Friday Free-For-All

Happy Friday and happy first weekend in June! This year is flying by in one big blur.

As I thought about what I wanted to talk about this week, I ran across a blog post that I think might be of interest to a lot of you. It came into my inbox through Writer’s Digest, and I found it interesting.

Artificial Intelligence has been a hot topic lately, as more and more of our daily lives are taken over by it. There’s been a lot of talk about AI replacing authors and they’ve had some limited success with AI-created books. But can it really replicate our unique humanness?

I thought this author expressed it perfectly in this blog post.

“AI cannot feel or sense. AI cannot be swept away or pulled in close. It cannot put up a fight, battle tooth and nail, rise like a phoenix and survive to tell the story.
AI cannot sit in awe at its divinity one day and disappointment at its deeply flawed humanity the next, and it cannot write about the fathoms in between. It cannot confront pain and bitterness nor lock eyes with rapture and love. It cannot grapple with itself or search for its better angels. And it cannot carve and reshape itself with words as it goes.”

Remember in the movie WALL-E, how he fell in love with Eve?

That’s only in the movies. AI is not capable of emotion, at least not yet. Emotions are fluid and changing, and no computer program can replicate that so far. Who knows where it will all go, but I don’t feel threatened by AI taking over the art of creating stories that change and move me. And I have little to no interest in reading a book created by AI.

I am currently reading a book, Answering The Call by Parris Afton Bond, that is making me question my daily existence. Have you ever read a book like that? I’d love to hear about it and what aspect of the story made you question your life. We are a collective consciousness, and we all have things to learn from each other. That is one reason I enjoy writer’s conferences so much. The workshops are great, but often I learn as much or more over a cup of coffee with other authors.

That being said, as the date of the Ireland Writer’s Conference gets closer, I am feeling a bit of excitement start to build that I haven’t felt in a very long time. Will it be life-altering? I don’t know, but I’m willing to find out.

I really enjoyed the music festival last weekend. It was truly more like a big family gathering than a festival, and the music is my favorite kind, featuring the songwriters. It’s all about the lyrics, the message, and honest communication with a melody added. Sadly, I don’t have any pictures to share. Most of the time, I didn’t even have my phone with me. It was pretty much a total disconnect. It fed my soul.

With school out, my daily routine during the week is changed as I will be spending more time looking after my two granddaughters. So, if I fail to make it around to your beautiful blogs, know that I’m with you in my heart and will try to make as many as I can while I still squeeze in a little time for working on my WIP.

That’s it for me today. I look forward to your comments.

Friday Free-For-All – #conclusion #MemorialDay

Happy Friday!

We are celebrating a long holiday weekend here in the United States, and I will be out of pocket through Monday. If any of you are traveling, I wish you safety. If you’re staying home, I wish you a great weekend.

This will not be a long post, but I did want to recap the conclusions from last Friday’s post about finding readers for our books and how readership is declining.

Author Joan Hall found these interesting statistics I want to share with you. I was somewhat surprised by the results of the research. Thank you, Joan!

Courtesy of

Based on the many comments from last Friday, we all feel pretty much the same about marketing our work to potential readers. It’s difficult at best. And yet, we are compelled to keep writing with the hope that a few people will read and enjoy our stories.

Believe me, if I ever find a magic bullet, you will be the first I share it with. I saw this on Facebook and had to share. This sums up book marketing!

John Howell is sharing some interesting book sales statistics over at Story Empire today that you will find interesting.

In the meantime, I’m happy to report that I’ve started a new story that is the second in a series. The working title is “A Bold Bargain,” and like its predecessor, it is set in the late 1940s. This story starts out in Arkansas and makes its way to Missouri. It is always exhilarating to start something new!

I was so proud of my youngest grandson this week. He is in 3rd grade and scored the highest math score of his entire class! I love that he got some recognition!

Me and Connor

I will be out of pocket most of the long weekend, attending another music festival. This one is close by and is a small one that focuses on the songwriters, so there is no wild craziness to deal with, like I’m seeing more and more of at the bigger festivals.

I would be remiss not to take a moment to thank our men and women (and their families) who have sacrificed so much in their service to our country. I do not take it lightly.

Happy Memorial Day!

There will be no regular Monday Post. The Motivational Monday posts will resume on June 5th.

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!

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

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.

Friday Free-For-All!

Happy Friday. Here it is, the start of another weekend. If you read my Wednesday Words post, you know how I perceive time. It does march on.

Hope you have some fun plans for the weekend. It’s my youngest grandchild’s eighth birthday, so we will be celebrating her on Saturday. This is Samantha. We call her Sammy. I love the freckles that march across her nose. She’s loving and smart and loves to play more than anything else. I hope she never outgrows that.

I did another experiment this week at the Revive Health and Beauty spa. It will my last one, as I have now exhausted all of their grand opening specials, and until my income changes, I can’t quite afford their full prices. What I did this week is something they call a Hocatt. This is what it looks like.

