Friday Free-For-All! Music Festival and Keyboard

I have to start this Friday’s post off with a short recap of the amazing music festival I attended last weekend. With over 36 hours and 112 bands and solo acts, not counting the nightly campfires, it was a lot! There wasn’t much sleeping involved. And, I even got to dance. 🙂

I took some early author copies of Saddled Hearts and sold them all. I wish I would have had at least ten more! Then this lovely lady had purchased Flowers and Stone from Amazon, and brought it to the festival for me to autograph. She then ended up buying the other three books. Thank goodness I had packed a couple of each.

Jan and Linda Harlan

All in all, I sold $280 of books. That’s not bad! Plus there was a gorgeous full moon! I thought of Dan Antion as I tried to capture it between the two flags. I am sure he would have done a better job.

Photo by Jan Sikes 10-8-22
Jan Sikes and Deryl Dodd

And last, but certainly not least, I got to put Saddled Hearts in Deryl Dodd‘s hands. You see, he is in the book as himself along with his song, “One Ride In Vegas.” It almost took an act of Congress for the publisher to allow me to include him, but he so graciously signed all the waivers they insisted on. So, it made me very happy to hand him an autographed copy.

I left the festival, tired, but with my heart full to overflowing. It was the best of the year for sure, and a wonderful way to close out the season!


Meanwhile back in the real world, what’s up with my keyboard? Over and over I wear the letters off the keys. I guess I hit them too hard or something. Does that happen to you too?

Photo by Jan Sikes

So, I found some stick-on tabs on Amazon that says they are tough and durable and will stay on the keys. For less than $6, I ordered them and stuck them on. They aren’t uniform or even, but at least all the keys are visible once again.

Photo by Jan Sikes

I have no idea how well they will stay on, but it prevents me from having to purchase yet another keyboard when the one I have is barely over a year old.

Have you ever tried these? I’ll have to let you know how long they last. 🙂

That’s it from me for this Friday. I hope everyone has a great weekend!!

Friday Free-For-All! #2

Hi, everyone. I hope you’ve had a good week and looking forward to the weekend. It’s time for another Free-For-All!

Created in Canva

I’ve been thinking about things that have influenced me throughout life, and the list is long. Of course, my parents influenced me, as did school. But the one single biggest influence that goes as far back as I can remember is Music!

Growing up in a holy-roller, free-holiness church, music was a big part of every worship service. The piano, guitars, tambourines, accordions, and even a trumpet would stir my soul ten times more than whatever message the preacher brought. Because I could FEEL it.

The strict religion forbade listening to “worldly” music, but I was allowed to attend gospel music concerts. The Stamps Quartet, Blackwood Brothers, and The Happy Goodman Family are some of the most memorable. And, oh my, they could sing. Their harmonies blended like finely tuned instruments. Again, it stirred something deep and primal in me.

Then, as a teenager, I got a transistor radio one year for Christmas. It came with earbuds. Mine looked exactly like this.

Courtesy Canva Photos

The entire world opened up to me! I could get KOMA out of Oklahoma City and Wolfman Jack on XERF out of Del Rio, Texas. And I fell in love!

I fell in love with Aretha Franklin, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Odis Redding, and all the greats who were creating fabulous music in the sixties. I would imagine myself standing on the hood of a car, singing “Venus” or Helen Reddy’s “Angie Baby.” Then the kids at school would accept me, and I’d finally be a part of something. Yes, I know. It was the crazy imagination and dreaming of a lonely teenager. But some part of me saw music as my window to the world.

I begged Mom and Dad for a piano. We were poor, and I know it was selfish of me, as it would be near to impossible for them, but they managed to find one somewhere and brought it home. I loved to pound away on it. They couldn’t afford lessons, so I’d pick out songs by ear. Then, several summers in a row, The Stamps School of Music came to Hobbs and offered free classes. So, my sister and I were allowed to go. I learned to read the notes but never got it down to the point I could look at a piece of music and know instantly what the notes were. I’d have to count the lines and spaces. 🙂

So, time went on, and I turned eighteen. I could legally leave home. I was chomping at the bit to get out and experience the world, to try all of the things that had been forbidden by the church and my parents. And experiencing live music was at the top of that list.

I was too young to get into the nightclubs, but one club in Abilene (where I had moved) had lost their liquor license for serving alcohol to minors, and they had live music on the weekends. That became my second home. And it was where I met Rick Sikes.

