Friday Free-For-All!

Happy Friday. This has been an incredibly busy week, and I’m looking forward to the weekend!

I went for the CT Scan of the carotid arteries this week, and the report came back clear—no blockage, no plaque—all clear. That is great news, and it puts me back at square one with the big question of what may have caused the health scare. I’m going to chalk it up to either vertigo or a virus and move along. I do pray that it never happens again!

I want to offer a huge Thank You to everyone who took the time to vote for Saddled Hearts in the RONE Reader’s Choice Awards!

There will be one more round of voting IF Saddled Hearts makes it into the finals. Fingers crossed!

On the writing front, I am super excited about an upcoming writer’s conference in July. It’s in Ireland! Ireland Writer Tours is not just a regular conference but also combined with tours. I first heard about this conference last year, but by the time I looked into it, it was already full. They only take twelve authors, so it’s small and intimate. When it was announced this year, I immediately registered. It wasn’t until they knew they had twelve authors that it all came together. My daughters generously paid the fee, thank goodness, and I got in the queue. Now we know it is filled and going to happen! I have my airline ticket and am set to go.

Why Ireland? Of all the countries outside the U.S., Ireland, and Scotland are the only places I’ve ever really wanted to visit. My ancestors migrated from there, and somehow I just know there is something waiting for me when I go. Along with the conference are tours of the area, castles, landmarks, and historic sites. The conference is in a small village outside Galway. I will leave Dallas on July 7th and return on the 17th. It is truly a trip of a lifetime!

I just started reading the latest book from C.S. Boyack. Once Upon A Time In The Swamp is a standalone. I haven’t gotten very far into it yet, but I can already tell I am in for a very entertaining read! Have you picked it up yet?

Purchase Link

This time of year is often difficult for me, as fourteen years ago, my husband, Rick, was nearing the end of his time on Earth. Hospice had put him into a drug-induced coma and transported him home from the hospital. I had already turned our living room into a hospital room, so everything was ready.

I’ll never forget that first night, after all the hospice personnel left, and it was just me and him. They hadn’t given him enough medication to keep him under, and all night he kept trying to get out of bed. I know he had things he thought he needed to tend to, but of course, he couldn’t do any of it. It was one of the most miserable nights I’ve ever spent. I felt so helpless. All I could do was keep him from falling out of the bed.

Of course, when morning came, and I called them, hospice came right away and administered enough drugs to put him all the way under, and that’s where he stayed until he passed on the morning of May 1st. Monday is May 1st, and my regular post might be a little different or might not happen at all. I go with what Spirit moves me to do. I always hope for a visit from him, some sign that he’s still around.

I’m not looking for pity or even sympathy. Death is a part of life. Of course, we never EVER stop grieving for lost loved ones. A part of me died with him on that day. I don’t dwell on the hard times or bad times. I choose to remember the love we shared and the many, many good times we had.

Rick and Jan Sikes 2007

I am blessed to have so much of his music, his writings, and his artwork that keep him and his memory alive. One of my greatest joys was singing harmony with him. I sure do miss the music part of our lives.

Here’s a fun and intimate little video of some of our homespun music.

That’s it from me for today. I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

In A Tree’s Shadow #NewRelease #shortstories @dlfinnauthor

It is with great pleasure I open my blog site to an author I have known for many years, D.L. Finn. She is not only a fabulous poet and storyteller but has a wonderful attitude and outlook on life. She embraces her inner child and nature, and it all comes alive through her stories. She is a fellow Story Empire contributor, as well as an active reader and reviewer. Please make her feel welcome!


Thank you, Jan, for having me on your blog today to share my latest release, In the Tree’s Shadow.

“End of the Road” weaves in some personal experiences. Like the main character, Kelly, in the story, there was a time after my mom passed when I took care of my stepfather, who lived three hours away. I was a caretaker for someone who had treated me badly growing up because of his PTSD and drinking, just like Kelly. I made that drive home full of anxiety more than once, but I had one thing she didn’t have—a loving home to return to.