It uses a combination of modalities to gently but powerfully detoxify and help restore the body at the cellular level. This sauna provides a person’s body with the ability to fight off parasites, bacteria, fungus, viruses, and even yeasts by the administration of ozone gas. The Hocatt can affect the neurological tissues in the body, enhance the way your nerves work, and also improve the lymphatic system. I copied that from their brochure. Basically, it is an amazing sauna that combines ozone gas, oxygen, and PEMF (Pulsed Electro-Magnetic Field) all in one. I felt great when I got out!

I don’t want to make every Friday post about health and wellness, but let’s face it, it is a huge part of our lives. When we feel good, we function much better. So, in that vein, I want to share something I’ve added to my diet. Everyone who has looked at the Keto diet has seen the term MCT oil. Just to be clear, I’m not doing the Keto diet. According to Forbes Health, the basic benefits of adding MCT to the diet are:

  • Promote weight loss
  • Boost energy
  • Promote gut health
  • Boost heart health
  • Reduce inflammation

I didn’t purchase the actual oil, I purchased the powder because I wanted to add it to my protein balls, and I’ve been putting it in my morning coffee.

We’ll see. It’s so hard to know what’s good for you and what’s not these days because it constantly changes. When Rick developed atherosclerosis, one of the foods they said he absolutely could not have was coconut. Now, it’s touted as being good for you. My only goal in all of the experimenting I do is to feel the best I can every day. If I feel good, I can be productive. I’m curious if any of you use MCT products regularly in your diet, and if so, what are your thoughts on it?

I had another fun music soiree last Friday evening. Two really good friends were playing at a venue near me, and my oldest daughter went with me. Coby Weir is the son of the late Rusty Weir. Anyone familiar with Texas music will recognize Rusty’s name. And my other friend has been playing music around Dallas for over 50 years. Guthrie Kennard is funky and has such a unique way of performing. It was so much fun!

Guthrie Kennard, Me, Coby Weir

Here’s a little snippet of Coby’s awesomeness!

On the reading front, I opened the book I downloaded from NetGalley. The one that the publisher posted a warning about. I’m not sure I really will be able to finish it. So far, I see no plot or even a reason for the story. That’s my impression after two chapters. I’m not going to waste much of my time on it. There are tons of other amazing books waiting to be read.

And on that note, folks, we have SO many new books coming down the pike from Story Empire folks, but I won’t ruin their announcements. Just be ready for some wonderful stories to be released soon!

I’ve made headway on my current WIP and it’s now sitting at just over 8,000 words. Since this is a novella, that’s approximately 1/3 done. So, Yippeee!!

There will be no Friday Free For All next week as I will be in Florida with my daughter and granddaughters. For Samantha’s big birthday, her mother is taking her to Disney, and I get to tag along. I will catch up when I return.

Have a wonderful weekend, and as always, thank you for stopping by!

Friday Free-For-All #Ice

Happy Friday! It’s the beginning of another weekend, and it’s been quite a week here in Texas.

I’m sure if you’ve had access to any news this week, you’ve heard about the layer of ice that decided to blanket Texas. Here in the Dallas area, everything shut down. I know you folks who live up north will laugh at this, but seriously, we are not equipped to handle ice on our roadways. It doesn’t happen often enough to offset the cost of equipment to take care of the issue. So, everything comes to a standstill.

Here’s a glimpse of what it looked like. As you can see, this major freeway was covered and impassable.

Photo courtesy Dallas Morning News

And, of course, the schools were all closed. That meant I had two granddaughters to take care of while mama and daddy kept working. My son-in-law picked me up in his Tesla and took me to their house, where I stayed for two days. I didn’t know Teslas were all-wheel drive vehicles, but it sure came in handy.

The girls wanted so badly to have snow so they could build a snowman but had to settle for trying to slide around on the ice.

This was the view out their back door yesterday morning.

And next week, we will be in the seventies. I call it bipolar weather.

I had hoped school would resume today, but alas, they are still closed, so I have the girls again all day. Don’t get me wrong. I love my grandchildren with all my heart. But I was so glad to get back home last night, sleep in my own bed and have total silence. 🙂 Life will return to normal next week.

I have a sister who is the oldest in the family. Her birthday is today, and she is 87 years young! If you’ve read my book, Flowers and Stone, she was Norma. Her name is Norma Jean, but she always hated Norma and went by Jean. Most people never knew she had another name. We almost lost her two years ago, so we feel incredibly blessed to still have her. Here’s the last photo I took with her.

Jan and sister, Jean

On the reading front, I am enjoying a book by a new author and will have a review up soon. It is another one of those too-real stories about a catastrophic event that shuts down the grid and puts everyone into survival mode.