I often question myself as to whether or not I would have been as attracted to him if he hadn’t been a regional singing star. Who knows, and it doesn’t matter. He was, and I was. I loved traveling up and down the roads of Texas with him and his band. I finally found a place where I fit, where I was a part of something that I loved.

Rick Sikes And The Rhythm Rebels 1965

As life will often do, it threw me a curve ball, and instead of catching it, I let it knock me down. Rick’s music career and our love affair came to an abrupt end when he was arrested and convicted on two counts of bank robbery.

Now what? I’d still go out and listen to bands every chance I got, but it was never the same. And yet, I never lost my love for music. I fell in love with Jethro Tull and would sit with headphones on and listen to his Aqualung album over and over. I’d do the same with Janis Joplin’s Pearl album.

Fast forward twenty-five years, and I am now married to Rick Sikes. After a long hiatus, he’s started back writing and singing. Only this time, I am along for the full ride as his music partner. I learned to play guitar and loved sitting with him and co-writing songs or playing a new one for him that I’d written. His first public appearance was at Sons of Hermann Hall in Dallas for Roxy Gordon’s wake in 2000. From that point, he never stopped until he got too sick to hold a guitar.

Rick and Jan Sikes Kerrville, Tx. 2003
Kerrville, Tx 2003

After Rick passed away and I moved to the Dallas area, I searched for a way to stay plugged into the music world I loved so much. I started volunteering at music festivals in 2010. At first, I was the outsider again. These people had a long history together. But I kept suiting up and showing up and working hard, and now the folks who still do this with me are like an extended family.

Then, when I had the opportunity to go to work for Buddy Magazine, I loved interviewing music artists and helping promote their new records. COVID took the magazine down, but a man has taken it over and trying to revive it.

In the meantime, I attend every live music event I possibly can. Music feeds and satisfies some primal need in me. It has indeed been my biggest influencer in life, and I have a feeling it will be until I am no longer on this earth. This sign hangs on my office door.

A gift from Marlena Smith Burris

Sorry for the long blog post. I normally avoid that, but this one seemed to require it. I’d love to hear from you. What has been the biggest singular influence in your life?

For the final birthday month giveaway, my short story, Brazos Wind is FREE for the next four days! I’d be honored if you’d download it!

Mountain Laurel Christmas On Tour – Day 1! #ShortStory #Christmas #FamilyDrama #Music

I am thrilled to take Mountain Laurel Christmas on a short blog tour!

Our first stop is at C.S. Boyack‘s place!

Boyack is a speculative fiction and fantasy writer extraordinaire! I have read most of his work and highly recommend it for great entertainment.

A series that is diverse and eclectic is Lizzie and The Hat.

Lizzie St. Laurent inherits an old hat from her grandmother’s estate. The hat had belonged to her grandfather. But this is no ordinary hat. Being from another dimension, the Hat has powers! Lizzie and her new partner embark on journeys to hunt and destroy dark entities such as vampires and werewolves. And all while playing music in a band.


Another fabulous series from Boyack takes place on the high seas aboard a ship known as The Lanternfish. I devoured these books and there is a brand new one I haven’t had a chance to crack open yet.

You can find The Lanternfish Series HERE!

So, pick up a book from this talented author, then head on over to the blog tour.

Leave a comment, share, and enter to win my Blog Tour Giveaway!

C.S. Boyack Blog Tour Post

“make it be me” – #NewRelease @MeabhStanford #Music #Literature WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE FOLLOWING WINNERS!

Mae Clair

Marie Sinadjan

D.L. Finn

Winners, please contacct Meabh at meabhmeabhmeabh@gmail.com to make arrangements to receive your prize!!

The artist I am introducing to you today is perhaps one of the most unusual and talented young ladies I have had the pleasure of meeting. What Meabh has done is unique and brilliant. And she is giving away a batch of goodies! I’ll let her tell you about it.

  1. About the Project: “make it be me” concept EP

“make it be me” is a concept project based on movies and novels that inspired strong emotions in me. The EP explores the effect that media has on the consumer through the lens of the characters in said media. I would say that my music is indie-pop, or alternative-pop, leaning towards the writing style of artists like Taylor Swift or Phoebe Bridgers. “make it be me” is filled with dramatic orchestration and piercing lyrics that inspect classic and modern stories, written from the perspective of well-known characters or the vantage point of an outsider swept into the deceptive magic of a universe. I immerse myself in different stories and write as if those fictional experiences are reality. 

