When I worked on radio in the south of Spain I presented and recorded four series of Authors in the Sun showcasing local writers and their short …Smorgasbord Short Stories – Authors in the Sun – #Romance #Revenge – A Broken Promise – A Hunger by Jan Sikes
This is Part 2 of my May Book Reviews and I am thrilled to share my thoughts on these three books with you!
Life in the Colorado mountains isn’t easy for immigrants Anita and Ottavio Notaro, particularly when they’re isolated on a hillside and barely speak the language. Anita is carrying their first child, and Tav works many long, hard hours away from home. This isn’t the American dream they were promised; this is a brutal life on the frontier. Tav has been saving money to make their lives easier, and he stumbles on a windfall. The only problem is, he isn’t the only one who knows about it. Trouble befalls these two humble Italians, threatening their livelihoods—and their lives.
A strange posse made up of fellow countrymen ride to their rescue. But will they get there in time?
This short story sets the stage to begin the Medici Protectorate Series and after reading this introduction, I will be reading the rest of this series. The story gripped me from the first word on the first page to the last. A young Italian couple living on the rugged frontier in the Colorado mountains is struggling to survive. Ottavio and Anita Notaro have one dream and that is to return to their beloved homeland. Anita is heavy with their first child. Ottavio works hard and when he finds a treasure that will pay for their trip back home, he is overjoyed. But he isn’t the only one who knows about the treasure. The tragedy that befalls Anita and Tav is heartbreaking. This story is written in rich narrative, heavily descriptive, and filled with emotion that drips off the pages. It includes folklore, history, and even a touch of mysticism. I am anxious to dive into book one of the Medici Protectorate Series to see what happens next!
Known as the Barbarian, Magnar MacAlpin is a fierce ruler for those under his command. As leader of the Wolves of Clan Sutherland, his loyalty and obedience lies with Scotland. However, the king’s last demand is not something Magnar will tolerate.
After Elspeth Gunn’s brother the Chieftain of Castle Steinn is murdered, she flees with her nephew, and finds safety amongst a band of men who are rumored to be part wolf. When the king forces her to wed a heathen Northman, she fears losing her heart and soul not only to the man, but the beast as well.
In order to restore peace to a shattered clan, Magnar and Elspeth travel a treacherous path that challenges their beliefs. When evil seeks to destroy ancient traditions, will Magnar be compelled to restrain his wolf or allow him free to protect those he loves?
This is the first book in the Wolves of the Clan Sutherland series. Set in Scotland in 1206, this story combines history, magic, folklore, and myth with reality. Magnar is the powerful and undisputed leader of the Sutherland Wolf Clan. All members of the clan are part man, part wolf but their power is in controlling the beast that resides within. They are fierce warriors and loyal to King William of Scotland. It would take a special kind of woman to win Magnar’s heart, to love both him and the wolf, and that woman is Elspeth. When her brother, Chieftan of Steinn castle, is murdered by heathen Northmen, she escapes taking her small nephew with her. Little Erik is now Chieftan by default, at the age of 7. Starving, she steals bags from two horses, never suspecting she has stolen from the king. When she and the young chieftain are brought before King William, he offers shelter and protection. He then commissions Magnar and his clan to go and rid the castle of the marauders. But to bring peace to the clans, the King orders Magnar to marry Elspeth. What starts out as a cautious and untrusting marriage soon turns steamy. This is a fantastic story with layers of side plots, including a twin brother unknown to Magnar. The two are destined to clash. This author did a fantastic job of weaving all of the layers together seamlessly and depicting the time period perfectly. I devoured the book and am now anxious for book 2, Rorik. If you love a steamy romance from that time period in the setting of Scotland and the Orkney Islands, this book is for you! If I could give it more than five stars, I would!
Single father and poor Southern farmer Ty Ty Walden has a plan to save his farm and his family: He will tear his fields apart until he finds gold. While Ty Ty obsesses over his fool’s quest, his sons and daughters search in vain for their own dreams of instant happiness—whether from money, violence, or sex. God’s Little Acre is a classic dark comedy, a satire that lampoons a broken South while holding a light to the toll that poverty takes on the hopes and dreams of the poor themselves. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Erskine Caldwell including rare photos and never-before-seen documents courtesy of the Dartmouth College Library.
