JAN’s TOP TEN Best Books for 2016

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Because I have read SO many fantastic books this year, I want to share with you the ones I enjoyed the most. Almost ALL of the amazing books on this list were written by Indie Authors!

#1     Pennies From Burger Heaven by Marcy McKay     Pennies-from-Burger-Heaven-3D-2-259x300

I had no trouble choosing the #1 book of the year for me. For months after I’d finished reading this one, it continued to haunt me. That, my friends, is the sign of a great story!

It is a gripping tale of an eleven-year-old homeless girl, Copper Penny who has lived on the streets with her mother for years. Their “home” is in the cemetery under an Angel statue. Copper awakes one morning to find her mother gone. She can’t find her anywhere and her search takes her into some scary, dangerous and gritty situations. You can read my full review here.

#2    To Love a Texas Ranger by Linda Broday                  texas-ranger-final

I didn’t choose this book to sit at #2 because Linda Broday is my sister. I chose it because it is such a HUGE story and the introduction to the Men of Legend Series. Stoker Legend has two sons (as far as he knows) and all he ever wanted was for them to help him run one of the largest ranches in Texas, The Lonestar Ranch. But, Sam Legend, has other desires and wants no roots. He is a hard-as-nails Texas Ranger but, a gang of outlaws hangs him and leaves him for dead. After a mysterious man saves his life, he is forced to return to the Lonestar to recuperate. What happens along the way will have you on the edge of your seat! You can read my full review here.

#3     Shadow of the Drill by Rhani D’Chae                          Shadow of the Drill

This is not a genre I normally read, but I was certainly glad I stepped out of my norm and picked up this book. The characters lingered with me long after I’d finished reading the last page. I couldn’t put it down as the story unfolded. Decker, The Drill, is hardened, tough and ruthless. He’s taken on the role of judge, juror and executioner and is on a mission to get revenge for an injustice that won’t stop haunting him. You can read my full review here.

#4      A Thousand Yesteryears by Mae Clair                      AThousandYesteryears_hires

I love character driven stories and this book by Mae Clair fits that description. When Eve Parrish returns to Point Pleasant to settle her aunt’s estate, she is in for more than one surprise. The story is based around a tragic bridge collapse that had happened when Eve was just a child. Many lives were lost including her father’s and her best friend. To cope with the loss, Eve’s mother moved them away and this is the first time she’s returned since the tragedy. I will tell you that this book has everything – romance, strong characters, paranormal, murder and a mythical creature. You can read my full review here.

#5       Lodestone Book 1 (Witch Hunt) by Wendy Scott     Lodestone

I  love paranormal books and was drawn into this one from page one. I couldn’t stop until I reached the end, and even then, I wanted it to continue. I hope that Wendy Scott is writing a sequel to this book…I will be watching for it. Sabrina has been at the ‘Healing School’ since she was a very small child. She finds herself thrown into chaos at her graduation when she learns she is the direct descendant of Lauren, a woman who is considered evil. She is given a diary, written in Lauren’s own hand, along with a sliver of stone, and is told she must leave the school. Now it is up to Sabrina to unravel the mystery surrounding Lauren’s Order and end its reign of terror. You can read my full review here.

#6       Jazz Baby by Beem Weeks                                          A+ Jazz Baby 2 Front Cover

This is a coming-of-age story about Emily Ann “Baby” Teagarten, who can sing. She has one dream and that is to be on the big stage singing Jazz. When she loses both of her parents within a few short months, the man who takes her under his wing seems to be the answer to her dream. But, as we continue through the story, we see the selfish motives of everyone who claims to want to help her. This is another character-driven book and the tragedies that “Baby” had to endure were heart-wrenching to say the least. You can read my full review here.

