Meet the Members: Jan Sikes

“As an Indie author, I’ve not only had to learn about writing a story, but also about every aspect from printing to marketing. It is a full-time job to do it effectively. And, I love all of it.”

-Jan Sikes

A member of the Writers’ League since 2012, Jan Sikes lives in McKinney, Texas, a suburb North of Dallas.

jansikesScribe: In what genre(s) do you write? 

Jan Sikes: Biographical fiction or creative non-fiction.

Scribe: What author(s) would you like to have a drink with, and what beverage?

JS: Pinot Grigio with Diana Gabaldon, Nora Roberts, John Grisham, Suzanne Collins, Debbie Ford and Kristin Hannah. (Yes, that’s a varied genre list, but I enjoy reading different genres)

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane? 

JS: Oh wow! That’s tough…choosing only one book. I choose The Tao of Willie by Willie Nelson because of its real life lessons and wild sense of humor.

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League? 

JS: There is always something informative in the newsletters that I receive. I’d love to be able to attend the many workshops that are presented in Austin through the Writers’ League, but distance and the evil word, money, prevent me from doing that.** But, mainly what I have learned from this group is the advantage of working together and promoting others as well as yourself.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

JS: I will never stop writing and being involved in projects. My first passion is true stories and secondly, historical fiction, especially where there is romance involved. That is my niche. I am releasing a book in October that is a unique combination of poetry and art, titled Discovery. I am also collaborating with a movie director and screenwriter about turning my stories into a movie. That will be an amazing project to work on, and I get excited just thinking about it.

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down?

JS: Oh, that’s hard too. There is a series by Linda Broday called the Bachelor Series. The books are set in Texas in the 1800s and they are page-turners for sure. Texas Mail Order Bride is the first one in the series.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion! 

JS: The journey of writing such a personal story as the four books I’ve released is at times heart-wrenching and at other times joyful and cleansing. I have learned so much along the way and continue to gain a new insight daily. As an Indie author, I’ve not only had to learn about writing a story, but also about every aspect from printing to marketing. It is a full-time job to do it effectively. And, I love all of it. Along with the four books, I’ve also produced and released four music CDs of original music that match the time period of each book. I am asked the question often of why this accompaniment and I answer the same way each time: Because the stories all evolve and revolve around music.

The projects I have on the back burner waiting their turn to come forward are children’s books designed to inspire children to dream, a simple guide to beginning meditation to which I will include an audio cd, and a series of metaphysical and magical stories involving Angels, Fairies, Spirit Guides and Elementals. I look forward to continuing on this path until I draw my last earthly breath. All of my books and CDs are available on my website http://www.jansikes.com, on Amazon, and also on TxAuthors. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks, Jan!

**NOTE: To our members like Jan who live outside of Austin (yes, we know there are writers living outside of Austin, we promise!), we’re so proud of some recent and upcoming additions to our Writers’ League offerings:

You can now find recordings of our monthly panel discussions via our free “Writers’ League of Texas Third Thursday” podcast which is available on Soundcloud. Click here to listen.

AND we’re planning to launch online classes (yes, it’s happening!) in the next few months which will offer current half day classes as an online experience to writers living anywhere and everywhere. For more information, watch for updates in our newsletter, Footnotes.

If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!

MEMBERS REVIEW: Shadow of the Hare: Recall Chronicles Vol. II

SHADOW OF THE HARE: Recall Chronicles Vol. II

shadowofthehare

by Donna Dechen Birdwell

Published in 2016 by Wide World Home

reviewed by Tony Burnett

Barring any Armageddon-like occurrence, extrapolate, if you will, 150 years into the future. If you are like Donna Dechen Birdwell, a seasoned anthropologist and social scientist, you will find yourself in the questionable utopia described in her series, The Recall Chronicles. But wait, centuries of experience tell us one person’s utopia is another person’s apocalypse, he who has the gold makes the rules, and there is always a subversive subculture. Just to make it interesting let’s assume that science has eliminated aging, but only if you so choose. There are trade-offs.

