I almost let it get away – April – National Poetry Month

I am thrilled to announce the two winners of the book giveaway from this post!! Congratulatiaons to Yvette Calleiro and to Vashti Q! Your books will be on the way soon!

I would be remiss if I let this special month get away without celebrating a very beautiful book of poetry and art.

After I finished writing my four biographical fiction novels, it needed one more piece to complete the circle. And, that piece was a book of poetry accompanied by pen-and-ink drawings that Rick Sikes compiled in the years between 1975 and 1985 from inside Leavenworth Penitentiary.

Writing poetry and doing this incredibly tedious artwork were a small part of his determination to be, think and do only positive from a terribly negative place.

So, it was extremely satisfying to me, to get it edited, and published in 2017.

From the artwork that graces the cover, to the poems and artwork inside, you’ll find little pieces of the heart and soul of Rick Sikes.

The Foreword, written by Connie Nelson (Willie Nelson’s ex-wife) gives a brief glimpse at the level of respect Rick earned, even while in prison. In her words, “…what inspired me and drew me to build a friendship with Rick, was his love of beauty and his never ending, unbroken spirit. He never bought into discouragement or despair – he exuded only beauty…”

The original title of the poetry book started out as “Etchings in Stone.” But when we released a music CD in 2003 with that title, I knew the poetry book needed a different name.

For a copy of this CD, visit http://ww.jansikes.com

The first poem inside the book, “Discovery,” was truly a turning point in Rick’s life. He told the story about how the poem came to be. He was locked in the “hole” (solitary confinement) for some infraction, as often happened when he first arrived. After they escorted him to solitary, three guards went inside with him, and beat him, and kicked him with their boots until he was almost unconscious.

He had a dream or as he liked to put it, a “vision.” In that vision an angel with a broken wing came to him and spoke words that truly changed his life. The poem, Discovery, tells that story. Here’s a small snippet:

Through life’s wilderness I wandered aimlessly seeking my way

Seldom looking up to see the light of day

Stumbling blindly, ’til so weary, I could go no more

In total exhaustion I fell to the earthen floor

My eyes focused on a wounded but lovely thing

Seemingly an angel felled with a broken wing

Said I, “Stranger what will be your name?”

A voice spoke softly, “Yours, for our names are the same…”

Not all the poems and stories in this book are serious. There is a good mix of humor and satire, such as “The Title is Too Damned Long or (When Aunt Bessie Rode a Bike to the Belly-dancer’s Ball).”

So, if you’d like a one-of-a-kind book filled with poetry and art, including some of my poems, here’s the Amazon link. :https://www.amazon.com/Discovery-Poetry-Art-Rick-Sikes-ebook/dp/B072KXYHVY/

One reviewer had this to say, “Discovery by Jan and Rick Sikes is a powerful testimony of the human spirit. It is crafted such that the reader accompanies the writers not as a spectator but as a partner. “

As I approach the anniversary of Rick’s death, I am compelled to share his work with my readers. If you’ve read my novels, then you already know about Rick through the character Luke Stone. But a more personal look can be had through Discovery.

In honor of Rick’s memory and as a part of his legacy, I am giving away one hard-back full-color copy of the book (US only) and one copy of the ebook. Just share the post and leave a comment below for a chance to win!

Thank you for visiting! It’s always an honor!

A Hundred Miles of River – Rick Sikes

I am out of town this weekend and am turning off comments for this post, but I wanted to share something that I think is pretty special with you.

I made the decision (a hard choice) to pull down Rick’s website at the end of 2019. It was strictly due to the amount it was costing me per year with very little return. So, I created a page (or the beginnings of one) on my own website. I’d love for you visit, as there may be some things you don’t know about the early years of his career. I will be adding more things as time allows.

Rick Sikes Page

And I’d also like to share this YouTube video with you. It’s a song that is a true story about a boat that was sunk in the Sabine River during the civil war. I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you for visiting!

Etchings In Stone

I’ll never forget coming home from work one evening in 2002, to find Rick excited about a new song project.

We were in the planning stages for his new CD, “Etchings In Stone,” and he wanted someone to collaborate with him in writing the title track. He’d reached out to several of his songwriter friends, but so far no one had been inspired. That was until that day.

