Thursday, November 18, 2010

Guest Blogger: Mary Montague Sikes

Please join me in giving a warm welcome to award-winning author Mary Montague Sikes, better known as Monti, as the special guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress as she makes a stop on her virtual book tour.

Monti’s latest release is NIGHT WATCH. She stops by today to talk about visiting Trinidad and writing NIGHT WATCH.

A few years ago when my husband and I decided to take a vacation to Trinidad, I was excited about the upcoming adventure. I’ve long been thrilled by travel experiences especially to new and exotic places. At the time, we were experimenting with timeshare exchanges and had been very happy with the trips we had taken. Our destinations included many islands in the Caribbean such as Sint Martin, St. Thomas, St. Croix, Antigua, Barbados, the Grenadines, Guadeloupe, and Jamaica (many times). Except for Jamaica, our trips were all timeshare exchanges.

We were especially intrigued that our exchange to Trinidad was to a small island off the coast located only 17 miles from Venezuela. Little did we know before we left that we were traveling to a resort that was new to timeshare. In many ways, that made the experience more unique because the resort manager even let us decide the dinner menu for each evening.

Upon arrival, it was a little disconcerting when we were transported from the airport in a rundown old car by men who stuck radios out the windows and made strange calls. It was also surprising to have two people holding flashlights meet us at a dark dock with a small, leaking boat powered by an outboard motor. We then actually traveled in the ocean past a big ship and other large vessels. Needless the say, because of the unnerving experience, I didn’t look forward to the return trip to the mainland. At one point, I wondered if we were indeed being kidnapped.

From the moment we landed in Piarco International Airport in
Port of Spain, our experiences were filled with excitement. The Gasparee Caves, Asa Wright Nature Center, and much more were part of the adventure. All of those experiences eventually became part of my mystery novel, NIGHT WATCH. Unlike Lily, my heroine, I was not alone. Had I been by myself in these adventures, I wonder if I could have been as brave as she is in my book.

Pulling from my own earlier adventure crossing the English Channel from Dover to the Hook of Holland, I start NIGHT WATCH with a disturbing situation on that body of water. This, of course, was a fictional event, but when I use my own encounters as part of the story, I feel more confident.

I hope my readers will enjoy these adventures as much as I enjoyed writing them. Over the years, we’ve loved our timeshare exchanges, and I plan to continue using these experiences in my books.

Monti, thanks so much for visiting here today. I can see where you might have thought you were being kidnapped there for awhile. Those types of adventures are great research for your writing.

Here’s a brief synopsis of NIGHT WATCH: “A resort in Trinidad is an ocean away from the English Channel, but at first Lily doesn’t comprehend the ties the locations have with gun-running and stolen artwork. Trying to become a photojournalist, Lily doesn’t have time to understand her own connection to the past as she deals with fear and danger in caves, a nature preserve, a car chase, and kidnapping in a speed boat heading to the Grenadines. Does she recognize the dragonfly necklace because of its symbolic meaning or because she is a “walk-in” who relates to reincarnation?”

To click NIGHT WATCH to see a video trailer of the book.

Now for a little background on Monti. Besides being an award-winning author, she is a freelance writer, photographer, artist, and teacher who loves to travel, especially to exotic tropical locations. The settings for her books and articles include Jamaica, Antigua, Trinidad, and St. Martin. Her most recent research trips carried her to Los Cabos on the western coast of Mexico, to Yellowstone National Park where she took over 500 photographs, and to Carmel-by-the-Sea where she marveled at photo opportunities wherever she turned.

The Fredericksburg, VA native is author of seven award-winning books. She presents workshops on promotion and marketing to state and national conventions as well as to many local writers groups. HOTELS TO REMEMBER, a coffee table book that includes the Jefferson Hotel, the Homestead, and the Hotel Del Coronado is illustrated with her artwork and photographs.