This second novel, Shadow of the Hare, traces the journey of Malia Poole beginning at the exact point in time and space that the protagonist of her first installation, Way of the Serpent, encountered a distant relative. Malia is an introspective dissident, author, and member of an underground society of creative artists. The powerful ruling plutocrats attempt to subdue these traditionalist enclaves through a coordinated sweep of their performance and art spaces. Many are killed and captured while others are forced into hiding. Refusing the anti-aging treatments sponsored by the plutocrats, Malia spends a large part of her natural life in self-imposed exile, while continuing a quest to reunite with those scattered artists from her past who may have survived the “cleansing”.

In the tradition of Bradbury, Asimov, and Le Guin, Shadow of the Hare goes beyond sci-fi into the study of human interaction while staying true to the conceptual rigors required of the genre. In truth, this is the life story of a woman passionate about her art who is desperate to hold on to a way of life that has lost all meaning to a materialistic society brainwashed into sterile consumerism. The reader gets insight into the various fractious factions living in self-contained communities and how they interact with each other while shunning the governing plutocrats.

Though this is a series, each installment stands alone as one individual’s journey through the culture of our future as it seems to be heading. The primary characters as well as the social structure of this future economy are fully and intimately developed. Birdwell makes it terrifyingly simple to slip into the cultural fragment most suited to our personality. This is accomplished by projecting us from our current situation into the often obvious direction we are headed.

One of the most frightening aspect of Birdwell’s story is how accurately and honestly she projects today’s socioeconomic and political reality into the 22nd century. In the words of Dr. Steve J Zani, “Dystopian literature is at its finest when it’s actually utopian in nature.” Birdwell has achieved this to the highest degree possible. This terrifying prophecy is a must read for anyone who has any hope for humanity. Unplug your corporate media machine and read this book!

Tony Burnett has been a member of the Writers’ League of Texas since 2010 and currently serves on the Board of Directors. His recent story collection, Southern Gentlemen, has been receiving positive reviews. He resides with his trophy bride, Robin, deep in the heart of Texas.

Meet the Members: Lisa B. Thomas

I just hope to keep finding new readers and bringing a little entertainment to others.

–Lisa B. Thomas

A member of the Writers’ League of Texas for two months, Lisa B. Thomas lives in Waco.

lisathomasScribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Lisa B. Thomas: I write Cozy Mysteries. Mine are based on realism. No talking cats or witches.

Scribe: What author(s) would you like to have a drink with, and what beverage?

LBT: Harper Lee (too late) and Stephen King. We’d have Dr. Pepper, of course, and I would pick his brain about his creative use of language.

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

LBT: To keep me sane, I would want ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.” It transports me to a different time and place every time I read it.

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

LBT: I’ve learned that even though writing is a solitary endeavor, there are lots of people available to support you.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

LBT: That’s a hard one. I enjoy writing my current series and plan to introduce a new one soon. I just hope to keep finding new readers and bringing a little entertainment to others.

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down?

LBT: The Devil’s Chessboard by David Talbot. I just love a good JFK conspiracy theory.

Scribe:
Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

LBT: My website is www.lisabthomas.com. If you love a good, clean mystery, check out my “Cozy Suburbs Mystery Series.” I hope to meet other members who live in the area.

An Interview with Gemini Ink

“Gemini Ink prides itself on being a cutting-edge community-centered literary arts center. We really try to bring the latest literary news–the most exciting writers and developments in literary arts around the country–to San Antonio.”

-Sheila Black, Gemini Ink

Here at the Writers’ League of Texas, we love to highlight other literary organizations throughout the state that are doing great work. From July 21 to July 24, Gemini Ink, located in San Antonio, Texas, is hosting their inaugural Gemini Ink Writers Conference. Writers’ League members can sign up for the conference at a reduced rate. Read the interview below for more details on Gemini Ink, the conference, and how to sign up.

gemini-ink-logoScribe: Tell us about Gemini Ink and the kinds of programming you offer.