He told me to go to the phone in the bedroom and he placed a call, then yelled for me to pick up.

I did and found our good friend, John Beam, on the other end.

“John’s written the song I need to put on the album,” Rick said.

Then he proceeded to ask John to play and sing it. Tears ran down my cheeks while I listened and I had chill bumps all over. The song was the profound emotion-filled song that we’d been searching for.

So, with a little work and tweaking, we had the title track, “Etchings In Stone.”

I’d love it, if you’d listen! “There once lived a man, who did etchings in stone. He told others’ stories, but could not tell his own…”

It was with great sadness that I learned of John Beam’s passing three days ago. He was only 61 and his story intertwined with our lives from way back in the sixties.

Rick and his band, The Rhythm Rebels, played the historic London Dance Hall near Junction, Texas, on a regular basis throughout the fifties and sixties. John Beam was just a little boy, and his family came to every dance Rick played. Even at that young age, John had the passion and desire to play music. He would stand in front of the stage, play air guitar and mouth every word to the songs that Rick sang.

In my book, “Flowers and Stone,” I wrote a scene where Luke Stone (aka Rick) was playing at the London Dance hall one New Year’s Eve. During the course of the evening, he got the John up on stage, strapped his guitar around the boy’s neck and lowered the microphone. John sang and played for the first time in public.

After that, he never stopped. Once Rick returned home from prison, John quickly came back into our lives and never left. At Rick’s funeral, John sat with our family. Why? Because he was family.

He and his wife and children lived in Mason, Texas. He was the first to raise his hand whenever anyone needed help and the last to back down when someone needed defending. He had a passion for classic cars, Harleys and country music. He loved his family fiercely and was loyal to his friends. He will be missed.

So, this post is a tribute of sorts to John Beam, the man and the music. You can find several of John’s songs on Reverbnation. But I am sharing one of the most personal songs he ever wrote, “Three Old Cans of Beer,” about the Vietnam Wall. John was a veteran.

I don’t know how to properly say goodbye or to give this man the credit he deserves other than to write about it. I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting John Beam.

Life is short, folks. Friends are a precious gift. Don’t waste any of your gifts!

Rick Sikes and John Beam

A Story of Love and Time

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a Rick Sikes original story and this one always touched me. Of course he writes in parables, but I see the comparisons clearly. Enjoy!

A STORY OF LOVE AND TIME BY RICK SIKES

     I can’t tell you why men write and I have been thinking pretty hard on it these past few hours. It could be a man finds something inside of him so damn beautiful that he wants to get it down on paper before it slips away. I guess it could be that a man stumbles onto a thought so damned earth-shaking he figures just about everybody should get a chance to hear it. Who knows? Not me. I ain’t no writer. I’m a cowboy…

     But, here I am writing!

     It all started last night. You see, when the whistling West Texas wind drives chariots of tumbleweed across this God-forsaken plain, a man finds his body creeping closer to the fire as surely as he finds his mind seeking the warmer memories of his past… and last night was black ice, raw and bitter… and as surely as my fire drew me to its warmth, one of my memories drew my soul… until… like a Roman Candle exploding in huge darkness, I saw that memory in a new light… and I was wanting to write it down… so I could share it… earth-shaking or not…

     So, here I am, sitting on my saddle, with a pencil in my ol’ paw and an empty stomach, doing two things I ain’t never done before…

     Missing breakfast and writing a story!

     But, sometimes a thought can feed what a meal can’t. Depends on a man’s hunger I reckon.

     I know the thoughts in the Good Book used to feed my mama, and I can remember a teacher I had once, years ago. They fed me so much poetry that my heart was filled to bursting because I couldn’t let it out for fear that my pals would laugh me to shame.

     Funny, ain’t it… how one thought leads on to another? And that brings me to the memory I discovered last night.

     I grew into manhood on a rocky Texas ranch. Pa died early. Ma still lives on the place. The soil ain’t good for nothing but cactus and windstorms on that place and it weren’t no different when I was growing up. But, we had some times on the old place worth remembering, and I find it’s true the older I get, a few things happened there a boy had to grow into understanding. My story’s about one of those things.