A founder of Virginia Romance Writers, Monti has served on the Board of Governors of the Virginia Writers Club and is a member and past president of the Richmond Branch of the National League of American Pen Women. Her poem and paintings are featured in Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincoln, an anthology of work by members of the National League of American Pen Women. She is included in Who’s Who in American Women.

Her paintings are exhibited widely in Virginia and are in private and public collections in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean. NIGHT WATCH, her latest novel, was released earlier this year. DANGEROUS HEARTS, a novella set in Virginia, was released by Red Rose Publishing in June.

For more on Monti and her writing, stop by her blog, Notes Along the Way, where you can find out about her contest and be sure to check out her stop tomorrow at KKBrees on Writing


  1. Monti, thanks so much for stopping by today and guest blogging. Your adventures, as well as your book, sound intriguing.

  2. Mason - Thanks for hosting Monti.

    Monti - Thanks for sharing your experiences in Trinidad. It's so interesting, I think, the way one's own experiences affect what one writes. And Trinidad sounds beautiful!

  3. It must be wonderful to travel like that!

  4. Thanks for a great post... I'm going to take a look at all of her books.

  5. Mason, thank you so much for having me as your guest today! It's an amazing experience to meet so many new people on my blog book tour.

    Margot, Diane, and Lou, thank you so much for your comments. I love to travel and have enjoyed using some of our crazy experiences as points of departure for my books.

  6. What an exciting trip your Trinidad experience was, Mary! I love it when real life has that way of sparking stories and situations to bring to our work. It's a great combination.

  7. Mason and Monti, thank you! How interesting the way the Trinidad trip influenced what Monti write. I love hearing how real life events spark story ideas.

  8. Welcome to Monti! She may not remember me, but we took a mixed media collage class together from Cathy Taylor at Cheap Joe's Art Stuff in Boone, NC. WHAT a small world!

    mason, I love it here!

  9. Next trip is there room for me in the trunk? Trinidad, even the name is an adventure.

    Mason, thanks for hosting Monti.

  10. wow! Monti sounds fascinating--photog, painting, VRW founder--and her books do too--love the locations! :o) This is great. Thanks, Mason!

  11. Thanks for commenting, Joanne. True experiences enrich our lives and our writing!

    Talli, thanks. It's amazing how things that appear tramatic at the time come around to help us out!

    Kaye, I'm sure I would remember your face. That class with Cathy Taylor was so much fun. She's such a positive person. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!

    Thanks Mary Vaughn for your comment. Trinidad does bring up adventurous thoughts!

    Thanks, LTM. As you can imagine, there's a lot going on at our house!

  12. I can see how you were inspired to create such a scary scene for your heroine Monti. I surely would have been freaked out by that experience.
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

  13. Hi Nancy,

    Thanks for your comment. In retrospect, I was probably a little more daring then than I might be now. It all happened prior to 9/11 which changed the way we look at the world!!!


  14. Thanks everyone for stopping by today. Sorry I've been away, a crazier day than usual.

    Monti, thanks again for guest blogging here today. Wishing you much success.

  15. I enjoyed reading the guest post. thanks for sharing about this author and her books.

    I'd also like to say that I like how the author has shared a different picture of herself for each stop on her blog book tour. I don't remember ever seeing another author do that. I think it helps to personalize each blog stop.

  16. Susanne,

    Thanks so much for commenting. As a visual artist, I enjoy variety in imagery. Thank you for noticing!!!


    Thanks for having me as your guest!

  17. Hi, Monti, this is one of my favorite blogs and favorite people. I didn't realize you were here or I wouldn've stopped by sooner. Hope to see you soon.


  18. Hi Mason and Monti .. that was really 'hook' drawing .. I loved the video .. and of course I want to know the link to Dover and the Hook of Holland .. sounds a really fascinating book .. somewhere sometime I shall pick it up and give it a good read.

    Loved the post and meeting Monti - intriguing life .. thanks Mason .. have good weekends .. Hilary

  19. Thanks, Hilary, for stopping by. I'm glad you like the video. Please let me know what you think when you read it!

  20. Thanks For blog with usable informations.


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