I also recently downloaded a book from NetGalley that drew my attention. It had been a while since I had requested anything from them, but this note from the publisher did it for me: WARNING! This book is the most messed up thing you will ever read. So, we’ll see, but I’m curious. I’ll let you know.

On the writing front, I think I am finally over the hump with my WIP and ready to move on with the story. I was having trouble connecting with my characters, but with this last scene I wrote, I really felt them. That tells me I’m moving in the right direction. So far, I’ve had two rejections from the queries I sent out for my new series. I’m not discouraged. If it’s meant to be, someone will bite. I do think of it much like fishing. If you never put a hook with bait in the water, you will never catch a fish. And if I don’t catch a fish, I’ll do something different. It won’t be the end of my world.

I want to share a quote from the book I am reading. “Soul Teach” is a daily inspiration book with 365 entries. But what I read today struck a chord with me, and maybe it will you too.

“We can believe whatever we want to believe. And we can find a lot of evidence to support whatever belief or mindset we choose, so we might as well choose beliefs that empower us and move us forward.”

Dr. Michelle Barr

I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day to stop by my humble blog and leave comments. It truly means the world to me. I will answer your comments as I can. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Friday Free-For-All! #ProteinBalls #Ladybug #Querying

I say this on Mondays and then again on Fridays. Time sure does fly by! Happy Friday and the start of another weekend.

I began a weight loss adventure around the first of October and used a plan called Optavia. I wasn’t extremely overweight but needed to lose those stubborn ten pounds I gained when I broke my ribs in 2019. So, going in, I knew (or hoped) it would be a short journey. By Thanksgiving, I had lost thirteen pounds. Doing a happy dance all around the Thanksgiving table! Then came the hard part. Going back to eating regular food and keeping the weight off. By the way, Sally Cronin features posts on her blog frequently that deal with nutrition, and I’ve found them to be golden. One of the hardest things we’ll do while in these heavy-skinned bodies is to learn what each of ours needs and provide it. It’s almost like an entity cohabitating within another entity. 🙂

But I digress. One of the main factors of any weight loss plan is protein. For several years, I’ve been purchasing protein bars from a Dallas company, Fittastik. They are absolutely perfect, except that they are expensive. My solution? Try to make my own. Thus I began my experiment.

Here’s my first attempt.

While they looked and tasted good, sadly, I didn’t have enough of some key ingredients to get the protein numbers I wanted. After searching through the internet and making a trip to the store, this is my second attempt, where I actually wrote everything down and knew the two key numbers, calories, and protein.

I’m still not 100% happy with the protein content, so I will up the protein powder in the next batch I make and switch out dried cherries for dried dates. If any of you have a recipe you’d be willing to share, I’d be most grateful!

On a completely different subject, I had an unusual visit from a little ladybug. Two things about this that struck me as odd. First of all, we are in the dead of winter, and second, I live on the fourth floor of an apartment building. I first saw her on a lampshade. I carefully removed her and placed her on a plant. That evening, she was up on my ceiling fan. Me being me, I had to get out my animal signs books and look her up. Here’s what it said:

If a ladybug lands on you, make a wish. It will be granted. (She didn’t) Structure a time each day where you can pray or meditate in silence and solitude. (That I already do) Something you thought was lost will be making its way back into your life. (Okay) Mother Mary is with you to guide you and console you, no matter what your religious or spiritual orientation. (I love that!) You’re shielded and protected from irritations, pestering thoughts, or annoying behaviors from others. (Yay!)

After seeing her on the ceiling fan, I haven’t had a sighting since. What are your thoughts? Do you pay attention when something out of the ordinary shows up?

This past Sunday, I got to enjoy an afternoon of music. It had been way too long, and I needed a fix, so I traveled to Mineral Wells, Texas, to listen to my good friend, Randy C. Moore and Jody Lee. It was SO much fun. Randy has a new song hitting the airwaves today, “Before Elvis.” It’s a true story song about his uncle who went to school in Memphis with Elvis. Take a listen and get ready to tap your toes. 🙂 Here’s a photo of me, Randy, and Jody.

L-R Randy C. Moore, Me, Jody Lee

On the writing front, I’ve pretty much hit a brick wall this week, but as things will do if you let them work themselves out, I now have a clearer idea of where I need to make some changes in my WIP and hope that gets me moving forward again.

I also did something this week I’ve never done before since I started down (or up) this writing path in 2013. I started querying agents for my completed manuscript, “A Beggar’s Bargain.” I don’t know what the result will be, but I felt compelled to try. Maybe that’s what the Angel card was all about on Monday. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

On the reading front, I’m currently doing a beta-read for another author and loving what I’m reading! Next up for me is from a new author for me, “Survival” by Lisa Harris. I’ll let you know.

Whatever your plans are for the weekend, I hope you remember two things: 1. You are a powerful creator! 2. We are all in this together!

Thanks for stopping by!