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

A Story of Love and Time

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a Rick Sikes original story and this one always touched me. Of course he writes in parables, but I see the comparisons clearly. Enjoy!

A STORY OF LOVE AND TIME BY RICK SIKES

     I can’t tell you why men write and I have been thinking pretty hard on it these past few hours. It could be a man finds something inside of him so damn beautiful that he wants to get it down on paper before it slips away. I guess it could be that a man stumbles onto a thought so damned earth-shaking he figures just about everybody should get a chance to hear it. Who knows? Not me. I ain’t no writer. I’m a cowboy…

     But, here I am writing!

     It all started last night. You see, when the whistling West Texas wind drives chariots of tumbleweed across this God-forsaken plain, a man finds his body creeping closer to the fire as surely as he finds his mind seeking the warmer memories of his past… and last night was black ice, raw and bitter… and as surely as my fire drew me to its warmth, one of my memories drew my soul… until… like a Roman Candle exploding in huge darkness, I saw that memory in a new light… and I was wanting to write it down… so I could share it… earth-shaking or not…

     So, here I am, sitting on my saddle, with a pencil in my ol’ paw and an empty stomach, doing two things I ain’t never done before…

     Missing breakfast and writing a story!

     But, sometimes a thought can feed what a meal can’t. Depends on a man’s hunger I reckon.

     I know the thoughts in the Good Book used to feed my mama, and I can remember a teacher I had once, years ago. They fed me so much poetry that my heart was filled to bursting because I couldn’t let it out for fear that my pals would laugh me to shame.

     Funny, ain’t it… how one thought leads on to another? And that brings me to the memory I discovered last night.

     I grew into manhood on a rocky Texas ranch. Pa died early. Ma still lives on the place. The soil ain’t good for nothing but cactus and windstorms on that place and it weren’t no different when I was growing up. But, we had some times on the old place worth remembering, and I find it’s true the older I get, a few things happened there a boy had to grow into understanding. My story’s about one of those things.

     There was an old billy goat on our place. He was wild and wicked, crafty and cantankerous and smelly and scrawny. He was also lonely. His smell would gag a buzzard and he was so scraggly looking that the horned-toads paraded their ugliness past him like it was finery. Pa used to say, when we’d catch a glimpse of that ol’ goat, he was so poorly looking that he’d force a train to take a dirt road. I always smiled and nodded.

     Pa died in the winter of my fourteenth year. Later the same year, April I think it was, I came up on a sight which I didn’t give much thought to ‘til last night. I was with our hired hand and his boy, Junior Bascomb.

     Junior was my best and only friend growing up. He was two years older than me and I always thought of him as a kind of god. I guess he must’ve known the answer to every growing-up question I ever wanted to ask.

     Anyway, we rode up on one of the prettiest roses a man could ever want to see. Right next to that rose, laid out and dry, was the bones of that ol’ billy goat. I can remember Junior Bascomb saying, “Well, now, ain’t that the purdy’est rose you ever seen?” And his Pa answering, “It surely is.” I can remember how we all noticed the skeleton of that ol’ goat and sort of laughed when Junior’s Pa said the old billy would’ve eaten it sure.

     Junior wanted to pick the rose for a little gal he was seeing in town, but his Pa told him to leave it where it grew. When Junior asked why, his Pa said, “Well, son, I think it’s kinda nice for old Billy, onery cuss he was, to have such a purdy flower growing there by his grave…”

     And we rode on…

     And I’ve been riding on ever since.

      I’ll be fifty come June.

    But, somewhere between then and now, I’ve come to look on that long ago day with a different view… and I guess my story is a little more than the story of an old billy goat and his rose. Just as a man sees things a tad different than a boy… because in my man’s soul I can almost see that old, lonely billy goat wandering through his empty days. That lonely little rose was solitary but splendid; nourished by a tiny stream and hemmed in by a few weeds.

    I can see the old billy goat coming up to that little rose, and I can see him wanting to eat it, but he didn’t because he felt something just in looking at it that he hadn’t felt in years.