     There was an old billy goat on our place. He was wild and wicked, crafty and cantankerous and smelly and scrawny. He was also lonely. His smell would gag a buzzard and he was so scraggly looking that the horned-toads paraded their ugliness past him like it was finery. Pa used to say, when we’d catch a glimpse of that ol’ goat, he was so poorly looking that he’d force a train to take a dirt road. I always smiled and nodded.

     Pa died in the winter of my fourteenth year. Later the same year, April I think it was, I came up on a sight which I didn’t give much thought to ‘til last night. I was with our hired hand and his boy, Junior Bascomb.

     Junior was my best and only friend growing up. He was two years older than me and I always thought of him as a kind of god. I guess he must’ve known the answer to every growing-up question I ever wanted to ask.

     Anyway, we rode up on one of the prettiest roses a man could ever want to see. Right next to that rose, laid out and dry, was the bones of that ol’ billy goat. I can remember Junior Bascomb saying, “Well, now, ain’t that the purdy’est rose you ever seen?” And his Pa answering, “It surely is.” I can remember how we all noticed the skeleton of that ol’ goat and sort of laughed when Junior’s Pa said the old billy would’ve eaten it sure.

     Junior wanted to pick the rose for a little gal he was seeing in town, but his Pa told him to leave it where it grew. When Junior asked why, his Pa said, “Well, son, I think it’s kinda nice for old Billy, onery cuss he was, to have such a purdy flower growing there by his grave…”

     And we rode on…

     And I’ve been riding on ever since.

      I’ll be fifty come June.

    But, somewhere between then and now, I’ve come to look on that long ago day with a different view… and I guess my story is a little more than the story of an old billy goat and his rose. Just as a man sees things a tad different than a boy… because in my man’s soul I can almost see that old, lonely billy goat wandering through his empty days. That lonely little rose was solitary but splendid; nourished by a tiny stream and hemmed in by a few weeds.

    I can see the old billy goat coming up to that little rose, and I can see him wanting to eat it, but he didn’t because he felt something just in looking at it that he hadn’t felt in years.

     He felt younger, richer and less lonely.

     So, he grazed all around the area and he fell in love with the awesome intensity only an old creature can feel. The sight of the rose made him spry and the scent of the rose put him in a romantic mood. One day, he became so jealous of the weeds growing around his rose that he tore them from the ground and gobbled them down in a frenzy that he hadn’t felt in years. They tasted terrible in his mouth, but seeing them gone made him feel pure in his soul. He had never been so happy. At night, the warm breeze blew the fragrance of his rose softly into his nostrils and he slept well.

     The summer passed well. Every day began with the sight of his lovely, dew-kissed rose, and every day ended with perfume and dreams.

     But as summer ended and the rose began to fade, the old goat began to eat less and less and worry more and more. When the frost came, chilling and killing his love, it killed something in the old goat too. One by one, the petals dropped from the rose into the dust and the old goat followed soon after.

    Every year, around spring the rose returned to bloom beautifully, beside the bleached bones of the old billy goat. Eventually, the sands shifted, covering both Billy and his rose…

     But what is covered is not always forgotten,

     And what truly matters finds a way to bloom again.

     Even in the heart of an old cowboy.

For more about the life, times and music of Rick Sikes:

http://www/ricksikes.com

http://www.jansikes.com

Willie

Because I couldn’t make my blog post until after last night happened, it’s late going up.

Let me explain. As most of you know, I work for a music magazine, Buddy, The Original Texas Music Magazine. Along with that comes a few perks now and then. Last night I had two free tickets to a Willie Nelson and Family show at The Bomb Factory in Deep Ellum, Dallas.

Myself and another Buddy staffer attended the event, at first thinking we were getting Press Passes, then finding out we only had general admission tickets. Considering the cost of those, it was still a good deal.

I had taken my book, “The Convict and the Rose” to gift to Willie. But, it became obvious, there was going to be no personal contact with him.

Why that book in particular? Because the artwork on the cover was done by Rick Sikes in the late seventies, commissioned by Willie for an album he wanted to release by the same title. But, as fate will sometimes do, around the time they were getting to release the project, IRS started looking at Willie and his attorneys advised him against having any contact with a convict. Therefore, the project was shelved.

In 2004, Rick and Willie reunited and Rick gave him all the original artwork.