The EP’s opening song, “Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina,” is based on the dramatic screen interpretation of the novel. I was enchanted by the way the author and directors took the mundane and inserted dramatics and pain and love into the story. I wanted to know what it would feel like to be one of those characters, who seem to live for each other, who abandon all reason in the name of love. Of course, it’s all unrealistic. But that doesn’t make it any less romantic or beautiful and she wanted to capture that feeling. The second and sixth tracks, “oh, Hyacinth, parts one and two,” revolve around the heartbreaking Greek myth of Apollo and Hyacinth. These songs are from the perspective of Apollo and follow the story of their short but intense relationship. Track three, “i can still hope” is a playful twist on the play, Romeo and Juliet Same star-crossed lovers deal, except this time, the love is unrequited on the part of who is representing Romeo’s character. The narrator, who represents Juliet, laments and self-deprecates and wishes that her Romeo would love her back.  Track four, “glory days” is a folk-pop anti-war anthem based on the point of view of Billy Pilgrim from Slaughterhouse-Five. He is such an interesting character and because I agreed with many of his ideas, this was a fun song for me to write. However, there are parts of this song that are purely Billy. So it goes… Finally, track five, “i still remember” was inspired by the novel, The Kite Runner. It is written from the perspective of Amir, the main character. It explores themes of guilt, haunting, and the desire to run away from your mistakes, even if it includes running away from the beautiful memories too.

  1. Stream/Purchase links for Méabh’s music which has been inspired by literature:

All links can be found in the following linktree: https://linktr.ee/meabhstanford

Individual links are below:

Spotify- https://open.spotify.com/album/4uZGdGu9QeUH73zg0ATb76?si=xJGTcYgJR7uA9ABsucTj0g&dl_branch=1

YouTube- https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_kk241_d4UpK7YRuo28pDEZDsfHR4e12E4

Apple Music- https://music.apple.com/us/album/_/1576998327?mt=1&app=music&ls=1

Bandcamp- https://meabhstanford.bandcamp.com/album/make-it-be-me

Tidal- https://listen.tidal.com/album/191317779

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/make-be-me-m%C3%A9abh-stanford/dp/B099PFQ36H/ref=sr_1_7?dchild=1&keywords=meabh+stanford&qid=1627089741&sr=8-7

  1. Website/Social Media Links: 

Website: https://www.meabhstanford.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/M%C3%A9abh-Stanford-108163631464642

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/meabhstanford/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MeabhStanford

4. Bio:

Méabh Stanford is a 16 year old singer-songwriter-musician from Ocean City, New Jersey. She has been in love with music since childhood and has been performing since 2016. Her musical adventure began as an infant when her parents towed her and her older brother to “Music Together” music and movement classes. As she grew, she began taking piano lessons as a young child, then moved to play the flute in the school band. Inspired by Taylor Swift, Méabh began to play the guitar and sing. Méabh’s vocal coach and mentor, Stevi Leigh, challenged her to write a song at their first lesson four years ago when Méabh was just 12 years old. Writing this first song was a groundbreaking moment and she hasn’t stopped writing since. A voracious reader and evocative storyteller, Méabh infects her sophisticated sound with semantic twists and potent metaphors. Her debut concept EP, “make it be me,” was released in July 2021 and was produced by 2x Grammy-nominated producer, Saint Luke.



Giveaways:

A t-shirt, cd, and goodie bag which would include a pin, sticker, and bookmark.

To be entered to win, leave a comment and share on social media!

Practice for Passion with Musings from Music Masters – RM Chaffee @gifts_music #NewRelease #Music

I am so happy to turn my blog over to an amazing woman and artist, Becky Chaffee. Her book is different and a valuable tool with profound insight for a budding or a seasoned musician.

Welcome, Becky.

Thank you, Jan. I appreciate your hospitality.

There are so Many Reasons to Play a Musical Instrument.

It’s not only fun to play an instrument, but for both young and old, it’s healthy! To inspire you to practice, I created a fun, witty book with practice stories and tips from great musicians, Passion For Practice With Musings From Music Masters.

Playing an instrument uses more of your brain than any other art and more than playing a sport according to Ted Talk, “How Playing A Musical Instrument Benefits Your Brain”, by Dr. Anita Collins. It creates fresh neuron connections in your brain. Talking about connections, playing is a very social activity which is also healthy and fun! I joined a music club, but you can also join a community band or orchestra or play duets to make new friends.