This story came from what-if it was bad on both sides of that drive. Kelly had two sons, but they now lived with her cheating ex-husband. She resided in a house she hated and felt alone. Then little things began to happen that got her attention and nudged her in the right direction.

Feathers and flashing lights are some of the little things that happened to her. I have experienced both and am convinced it is a message from the other side that things will be okay. Kelly learns that sometimes things get very dark before the light is visible.


A collection of short stories where dreams and nightmares coexist.

Nestled inside these pages, you’ll meet a couple in their golden years who take a trip with an unexpected detour, a boy desperate to give his brother the Christmas gift he asked for, a girl with a small glass dragon who is at the mercy of her cruel uncles, and a young mother who has a recurring dream about murder. You’ll be introduced to worlds where people get second chances and monsters might be allowed their desires, while angels and dragons try to help. Happy endings occur, but perspective can blur the line between good and evil in these twenty-seven tales. Since the stories vary between 99 and 12,000 words, whether you have only five minutes or an entire evening to settle into reading, there is something that will suit your time and taste.


My eyes blurred, jolting me from my trancelike state into reality. In the darkness before me, the two-lane highway beckoned me home. Its reflectors tapped in to my idle imagination. All I had to do was pull up on my steering wheel, and my car would take off like an airplane whose destination would be my private island away from it all. I could relax for those few seconds as I flew over the precipice. I was turning the steering wheel toward the cliff when a bright light blinded me. My foot slammed on the brake pedal. The car skidded to the side of the road in a cloud of dust as a feather landed on my windshield.

“What was that? A spaceship?” A shudder coursed through me. My heart pounded against my chest. I peered into the night. Nothing. The cliff was right next to me, bathed in the moonlight. I sucked in air, trying to make sense of what had happened. Would I be at the bottom of the canyon if I hadn’t seen that flash?

Another white feather landed on my windshield. I hoped I was under a tree or utility line where a bird might be perched. I wasn’t.

“Maybe an owl or . . . ” I carefully got out of the car and retrieved the two feathers. It was me, my old Subaru, and the road. No alien invasion in sight. “I must be seeing things.”

The cool air cleared my head. I didn’t want to die, even if the thought had crossed my mind. I was almost entirely sure I wouldn’t have done it. But I didn’t have time to reflect on that as I studied the two white feathers in my hand. A message from the angels. Isn’t that what my grandma used to say? She had told me solemnly to pay attention when I saw them unexpectedly.

“All right, I’m listening.”


Read an excerpt from D.L. Finn’s new short story collection. A #NewRelease of eclectic #shortstories! #excerpt #fiction #paranormal #readerfostwitter via @dlfinnauthor


  1. Our first house was haunted. At one point, I was pushed down the stairs carrying my daughter and pregnant with our second daughter. We were all fine, but we moved soon after that.
  2. I can clearly hear an angel singing one of my husband’s songs. It has inspired me to write poetry and perhaps write about angels.


D. L. Finn is an independent California local who encourages everyone to embrace their inner child. She was born and raised in the foggy Bay Area, but in 1990 she relocated with her husband, kids, dogs, and cats to Nevada City, in the Sierra foothills. She immersed herself in reading all types of books but especially loved romance, horror, and fantasy. She always treasured creating her own reality on paper. Finally, surrounded by towering pines, oaks, and cedars, her creativity was nurtured until it bloomed. Her creations include children’s books, adult fiction, a unique autobiography, and poetry. She continues on her adventure with an open invitation to all readers to join her.

D.L. Finn Links:






D.L. Finn blog

Amazon Page

#MondayMotivation – #Meditation – #TarotReading – #AngelOracleCard

Welcome back to another Monday of inspiration. I hope you leave uplifted and ready to tackle a new week. I fell in love with this simple quote. It makes so much sense to me.

Here’s a meditation to help you gain your footing. Jason Stephenson is one of my favorite meditation guides.

The tarot cards today are very powerful. Two are from the Major Arcana, affecting our lives below the surface.