I have always been a huge fan of Erskine Caldwell’s writing and lucked out recently in finding several of his books in a half-price book store in Dallas. I bought all of them and am now rereading them. I started with “God’s Little Acre.” This book was first published in 1933 and there is no way on earth this book would be published in today’s social climate. Erskine depicts poverty, attitudes, and social separations perfectly in this story. It opens with Ty Ty Walden digging deep holes all over his small Georgia farm. He is convinced there is gold under the ground. Two of his sons help him daily with the digging while sharecroppers make a half-hearted attempt to farm the land that isn’t riddled with holes. Because Ty Ty is a god-fearing man, he has designated one acre of his farm as God’s little acre with all profits realized from that acre to be donated to the church. However, when he thinks he is close to finding gold on that acre, he moves it. 🙂 Caldwell had such a distinct style of writing. The dialogue is original and true to the times and demographics of the story. Phrases such as “and that’s a fact,” follow many conversations. The loose morals of the women in this story are depicted in such a way that is believable but not offensive (at least to me.) As the story unfolds, there are two major plots. The first being gold fever and the second being a different life that depends on the cotton gin running to survive. When the big wigs shut down the gin to starve out the workers, Ty Ty’s son-in-law takes the matter into his hands, determined to push past the guards, turn the power back on and return his people to work. It doesn’t end well for him. This book could possibly be classified as a tragedy, or perhaps as a high-drama, but at best it is the work of an author who dared to blur the lines and be boldly “real.” Caldwell’s greatest strength is in portraying three-dimensional characters and what motivates each. He writes from multiple points of view (a no-no in today’s literary world.) It is a classic no-holds-barred novel. If you have a weak stomach or strong social morals, this book is not going to be for you. But if you want to explore the writing genius of Erskine Caldwell, it’s a great place to start. Interestingly enough, the story is classified on Amazon as dark humor, classic humor, and literary satire. In my opinion, none of that fits. I will be making my way through the collection that I purchased. On a final note, Caldwell died in 1987. Thank goodness the publishing houses didn’t decide to keep publishing new work using a ghostwriter after his death.
The idea for this story came to me from a casual conversation with a family member.
I’m sure most everyone knows my backstory, and that my late husband, Rick Sikes, was sentenced to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. So, in this conversation with a cousin, she said, “You know, I’ve often wondered if Bobby (Rick’s brother) really did the crime and Rick took the fall for him.”
While I know that isn’t a truth, it sparked a story idea and my imagination went into overdrive.
Then I had the story completely written, but wasn’t happy with the title I had chosen. I was riding in the car with my daughter, when we passed a pickup truck with a sticker plastered on the back window that read, Brother’s Keeper.
That was it! I could hardly contain my excitement. I see things like that as signs from the Universe or as nudges.
At that point, the story of Quentin Marks and his deadbeat brother, Rowdy was complete. None of the story is based on truth. It is a work of pure fiction.
My point here is to show how the creative process can work, and how it can take a tiny spark and ignite it into a flame. That spark and flame bring with them such an excitement that must be equal to skydiving or riding a bucking bronc. I don’t know because I haven’t done either of those things (nor do I intend to). But it’s an adrenaline rush and I am passionately in love with it.
If you haven’t read “Brother’s Keeper,” I hope you’ll pick up your free copy today!
And, of course, I welcome a review after you’ve read Brother’s Keeper! Thank you and enjoy!
I was SUPER excited to wake up this morning and find that “Brother’s Keeper” took the Grand Prize in the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB’S 90-Day Alpha/Omega Beginning To End Short Story Contest!! I am SO proud of this story!
The inspiration for it came from a conversation with a family member. 🙂 You never know where they will come. As most of you know, my husband served fifteen years in a federal prison for a crime he did not commit. And, in a conversation with one of his cousins, she made the statement that she thought my husband’s little brother was involved in the crime, and that my husband took the fall for him. While that was not the case, it certainly inspired a story!
Quentin Marks covered the length of the eight-by-ten jail cell stopping now and then to punch the concrete walls that held him.
A mere forty-eight hours ago, he was resting comfortably at home ― before his brother’s frantic visit.
He replayed the conversation in his head for the hundredth time.
Rowdy Marks had pounded Quentin’s door with desperate blows. “Open the door, Quen!”
