#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.


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!


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.


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.



What is your story preference?

What do songs, books and movies all have in common? The answer is simple. They tell a story regardless of whether it’s in three minutes, three hundred pages or two hours.
I am an author. But before deciding to write a series of true stories, I wrote songs, poetry, short stories and screen plays. I am convinced that once bitten by the writing bug, you never quite recover. You only move on to different methods of telling your tales.
Some of the greatest stories are told through a three to four minute song. Appalachian and American folk music is a great example of that. Most of the songs told of hard times, death and destruction. My Aunt Evelyn used to sing about the Legend of the Haunted Wood which told a story of a man, his wife and children who lived on the banks of a river. One day, he rode into town and left them alone in the cabin. While he was gone, Indians came, attacked his wife and burned the cabin to the ground with her and the children inside. He roamed the river banks looking for them long after he’d died. What a tragic tale! But, that is only one example.

Prisoners who worked on chain gangs often sang songs in rhythm with the swinging of an ax handle or sledge hammer. Oftentimes, they made up the words as they went, with some songs winding up quite long.

USA. Arizona. Phoenix. 1998. Maricopa County is home to the country's only female chain gang.  Their daily routine includes a 5:15am wake up call. Among their duties are to clear tumbleweeds from empty lots.

Then along came songwriters like Johnny Cash. Ever listen to The Ballad of Ira Hayes? What a story that song tells. The rise and fall of a lowly Pima Indian that is forever preserved in history as one of the men who raised the flag on Iowa Jima then died drunk in a ditch beside the road at the ripe old age of thirty-two. And, that’s just one small example.

Ira Hayes

How about The Gambler? To me that is the ultimate story song. Within the first few lines of any of this song, the listener has already formed a visual of what the song is about. On a warm summer’s evening on a train bound for nowhere, I met up with a gambler. We were both too tired to sleep… The picture is perfectly clear.

How about this one? Got a helpless, hopeless feeling like a bird that can’t fly. Of a man not living but one who can’t die. Hating, hurting, staring, look at these ol’ walls forty foot high… Those are the first lines to a song, Forty Foot High, written by Rick Sikes, who was an inmate in Leavenworth Penitentiary. Immediately, we feel the gripping emotion of the man trapped behind massive walls. For this man, music was his salvation. I wrote his story in my second book, The Convict and the Rose, which won the 2015 book of the year award in the Biography Fiction category from the Texas Association of Authors.

AD_Book&CDAward FB Timeline

It’s not possible to list all of the great story songs that have been written nor the songwriters who composed them. It would take volumes.

Let’s talk about movies. Think about your all-time favorite. How does it start? Are you hooked from the opening lines? For me, Lonesome Dove is one of those unforgettable movies that drew me in from the beginning. And, who doesn’t know a line or two from Gone With The Wind? Can you tell me what movie this line is from? “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” Yes, The Godfather. I can get very emotionally invested in the characters. Why? Because of the story being told through them.

Movies, songs and books with the greatest staying power are the ones that make us feel and think. They touch something deep within us or change us in some way.

In my books, I relate the story of a veteran Texas musician who packed out every dance hall, honky-tonk and auditorium in the great State of Texas, surrounding states and on out to California for many years. He was a true pioneer of what we now call Outlaw music. But, as songwriter, Richard Dobson, wrote in a song about him, “he took that outlaw thing a little far” when he wound up in Leavenworth prison on two counts of armed bank robbery.

These stories all revolve and evolve around music. For that reason, I also release a music CD of original songs along with each book matching the time period of that story segment.

Any lover of music or a real life story will be entertained by these books and that’s a guarantee.

So, back to the beginning – a story is a story – no matter the medium through which it is told, it has the same characteristics and evokes emotion in the reader, listener or viewer.

And we all enjoy a good story!

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