farrah as she creates paintings for a one-person art show. Will shadows of the past ruin all hope for Farrah and Dirk?

About the Author
Mary Montague Sikes grew up near the bloody Civil War battlefields of Central Virginia where thousands died. Those early years in a landscape where tears still flowed sparked her interest in the psychic and the paranormal that carries over into her writing today.

Sikes loves to travel, especially to the Caribbean and Jamaica where she discovered the legend of the White Witch of Rose Hall Great House that inspired her first novel, Hearts Across Forever. More psychic encounters in Sedona, Arizona led to her novel, Eagle Rising. Adventures in Antigua became the book, Secrets by the Sea. Then, an escapade in Trinidad developed into the story of Night Watch. Her love of "Indiana Jones" type quests took her to the Maya Ruins of Palenque and eventually directed her to write Jungle Jeopardy.

She has been told by readers that her novel, Daddy's Christmas Angel, set in a small fictitious American town, is the "best book I've ever read". The romance is a little like "Sleepless in Seattle" and has a happy ending.
An artist before she was an author, Mary Montague Sikes has a scrapbook with drawings she made as a two-year-old. Like Farrah Ferand in Evening of the Dragonfly, she spends many hours each month in a painting studio built over her garage. When she isn't writing or painting, she enjoys travel to exotic destinations that might one day become part of her Passenger to Paradise book series.