When Quentin had opened the door, his brother rushed inside in full-blown panic mode.
“What the hell, Rowdy? What have you done now?” Quentin had questioned.
“You gotta help me, man.” Rowdy grabbed him by the shoulders.
The pungent odor of whiskey and cigarettes assaulted Quentin’s nostrils. “You’re drunk, Rowdy. Go home and sleep it off.”
“No! You don’t understand. I’m in big trouble.”
“Since when is that news?” Quentin snorted.
“It’s serious this time. A man is dead.”
Quentin stopped in his tracks. “Shit, Rowdy! What did you do?”
“Pour me a drink, and I’ll tell you everything,” Rowdy whined.
“Another drink’s the last thing you need,” Quentin snarled. “Start talking.”
Have you picked up your copy yet? It’s only 99 cents on Amazon!
Once again, it’s that time of the year when the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB sponsors the 90-Day Alpha/Omega Beginning To End Short Story Contest!
I have discovered that I truly love writing short stories. So, I look forward to this contest every year as it gives me the push I need to keep creating. This time I wrote a Western and that is a first for me. I have to say that I enjoyed it immensely.
War-torn drifter, Jack McClean is left with nothing but bad memories, scars, and a restless soul. When he stumbles upon a burning homestead, and an unconscious woman, beside the Clear Fork of the Brazos River, he stops to render aid. Grieving widow, Savannah Logan, sees no reason to live, and only wants to join her husband and children in their graves. But, Jack refuses to let her die. In saving her, he might somehow find redemption for himself and hope for a new tomorrow. Is it possible that both Jack and Savannah can find a new destiny in the changeable flow of the Brazos wind?
The second story I wrote for this contest came from a conversation with a family member that left me scratching my head. Two brothers – one responsible, the other not so much and family dynamics that twisted my heart as I wrote it.
Quentin Marks’ mother can only love one son, and from the day Rowdy was born, she makes Quentin, his little brother’s keeper. She demands that Quentin fix every problem for Rowdy and that he also protect him. The truth is, after a deadly snakebite, Quentin owes his very life to his little brother, a debt that will never be paid in full. Only now a man is dead, and once again, their mother calls on Quentin to make the problem go away and save Rowdy from prison. When is enough enough, and how much of his own life will Quentin Marks have to sacrifice?
I hope that these stories grab your attention! They are both only 99 cents on Amazon. Keep your fingers crossed that maybe one of these stories will win the contest! 🙂
If you’re not following me on social media, please take a minute to connect! Thank you for your awesome support!
In response to the Flash-Fiction photo prompt from Suzanne Burke this week, here is my contribution.
A FOREIGN WORLD
“Oh, the memories.” I sigh, and squeeze his hand a little tighter. The dried orange, brown and yellow leaves crunch beneath our feet as we shuffle along the sidewalk.
He smiles down at me. “Yes, my love. I remember when we sat on this very bench and I asked you to be my bride.”
Tears came unbidden and trickled down my wrinkled cheeks. “We had a pretty darn good life, didn’t we, Harold?”
“Yes. Yes, we did, in spite of the hardships.”
“But, I no longer recognize the world we live in. Where is everyone? Why are the streets empty? There was a day when this park would have held the laughter of children and young lovers strolling hand-in-hand.”
“Let’s sit, Margaret. My old legs are giving out.”
We shuffled over to the bench and Harold brushed away the leaves that covered it.
He blew out a long sigh and leaning on his cane, dropped onto the very bench where we started life together fifty-two years ago.
“I’m troubled, Harold. No, I’m more than troubled. I’m scared. Not for me and you. We’re pretty much out of here, but for the ones coming behind us.”
Draping an arm around my shoulders, he pulled me closer. “It’s not the same America that you and I grew up in. Soldiers on the streets, looting, killings and so much hatred exists. You know it’s not even safe for us to venture out.”
“I know, but I really needed some fresh air. Thank you for appeasing me.”
“Oh, my love, that is what I have lived for these past fifty-two years. My greatest joy is to make you smile.”
“What is that noise? Sounds like firecrackers.”
“I think we better mosey on back home, honey. It’s getting closer.”
He struggled to his feet, then leaning heavily on his cane, reached for my hand.