Photo by Jan Sikes

The High Priestess is the second card in the Major Arcana. She is like the moon and sees through the darkness, illuminating what is hidden. She reminds us that all we need to know is already within us. Connecting to the divine is an internal, not an external, process. You have the ability to connect with and commune with your higher self at any time. The High Priestess urges you to clear your mind and ask your heart for the answers you seek. You are encouraged to follow intuitive urges when making financial and business decisions, even if you’re tempted to investigate endlessly. You have the answers you need without relying on other people’s opinions. Intuition and self-knowledge are the keywords.

The Chariot is a symbol of building momentum and creating your plan of action. It is possible that you are embarking on an important journey (literal or virtual) or moving toward the next level of your life goals. You are asked to have a clear intention, focus, and a plan for taking action. Building a solid foundation and creating structure are both necessary steps before making a big decision. Now is the time to take inspired action toward your goals. Success comes with focus, determination, and clear intention.

With the Knight of Pentacles, we are minded that the quest for prosperity moves slowly and steadily. True success is a long game, so there is no need to rush the process. There is no get-rich scheme indicated with this card. Solid effort daily will yield the most lasting and meaningful results. Sometimes these turn into mundane tasks, but I am reminded of the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady wins the race. You are encouraged to show up fully and enthusiastically in all areas of your life. If you’re waiting for a return on investment, be patient and stay on task. Long-term abundance and steady progress are the keywords for this card.


When I consider that we have two Major Arcana cards this week, the reading takes on a deeper meaning, as they affect big life events and important lessons. Relying on intuition is a huge part of the message, as well as having a clear intention, focus, and determination. What is it you genuinely seek? Know that returns on daily investment of your time, your energy, and your knowledge come slowly but are lasting.

I love the message on the Angel card!

Relationship Harmony
Archangel Raguel: "We angels are opening the hearts of everyone involved. Arguments and conflicts are being resolved now."

I hope you have a wonderful week ahead!

Friday Free-For-All #Followup #RONEAward #celebrating #reading #podcast

Happy Friday! I have had a busy but productive week and managed to get in a bit of celebrating. (If you didn’t see my Monday tarot reading, take a look here.) I’m happy to say the reading was spot-on for me this week.

First off, an update on the health scare I had last week. I saw my doctor on Wednesday. They did an EKG, took my vitals, and reported that all looked within the normal range, nothing out of the ordinary. The only other follow-up to that is scheduling a CT scan of the carotid arteries. If that comes back clear, I am left with a mystery as to what caused the frightening incident last week. I shrug my shoulder. Who knows? These bodies are such complex machines with lots of working parts, and if any tiny part goes haywire, it throws the entire machine out of whack. I’m happy to report no other dizzy spells. Onward and upward.

My latest novel, Saddled Hearts, is up for a RONE Reader’s Award. Many of you have already voted, and I am deeply grateful. If you haven’t had a chance to vote yet, please take a minute to do so. Saddled Hearts is at the bottom of the list under the suspense category. Follow this link to cast your vote! RONE AWARDS VOTING. Thank you!

On the writing front, I finished a novella this week that I’ve been working on for a while (as in way too long). I swear, I seem to get slower and slower at writing. But I suppose it doesn’t really matter in the big scope of things. I’m not at liberty yet to make any announcement about the new story as it is part of a collaboration, but nevertheless, I’m celebrating writing “The End!”

Of course, I have a new project to start (don’t we always?). And then there’s the issue of what to do with the historical fiction novel I’ve had finished for a while. There is no lack of things to do, EVER! And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I enjoyed a visit with my oldest sister this past Sunday. She is such an amazing lady at 87. Despite her declining health and moving into hospice, her attitude is upbeat and positive. We laughed and reminisced. She told me she wanted to learn to play Skip-Bo. She has always been someone I look up to and admire, and that hasn’t changed. If you’ve read my true story series, you’ll know her as Norma. I’m so glad I got to spend some time with her and will go back again soon, if at all possible.