#7    Daydream’s Daughter/Nighmare’s Friend by Nonnie Jules  daydreams-daughter-cover 

This is a story of unimaginable abuse which eventually leads to murder. My heart broke for this young girl who suffered so much. There seemed to be no escape for her even in adulthood. As the story unfolds, Nonnie takes us inside scenarios that are unfortunately, all too common and all too real in life. You can read my full review here

#8     His Revenge by John Howell                                            his-revenge-resized        

This is the second book in the John Cannon series and again, is not my normal genre to read. However, I loved this book. It is gripping, full of adventure, danger and a high stakes game that can bring this country to its knees. John Cannon, the main character, stumbles into this story simply by chance and where it takes him will keep you on the edge of your seat! You can read my full review here.   

#9     Jem by Michelle Abbott                                                 jem     

The scars of abuse run deep from childhood to adulthood and Jem carries those scars physically and mentally. All he’s known is hatred and pain except for one, his angel, whose kindness he could never forget. He’s tough and determined not to take any crap from anyone. When his “angel” shows up in the oceanside town where he lives, how can he let her know that he’s never forgotten? This is a gripping romance with plenty of hardcore action to keep you turning the pages. You can read my full review here

#10    Novy’s Son – The Selfish Genius by Karen Ingalls     NOVY'S SON     

I gave this story a five star review and believe that every young man, as they come of age, should be required to read it. Murray Clark, the selfish genius, is destined to be a victim his entire life because he never takes responsibility for his own actions. Karen Ingalls takes us through nine decades with Murray’s story and she does it in such a way that the reader never loses interest. She refers to the “Iron John” philosophy throughout the book which turns out to be a story written by Robert Ely as a sort of guide book on how to be a man. Novy’s Son is a MUST READ for all young men!  You can read my full review here.

I cannot end this list of amazing books without mentioning one more.

Emotional Beats: How to Easily Convert your Writing into Palpable Feelings (Author Tools Book 1) by Nicholas Rossis   

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This book is an invaluable resource and reference book for all writers. Because of the way our brains are wired, readers empathize more strongly if you don’t name the emotion you are trying to describe. As soon as you name an emotion, readers go into thinking mode. And when they think about an emotion, they distance themselves from feeling it.

A great way to show anger, fear, indifference, and the whole range of emotions that characterize the human experience, is through beats. These action snippets that pepper dialogue can help describe a wide range of emotions, while avoiding lazy writing. The power of beats lies in their innate ability to create richer, more immediate, deeper writing.

This book includes hundreds of examples that you can use for your inspiration, so that you, too, can harness this technique to easily convert your writing into palpable feelings.

Well, there you have it. I enjoyed these and many more books throughout the year and all but two of these authors I discovered through the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB! It pays to belong! 

Of course, I’d be thrilled if you’d check out my own books and you can find them all here!

Or visit my website for more information!

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JAN’S TOP 10 Texas Music Picks 2016

 

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Over the past year, writing for a Texas Music Magazine I’ve had the honor of interviewing many Texas artists. As a result, I got to discover great new music first-hand.

So, I’m starting a new tradition this year by listing my TOP TEN picks of new Texas Music releases for 2016. This is based solely on my personal tastes and opinions. I do hope you’ll take time to listen to the song clips and decide for yourself!

#1.  Lovers and Leavers – Hayes Carll       hayes_carll_cover

Everyone who knows me also knows I am a huge Hayes Carll Fan. But, with this new album, “Lovers and Leavers” Hayes takes his songwriting to a whole new level. Perhaps that’s what being in love does for you. Check it out here.

#2.  Latest and Greatest – Jamie Richards   latestgreatestdigitalsmall

Jamie Richards is the most solid country music artist in the business. Even though he lives in Oklahoma, his heart resides in Texas as does his music. On this album, you’ll find some of Jamie’s standards, but five new songs showcase the reason Jamie has earned the title of Master Wordsmith of Red Dirt Music. Judge for yourself.