If you learned an instrument in grade school, take some lessons again from a teacher if you need help getting started again. The better you are, the more fun you’ll have. The regular practicing can be rough, but “Passion For Practice…” helps you to practice smarter, making it more of a fun challenge than rote practicing.

I have listened to about 20 years of music lessons from fine teachers (between my kids and myself) on violin, piano, flute, and guitar in both classical and jazz genres. The lessons expressed practice concepts in so many different ways that I thought it would be fun to express these lessons in paintings.

On the back cover of the book are testimonials from Ransom Wilson, Yale Flute Professor, and Steven Greenman, International Klezmer Violinist:

“A delightful and valuable resource for musicians of all ages and abilities, Passion for Practice offers instructive strategies for practicing effectively. Chaffee’s book promotes a positive message that resonates with the reader while encouraging patience, self-discipline, creative problem-solving, and self-reliance. Her wonderful illustrations add a vibrant display of color and imagery to reinforce each lesson. A clever use of wordplay presents analogies to solutions for musical and technical issues…augmented with insightful comments, stories, and advice from professional musicians and educators… an entertaining, supportive, and informative approach to learning music.”

— Steven Greenman, Violinist-Educator-Composer, Internationally Renowned Klezmer Violinist

“Ms. Chaffee’s creative book reminds people who grew up learning music that they can successfully pick up their instrument again. Whether playing by yourself or in a group, you have to practice to be proficient enough to enjoy playing. If you practice smarter, you will set yourself up for a fun challenge and have a rewarding experience. This book offers ideas for improving your practice sessions. Amazing practice tips and stories from very accomplished musicians included in the book will remind you of others out there practicing too and give you an understanding of what some of them went through to get to their playing level.”

–Ransom Wilson, Professor of Flute, Yale School of Music

You might also enjoy Have Fun With Your Music by Becky Chaffee, a book to encourage young musicians to make practicing their own.

PURCHASE LINK – PASSION FOR PRACTICE With Musings from Music Masters

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Becky Chaffee grew up in a musical household and raised two musical children. She has degrees in civil engineering from UC Berkeley and Cornell University. She enjoys playing flute for her music club. Through her music gifts company, MusicTeacherGifts.com, Becky raises funds for music education and has distributed $1,000s to youth. Much of the artwork in her books is presented on note cards, prints, and Tee shirts that sell in music stores and symphony gift shops such as the Brevard Music Center, Nashville, and San Francisco Symphony Gift Shops, SW Strings…

Follow Becky:

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#NewRelease – Lunar Boogie – C.S. Boyack @virgilante

PURCHASE LINK

I am super excited to host C.S. Boyack on my blog today as he tells us a little more about his newest Lizzie and The Hat adventure, Lunar Boogie. You may have seen my review last week and if so, you know how much I enjoyed it!

One of the things I enjoy immensely in each of the Lizzie and The Hat books is the music. The songs Boyack chooses bring instant memories for me and it adds to the dimensional layers of the story. But, I’ll let him tell you more about it. Take it away, Mr. Boyack!

Thanks for having me over, Jan. I try to keep each tour post unique, and with your ties to music thought that might be a good topic here.

Lizzie and the Pythons are a cover band put together by Lizzie and the hat. The hat is a creature from another dimension who take the form of a hat. She wears him at all of her performances, because their symbiotic relationship allows him to play the upright bass using her hands and fingers.

Their band plays music people can party and dance to. It could be anything from rock and roll, blues, country, even a bit of glam rock on occasion.

I spend part of each evening surfing for music. When I first started, my memory was good enough for several hundred songs on a playlist I made. After that, I filtered them down into a specific playlist for this series. I wind up listening to that during my commutes and it inspires me.

These days, I discover a lot of obscure music that would work, but leaves me with an executive decision. Writing the books is a bit of a tightrope. Obscure songs are just as much fun, but might not relate to as many readers. Would any of you recognize the opening chords of “You Need Love,” by JD Simo? I doubt it, but you’re missing out. Hard to add that to a book and have it come across.

A title everyone recognizes will help set the mood for a scene at one of their gigs. It’s a party environment, fun, etc. It’s a nice contrast to killing monsters under the full moon. I have to be careful, though. Music is protected by Copyright. I can freely use titles, but not lyrics without purchasing a license. (Did that once, and it’s not worth it.) It gets a bit tricky, but I’ve been able to weave the titles into dialog and that seems to work.

The other trick came from selling the band. I did this in an earlier book, but won’t do it for every one as that would get boring. They have a five piece; bass, drums, guitar, piano, and saxophone. The saxophone player has a baritone and a tenor, and also plays harmonica.