I made a very cool discovery on Canva this week. I have used this app for several years and love it for all things related to graphics. My daughter had a logo created for a new cabin they’re building in Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Here’s the original logo:

She wanted the words ‘Hummingbird Hideway’ removed and the word ‘Welcome’ added so she could have a metal sign created to hang at the entrance of the cabin. I had no idea if I could do it, but I discovered Canva has a Magic Eraser! That’s right. A Magic Eraser. And it worked like a charm. It took me all of ten minutes to create what she needed. This is how it turned out:

I love finding new things that work! The other thing I learned this week, thanks to the genius of Staci Troilo, is that you can create a Tweet box within the body of your blog posts. You can see below I’ve done that, so you can see how it works. Thank you, Staci! Have any of you found anything really cool this week?

On the entertainment front, I have finally finished watching Breaking Bad. I started watching it because my oldest grandson loves the series and asked me to watch it so we could talk about it. I will bend over backward to do almost anything the grandkids ask of me. Anyway, now I’m back to reading and, according to my Goodreads Challenge, need to catch up. 🙂

The book I’m currently reading is so good and different. Winter Song has two things I love to find in a story—a ghost and a budding romance. My review will be coming soon, as will my review for D.L. Finn’s new collection of short stories, In the Tree’s Shadow: A collection of stories that exist in your dreams… and nightmares. I will be posting all of my reviews for April soon!

What are you reading? I’d love to know.

I hope you have plans for a great weekend ahead. I am going to be a guest on a podcast tomorrow morning at 10:30 am via Zoom. It isn’t a live show, but I will share the link to the show whenever I have it.

That’s it for me today. Thanks for stopping by and indulging my meanderings.

Celebrating #writing #reading, and learning new things! #FridayForAll #RONEAward #writingcommunity #readingcommunity @jansikes3

A Heart Restrained – #NewRelease – @WildRosePress

I am happy to host fellow Wild Rose Press author Jennifer Wilck, here today so that she can share with you her newest book release!


Thank you, Jan, for offering up your blog space today so that I can talk about my new book! I deeply appreciate it.

Sometimes It’s Like Herding Goats

As a young mother, I used to compare grocery shopping with toddlers to herding goats (not that I’ve ever herded goats or really done more than gingerly feed them at our local farm). Colors, sounds, food, where to sit in the cart, whether to sit in the cart—all choices that create havoc in toddler’s brains and require management and fine-tuning.

Well, I’m no longer a young mother, but I am a published hybrid romance author, and let me tell you, sometimes I feel like I’m shepherding hungry toddlers through a grocery store at nap time. My latest book release was a perfect example.

The third book in my Scarred Hearts series, A Heart Restrained, released from The Wild Rose Press on March 27. I love this book. I love the hero and heroine, I love the opposites-attract trope, I love their backstories, and I love the struggle they endured to achieve their happily ever after. What I did not love was the timing.

The Wild Rose Press is a wonderful publisher. My editor is fantastic. And a great, yet quirky, thing about them is that unless you’re writing for a specific series they put out on submission, they don’t give a deadline for anything in the publishing process. The longer you take to make your editor’s edits, the longer it will be until you progress to the next step. And you don’t get a release date until the book is ready. I love that because it means I can move on my own time. It gives me the illusion that I have some freedom in how fast or slow I move.

This time, however, I was trying to fit the publication of A Heart Restrained around my upcoming publication schedule from Harlequin. Harlequin gives specific deadlines for everything. My goal was to publish A Heart Restrained in January, so I’d have plenty of time to complete deadlines for Harlequin and market A Heart Restrained without much overlap. Ha!

Due to my own issues, that release date couldn’t happen. So, A Heart Restrained released on March 27. Right before Passover. A month before my Harlequin deadline. So, I juggled books and matzah, and marketing at the same time. Add in an upcoming college graduation (of one of those aforementioned toddlers), and my level of crazy reached new levels.

I did what I always did when I have too much to do and not enough time to do it. I created a task list and a timeline, figuring out exactly what I needed to do when in order to make all my deadlines. I marketed first thing in the morning. I cleaned and prepared, and shopped for Passover in the late morning/early afternoon. And I edited in the afternoon. I planned for book-release activities on certain days at specific times. And I left myself two completely free days to cook for the Passover seder.