Sheila Black: Gemini Ink is an independent literary arts center. We were founded by the amazing Texas writer and teacher Nan Cuba, who took the organization from a volunteer run reading series to a multi-program non-profit. Our mission is simple: to help people create and share the human story.

We enact this mission through five core programs: Writers in Communities (WIC), Creative Writing Classes (CWC), Open Classroom, the Mentorship Program, the Gemini Ink Writers Conference. You can read about these programs on our website.

Gemini Ink prides itself on being a cutting-edge community-centered literary arts center. We really try to bring the latest literary news–the most exciting writers and developments in literary arts around the country–to San Antonio. We work steadily to support writers–at whatever stage of their craft–to nurture the art of writing as an essential life practice.

Scribe: At the Writers’ League, we love learning about thriving literary communities throughout Texas. What are some of your favorite aspects of the San Antonio literary community?

SB: There is so much I am excited about in the San Antonio literary community!  But one of the things I love most is how connected the writers here are to place–to San Antonio itself. You see this in the writers we produce–no matter how different they are in style or subject, they always infuse their work with a strong sense of this place. Another key to our literary community is the totally amazing spoken word poets we have in this city. You can find great spoken word poetry in every corner of San Antonio, every night of the week. That’s something to really celebrate, and it might be one reason why recently so many of our Texas Poet Laureates have been poets from San Antonio.

Scribe: The topic for your upcoming Gemini Ink Writers Conference is “The State of The Book.” Can you elaborate a little more on this theme and how it informs the conference programming?

Alexandra Vandekamp: We decided to focus on this theme of “The State of the Book” at our inaugural Gemini Ink Writers Conference because the American literary scene is evolving so rapidly, and the form of the book itself is morphing in that landscape. Our idea for this conference is to create a space for a dynamic, multi-cultural conversation on all things books, both from a craft perspective and a commercial one. The conference will last from July 21 through July 24. During these four days, we will be offering writers of all levels, beginners to published authors, chances to push their craft in new, exciting directions and to interact with other writers from all over Texas and the country.

During this conference, there will also be free public programming in the evening with author events and live music.  Friday night we are hosting an event at Viva Tacoland, an open-air lounge along the San Antonio Riverwalk, and Saturday night is another author event with a DJ at the Southwest School of Art campus. We are after an inclusive, highly creative, yet relaxed vibe at this conference, and for that reason our tagline is: serious. literary. fun. You can find more info on our website.

Scribe: The conference includes nonfiction, fiction, and poetry workshops for registrants to attend. What should attendees expect in these workshops?

AV: Attendees should expect highly creative, intimate workshops (we cap off at 15 for each one) that are generative in nature. In other words, we want the participants in these classes to absorb advice, information and new sources of inspiration for their writing as well as actually produce and generate new work while in the class. The idea is to have each workshop participant walk away with new tools, prompts, and a reservoir of creative ideas to fuel future writing. For a full description of each workshop, including pricing, visit our website.

Scribe: Besides the conference, what other upcoming Gemini Ink programs should San Antonio writers put on their calendars?

AV: We are quite excited about our Fall 2016 roster of authors and will be hosting the Iraqi War Veteran and award-winning poet and memoirist, Brian Turner, author of the book of poems Here, Bullet, and the memoir My Life as  Foreign Country. He’s a powerful speaker on being both a poet and soldier. In addition, we will be bringing to San Antonio the Bangladeshi-American poet, Tarfia Faizullah, whose first book of poems, Seam, takes on issues of violence and especially violence towards women. One main sequence in the book imagines the process of a Bangledeshi-American female interviewer speaking with a birangona, a bangladeshi woman raped by Pakistani soldiers during the 1971 Liberation War. Faizullah’s poems are also startling for their use of language and are just memorable literary experiences. Matthew Donovan, a wonderful essayist, will also be joining us to teach a workshop on melding the visual and literary arts.