Rick Sikes and Willie Nelson

Since Willie never used the artwork, when I wrote “The Convict and the Rose,” I decided to utilize it. And that is why I wanted to get the book into his hands last night.

After lots of dead ends, I reached out by text to Willie’s ex-wife, Connie. At her suggestion, I found Willie’s bus driver, known simply as Gates.

What a kind and sweet gentleman he turned out to be. When I told him Connie had told me to ask for him and he would get me what I needed he just grinned.

“So, what is it that you want to give Willie?”

I reached into my purse and pulled out the book. He took it and while I stood and watched, he went directly onto the bus and came back out empty-handed. He gave me a thumbs-up and a grin.

So, in a round-about way, a copy of “The Convict and the Rose” is now on Willie Nelson’s bus! Whether he’ll pick it up and read it is another story, but at least I accomplished what I set out to.

The show was sold-out. No surprise there. The Bomb Factory, which holds just under 5,000 people, had removed all tables and chairs and people were packed in elbow-to-elbow like sardines.

Willie played for 70 minutes. He did most of his classics and never faltered.

I am in amazement that at 84, soon to be 85, he is still going strong.

The lighting was terrible, so these pictures are very poor quality, but I was there and had a wonderful time!

Sister Bobbi, Mickey Rafael and Paul English

And the best part…Willie now has a copy of my book! It was worth the cold misting rain and aching feet to accomplish it.

My Valentine Story – 1989

Happy Valentine’s Day tomorrow everyone! If you have a partner, I hope you take time to let them know how much you love and appreciate them. One event in life can take them, or you, away.

Image via Pixabay

My Valentine Story starts on February 13, 1989.

Rick and I were preparing for open heart surgery on this day. There were so many emotions, so many unanswered questions and so much fear of what was to come next.

Would he survive the surgery? Could it be that we waited so long to be together to have it all end too soon? How would I survive if he didn’t?

Here are a couple short excerpts from “Home At Last.”

Excerpt #1:

“Once the girls were tucked into bed, Luke and Darlina lay on their own bed snuggling close.

“Darlina,” Luke began.

Now, regretting her earlier insistence that he tell her everything, she put her fingers on his lips. “Sh. Let’s not talk anymore tonight. We need to rest.”

“But, I have so much to tell you.”

“Then tell me tomorrow. I just want to lie here beside you and pretend everything is like it was a month ago before all of this started.”

Luke gathered her closer. “I love you, sweetheart.”

A stray tear escaped and she buried her face in the covers. “I love you too, Luke Stone. Never forget that.”

Long after Luke’s breathing steadied into an easy rhythm, Darlina lay awake with thousands of thoughts racing through her head.

How was she going to hold all of this together and be everything for everyone who needed her? She couldn’t allow emotions to get the best of her. She had to keep up a happy positive front for Luke and for the children.

But, what if he didn’t survive the surgery? A gasp caught in her throat. She must not have these thoughts. Surely, he would be okay and they would have many more years together.

She looked over at him in the darkness and branded to memory the familiar silhouette of his face.”

Excerpt #2:

“Darlina stood quietly by as nurses helped him into a hospital gown, inserted an IV, then shaved his left leg and chest.

Her eyes misted as she watched him joke, and make light of the situation. Every time he looked at her, she forced a smile, but it was almost more than she could do.

She watched the clock and as each minute ticked away, her heart pounded so loud she wondered if others could hear it. She wanted to yank that clock off the wall and stop the hands that measured her time with Luke.

Finally, the nurses finished and left the two of them alone.

“Come here.” Luke patted the bed.

Darlina climbed up and stretched out beside him. He stroked her hair and she struggled to hold back the fountain of tears that clogged her throat.

Words were unnecessary. They’d all been said. They held each other tightly, dreading the sound of squeaky footsteps.

All too soon, the curtain parted and the anesthesiologist strode in. Darlina got off the bed, wiped her eyes and watched while he put medicine into the IV that would put Luke to sleep.

She leaned over, kissed him on the forehead and whispered. “I’ll see you soon, my love.””

The good news was that Rick (Luke) did survive the heart surgery and lived another twenty years. Of course, I wouldn’t want to spoil the book for everyone who hasn’t read it. 🙂

In honor of that special day in 1989, I have reduced the price of the “Home At Last” Kindle version starting tomorrow. I hope you’ll pick up a copy if you haven’t already.