Was it complicated? Yes. But I did it!


Caleb Zeno, a wealthy and successful media mogul, refuses to allow emotions into any aspect of his life, especially his entertainment corporation. When his company’s lifestyle website runs into competition from a small boutique company, the most logical solution is to buy out his rival. 

Fiona Hamilton’s lifestyle website succeeds due to her loving and caring treatment of her clients, who have become like family to her. She has no desire to sell to anyone, much less a tattooed, muscled, automaton. 

At odds professionally, Caleb and Fiona come together as a favor for Caleb’s sister. Sparks fly, and sexual chemistry abounds. But Caleb can’t let go of his abusive past and be the man Fiona needs, and she is unwilling to risk independence and financial security for anything less than a perfect happily ever after. Can they put their differences aside to find a viral kind of love?


“Wouldn’t you enjoy this more if it were in English?”

She paused and shifted so she faced him, one leg bent under her, the other dangling off the edge. “Absolutely not! Telenovelas are so much more emotional than American TV.”

“Why don’t you at least research online to find a plot summary?”

“I’m happy with the way things are,” she said. “I don’t need to hear the words to feel the story.”

“But…you’re crying.”

She smiled through her tears and wiped her cheeks. “I know.”

Staring at her, his heart rate increased, and he tamped the panic her tears caused. At first, he thought pain caused her tears, but her rapt attention to the screen made him realize otherwise.

Why would she want to do this to herself? And how could she enjoy a show she couldn’t understand?

He should leave, before she recognized his complete lack of comprehension. But her rapt attention to the screen fascinated him. She was smart—his business dealings with her had proven it. Yet she focused as if she understood her show.

She stared at the TV screen, but he couldn’t take his gaze off her. Her skin, despite its bruising, was luminous. Her lips were parted, and she gripped the edges of the sofa cushions until her knuckles turned white. This close to her, heat radiated from her body. He could hear a faint sigh.

If she were this passionate about a television show, how passionate would she be if he kissed her?



Barnes & Noble



Universal Link


Jennifer Wilck is an award-winning contemporary romance author for readers who are passionate about love, laughter, and happily ever after. Known for writing both Jewish and non-Jewish romances, her books feature damaged heroes, sassy and independent heroines, witty banter and hot chemistry. Jennifer’s ability to transport the reader into the scene, create characters the reader will fall in love with, and evoke a roller coaster of emotions, will hook you from the first page. You can find her books at all major online retailers in a variety of formats.

Jennifer started telling herself stories as a little girl when she couldn’t fall asleep at night. Pretty soon, her head was filled with these stories and the characters that populated them. Even as an adult, she thinks about the characters and stories at night before she falls asleep or walking the dog. Eventually, she started writing them down. Her favorite stories to write are those with smart, sassy, independent heroines; handsome, strong, and slightly vulnerable heroes; and her stories always end with happily ever after.

In the real world, she’s the mother of two amazing daughters and wife of one of the smartest men she knows. She believes humor is the only way to get through the day and does not believe in sharing her chocolate.



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#MondayMotivation – #Meditation – #TarotReading – #AngelOracleCard

Welcome to another Monday post. I hope you leave with some inspiration to carry you through the week ahead. I love today’s quote so much!

I found this meditation to be uplifting and a great way to start the day.

The Tarot cards could not have given us a more positive outlook on the week ahead!

Photo by Jan Sikes

I almost feel as if these cards need no explanation from me. All three are positive and uplifting.

The look on the Page of Swords’ face says he is poised, eager, and ready to learn. Remember swords represent the mind or intellect. He is grounded, yet with his head in the clouds. The wind is gently blowing, and birds are peacefully flying above. This card urges you to be open to fresh perspectives and opportunities to engage your mind. If you’re waiting for an answer to an inquiry, this card indicates the news will offer valuable information about a new option or help you expand your horizons. The only warning attached to this card is to make sure you formulate a solid plan before jumping into something new.

