#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.

 

 

A Guitar Picker out of West H$#LL!

My late husband used the phrase “Out of West Hell” when someone was beyond great at something. While I never knew where West Hell was, it obviously produced the best of the best.

Most of you know I attend a lot of live music events and once in a while, there is a musician that literally makes my jaw drop.  That is exactly what Guitarist, Steve Rhian did. Wow!

Steve_Rhi200 While most of the attention and focus goes to the singer or band leader, without great musicians behind them, they wouldn’t be the popular stars they are.

I wanted to know more about this incredible player. So, here’s what I found out.

Like most dedicated musicians, Steve began playing music at a young age. He recalls his earliest influences to be Motown and R & B, “I put coins on top of the LP to slow down Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay” to figure out the parts. I wore that old record player out and probably ruined more than a few 45s and vinyl records back then.”

But that was only the beginning. Steve goes on. “The Beatles and Rolling Stones had been out for a little while but it was “Sympathy For The Devil” that made me sit up and take notice.  I think that record more than any other was responsible for changing the pop culture. In my mid-teens, I had all the standard influences like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and of course Jimi Hendrix.  It was an exciting time with so many emerging great players and new sounds being created. But, this is what drove so many of us.”

I wonder how many can say they saw Jimi Hendrix at a live show? Steve Rhian did and he recounts the event. “I got see Jimi Hendrix at Temple University Stadium in Philadelphia and he was amazing. This was an outdoor football stadium and little fires were burning all around not to mention Jimi lighting up his Fender Strat near the end of the show like a ritual. Yeah, it was burning.”

Hendrix

And the desire to learn to play, and to play well, continued for Steve Rhian. There is a common thread among these phenomenal players and it usually has to do with studying under some of the greatest around. Steve spent many years studying Danny Gatton‘s emotional range and depth of playing, and got to hang out with him on several occasions. Danny was known as “The Telemaster.”

Steve also studied under Australian Jazz guitarist, Steve Brien. I will say firsthand, the jazz influence comes out in a big way when Steve plays. Others Steve studied along the way, were D’Jango Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, both stellar jazz players. Steve is a huge fan of Gypsy Jazz, which Reinhardt and Grappelli put on the map.

He had this to say about D’Jango and Stephane. ” I still go back and listen to those old “Hot Club”  recordings and would probably have to put D’Jango at the top of the  greatest guitarists of all time pile, when you consider there were few blueprints back then and he only had partial use of his fretting hand. Lenny Breau is another I would have to include.”

An avid student is always learning and that couldn’t be more true for Steve Rhian. In his own words. “In 1990, I headed to Cincinatti to meet with renowned guitarist Scotty Anderson. I spent about a week with him soaking it up but it took years to assimilate some of his techniques and of course, I was altering things to fit my sensibilities as I got more comfortable with it. Scotty’s groundbreaking harmonized double and triple stop runs are beyond the grasp of most players but sure are fun to listen to, along with his jazz infused country lines. I played a lot of guitar that week. I’ve always been influenced by great playing.  If it spoke to me, I wanted learn it.”

More guitar greats that drew Steve Rhian’s attention were Chet Atkins, Merle Travis, Jerry Reed, Doc Watson and Norman Blake. Here’s a video clip that showcases this style of picking from Steve Rhian. Click HERE!

In the 90s, Steve met Deryl Dodd, who was playing lead guitar for Martina McBride at the time. They struck up a friendship and fast forward a few years, Deryl formed his own band, The Homesick Cowboys, with Steve on lead. And that brings it current as he is still a member of this band, which has had multiple chart-topping hit songs.

Steve has played on over sixteen album sessions. He is a highly sought after musician when artists go into the studio. Why? Because he’s a guitar picker “Out of West Hell!”

Click HERE for a video that shows off a tiny bit of Steve’s style.

I could write volumes about this extraordinary guitar player. Truly, he deserves recognition for his dedication to the craft.

If you ever have a chance to see Steve live with Deryl Dodd and The Homesick Cowboys, don’t pass it up! It’s guaranteed entertainment.

You can learn more about Steve Rhian on his FACEBOOK page.