     He felt younger, richer and less lonely.

     So, he grazed all around the area and he fell in love with the awesome intensity only an old creature can feel. The sight of the rose made him spry and the scent of the rose put him in a romantic mood. One day, he became so jealous of the weeds growing around his rose that he tore them from the ground and gobbled them down in a frenzy that he hadn’t felt in years. They tasted terrible in his mouth, but seeing them gone made him feel pure in his soul. He had never been so happy. At night, the warm breeze blew the fragrance of his rose softly into his nostrils and he slept well.

     The summer passed well. Every day began with the sight of his lovely, dew-kissed rose, and every day ended with perfume and dreams.

     But as summer ended and the rose began to fade, the old goat began to eat less and less and worry more and more. When the frost came, chilling and killing his love, it killed something in the old goat too. One by one, the petals dropped from the rose into the dust and the old goat followed soon after.

    Every year, around spring the rose returned to bloom beautifully, beside the bleached bones of the old billy goat. Eventually, the sands shifted, covering both Billy and his rose…

     But what is covered is not always forgotten,

     And what truly matters finds a way to bloom again.

     Even in the heart of an old cowboy.

For more about the life, times and music of Rick Sikes:

http://www/ricksikes.com

http://www.jansikes.com

February Book of the Month #RWISA

It is a great honor to hold the “Book of the Month” seat at RWISA for February!

So, I’m going to do a little more shameless self-promotion.

In a recent podcast, I was asked what kind of man Luke Stone (aka Rick Sikes) was.

He stood 6’2″ and had a larger-than-life persona. In the opening chapter of “Flowers and Stone,” this is shown by the way the owner of the night club reacted to him coming through the door with his band.

Here’s a short excerpt:

Just as her dance performance came to an end, she(Darlina) heard a commotion. Turning, she saw Marketa personally escorting a group of customers to the best table in the club. It was totally out of character for this spitfire of a woman to make a fuss over anyone. Marketa flitted around with her long elegant ivory cigarette holder in her hand.  

Amidst enthusiastic applause, the bright spotlight now off her, Darlina hurried to talk to Sherry.

“Who is that?”

Sherry rolled her eyes. “That’s Luke Stone and the Rebel Rousers. I can’t believe you don’t know that.”

“How would I know? You forget I don’t get out much other than here.”

“They are only the hottest band in the whole State of Texas.”

“Do you know them?”

“Hell yes, I know ‘em. Had a one-night stand with the drummer a year or so ago.”

With overwhelming curiosity, Darlina proposed, “Let me wait their table.”

Sherry shrugged her shoulders, “Suits me.”

Darlina hurried to the table carrying menus. “Evening folks, I’m Darlina, and I’ll be taking care of you tonight.”

Luke Stone, an assuming man over six feet tall with a swagger and crooked grin promptly replied, “Honey, are you sure about that?”

A hot flush spread across her cheeks at his implication. “Let me re-phrase that. I’ll be taking your order tonight. What can I get you to drink?”

“Well, seein’ as how you don’t serve whiskey here, guess I’ll be havin’ a cup of coffee,” Luke said, leaning back in his chair and lighting a King Edward cigar.   

Yes, that’s Rick (Luke) on the far right.

PURCHASE LINK

I’d be thrilled if you’d pick up a copy of “Flowers and Stone” today! And if you do, PLEASE leave a review once you’ve read it.

I’d also like to invite you to find out more about the amazing, supportive writing communities, THE RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB, AND THE RAVE WRITERS INT’L SOCIETY OF AUTHORS.

RRBC sponsors an online Writers’ Conference and Book Expo each year. The dates for 2019 are August 12-18. Registration is NOW open. This is a conference you DO NOT want to miss. And, you can attend from your living room in your pajamas. 🙂

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Trying Something New

I attended an Author’s Marketing Conference back in the summer and one of the workshops I participated in really piqued my interest.

