Daddy's Christmas Angel

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Good Health is a Writer Asset

"Tennis Match" acrylic/canvas ©Mary Montague Sikes
"If you have your health, you have everything."

That's what my mother told me many times through the years. As I've grown older, I've learned to appreciate her philosophical commentary more and more. For writers, no words could be more true. After all, writing can be a sedentary occupation, sitting before a computer, often slouched or hunched forward.

"Valerie's Star"
I probably am fortunate that for many years I was a tennis fanatic. During the summer, I played singles tennis every day, sometimes all day long. Jerry Horner (in my painting) was our instructor for a number of years. He also was athletic director at Rappahannock Community College, so that's where we sometimes went to play matches. I loved it, and the play in summer heat definitely conditioned me. It also gave me a need to continue physical fitness when winter cold prevented outdoor play.

Twenty-three years ago, I was delighted to discover Riverside Fitness & Wellness Center in Gloucester, Virginia. Valerie Morgan had a great aerobics/ fitness program in place, and I learned that indoor tennis at the Denbigh Riverside Center was included with my membership. Over the years, Valerie has created many year-long fitness challenges. The most recent was completing 130 classes in celebration of the 30 years the Center has been open. Valerie made a special star Christmas decoration for everyone who completed the challenge. I did and will treasure my star. Over the years, I have kept up my fitness which was needed for my art as well as writing.

The Varidesk is another important fitness element that I discovered about three years ago. This is a wonderful desk for writers that can be adjusted for both seated and standing work. Since my husband purchased a Varidesk for me, I have always used it standing.

Beside physical fitness, the writer also needs to eat healthy and rest well to set the tone for great plots and energetic writing sessions.

"If you have your health, you have everything."

Mother was right.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Who Is the "Passenger to Paradise"?

A few years ago, my publisher, the late Billie Johnson, decided to create the "Passenger to Paradise" series for my novels. Because the books were set in exotic locations such as the tropical island of Jamaica and the red rock landscape of Sedona, Arizona, Billie thought they deserved a special imprint for the series. So, together she and I designed the "Passenger to Paradise" logo.

Like me, the shadow in the logo image loves to travel. Her carry-on bag is always packed, allowing her to leave at a moment's notice for whatever outlandish or glamorous destination calls. She races through airports, roller bag in tow. She never checks her suitcase because the extra time retrieving luggage might be just what she needs to grab the last cab or catch a ride on a horse-drawn wagon in some faraway place. 

One day, a package arrived with a surprise in it. Tearing open the box, I discovered that Billie had sent me a T-shirt featuring the "Passenger to Paradise" logo. That T-shirt is a treasure for me now.

Hearts Across Forever was the first book of the series. With Billie gone, I have a new publisher for that one as well as the rest of the "Passenger to Paradise" novels.

Dunns River Falls forever beckons to me, calling me back to Jamaica and the perfect temperatures for romantic tropical nights. Reggae music reminds me of the adventures of Kathryn Calder and Flynt Kincade, the mysterious man from beyond all her possible memories. Throughout this story and the haunting images of old Jamaica, the mystic picture of Rose Hall Great House rises into my thoughts.

So many imposing paintings evolved on canvas, created from photos and memories of the falls. One hung for many years at the Richmond Marriott Hotel. The four by six-foot canvas had an impressive linen mat and a wide gold frame. Where it is now, I do not know because it disappeared a few years ago in the redecorating and refurbishing of the hotel structure. Four of the magical Jamaican paintings are now hanging at the Ward Center for Contemporary Art in Petersburg. A Rose Hall acrylic on canvas became part of my coffee table book, Hotels to Remember. 

Over the years, the "Passenger to Paradise" has had an amazing time as she followed her dreams, met new people, and placed the most interesting and appealing ones between the covers of her books. The new cover for Hearts Across Forever will be revealed soon. All the "Passenger to Paradise" books will be republished one by one throughout the year.

Who is the mysterious "Passenger to Paradise"? You can find out for yourself through the pages of her books and in the brushstrokes of her paintings.