#3.   I’m Not The Devil – Cody Jinks                     i_mnotthedevil_044cac49-b9bc-4045-acc1-0370e9138074_large

I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Cody Jinks twice and each time, I fall a little more in love with the great human being he is as well as his music. On “I Ain’t The Devil,” you’ll find a mixture of what defines Cody – family, friends, God, music. Check it out

#4.   Ain’t Who I Was – Bonnie Bishop             bb-aint_who_i_was

I first got acquainted with Bonnie Bishop through a mutual friend around ten years ago. She is not only beautiful, but has a voice that cuts through. This new album shows her more soulful bluesy side. It’s her best yet and you can preview the album here

#5    Sam Colt and Jesus – Robby White            sam_colt

This album really got my attention. It is a TRUE concept album in that each song leads directly into the next, weaving a complete story. Robby kept the music simple and for a reason – he wanted the lyrics to be heard. It embodies everything that is Texas! Preview

#6     Sinner Man  –  Gus Samuelson               sinner-man-bottomland

I’ve always been a fan of Gus Samuelson’s music. However, the new Sinner Man CD holds a few surprises. Big Gus is a restlessly creative soul and brings his views and philosophy of life into his music. I love all of the tracks on this CD but if I had to choose one favorite today, it would be “In My Soul.” Here’s the link to preview.

#7     Polyester  –  John Evans                             polyester

Texas roots rocker, John Evans, released a comeback CD, the first in six years. It has been said about John’s music style that if Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly and Elvis Costello were to have a love child, John Evans just might be it. After listening to Polyster, I would say more like a combination of 50s rocker, Eddie Cochran and Jimi Hendrix. Here’s where you can listen

#8     Walkabout – Dolly Shine                              Walkabout

I received this CD to review and I have to tell you I was blown away! Every member of Dolly Shine contributes to the writing of their songs and are extremely talented players as well as writers. It would be hard for me to pick a favorite as I loved them all but I think “Rattlesnake” would take the favorite spot today. See what you think!

#9     Coming to a Honky Tonk Near You – Kevin Fowler   kf

Kevin Fowler has made quite a name for himself on the Texas Music scene over the years, but this new CD took him in a different direction. In an interview, Kevin told me that he was no longer chasing national radio airplay and simply recording songs that moved him in some way. There are lots of collaborations on this album and hands-down, my favorite song is “Texas Forever.” Listen here

#10    Love to Live by – Cooder Graw                     cg

Last but certainly not least on my list is a new EP from the rocking Texas band, Cooder Graw. With only six tracks, this new release packs a powerful punch. I love them all, but the title track, “Love to Live By” moved me and especially the video produced by Rock Williams. Listen to the CD here. Take a look at the Video here.

2016 was a great year for Texas Music. There were many other releases I loved, but I had to narrow it down to ten so picked from my heart.

Hope your favorite artist made my Top Ten!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Made It Into the TOP 5!

What a pleasant surprise to find this video in my Inbox this morning from the Texas Association of Authors! 

I made it into the TOP FIVE Bestselling Authors list.

What is TxAuthors?

Very simply put, it is a non-profit organization created to assist Indie Authors in Texas with the marketing of their books and this is done in a variety of ways.

  • DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) Texas
  • Texas Authors Institute of History (A museum dedicated to preserving Texas Literary History)
  • Lone Star Book Festival
  • Representation to the American Library Association as well as TLA
  • Website and Social Media support
  • A variety of Book Festivals held across the Lonestar state
  • Opportunity for readings in Libraries and Indie Book Stores
  • Writing Contests
  • Virtual Bookstore as well as a traveling Bookstore
  • Dedicated work with Texas Government officials for author recognition
  • BlogTalk Radio Shows

This is simply a brief list of ways that the Texas Association of Authors supports authors who live in the State of Texas, or as the founder of the organization says, whose heart is in Texas.

If you think this organization may be helpful to you, I invite you to take a look and decide for yourself.

In the meantime, I am ecstatic that I made the TOP FIVE list of Bestselling Authors in the organization!

 

HANDS – A #Christmas Story

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A heavy blanket of snow covered the city. tdy_dylan_storm_160125

The commute had been brutal and after finally arriving at my office building, two hours late, I hurried across the street to the front door.

