Daddy's Christmas Angel

Monday, July 21, 2014

Crater Lake National Park Provides Great Photo Ops

"Mt. Hood" ©Mary Montague Sikes
Flying into Portland, Oregon en route to Crater Lake National Park provided the first of many photo ops in a lovely and scenic state. As we approached our landing, Mt. Hood appeared on the horizon. This was the best view of the iconic mountain that I had for our entire trip.

Our daughter, Allison, has been planning our Crater Lake visit for almost a year. She and her sisters, Alicia and Amy, were not disappointed in the many hiking trails that offered even more chances to take pictures in a variety of scenic locations.

En route to our destination, we stopped at Cline Falls State Park where we had a chance to see a different kind of water view. We stopped and took more pictures at the quaint town of Sisters. Our daughters enjoyed seeing the Three Sisters Mountains located not far away.

"Cline Falls State Park" ©Mary Montague Sikes

While at Crater Lake, we stayed at the Lodge which was constructed in 1915. It sits on the edge of caldera (volcanic basin) and overlooks the lake. Extensive renovations in 1995 left it with a 1920s appearance. Two mornings during our stay, I went outside onto the hotel verandah before 5 a.m. to photograph the predawn hour. The first morning was hazy from the smoke of a forest fire. The second morning was much clearer, and I marveled at the sudden appearance of the bright sun on the lake's edge at 5:45 a.m.

"Crater Lake Lodge" ©Mary Montague Sikes


The majestic scenery that one finds at Crater Lake National Park is glorious and well worth the drive to visit this extraordinary park. We took the Rim Drive shuttle the first day we were there. The Park Ranger volunteer was vivacious and extremely helpful on the tour around the lake that featured numerous photo stops.

For those who appreciate the National Park system the way we do, Crater Lake is a must visit. Thank you, Theodore Roosevelt and all the other far-sighted people who have made the National Parks possible. Thank you for saving our beautiful land.

"Overlooking Crater Lake" ©Mary Montague Sikes
"Crater Lake Sunrise" ©Mary Montague Sikes

Friday, July 11, 2014

Giving Up on a Long Journey with a Writers Group

"Setting Sun" ©Mary Montague Sikes
Once upon a time long ago I read a newspaper article about romance novels being a new "cottage industry". I was intrigued. I was hooked. I could write one of those books.

Not long after my "discovery" I attended a conference sponsored by the Richmond Branch of the National League of American Pen Women. It was following one of the writing panels that a speaker told me about Romance Writers of America. At the time, it was a fairly new organization. I was excited. I was thrilled. I joined.

The group had a magazine, not slick but very informative. I read it each month from cover to cover. I also attended the national conference which was held in Minneapolis/St. Paul that year. It was the first of many national conferences that fed my thirst for learning all I could about romance writing.

That same year, four nationally known romance writers came to Richmond to speak to a crowd of excited readers and wannabee writers. My fantasy grew. I looked at all the people gathered in the tea room of the iconic Miller and Rhoads department store. It was amazing. Why couldn't we have our own romance writers group? I suggested it to the woman seated across from me, and we passed around a signup sheet that was the beginning of Richmond Romance Writers (now Virginia Romance Writers).

Not long after the formation of our chapter, several members got contracts with Harlequin, a major publisher of romance novels. Our little group was thrilled for them, and we were inspired to write more and try harder. Over the years, Virginia Romance Writers has produced many published authors. The chapter has worked hard to present programs to educate and guide members to publication. It has been a major success story.

Each year I looked forward to the summer conference. I loved the settings that included Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas, Denver, Anaheim, and New York City. I still read the magazine, now quite slick, from cover to cover.

Along the way, I discovered I couldn't write to formula, a requirement for most of the romance series. I wanted an artist for the heroine or a sports figure for the hero. That was not a good thing at the time.

When I did reach publication, it was with a small publisher, not recognized by RWA. I was disappointed. I loved the group, and I was proud of my accomplishment.

In recent years, I have lost interest in attending the national conferences. My VRW chapter meetings are on the same day each month as meetings of the artist organization to which I also belong. I have chosen to attend the art meetings which feature excellent workshops instead of the writing meetings which also feature wonderful programs. I no longer read the magazine.

Things change. My membership comes up for renewal at the end of this month. I have decided not to renew. That means I can no longer be a member of the local chapter of which I am a founder. I am sad about that.

It is really hard to give up on such a long journey that has provided many memories both good and bad. It is difficult to accept change. As I look at the beautiful website of Romance Writers of America, I realize I am still uncertain what to do.

What do you think? Is giving up my membership also giving up a dream? I don't know.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Using Quotes With Images We Can Pin

In recent months, I have grown more interested in adding images to Pinterest. I haven't added a lot, but I have pinned photographs from my blog on a weekly basis. Today, I discovered--thanks to Dani At Blogbooktours--an interesting post about how to get more shares on social media. The post describes ways to design and use image quotes. It also tells about as one of the websites that will help you make a shareable quote.

Another site mentioned is  Recite This. I tried it with my favorite Albert Einstein quote. More photo options are available than with Quozio, so it is another one to check out.

I'm also experimenting with Canva which features a lot of options for using your own designs. However, I have not figured out how to use image quote I created on my blog. Also, I did not like the feature that when I posted to Twitter, I could not change the wording they inserted. I also saw no way to post on Pinterest.

This is really a promising tool to use for promotion and just for fun. Unfortunately, it is also another way to drain the limited time a writer has each day. However, most of us enjoy quotes, so this is a method to make better use of them.

If you try any of the sites, please let me know what works for you. So far, I like Quozio best because it's easy and quick to use.

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.