Purchase Link

Thank you!

Discovery – Poetry and Art

It’s been a while since I did any self-promotion. I do love supporting other authors and music artists. It makes me happy when I can help spread the word about the work of another.

But, today, I want to talk about a book that I am probably the proudest of, out of all of my babies, and that is the poetry and art book, DISCOVERY.

You may have noticed the author names include Rick Sikes. In truth, the only reason I included my name as an author, was so I could legally publish the book since Rick is deceased. And, I do write poetry, so I included some of my work in the back.

Several things about this book set it apart from other poetry and art books. Firstly, Rick wrote this book in its entirety while he was incarcerated in Leavenworth Prison. Secondly, he created all the artwork that is included in the book including the cover.

He’d always had artistic talent, but until he was locked behind bars, he didn’t discover it fully. The artwork represented here is what we referred to as ‘pen-and-ink’ drawings, but the correct name is Pointillism. The drawings are made up of millions of tiny dots. I loved to watch over his shoulder, after he came home, while he created a new piece. But, all the drawings in Discovery except for one of Willie Nelson were created while he was in prison.


The original title Rick gave the poetry book was “Etchings In Stone.” But, since we released a music CD with that title, I needed to find something different.

You can see all of Rick’s music on my webpage

The first poem in the book is entitled, “Discovery,” and it tells of a turning point in Rick’s life when he decided to be, think and do only positive things in a negative situation. It was a resolve that served him well the rest of his life.

You’ll find everything from raw bleeding hurt and emotion, to off-the-cuff silly poetry, to strong political statements included in this book. It is a true baring of the soul.

The Forward to this book was graciously provided by Connie Nelson, ex-wife of Willie Nelson.

Myself with Connie Nelson

This beautiful book is available in Hardback, Paperback and eBook formats.

PURCHASE LINK

Old Jim’s Christmas Parole

This poem and piece of artwork are taken from Discovery – Poetry And Art by Rick and Jan Sikes.

Prison was a lonely place to be during the holidays. Rick often told stories of depression and how there was an increased number of suicides around Christmas.

I chose this poem because, in a twisted way, it does have a happy ending.

12A_Rick_Art

Old Jim’s Christmas Parole

Rick Sikes

A story of morals, for Christmas telling

Of an old convict, who next to me, was celling.

One hell of a man, that old Jim,

We called him “Pops”, but all respected him.

He’d been in prison since I don’t know when,

Probably chained to a tree, while they built the pen.

No one sent him anything, so we gave what we could give.

He was old and sick and had sorta’ lost the will to live.

Christmas eve, he was restlessly walking,

I asked him to sit down and we started talking.

“Hell, son,” he said, “I’ve been down roads rough and tough,

Then, I went straight, hung it up – I’d had enough.

But, you know how it is when you’ve fallen before,

Get seen around a place where someone makes a score.

Well, that’s what happened to me this time,

I got railroaded right on down the line.

I’ve got something in my eye, no use lying, it’s a tear.

I ain’t heard from my wife or kids in many a year.

But, you know boy, I got a goin’ home feelin’ in my soul.

Don’t see how though, ain’t no chance in hell for parole.

Damnedest feeling I ever had, can’t understand,

Wishful thinking I reckon, of a foolish old man.

I guess you know, my home-folk passed on years ago.

It even seems if I was home, they’d be there I know,

Just like old times watching the children play.

Home is the sweetest place on earth on Christmas day.

That’s something you remember, now don’t forget,

I don’t see no way I could get home, but it may work out yet.

Best wishes to you boy, I’m tired, gotta go to bed.”

The next morning old Jim made it home, they found him dead.

discovery_3dcoverhb2_discovery_logo1

This beautiful poetry and art book is available in three different formats.

Hardcover – Full Color

Paperback – Black & White

eBook

Or, if you’d like an autographed copy, you can order direct through my website:

https://www.jansikes.com/books.html

 

 

 

 

 

Children

I am late posting my blog for today. But, better late than never, I suppose.