As we shuffled back toward safety, I turned to look back at the bench that meant so much, only to see a group of hoodlums spraying graffiti on it.
“Harold, we need to move faster. Trouble’s coming.”
“I’m going as fast as I can go. Don’t worry, dear. I won’t let anyone hurt you. It’s just a few more blocks home.”
That’s when it happened. A blow to the back of his head, took Harold to his knees. I screamed and turned to face our attackers only to see sneers and glowing hatred in the eyes of what should have been intelligent young men.
“You old people don’t need to be alive,” one of them growled. “You’re just taking up space and eating food that belongs to us. This is our country now. Old people like you are a nuisance.”
I kneeled down beside Harold and cradled his head in my lap. “You’ve hurt my husband.” Tears flowed uncontrollably.
One of them laughed. “So what? What are you going to do about it old woman?”
The first blow knocked me backward onto the hard concrete, and I frantically reached for Harold’s hand. The second blow brought oblivion.
Then, I was flying and when I looked down, I saw the shell of our bodies lying on the concrete, our blood mixing together and staining the sidewalk.
Harold floated up beside me. “We’re free now, sweet love. No more aches, pains or persecution. We’re free.”
He was right. I no longer had the familiar pain in my joints and his cane no longer had any use.
“What will happen to our once beautiful world?” I took one more glance downward to see the men who’d taken our lives strolling away casually as if nothing had happened. They laughed and joked and slapped each other on the back.
“I don’t know the answer to that. We may have to come back to find out.”
“I’m not sure I want to come back again. Maybe we’ll stay with the Angels for a while.”
“Whatever you say, dear.”
With his hand nestled softly in mine, we drifted slowly and peacefully toward the brightest light that you can imagine. Then we disappeared into it.
We were home.
I hope you enjoyed my contribution. If you’d like to participate or just know more about Suzanne Burke (by the way a fabulous writer), visit her website or better yet, pick up one of her books!
Contact Suzanne at …
I am thrilled to share all of the blog sites where Jonah has visited this week! With only two more days to go on the blog tour, I hope you’ll take a look at each blog post and leave comments. If you do, your name will go into a drawing to receive an Amazon Gift Card!
Wendy Scott hosted. Here is the link: http://www.wendyjscott.com/my-blog/welcome-to-day-1-of-the-jonah-blog-tour-rijanjks-4willspub-rrbc-rwisa
D.L. Finn hosted. Here is the link: https://dlfinnauthor.com/2020/04/06/welcome-to-day-2-of-the-jonah-blog-tour-rijanjks-4willspub-rrbc-rwisa/
Joy Nwosu Lo-Bamijoko hosted. Here is the link: https://jinlobify.com/welcome-to-day-3-of-the-jonah-blog-tour-rijanjks-4willspub-rrbc-rwisa/
Jade at the Blog Tour Maven site hosted. Here is the link: https://blogtourmaven.wordpress.com/2020/04/09/welcome-to-day-4-of-the-jonah-blog-tour-rijanjks-nonniejules-rrbc-rwisa/
Nonnie Jules hosted. Here’s the Link: https://nonniewrites.wordpress.com/2020/04/11/welcome-to-day-5-of-the-jonah-blog-tour-w-author-jan-sikes-rijanjks-rrbc-rwisa-rrbc_community-4willspub/
Rox Burkey will be hosting. Here is the link to her site: https://roxburkey.com/welcome-to-day-6-of-the-jonah-blog-tour-rijanjks-4willspub-rrbc-rwisa/
Robert Fear will host. Here is the link to his blog site: https://www.fd81.net/2020-guest-blogs/welcome-to-the-final-day-of-the-jonah-blog-tour-rijanjks-4willspub-rrbc-rwisa
I do hope you’ll take a minute to look at each of the blog posts. They are all different and all directly related to JONAH!
Comments are closed here. Leave a comment on one of the hosted blogs to be entered for a $5 Amazon Gift Card!
Welcome to Day 1 of the Watch RWISA Write Showcase, where each day a different author will be featured!