Story Rocket

Story Rocket is a website created specifically to provide a place for TV and movie producers, agents, scouts, and directors to go looking for new material.

I don’t know about you, but I can visualize my stories on the big screen, whether it be a movie or TV show. So, I jumped at the chance to get on this bandwagon. The cost to join is $120 per year, but because I attended the conference, I got a substantial discount and paid only $75. To me, that was a huge saving.

Anyway, I have three of my books up so far on Story Rocket.

I would love it if you would take a look at one or all of them and give me some feedback. Have I chosen a powerful logline? Does the synopsis read well and tell enough of the story? What about the actors and actresses I chose to portray Luke Stone and Darlina Flowers?

This is all new to me, but I am excited that I am getting a good amount of views in the short time the projects have been up.

Here are the links to the projects I have up.

https://www.storyrocket.com/flowers-and-stone

https://www.storyrocket.com/the-convict-and-the-rose

https://www.storyrocket.com/home-at-last

Please take a look when you have a minute and see what you think.

If you have a book or series of books you think would make a great movie or TV series, join me on Story Rocket and let’s see what happens. 🙂 And, if you do put any up, please let me know so I can go take a look.

Wish me luck!

Taking a break?

takeabreak

Or is it? Are you like me and feel that you have to work like a Trojan workhorse every day, day in and day out?

But what happens when we do? I can only speak from my own personal experience.

  1. Creativity all but comes to a screeching halt
  2. I find it hard to shut my brain off at night for sleep
  3. I feel exhausted all the time
  4. I get grouchy when I am not creating
  5. I get tunnel vision

Here’s the truth of it. Most of us are ambitious and anxious to write great books and get them into the hands of readers. But, no matter how much we do, there is always more to do: more writing, more marketing, more admin. A writer’s work is never done.

Writer's Work

I have one novel already written and two more in the series vaguely outlined and waiting. I fear I have failed miserably, as an author, this year. Yes, I put out several short stories and maintained my blog, but have not given much more than a glance toward my next full-length book. There’s a couple of reasons for that. I have been in this state of limbo since last year, waiting with bated breath to see if a publisher will take the first book of The White Rune Series. Guess what? I’m still waiting.

So, why couldn’t I force myself to work on the next one while I’m waiting? That would be the smart thing to do. I guess the truthful answer is I need to feel like it is worthwhile. Yes, I know. Everything we are inspired to do is worthwhile in some way or another. Maybe the better word for it is validation.

In telling Rick’s and my stories, I had passion. I was driven to get the story down and out into the hands of readers. I need to feel that burning passion again.

burning passion

I’m open to any advice. My sister tells me that if you don’t write a story, you lose it. I don’t want to lose them because they are good stories. Such a dilemma.

Then I have to ask myself this question. If the publisher that currently has the manuscript passes on it, what then?

Yes, I know I can self-publish, but I don’t have another $2,000 to $3,000 to invest with little hope of ever recouping. Since I suck at cover design and formatting, I’d have to pay for both of those services plus editing. If anyone ever said writing and publishing books is easy, they told a big lie.

So, the bottom line to all of this is that I took a break from working on the novels. Is that good? I suppose only time will tell.

How about you? Do you take breaks? Do you have books waiting to be published? Please tell me I’m not in this boat alone.

alone-in-a-boat

Everyone who leaves a comment will be entered into a drawing for my latest collection of short stories, “Two Shorts and a Snort.” I’m giving away three eBooks.

TWO SHORTS&A SNORT_Final2

This book consists of two short stories and one poem from award-winning author, Jan Sikes, in response to a writing challenge from the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB.

Obsessed:

How far will one man go to satisfy an obsession? The price could cost him his life.

Maggie:

It is possible to pray up a baby? Frank and Mary Pyburn are convinced that is what they’ve done.

Friends Instead of Lovers:

Sometimes it’s better to remain friends instead of giving in to desires and crossing a line.

5 Year Anniversary

5_Anniversary

Five years ago, I published my first book, Flowers and Stone.