The Three of Cups is a celebration of some kind. It depicts pure joy and urges you to be more fun and playful. It also focuses on spending time with family or friends. It may symbolize a collaboration with people who support you. This type of connection helps empower you to feel safe in taking on a new project, knowing you have a strong team to back you up. Connecting with others is a great stress reliever and rejuvenates your spirit. Indulge in activities you find joyous, and that feel expansive.

The Four of Wands is another celebration card. It symbolizes an organized celebration. Look to your own life and achievements. How do you want to celebrate your wins? Completing a goal or project is a great reason to celebrate. It is possible you will enjoy some well-deserved recognition for your hard work. This is an exciting time of creativity and progress in your career, so take a moment to celebrate yourself.


I honestly don’t know that I can add anything to all of that. These cards indicate only wonderful and good times ahead this week with cause for celebration. That gives me confidence that my doctor’s appointment will bring nothing but good results! Also, on a personal front, my book, Saddled Hearts, is up for voting this week for the Rone Award. While I am not a fan of voting contests, I will be doing my best to give the book what it deserves. And if it wins, most certainly I will celebrate!

How about you? Do you have something coming up to celebrate? Tell us!

The Angel card is so comforting and beautiful this week! It certainly goes hand-in-hand with the tarot cards, right?

All is Well
Archangel Jeremiel: "Everything is happening exactly as it is supposed to, with hidden blessings you will soon understand."

Also, I am over at Story Empire today talking about the use of Essential Oils and Herbs in fiction writing. I’d love it if you’d head on over!

Friday Free-For-All

Happy Friday, all!

This is going to be a short post today. I have had one helluva week.

I am the kind of person who will go the extra mile to meet my obligations, and thankfully, I met all my obligations but one this week. I could not go to work on Wednesday at all.

Wednesday morning, I had an episode that, to be honest, frightened me. I was standing at the bathroom sink, drying my hair, when a wave of dizziness washed over me. I gripped the edge of the sink and tried to breathe it away, but it only got worse. So, I dropped into a nearby chair and lay my head on the bathroom counter, hoping it would pass. It didn’t. I was drenched in sweat. I never knew so much liquid could pour out of a body, but it did. I didn’t trust myself to walk, but I needed air, so crawled to my bedroom, where the ceiling fan was going, and lay on the floor.

Then nausea hit, and I had to crawl back to the bathroom, where I proceeded to throw up. After that, I knew I was in trouble. I desperately needed water, and the dizziness had pretty much subsided, so I went to the kitchen for a bottle of water, then to the couch, where I texted my daughters.

My oldest daughter came right away and gave me Meclizine and Zofran. If you don’t know, Meclizine is for dizziness, and Zofran is for nausea.

She stayed with me until I was sure I could function again, but I was shot for the rest of the day. After the sweating went away, I was super cold; goosebumps cold, even though I was wrapped in a blanket. I stayed either in bed or on the couch for the remainder of the day. Went to bed around 9 pm and slept until 7 the next morning, which is highly unusual for me.

I felt okay yesterday. I was still a little lightheaded (which could have been from not eating the day before), and I had a headache. I had an appointment with my Chiropractor, and he took my blood pressure and listened to my heart, then said he didn’t hear or see anything out of the ordinary. I do have an appointment with my primary care doctor next week for a thorough check.

I don’t know what caused it, but it scared me. I was completely incapacitated. I am hoping it’s a one-time thing, never to occur again, but I need to rule out any heart or other issues.

So, it’s been a strange week. I feel like, for my age, I am very healthy and take only one medication. But this episode has me second-guessing everything.

As I said before, hopefully, it was a one-time incident, never to repeat itself again.

Has anything like this ever happened to you? Did you find out what caused it, if it did?

For now, I’m being cautious.

I hope I have something fun to share next Friday and not something so horrible.

Confessions of a Knight Errant #NewRelease @LoneStarLit

by Gretchen McCullough
Humorous Fiction
Publisher: Cune Press
Page Count: 240 pages
Publication Date: October 18, 2022
Scroll down for a giveaway!

Confessions of a Knight Errant is a comedic, picaresque novel in the tradition of Don Quixote with a flamboyant cast of characters.