Homeless people are not an uncommon sight in the city. We become immune to them after a while. Why don’t they just get a job like the rest of us?

But, on this frigid morning, I found my attention drawn to a thin man huddled against the wall as if he could somehow draw warmth from the bricks.

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Humph! Well, he made the choice to be out in this blizzard. But then, my attention went to his hands. He wore a coat and hat, but no gloves. As I watched, he drew his coat collar up higher and tugged his hat down, then thrust his hands into his pockets.

I wore expensive leather fur-lined gloves and still  my hands were numb. I couldn’t imagine how his frozen his fingers must burn from the cold. While I watched, he drew them back out of his pockets, blew on them, then quickly thrust them back inside as if to hold that minute bit of heat.

I rushed through the door into the warmth of the building, the man forgotten. After all, as I said, it is a common sight in the city.

At lunch, I dashed outside with two co-workers to the Deli two doors down. Once again, the thin man with no gloves drew my attention. I must be getting soft. Maybe because it’s almost Christmas and we all get sentimental around the holiday.

What was it about him? He didn’t hold a sign and didn’t appear to be begging. He simply appeared to be melting into the side of the building he leaned against. Then he raised his eyes to meet mine and I saw a depth of pain that shook me down to my toes. Once again, I turned my back and darted into the Deli to a bowl of hot soup.

Maybe I should take some to the man. That would ease my conscience. When I checked out, I ordered a bowl to go. After my co-workers headed back inside, I made my way through the drifts across the street to the thin man. Without a word, I approached and held out the sack from the Deli.

He looked away as if embarrassed.

“Here. I got this for you. Maybe it will help warm you.”

His hands trembled when he took the bag. He mumbled. “Thanks, mister.”

“Do you have somewhere you could go to get out of the cold today?”

He shook his head.

“Well, try to stay warm.” I turned and rushed back to work.

That evening, as I pulled on my fur-lined leather gloves, I once again thought of the thin man and his cold hands.

When I stepped out onto the snowy sidewalk, he remained huddled in the same spot that he’d been glued to all day. Once again, I trudged across the street.

“Hey, mister. You’re going to freeze to death out here. You need to go to the Salvation Army or somewhere.”

Tears filled the old man’s eyes when he looked up at me. “She’ll be here any minute.”

“Someone is coming to get you?”

He nodded.

“Well, then the least I can do is give you some gloves to help keep your hands warm while you wait.” I slipped off my expensive gloves and thrust them into the man’s hands.

He gave me a toothless grin and slipped them on. He flexed his fingers, nodded and huddled even closer to the building.

When I turned to walk away, I knew the old man would be dead before morning and he would die with my fur-lined gloves on. I couldn’t stop the tears that filled my eyes.

I plunged my now cold hands deep into my pockets and made my way toward the train for the long journey home. Somehow I felt redeemed by giving the old fellow my gloves.

When I passed by a department store, I ducked inside and bought a new pair for myself.

Cold hands, warm heart. Wasn’t that how the saying went?

Merry Christmas!

“It is better to give than to receive.”

Phrases

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It’s that time of year

When we feel nostalgic

The tree stands tall

And Jingle Bells we hear…..

Phrases are often what triggers the memory of a person, especially once they have passed on.

Rick Sikes’ favorite saying and one he lived by was, “Always do the best you can with what you have where you are.” It was coined by Teddy Roosevelt, but fit Rick’s life philosophy.

He said lots more and many of them passed down through his family such as, “Colder than a well digger’s ass,” and “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

My mother had several, but the one I heard hundreds of times throughout her life was this bit of advice – “Just back your ears and do it.” 

Anytime I face a difficult task today, I can hear her saying it still. When she passed, I wrote Mama’s House as a tribute to her in song. That phrase had to be included in the lyrics.

My grandpa, who died when I was a teenager, had a pat answer whenever anyone asked him how he was getting along. He would always say, “Oh, fair to middlin’.” 

