Etchings In Stone

I’ll never forget coming home from work one evening in 2002, to find Rick excited about a new song project.

We were in the planning stages for his new CD, “Etchings In Stone,” and he wanted someone to collaborate with him in writing the title track. He’d reached out to several of his songwriter friends, but so far no one had been inspired. That was until that day.

He told me to go to the phone in the bedroom and he placed a call, then yelled for me to pick up.

I did and found our good friend, John Beam, on the other end.

“John’s written the song I need to put on the album,” Rick said.

Then he proceeded to ask John to play and sing it. Tears ran down my cheeks while I listened and I had chill bumps all over. The song was the profound emotion-filled song that we’d been searching for.

So, with a little work and tweaking, we had the title track, “Etchings In Stone.”

I’d love it, if you’d listen! “There once lived a man, who did etchings in stone. He told others’ stories, but could not tell his own…”

It was with great sadness that I learned of John Beam’s passing three days ago. He was only 61 and his story intertwined with our lives from way back in the sixties.

Rick and his band, The Rhythm Rebels, played the historic London Dance Hall near Junction, Texas, on a regular basis throughout the fifties and sixties. John Beam was just a little boy, and his family came to every dance Rick played. Even at that young age, John had the passion and desire to play music. He would stand in front of the stage, play air guitar and mouth every word to the songs that Rick sang.

In my book, “Flowers and Stone,” I wrote a scene where Luke Stone (aka Rick) was playing at the London Dance hall one New Year’s Eve. During the course of the evening, he got the John up on stage, strapped his guitar around the boy’s neck and lowered the microphone. John sang and played for the first time in public.

After that, he never stopped. Once Rick returned home from prison, John quickly came back into our lives and never left. At Rick’s funeral, John sat with our family. Why? Because he was family.

He and his wife and children lived in Mason, Texas. He was the first to raise his hand whenever anyone needed help and the last to back down when someone needed defending. He had a passion for classic cars, Harleys and country music. He loved his family fiercely and was loyal to his friends. He will be missed.

So, this post is a tribute of sorts to John Beam, the man and the music. You can find several of John’s songs on Reverbnation. But I am sharing one of the most personal songs he ever wrote, “Three Old Cans of Beer,” about the Vietnam Wall. John was a veteran.

I don’t know how to properly say goodbye or to give this man the credit he deserves other than to write about it. I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting John Beam.

Life is short, folks. Friends are a precious gift. Don’t waste any of your gifts!

Rick Sikes and John Beam

#Writing Journey

I am often asked the question, “When did you first start writing?”

To the best of my memory, I was around eight when I wrote my first string of words that made sense. I had an alcoholic uncle whom I adored. He lived with us off and on throughout my growing up years and occasionally he’d twist off, so Mom would make him move out. During one of those episodes,  I was worried about him, so I wrote a gospel song about Uncle Luke finding Jesus.

But, before that, I can remember loving anything written. I loved the Dick and Jane books in first grade. I loved fairy tales. I loved reading and devoured books of all kinds. In fifth grade, I checked out the Grimm’s Book of Fairy Tales so many times they had to make a new library card.

Grimm's

Ah, the smell of libraries. I still love them. I never outgrew my love for reading. It was my entertainment, education, and adventure. And it still is!

Fast forward many years where I found myself in a serious songwriting vibe. My late husband, Rick, was a singer/songwriter and several years after we’d married, he pulled his vintage Martin D35 out from under the bed and returned to writing and playing the music he loved.

I wanted desperately to join him. I loved singing harmony with him, but I wanted to play. We had a second-hand/antique store, and some guy stopped in one day and sold Rick an old banjo. He took the instrument apart and put a guitar neck on it to create a Gitjo. And it was on that instrument I learned my first chords.

Darlina_Gitjo1 (2017_03_11 18_36_10 UTC)

When he saw  I was dead serious about learning, he bought me a 3/4 size Applause guitar for my birthday. I was fifty years old. So, NEVER let anyone tell you are too old to learn something new!

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And it took off from there. I played on that little guitar every day and we wrote songs every day. When I’d get home from my day job, I’d hurry to put supper on the table so that we could toss around ideas, chords, melodies, and lyrics. It was an exciting part of life for me. We booked gigs and I got to play and sing on stage with him.  We built a recording studio so that we could record our songs, and we published our own music.

But, now those are simply fading memories with pictures and CDs to prove it all happened. And I moved on after his death, in another direction of writing.

Compelled to tell our story (his and mine) I began to write books.  And, I decided that I would continue to promote our music by releasing a music CD with each book that matched the time period of the story.

The first book, Flowers and Stone, was a HUGE learning curve for me. I am often tempted to pull it down and rework it and I may some day.

flowers_and_stone_3d_cover       3d_early_rec

Set in 1970, this is the beginning of an epic love story with a musical twist as Luke Stone and Darlina Flowers (our fictitious names) travel the roads of Texas with Luke’s band. It is real and raw with a devastating conclusion.

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The second book in the series, The Convict and the Rose, is not only the story of Luke’s determination to survive many years behind prison bars, but Darlina’s own struggle to survive in a prison of her own where the bars were invisible. It is inspiring with a lesson in turning a negative situation into a positive one. This book garnered my first writing competition award – First Place in the Biographical Fiction Category from the Texas Association of Authors!

       Jan Sikes CD

Ah, the reunion. Finally,  Luke and Darlina earn a chance to build the life they’ve always dreamed of. But, the struggles are real and the price of love is high.  Home At Last won two First-Place writing awards.

    Jan Sikes CD

Then, all too soon, it’s over. Twenty-five years seemed like nothing. But, this is not a book about death. Instead, it is a book about living and wringing the most out of every moment – ‘Til Death Do Us Part.

I never stopped learning as I moved through this writing journey. I always strived to make each book better than the one before, while continuing to tell this true story. Thank God for my older sister, Linda Broday, who helped guide me along the way. I took classes. I learned about POV and head-hopping, sentence structure, show-don’t-tell, and passive voice vs. active voice. And guess what! I’m still learning and still striving to be better.

I released one more book, a beautiful expression of poetry and art. It is a combination of poems from both Rick and myself and pieces of his amazing artwork accompany them.  Discovery is available in hardback, paperback, and eBook.

Is my writing journey over now that I’ve told this story? Oh goodness, NO! I’m almost done with my first fiction novel, which I’ve entitled When Two Worlds Collide. It has been so much fun to create and live vicariously through these fictitious characters. I’m fully invested in them and their story as it unfolds in my imagination.

I also write for two magazines. Buddy Magazine is the Original Texas Music Magazine for which I interview artists, review CDs and feature innovative, creative, and talented musicians. The Oklahoma Farm and Ranch Magazine has a music section and I have the honor and privilege of filling it each month.

Will I ever stop writing? No. I don’t think so. 🙂

For more, visit my Website

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I am a member of the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB where I sit on the Board of Directors

I am a huge fan of The Texas Musicians Museum, where I also am a board member.

The Texas Author’s Institute of History is a place where Texas literary works are preserved and I am a board member of that organization as well.