Daddy's Christmas Angel

Monday, February 25, 2013

Tell Your Friends You Care

"Journey in the Sunset" ©MMSikes
Life is a fleeting moment in time. Things change. People go away. They die.

And it all happens so fast.

I think of how slowly time passed when I was a child. I wanted very much to be a grownup, and it took so long to happen. Now one Christmas turns into the next. Time flies.

We get swept up in the rush of life and forget to notice the people passing by. Then, all of a sudden, a job is lost. A friend dies. Change happens.

That's when we wonder about the passage of time.

It happened last week. Jean Keating, an author who along with three others and me wrote the book, Published! Now Sell It, passed away. She was bigger than life, and I can't imagine that her book event appearances, along with Puff her Pappion dog, will be no more. I admired her ability to get things done and her marketing savvy. I enjoyed seeing her and talking with her, but I never told her. Now it is too late.

Authors die. You lose more than the person, you lose the next book.

Change is one thing we have for certain. Wait a moment. Things will change.

Don't wait a moment to tell a friend you care. Don't wait to tell a writer or artist how much you admire his/her work.

You may not get another chance.

--Mary Montague Sikes

Friday, February 22, 2013

How Does What We Write Affect the World Around Us?

Last night, I viewed one of my favorite television shows, "A Person of Interest." During the course of the program, the young woman who was the lead character for the evening gunned down countless people. Her actions made a fast-paced production. But they also made me wonder. Are TV shows like this causing us to become insensitive regarding human life?

The main prime time presentations on the major networks appear to be crime shows that usually start off with a murder. The 11 p.m. news programs are filled with details and taped scenes from the latest murders. Our national news channels are dissecting the Oscar Pistorius crime from every angle. Are all these terrible events making us immune, or are they just making us paranoid?

I don't know.

Mystery/suspense are among the most popular fiction books on the market. We love to read stories filled with excitement, adventure, and danger. Since I've started at least three of my own books with a murder, I'm guilty as well. Fast-paced books are page-turners. They might even become bestsellers.

However, when I found a new review on Amazon today for one of my books, I started to evaluate the best thing for me to write. The review for Daddy's Christmas Angel was written by a former teacher, someone I don't know. She'd taught second grade like Angie in my story. She "loved the book" and "had a hard time putting it down." She cried at the end.

There is no murder in Daddy's Christmas Angel. It's just a sweet story about three people--a child and two adults--who are all lonely in their own ways. It's about people who need love and caring in their lives. We all need that.

I started to think that perhaps my next book should not start with a murder. Perhaps it should be just another love story...

After all, I have to believe that what we write does affect the world around us. That world already has too much murder and mayhem.

--Mary Montague Sikes

Monday, February 18, 2013

Symbolism in Writing - The Dragonfly

"Dragonfly Morning" (detail) ©Mary Montague Sikes
From the time I first started reading, I was captivated by symbolism. Of course, at a very young age, I didn't know what that word meant, but anything that brought pictures into my mind gave me joy.

These days, I enjoy creating images that symbolize or express an intangible ideal. I am especially intrigued by the dragonfly.

Did you know that certain cultures, like some tribes of the native American Indians, believe dragonflies are the souls of the dead? There are many other beliefs as well, such as they represent new beginnings, prosperity, happiness, and much more.

While I was working on my novel, Night Watch, we took a trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina. Upon our arrival, I heard a lot of commotion on the balcony outside our sliding glass door. Concerned, I went to see what was happening. To my surprise, a half-dozen or more dragonflies were flying around, bumping into the glass, with the light of the setting sun reflecting on their transparent wings. I was enchanted and in complete awe. It was like a sign because in my book, the dragonfly holds a special meaning. It is symbolic of the change taking place in my heroine's life. For many centuries, the dragonfly has been a symbol of change, so what better creature to be a part of my story?

Last week, I decided to make a painting with dragonflies in it. I then took a detail from my new art work and made a greeting card. Inside each card, I placed the following message on an insert:

"The dragonfly is a symbol of change, going beyond self-illusion to create new beginnings and happiness. Because their colors result from reflected and refracted light, dragonflies may be associated with color magic and illusion. For some Native Americans they represent the souls of the dead.

When Lily discovers the dragonfly necklace in Night Watch, she reconnects with a past she does not quite understand. The dragonfly represents all the change that has occurred in her life. It is a symbol of a new beginning for her, and it brings back a bit of magic into her life as well."

At my book signing, I focused on Night Watch and gave a copy of my new card and insert with each purchase of my books. The dragonfly represents magic and beauty to me.

Souls of the dead?

Perhaps. We know so little about life...

People are attracted to dragonflies. During the next few weeks, I plan to paint more of them.

--Mary Montague Sikes

Friday, February 15, 2013

Not Satisfied with Your Life, Then Change Something

Morning shows intrigue me, especially when they are about surveys. On the NBC Today Show this morning, they highlighted a survey about what caused people the most dissatisfaction in their lives. In this survey, appearance ranked highest. That started me thinking.

What can you do to your appearance that will make you happier? People are often dissatisfied with their weight. Take the Dr. Oz show, for example. How many diet changes has he shown? There always seems to be a new diet fad. What was important a few years ago--cholesterol levels--is now less important. Eggs were bad; now they are good. Now we need to go on a paleo diet and get rid of all gluten. It's a little confusing. What to do?

Just change something.

Buy a new shirt or dress--something different for you. Perhaps a brighter color or unusual pattern will make you smile.

Change your hair style. Add bangs to update your look. (I love bangs and had no idea they were ever out of style!)

Go to the gym. That's really important. It can change your life in a good way. If you exercise regularly, you won't need to go on a diet. For years, I've taken classes at least three times a week. If you attend a class, that will keep you on a schedule that you are more likely to stick to. Vary the kinds of classes, if possible. I take yoga, tabata, and zumba. I also play tennis.

"Nearing Touchdown" ©MMSikes
My mother always told me that health is everything. If you don't have good health, nothing else is important. Of course, she was right. That's why heading to the gym, or some place else, for exercise is essential.

Not satisfied with your life, then change something. Do what you always wanted to do, but never dared try. Take up skydiving, join a bridge club, take art lessons, join a theatrical group.

Just change something. You'll be glad.

--Mary Montague Sikes

Radio interview with Neal Steele. Hit the play link on Chesapeake Bay Writers home page.

 Insecure Writers Support Group