This past week, I have taken care of my three-year-old granddaughter every day all day long. Believe me when I say I had forgotten the amount of energy and attention they require. I fell behind on everything and dropped into bed exhausted every night. 🙂 All that aside, look at this sweet face.

dav

That day we went to the Crayola Experience. 🙂

Then she has swim lessons every day.

sdr

Grasping at ideas for an activity, we painted sea shells. She loved this a lot.

I will have her again this coming week, then she will be back in school. While these are exhausting days, I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

The other day, she said to me, “Mimi, remember before you were born that I was your grandmother?” Wow! That floored me. Who knows. Maybe she was.

And to go along with this theme today, here is a poem and artwork from Rick.

LITTLE GIRLS AND ROSES

Roses are like pretty little girls

Petals swirling, lovely curls

Sweetly blushes the scented roses

Angel cheeks, buds like little noses

Tender fragile blooming at random

Prettiest ones are where you find them

Dew kissed angels from above

Rare beauties symbols of love

Delicate and soft seem they fantasy

Charming warmth assures reality

Thankful am I that both grows

Pretty little girls and the beautiful rose

7A_Rick_Art

Make it a great day, everyone!

 

August Reflection

I purposefully left the “Hemingway” post up an extra few days and didn’t post again on Wednesday.  I want to thank everyone who visited the blog, left comments, liked and shared.

I am going to give away a copy of the book and album to someone who leaves a comment on this post today. And, if you missed it the first time around, here is an Amazon Purchase Link: Hemingway

REFLECTION

August is such a big month for me each year. It is not only the month Rick and I both had birthdays, but also the month he returned home from prison after fifteen years AND the month we got married.

So, I want to share a couple of short excerpts from “Home At Last.”

CHAPTER 2:

The air brakes brought the lumbering bus to a stop and the door flew open. Luke stood and gathered his meager belongings, consisting of a cheap cardboard case with a change of underwear, one change of clothes, a comb, toothbrush and shaving razor he’d been issued when he left prison. In his pocket, he carried his parole papers, which he’d glanced at often since leaving Kansas.

When he spotted Darlina at the entrance of bus station, he swallowed hard.

He maneuvered his lanky frame to the front of the bus and stepped off. He dropped his case and wrapped his arms tightly around her when she ran forward. They stood quietly, barely breathing.

His chest tightened when he saw big tears welling up in her blue eyes. He hated to see her cry, even if they were tears of joy.

“Oh Luke. You’re finally home,” her voice quivered.

CHAPTER 3:

Lily and Nicole bounded out of the front door before the car came to a complete stop.

The minute Luke opened the car door, they both flew at him. “Daddy, Daddy!” Nicole yelled.

“Let me get out of the car, girls, then I can give you both a big hug.”

Darlina watched, misty-eyed, as the girls grabbed Luke’s hands and pulled him toward the house. Luke glanced back over his shoulder at her. “Come on, Mama. Let’s join the party.”

She smiled and caught up with them.

The entire family had gathered to welcome Luke home and Mom Stone had prepared a feast including homemade chocolate pie.

Tears and laughter filled the air with joyous celebration.

When Mom Stone hugged her son, she sobbed into his shoulder. “Bubba, I didn’t think you’d ever get home.”

“Don’t cry, Mom. I’m here now and I’m not going anywhere else.” He reached for Darlina who wrapped her arms around them both.

Luke’s eyes misted when he hugged his only brother, which in turn brought a lump to Darlina’s throat. Because of cancer, Bobby no longer had any vocal chords and after suffering a stroke, he walked with a cane and dragged his left leg.

Voice hoarse with emotion, Luke hugged Bobby a second time. “It’s damn sure good to be home, stud.”

CHAPTER 4

In the chaos of everyone talking and laughing, Darlina linked her arm through Luke’s. “We did it, baby. We finally did it. Are you happy?”

Luke gave her a positively sinful grin that made her heart lurch. “Darlin’, I’ll show you how much a bit later. Bet I can get you out of that beautiful dress in nothin’ flat.”

Darlina laughed. “Promises promises”

It was a very big day in the lives of Luke and Darlina Stone. One that would never be forgotten.

A union created in heaven and sealed on earth.

End_Chapter3_Pic4

***

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To everyone who has read and reviewed, “Home At Last,” THANK YOU!!

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