Dr. Gary Watson is the picaro, a radical environmentalist and wannabe novelist who has been accused of masterminding a computer hack that wiped out the files of a major publishing company. His Sancho Panza is Kharalombos, a fat, gluttonous Greek dancing teacher, who is wanted by the secret police for cavorting with the daughter of the Big Man of Egypt.

Self-preservation necessitates a hurried journey to the refuge of a girls’ camp in rural Texas. Then a body turns up nearby that is connected to Middle East antiquities, and they are on the run once more.

Gretchen McCullough was raised in Harlingen Texas. After graduating from Brown University in 1984, she taught in Egypt, Turkey, and Japan. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama and was awarded a teaching Fulbright to Syria from 1997-1999.
Her stories, essays and reviews have appeared in The Barcelona Review, Archipelago, National Public Radio, Story South, Guernica, The Common, The Millions, and the LA Review of Books. Translations in English and Arabic have been published in: Nizwa, Banipal, Brooklyn Rail in Translation, World Literature Today, and Washington Square Review with Mohamed Metwalli. Her bilingual book of short stories in English and Arabic, Three Stories From Cairo, translated with Mohamed Metwalli, was published in July 2011 by AFAQ Publishing House, Cairo. A collection of short stories about expatriate life in Cairo, Shahrazad’s Tooth, was also published by AFAQ in 2013.
Currently, she is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Rhetoric and Composition at the American University in Cairo.


In Confessions of a Knight Errant, readers get a taste of the Hill Country. One winner will, too, with a one-pound bag of pecans from Berdoll Pecan Candy & Gift Company!
(US only; ends midnight, CST 4/28/23)

Candy Cigarettes and Murder #NewRelease @brendawhitsid2 @jproell1

If nothing else, the title of this book is sure to grab your attention! I’m thrilled to host one of my favorite authors, Brenda Whiteside, with a new release today. And she’s teamed up with Joyce Proell to bring a new murder mystery to the bookshelves! I’ll let her tell you about it.


Many thanks to you, Jan, for allowing me and Joyce to take over your blog today. I want to highlight one of our sister characters for your followers.

My name is Nicole Earp, but everyone calls me Nic. And everyone, on first meeting, asks if I’m related to the infamous brothers. Well, I’m not, but my second husband claimed he was a distant cousin of Wyatt Earp. I’ve kept the name and have fun with the connection, especially since I live in Wyatt, Arizona. I’m a freelance travel writer, so my days can be different from month to month, depending on the assignment I’ve picked up. When home, I dabble in candle making. But it’s the relaxing weekend days I spend twice a year at the Dulce Inn in Wyatt that I’m sure you’ll find much more interesting.

My birthday is in the spring, and my sister Em’s is six months later in the fall. What perfect timing for our twice-a-year getaways and at least one celebratory chocolate martini in the Azul Saloon inside the inn. Our tradition has earned us a nickname from the staff—The Chocolate Martini Sisters.

A typical day at the inn finds Em on an early morning run while I sleep in after having stayed up late reading a mystery. I rise, practice a short yoga session, and shower. Em pops in, showers, and we’re off for breakfast in the Azul Restaurant. We might shop in the unique stores downtown or possibly enjoy a massage upstairs at the inn. There are fests in the town square or hotel events to take in during the day.

And then there’s the dead body we are prone to discover.

Em and I do love sharing a good murder mystery. Solving the crime will put us in the faces of two detectives who might deserve some credit for helping us crack the caper. The Chief Homicide Detective Bennett Guthrie is particularly fun…for me, anyway. He really gets under my sister’s skin. She’s analytical and compassionate, which seems to rub him wrong. He’s tenacious, determined, and focused but really hates admitting how much we help him. I operate on gut instincts, coming to conclusions a bit too fast at times. Gah! I have fun anyway. Guthrie takes himself far too seriously, so I enjoy a good jab at him now and then.