It is my pleasure to start off this tour with Author, John W. Howell!
by John W. Howell
Just a couple more hours and I’ll be able to rest my eyes. Been on this damn highway for what seems like forever. His head slowly nods until the rumble strip noise causes him to jerk awake. “I have been asleep,” he yells. He yanks the wheel, and the tires screech in protest as he swerves back on to the highway. He can feel his heart in his chest and pressure in his eyes. In an instant, he regrets being so weak as to give in to the physical need. He also becomes alarmed since now he knows that sleep could overtake him without notice. One second, his eyes could be open and the next closed. Thank God for the jarring and noise of the rumble strips since without its alarm, he is sure he would have ended up piled into a tree.
As his heart settles down, he concentrates on the road ahead. There’s someone at the side about a half mile away. A hitchhiker by the looks of a backpack. A sign in the person’s hand is not readable at this distance. The thought occurs that It would be a good thing to have someone else in the car to help him stay awake. Of course, there are dangers in picking up a stranger. As he gets closer, he can see that the hitchhiker is not a guy like he thought. It’s a young woman about his age. She is wearing some kind of overalls, but the distinctive female form still comes through. He decides to slow down and assess the situation. A girl makes all the difference in trying to reach a decision for or against a pickup. After all, who knows where this could lead? He does know that in all probability, she is not likely to stick a knife in his ribs and demand his wallet after a couple of miles down the road.
He eases the car to the shoulder and can’t help kick up some dust in the process. The sign is facing him even as the person turns away to avoid the dust storm he has created. Kansas City in black marker on cardboard is all it says.
He opens the passenger door and waves her over. “I’m going to Kansas City. Want a ride?”
The young woman looks back at him, and he can tell she is doing an evaluation on the safety prospects of accepting a lift. She slowly hoists her backpack on to her shoulder and walks with hesitant steps toward the car. She puts her hand above her eyes to cut the glare of the sun and stops short of the door. She leans in. “Did you say you’re going to Kansas City?”
“Yes. Yes, I did. I also asked if you would like a ride.”
“That all depends on your intentions?”
“Yeah. You are offering a ride. How much will it cost me?”
“Cost you? I’m going to Kansas City. Your sign says Kansas City. Why would it cost you anything?”
“Just want to make sure is all.”
“No charge. I’ve been on the road forever, it seems, and I would welcome the company. My name is James.”
“Sorry, James. I know I sounded a little ungrateful, but I have also been on the road and have met several guys that think I owe them something for a ride.”
“I can understand that. Let’s just say you can ride or not it’s your choice. No other decisions to be made.”
“Fair enough. I accept your offer. My name is Sarah.” She slides in and slams the door.
“Nice to meet you, Sarah. You want to put your backpack in the rear?”
“No, I’ll just keep it here in the front with me. You can never tell.”
“When I’ll have to bail. Everything I own is in this pack, and I sure wouldn’t want to leave it behind.”
“I get it. No use trusting someone just cause they say you can.”
“Right. I think I like you, James.”
“Wainwright. My last name’s Wainwright. How about you?”
“Not sure I have a last name. I go by Sarah.”
“No last name? How can that be?”
“You going to start this car or is my fear well founded.”
James flushes as he turns the ignition. “Yeah, here we go.” He looks in the side mirror and signals as he pulls back on the highway.
“You are a cautious one. There’s no one for miles.”
“I guess it’s a habit from city driving.” He keeps checking in the mirror until he is up to highway speed
“Where you from, James?”
“New York. You?”
“I think I was originally from down south somewhere.”
“You don’t know?”
“Well, it’s been a long time.” She pauses.
James glances at her and sees that she is lost in thought somewhere. Her skin is fair, and she has the high cheekbones and lips of a runway model. She looks vaguely familiar, and he compares her looks to Joni Mitchell. There is that innocent, fragile look that makes you want to take care of her.
“I’m sorry. What did you say?” She is back.
“I didn’t say anything. I’m amazed you don’t know where you are from.”
“Well do you remember where you’re from or is it someone told you?”
She has a point. James only knew he was born in Chicago because his parents told him so. He lived in New York for twenty years so unless clued in he would have thought he lived there his whole life. “I guess I should rephrase the question. Where did you last live?”
“Yes, James. That makes a little more sense. I last lived in Dubuque, Iowa.”
“What a coincidence. I am driving from Dubuque. Do you believe that?”
“I can believe that. Someone once said there are only six degrees of separation of everyone on Earth. You and I traveling from Dubuque at the same time certainly falls into that realm.”