It has been said that as long as one person on earth still remembers you, that you are never truly gone.

I’d love to hear some of the phrases that have stuck with you and that you remember someone by.

Merry Christmas and Happy Winter Solstice day!  cowboychristmaswp

And, just in case you are still looking for a Christmas gift, I have specials on books and CDs through my website.

 

 

 

Release Day for A Cold Tomorrow #suspense #mystery #mothman #RRBC

Author, Mae Clair has a new book. Part 2 of the Point Pleasant series. I can tell you from reading Book one, A Thousand Yesteryears, that Part 2 is destined to be just as great of a read! I’ve downloaded my copy. Merry Christmas to me!!!!!

From the Pen of Mae Clair

Happy book birthday to me! 🙂

It’s release day for A COLD TOMORROW, book 2 in my Point Pleasant series.

creepy dirt road at night with the book cover for A Cold Tomorrow by author Mae Clair in the foregroundTake a trip with me to 1982 and the small riverside town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Discover a community beset by a series of inexplicable events—strange lights in the sky, the arrival of mysterious men in black clothing, sightings of a winged monster known as the Mothman. If all of that sounds like a bizarre combination, these events actually befell Point Pleasant during the period of 1966-67, most of them documented in the book The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel.

I’ve resurrected those incidents, setting them fifteen years later in the early 1980s. My central characters get caught up in otherworldly and supernatural events related to UFOs and the Mothman, just to name a few. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ve probably seen the blurb, but…

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1920s Party — Three Things Serial Story

What a FUN Blogger’s party with many of my favorites, John Howell, Tina Frisco, Chris the Storyreading Ape and many more!

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Three Things Serial 1920s Party!  

Welcome! Come on in — join the fun.  We’re all dudded up in our snazziest clothes, ready to enjoy great dancing, food, and friends.  Yes, it’s a Roaring Twenties shindig.  So in a comment, leave a link to your books, blog, or to your favorite 1920s food, drink, or entertainment. That’s what makes the party.

ape-tuxedo-cigarDon’t panic!  That really is a great ape in his tuxedo, getting the buffet ready, but it’s none other than Chris The Story Reading Ape.  He’s dishing up the fruit cocktail, and yes, that is made with bananas!  

That’s Tess with him, putting some finishing touches on the Swiss steaks.  I see Andrea Stephenson has brought a delicious lemon meringue dessert.  Thanks for your help everyone.  It’s looking mighty tasty! You’re the bee’s knees.  

(Excuse me while I answer the door…)  KathrynCome in —…

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#REVIEWS

rosesWhoever said “Reviews are like receiving a bouquet of roses” expressed it perfectly as to how an author feels when he/she receives an honest review of their work.

I am grateful to have received numerous reviews of my books and only today realized there is one easy place to view them all!

So, I wanted to share that with you.

Many of these reviews came from members of the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB, for which I am eternally thankful!

Of course, I’d be thrilled if you check out the reviews and even more thrilled if you are inclined to purchase the books, read and review them!

ALL REVIEWS OF JAN SIKES’ BOOKS ON AMAZON

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Smorgasbord Christmas Party Playlist – DJ’s Texas Holdem Howell and Ape The Swinger Graham.

An entertaining break from the holiday stress!!

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Christmas playlist

It is time to get into nostalgia mode and slow things right down with Blue Christmas by the King himself…. Elvis Presley…selected  by D.J…Texas Holdem Howell –AKA John W. Howell..  John dazzles with his creative story-telling and holds the record for the longest Texas Two Step in history lasting all the way from San Antonio to San Padre in  24 hours.. Not a dude to mess with.

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John Howell, Amazon:http://www.amazon.com/John-W.-Howell/e/B00HMRWO6C
Blog:http://www.johnhowell.com

Christmas playlist

Our next guest vinyl spinner is very familiar to everyone with his day job but few of you know of his night time activities as DJ Ape the Swinger GrahamAKA The Story Reading Ape.  Of course his idea of a good party is getting people on there feet to dance to his favourite food themed dances such as The Cabbage Patch, The Ketchup song, Little Apple and the Mashed…

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Sunday #StoryTime

 

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I want to tell you a story. That’s what writers do, right?

