Daddy's Christmas Angel

Friday, February 17, 2017

A House in the Woods Is Special

"House in the Woods Getting New Roof" ©Mary Montague Sikes
Years ago, when my husband and I were newlyweds, we picked out land for our first house. After exploring many locations in our little town, we decided on some heavily-wooded property that included more than we needed. It was beautiful, remote, and lacked a street to it. At the time, we thought we would live in this house for a few years, then move elsewhere.

My father-in-law took great interest in the building of this house. My husband drew the plans. It was special.

As the construction was underway, we decided to lift the roof higher, so that second-floor rooms might be completed at a later date. The house featured a heat-pump and was the first total electric home in our community. It was special.

The house was built on a site that left as many of the natural dogwood and other trees as possible. Every window in the house provided a picturesque view of the surrounding wooded landscape. The edge of the woods on our land overlooked a creek coming off a river that the first English colonists explored long ago. This house was special.

Three children lived and grew up in this house. They played among the trees, watched the fruit trees we planted in the orchard grow tall. They saw the small magnolia turned into a giant tree overlooking the far corner of the property. This land was special.

A street I never wanted was built. We sold the property on the other side of the street for two houses to be built. We eventually built a studio for my painting, complete with skylights. This house was more special than I ever dreamed it would be. How could we leave it? It was part of the family.

As I write this post, I look out over the woods beyond my writing studio window. The trees are barren this time of

"Winter Trees at Sunset" ©Mary Montague Sikes
year, but they still intrigue me. I have photographed and painted them through many seasons of the year. I will paint them again. I wonder what images they have seen over the years.

Hurricane Isabel ripped some of the largest trees in our woods from the ground. As the waters of the Mattaponi River overwhelmed the creek, the winds destroyed our orchard. We didn't replace the fruit trees. Now, a grassy knoll with green grass stretches where the trees once stood.

We love our house in the woods. Entering my painting studio or the writing studio brings me a feeling of joy. Our first house grew into our forever home. It would be difficult to leave this special place and all the memories that lie hidden inside these walls.

As seasons pass and leave their mark, trees are beautiful any time of year. A house rising among their branches is always special.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

What Journalists Expect from Your Website

"Sunset at 35,000 Feet" ©Mary Montague Sikes
Do you have a website? I expect that most of you do, especially if you are promoting either your book or your art, or maybe both.

Perhaps you have something unexpected on your site, like my sunset picture that would probably seem out of place unless you are promoting photographs. But it could be an attention-grabber if you wanted to draw someone in to take a longer look. Sometimes it's good to feature a surprise.

If journalists are looking at your site to find out more about you, will they like what they see? Will they find all the information they need to write your story or to want to contact you for more. If you are an author or an artist, you need publicity to develop your brand, to become known.

Here are some thoughts about what you need on your website:

1. A brief description of who you are and what you do. Example: Mary Elevator Jones is the author of five dynamic adventure novels, including the acclaimed, Up to the Sky, which has spent nine months at the top of the New York Times bestsellers list.

2. A list of your latest releases, including books (with covers and Amazon and/or publisher links) and magazine articles (if you write them).

3. Your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, and other contact information.

4. A short bio with photographs. Use large enough files (200 dpi) so the photos will be usable in an article written about you.

5. Your logo--get one if you don't already have it--, youtube videos (if you have them), book trailers.

6. Press coverage about you, including newspaper stories, radio, TV links, and anything else you think is pertinent.

7. Press releases about you and your work that are ready to use. Have pdf. and Word versions.

As I look at my list, I realize that I do not have all of this on my website. I need to take a look and add a lot.