“Aw come on, Sarah. We are both going from Dubuque to Kansas City. That has to be more than a coincidence.”
“I never said I was going to Kansas City, James.”
“Wait. You have that sign that says Kansas City.”
“Doesn’t mean I’m going there.”
“What does it mean?”
“You think I know?”
“I’m getting a weird feeling here, Sarah. Like you aren’t telling me something.”
“Do you remember swerving after you ran off the highway?”
“What? Back there. Yeah, I remember almost falling asleep. Hey, wait a minute. How would you know about that?”
“Think a minute, James. How do you think I would know about that moment?”
“Sarah I’m too tired for guessing games. What is this all about?”
“Do you feel okay, James?”
“Yeah, just tired.”
“Look around. Do you see any other cars?”
“No, but I haven’t for a while. What are you trying to tell me, Sarah?”
“You fell asleep, James.”
“When did I fall asleep? I know I nodded off, but when did I fall asleep?”
“Just before your car went off the road and you hit a cement culvert.”
“Now, you are joking. Right? Right, Sarah?”
“No joke, James. Look ahead. What do you see?”
“Uh, up the road, you mean?”
“Yes, up the road.”
“Nothing, but what looks like a sandstorm.”
“It’s no storm, James. It is nothing.”
“Who are you anyway?”
“Do you remember that little girl who went missing in the second grade?”
“Yeah, what does that have to do with you?”
“Does the nickname Jimmy Jeans mean anything?”
“That’s what Sarah called me in the second grade.”
“How did I know that?”
“You wouldn’t unless.”
“Unless I’m Sarah.”
“Oh My God. Sarah. It is you. Where have you been?”
“That’s not important. What is important is you were broken-hearted when I vanished. You prayed for my return and made promises to God if only I would come back.”
“I never got over that either. I think of that little girl. I mean, I thought of you almost every day. Why didn’t I recognize you?”
“’Cause I’m all grown up. There would be no way.”
“Where have you been, Sarah. I have missed you so much.”
“Don’t cry, James. I’m here with you now.”
“Can you tell me what happened to you?”
“No, James, it’s not worth the time.”
“So why now? Why are you here now?”
“To help you, James.”
“To help me. How?”
“To understand what your life is like now.”
“Now? What do you mean?”
“You were in an accident, James. You ran off the road, and I am sorry to say your body didn’t survive. You are now going with me on an eternal trip.”
“You are saying I’m dead. I can’t believe that. Look at me. I’m just as alive as you.”
“That’s right. You are.”
“You are dead too?”
“Yes, James. A man took me from school and killed me. They never found my body.”
“Don’t think about that now. Think about the future. Because you prayed so hard and missed me so much, I was given the honor of escorting you to the other side.”
“Other side? There’s a future?”
“A wonderful one. You and I for all time.”
“I would like that.”
“Take my hand then. Let’s be off.”
“I have more questions.”
“All in good time, James. All in good time.”
Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today! We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.
We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs. Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent! Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:
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:
April kicks off two separate short story writing competitions for me. So, I started going through my folder of ideas and characters and it struck me the varied ways stories come.
It made me wonder. Which comes first for you, as an author?
The story idea?
Or the Characters?
For me, it has come both ways. For my short story, “Maggie,” the characters came first, then the story idea followed.
For “Obsessed,” the story idea came first and the characters followed.
Is there any right or wrong way? Absolutely NOT! It is exactly the same concept with songwriting. Sometimes the melody comes first and the lyrics follow. Other times, the lyrics come and the melody follows. But, on rare occasions, both the melody and lyrics come together hand-in-hand.
That’s when there is magic!
And when the magic happens, the readers feel it. Or, in the case of music, the listeners.
In the first Creative Writing class I ever took, the professor asked the question, “What does every human have in common?”
Of course, the answers were that we breathe air, we drink water, we have to eat and require sleep. He agreed with all those answers, but he said the one characteristic that every human being possesses is the innate desire to feel something. The answers to “feel what?” are as varied as there are individuals. But, the desire to feel is present in everyone in some form or fashion.
As writers, it is our job to make sure that happens with our stories.
But, I’m curious. Which comes first for you? The story idea? Or the characters? Or, like with me, does it vary?