You can see how some kick-ass music just won’t fit this band. Electric Light Orchestra or Styx were great, but the available instruments might not work. I did this by explaining that solos can be handled by other instruments, organs can be somewhat covered by a harmonica, background violins can be covered by soft saxophone, but it will sound a little different. A banjo might be covered by a guitar, etc. Otherwise, I’d have to give them a twenty-five piece band and most gigs wouldn’t pay enough to feed everyone. Many of them would be waiting around for the one song they’re needed on.

A smaller group allows for more intimacy as well. With an ongoing series, I need that. They feel more like a family, and I avoid character soup.

There is a lot more to these stories than playing with the band. The symbiotic relationship between Lizzie and the hat allows them to fight monsters. He has several special skills, but no appendages to do much with. She has free will along with the needed limbs. Together, they can accomplish great things. I’ll let the cover and blurb tell you about this specific book.

Here’s an example of what some of their music might sound like. Get ready to ROCK!

Blurb:

Lizzie and the hat are back in action, only this time they’re up against the most tragic monster of all, a werewolf.

This adventure is more like hunting an animal, and the werewolf is unlikely to come to any of their musical performances. This puts Lizzie out in the dark corners and wooded areas of the city. It may be more beneficial to get the monster to hunt Lizzie than to stalk him on his own turf. All she has to do is be quicker on the trigger than the wolf is on his feet.

At the same time, the police think they’re after a serial killer. Lizzie tries to keep them alive while also keeping them out of her way. As the body count rises, so do the pressures. It doesn’t help that people are blaming Lizzie and the hat for the killings. This involves an urban myth about them that the locals call Hellpox.

Pull on your boogie shoes and join the hunt. Designed as an afternoon read, this one is tons of supernatural fun.

http://mybook.to/LunarBoogie

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New Book Release – Mrs. Molony @virgilante

I am super excited to turn my blog over to C.S. Boyack’s personal assistant and robot girl, Lisa Burton, today and let her tell you about his brand new release – another Lizzie and The Hat adventure!

Oh my gosh, Jan. It’s so nice to be here. This is a place I always wanted to visit, and promo for this book is perfect. This is the third book in The Hat Series, and this time it involves the country music scene.

Lizzie and the hat are on the trail of two vampires. They’ve kidnapped this poor woman and are feeding off her like some kind of milk cow. Before joining the ranks of the undead, they were team ropers. Turns out old habits die hard.

The rodeo circuit, and country folks in general, aren’t immune to a good party. This provides a fertile hunting ground for these particular vampires. At a party, some country girl is always going to get a little too drunk, and wind up becoming one of their victims. If hunting is slow, they always have the woman at home.

Since Lizzie and the hat have a small cover band, it gives them access to various events where they do a little hunting themselves. This is no simple feat, because the rodeo circuit moves around. Vamps have to hole-up during the day, so they can’t realistically move too far.

The hat had to do a little research, and increase the playlist for Lizzie and The Pythons. Being a younger person, Lizzie wasn’t overly fond of country music and this leads to a bit of tension between them.

Fortunately, I set her up with some expanded wardrobe that allowed her to fit in as a country performer. This all happened somewhat casually in Viral Blues, which I played a part in.

I should tell you that Craig worked pretty hard to make sure people don’t have to read this series in order. There are little things that cross over, like the wardrobe stuff, but you really can go out of order without confusion.

I know you’re involved in the music business, so this should be a good topic for you. For each of his books, Craig sends me to spend time with Sean Harrington to create some promotional artwork. I know the stories and try to recreate scenes from the book. This one is a concert image from one of the musical appearances.

Your fans are welcome to use it as iPad screens, phone backgrounds, or whatever they like.

Now I’d better get to the links and such before Craig gets upset.

Blurb: Lizzie and the hat are back, and this time they’re chasing vampires across a subculture of America. A pair of rodeo cowboys are holding a woman captive to use like a milk cow since they joined the undead.

The person who put them onto the trail is also a vampire, but he has to be the worst vampire in history. Is he really that pitiful, or is he setting a trap for our heroes? Does the woman even exists? Can Lizzie and the hat find her before she also takes up blood sucking?

Follow Lizzie and the hat as they use their cover band to stalk vamps across the country music scene.

Purchase your copy here: The Ballad of Mrs. Molony

Other stories in the series are:


The Hat
Viral Blues

You can contact Craig at the following locations:

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