I hope you’ll join us on one of our weekends at the inn. You’ll love Wyatt, Arizona, located at the base of the Bradshaw Mountains, two hours north of Phoenix. The town is named for Wyatt Earp, who frequented the historical Dulce Inn and the Azul Restaurant and Saloon located inside the hotel. The town has a slight old-west feel with turn-of-the-century buildings. You’ll enjoy:

A birthday weekend with the gift of murder

Cigarettes, Candy, and Murder (A Chocolate Martini Sisters Mystery, Book 1)

By Joyce Proell and Brenda Whiteside


Recently widowed, Emma Banefield looks forward to a getaway birthday weekend with her free-wheeling sister, Nicole Earp, sipping chocolate martinis at the peaceful, historic Dulce Inn. When a rude stranger, a nasty food critic, and a madhouse of temperamental artists greet them, all hope for a tranquil weekend evaporates faster than dew on a hot desert morning.

Overlooking the riotous atmosphere is doubly hard after Em discovers the body of a hotel guest, and a second murder affects Nic personally. Now, entrenched in a caper that pits them against a surly detective, they cozy up to a hotel staff hiding dangerous secrets to uncover clues to the killer.

Using their smarts and love of all-things mystery, will the Chocolate Martini Sisters solve the crime ahead of the obstinate Chief Detective or find themselves trapped in the middle of a third murder?

Joyce Proell is the award-winning author of Amaryllis, Eliza and the Cady Delafield mysteries: A Deadly Truth, A Burning Truth and A Wicked Truth. Along with her husband and little dog, Nellie, she lives in Minnesota in her very own little house on the prairie. She loves to hear from readers.

Visit her website at or

Brenda Whiteside is the award-winning author of romantic suspense, romance, and cozy mystery. After living in six states and two countries—so far—she and her husband have settled in Central Arizona. They admit to being gypsies at heart and won’t discount the possibility of another move. They share their home with a rescue dog named Amigo. While FDW fishes, Brenda writes.

Visit Brenda at or

#MondayMotivation #Meditation #TarotReading #AngelOracleCard

I hope everyone enjoyed their Easter weekend. Time to take a look at the week ahead. This quote from E.B. White hit me right in the gut!

The meditation I chose for today goes along with the quote.

This is such an energetic Tarot spread this week!

Photo by Jan Sikes

Pages are often seen as messengers. The Page of Wands is full of youthful energy and may represent a child or younger person or even a message from your own inner child urging you to be playful and adventurous. This Page is grounded yet playful, and someone who sees the world through a lens of curiosity. Good news, possibly through email, texts, phone calls or direct conversations, is coming your way. Be open to creative experiences, new opportunities, and expressing yourself in ways that feel fresh and dynamic. If you’ve been feeling very busy and need to prioritize your tasks, implement time-management practices and make sure you deliver on your promises.

The Judgement card is indicative of you taking the next step in your personal growth, accepting yourself and releasing the past. The process of releasing judgment of yourself is often the hardest thing we have to do, yet so essential in moving forward on the journey. Be willing to accept your past, then release it so you can enjoy what life is bringing to you next. Don’t allow past mistakes to rule your present or your future. The Judgement card contains all the elements of the cycle of surrender-release-forgive. In this process, you allow yourself to move on from the past and into a more vibrant future.

Another messenger card, The Page of Pentacles, may represent working at the beginning stages of a project or starting down a new path. What you are working toward is grounded in reality and can grow unto lasting abundance with focus and steady effort. Stay steadfast in your vision and know that the beginning stages can often be frustrating, causing you to lose patience. Listen to your intuition to guide you to the next practical steps to propel yourself forward.


To me, these cards are pretty straightforward, and I most definitely resonate with each of them. I’ve felt as if I’m at a crossroads in my writing career and ready to make some changes. So, the advice to be aware of incoming new opportunities is encouraging and uplifting. Letting go of past mistakes, and allowing self-forgiveness is an essential cycle in growing and moving forward. Focusing on your vision and taking practical steps to reach a goal is a great message this week! Let’s embrace it! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

And what an appropriate and gorgeous Angel Card!!

Archangel Jophiel: "Your dreams are blooming more rapidly than you realize. Still, the need nurturing and patience."