This story is about a man who had a band and traveled the Southwest playing music. He’d grown up poor and discovered at a young age that he had a talent for writing and playing music. By the time he was out of high school, he’d formed his first band and played rodeos and fairs.

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The life of a road musician is often long and rocky. And, although he loved writing and performing music, he found himself caught on a merry go round – lots of booze, drugs and women.

After twenty years, he wanted off. He was burnt out and sullen. He’d blown two marriages and had four kids to support.

Maybe it was inevitable that he would be tempted by so-called easy money.

And this is where I met him.

In less than a year, from the time I met him, he was arrested and convicted on two counts of armed bank robbery.

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He’d never believed he could be found guilty of a crime he hadn’t committed. And, although he had been an accessory to the robberies, he’d never gone inside a bank with a gun and robbed it. But, because he wouldn’t rat out the men who’d done it, he got the full sentence.

Now, I’m telling you this story for a reason. There is a point to it.

You can well imagine that by the time he arrived at Leavenworth Penitentiary with 25 year federal sentence and another 50 years from the State of Texas, to run consecutively, he was angry, bitter and rebellious. He never thought he’d see freedom again in his lifetime.

He often said that he believed he’d reached a point in his life where he didn’t care about anything anymore. But, when the steel doors started closing behind him, locking him in the depths of the prison, he truly understood the meaning of caring. He left family, a lifetime of music and regional stardom, and he left children. He found that he cared more than he ever dreamed possible.

He had a decision to make.

It took him about three years to finally realize that he wasn’t going to change prison and prison wasn’t going to change him.

He learned that all he could control were his thoughts and actions. He couldn’t control his environment or other people.

And that’s when he made a life-altering decision.

He made up his mind to be, think and do positive things, to become a worthwhile human being. He learned that the best way to serve his time was by staying busy. He’d always been a writer and somewhat of an artist, but he discovered, among other things about himself, that he had true artistic talent.

He buried himself in words, paintings and any other art form he had access to. He taught himself to do Indian Beadwork. He learned to make jewelry, paint with oils and watercolors, but his true passion lay in pen-and-ink drawings.

He compiled a complete book of poetry and art. He wrote hundreds of songs, short stories and even wrote a screenplay. He learned to make and fire ceramics and tool leather.

He advocated for and after many years of asking, was given permission to build a recording studio inside Leavenworth. He had a burning desire to get songs to the outside world. To my knowledge, it was the only fully operational studio inside any federal prison.

 

luke-stone-at-mixing-board-recording-studio-leavenworth  homemade-console-recording-studio-leavenworthThe day he made the choice to think, be and do positive changed him forever.

So, that my friends is the point of the story.

You can’t control your environment or those around you. You only have control over yourself – your thoughts, your words, your actions.

I wrote this man’s story in my four books. It starts in the Texas honky-tonks with Flowers and Stone. Then, moves forward to the prison years, with The Convict and the Rose. He did finally get released from prison after serving fifteen years. Home At Last tells that part of the story. Then the last book in the series, ‘Til Death Do Us Part ends the journey with the man’s passing in 2009.

The poetry and art book, Discovery, is filled with pieces of his heart and soul as well as some of his amazing pen-and-ink drawings.

I encourage you to read the story and let it inspire you to make a better life for yourself. Sometimes it is helpful to see how someone else did it.

My goal is to get a copy of The Convict and the Rose and Discovery into every prison library in the country. It is a lofty goal, but one I believe in.

Remember the old Indian saying: “There are two wolves at war within you – one positive and one negative. Which one will win? The one you feed.”

Thank you for listening to my story today.

Think about your talents. How can you make your today better? It’s all up to you.

Do you have any questions or comments?

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