I had no idea where the journey would lead me. All I knew was that I had a story to tell.

I can’t even begin to list the things that have happened, doors that have opened and people that I’ve met. I was not following one blog five years ago and never imagined I would not only follow lots of amazing blogs but would have one myself. I certainly didn’t belong to an international author’s organization. I literally had no idea what I was doing.

Looking back now, I can see that my Angels were hard at work lining up opportunities, putting me with the right people and organizations, and keeping me moving forward when I lacked the energy to do it for myself.

And here I sit, five years and five books later with an active blog following, a solid fan-base, so many reviews from all over the globe and a wonderful website. And that’s just touching the tip of the iceberg. I have been a very busy woman.

So, now with all of that done, I ask myself, where do I go from here?

delirium-inside-post-image

Sure, I’ve published six short stories and that was truly fun! And, I write for two magazines and thoroughly enjoy that, but after writing such big novels, I feel as if I am sloughing off. Does anyone ever feel like that after completing a big project that drives you?

I had a dream the other night where I was driving a car and my sister was with me. There were two red wasps flying around in the car and she started to open the door. I yelled at her to open the windows and that I’d stop. I pulled into a small convenience store/gas station and she went inside. I opened all the doors to shoo out the wasps but never saw them again. When she returned to the car, I looked at her and said, “I have no idea where we are or where we are going. All I know to do is go back the way we came.”

That may hold no significance to anyone but myself, but I awoke knowing the profoundness of the dream.

I have written a fiction novel – in fact, I finished it last year and started pitching it to publishers. I’ve had no takers yet. I ‘ve also written the first chapter of the second book in the series, but I feel as if I am constantly spinning my wheels and going nowhere.

The anniversary of my first published book has brought all of this to a culmination in my mind. The dream – go back the way I came – holds a message. Is the message to go ahead and self-publish the fiction series? I’m groaning as I type it. I want the support and backing of a publisher. That’s the bottom line. Will I get it? Heck, if I know. All I do know is that I work long hours every day and while I know where I’ve been and where I am, I haven’t a clue about where I’m going but still enjoying the journey and still trusting the Angels to get me there. 🙂

Thanks for letting me share. Happy Anniversary to Flowers and Stone!

Ad_Texas_Shorts2017

WEBSITE: http://www.jansikes.com

RWISA AUTHOR PAGE: https://ravewriters.wordpress.com/meet-the-authors/author-jan-sikes/

FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorJanSikesBooks

Flowers and Stone Re-Edited! #RRBC #RWISA

A HUGE thanks to Nonnie Jules for announcing the new and improved version of my first book, “Flowers and Stone!” via Let’s Play Follow The Leader – @rijanjks #RRBC #RWISA

I ran across this – Reflection

I ran across this nugget today.

Rick_Jan_Saloon

And it prompted these thoughts…

For everything that we did wrong…

For everything that we got right…

For all that we should have done…

For all that we did do…

For all the struggles…

For all the victories…

Through it all – We loved.

We dared to love with all our hearts

All our souls…

AND, we managed to have some fun along the way.

Funny how the holiday season brings nostalgia.

snow_rose_by_micsmitty-d4rirkl

Catch a ride on the Holiday Train! #RRBC

holiday-badge-2017

The RRBC Holiday Train Book Trailer Block Party keeps right on rolling, but it’s making a pit stop here at my blog today!

Christmas_Train

All you have to do is follow the link to my brand new Book Trailer Video on YouTube, leave a comment, like and share to be entered in a giveaway!

YOUTUBE LINK

Prizes up for grabs:

$10.00 Amazon Gift Card

eBook version of DISCOVERY – Poetry and Art by Rick and Jan Sikes.

So, grab a cup of coffee and a Christmas cookie and take a look! coffee and gingerbread house

And don’t forget to follow the tour each day for great trailers and more chances to win fantastic prizes. Just click HERE to follow the tour!

#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!

albumart

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.