We also also excited about the local writers who will be teaching workshops for us in the fall, such as the writer, J.R. Helton, who has devised his own form of “autobiographical fiction” and is the author of such novels as Drugs. A Novel and Jugheads. He’s a writer who has been called “the next Bukowski” for his unapologetic, edgy style. He’s also a veteran writing teacher and we are excited about his 4-week class. And Joe Jimenez is a local poet and YA author who will be offering a class on Young Adult fiction that I think will be very dynamic for anyone interested in breaking into that genre. These are just a few examples of the authors we are thrilled to be a part of our fall programming.

In the fall and throughout the year, we will also be hosting an array of literary events throughout the city, such as our monthly author reading and open mic at Viva Tacoland, an open air lounge along the San Antonio River Walk.  This is just a great relaxed space to hear great writing in, and we are looking forward to continuing it this fall.  We even have a Viva Tacoland cocktail named in our honor called, The Gemini. Hint: its key ingredient is cucumber vodka. We will also be hosting other author events at different locations in the city. In the spring 2017 we will be bringing U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera to San Antonio, which we are thrilled about. Our Writing in Communities Program, headed by Jen Knox, will be continuing to bring creative writing to all corners of the city by offering free classes in senior centers, homeless shelters, and school districts that would otherwise not have the resources to do so, among other sites. We will also be offering a fun series for lit lovers called Nights of Noir, which will look at some classics of noir fiction, such as The Maltese Falcon and others.

Thanks Shelia, Alexandra, and the Gemini Ink team!

For more information about Gemini Ink, visit their website.

Writers’ League members can register for the Gemini Ink Conference at the reduced member rate. Just call (210) 734-9673 and mention membership in the Writers’ League of Texas. WLT members may also email Alexandra Vandekamp at avandekamp@geminiink.org or Hayley Trimmer at info@geminiink.org with any questions or to sign up.

Meet the Members: Ann Fields

“I believe there’s room for more blending of genres, more innovative ways to tell a story, more formats for presenting stories to readers. My commitment is to wrap my writing around these advances whenever or however they come.”

–Ann Fields

A member of the Writers’ League of Texas for a year, Ann Fields lives in Dallas.

Ann Fields PhotoScribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Ann Fields: I started out in romance but after six years (and five books), I switched to paranormal. My novels and short stories primarily feature ghosts, spiritual beings—both good and evil—families who are cursed, and urban legends.

Scribe: What author would you most like to have a drink with, and what’s the first question you would ask them?

AF: One of my favorite authors is J. California Cooper, and I would love to have a drink and chat with her except she has already passed through this life. So when I meet up with her on the other side and we’re enjoying huge mugs of tea or coffee, the first question I plan to ask her is “what, if anything, would you change about your writing career?” The second question—and I know you said only one question but I just gotta know—is “why Marshall, Texas?”

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

AF: The biggest, fattest compilation book of classic American and Harlem Renaissance literature; one book that contains all the great novels and short stories. Since it’s a compilation book is that cheating?

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

AF: I appreciate the Writers’ League for its intelligent discussions on contemporary (and future) trends/issues in writing/publishing, like “How to Be a Good Literary Citizen.” Those discussions always challenge my thinking and help me evolve as a writer. I also appreciate the Texas Writes program. Those seminars fill a need and help to ensure literary voices from across the entire state are represented in the canon of Texas literature.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

AF: Every year I see growth in my writing. With each successive project, I structure sentences better. I eliminate unnecessary clutter. I delve deeper into motivation, action, characterization. I edit better. All of which means I am becoming a better storyteller. On the flip side, where am I taking my writing? To genres unknown. To formats as yet uncovered. I believe there’s room for more blending of genres, more innovative ways to tell a story, more formats for presenting stories to readers. My commitment is to wrap my writing around these advances whenever or however they come.

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down?

AF: Oh boy, that’s a toss-up between Death Ain’t But A Word by Zander Marks and Rain, Snow, Sleet, or Hail by Nikki Coe. These were both highly entertaining stories, well written, creative, with characters to root (or boo) for; a very good use of my reading time. Even though they’ve been out longer than a year—I’m behind in my reading—I highly recommend them.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

AF: I’m sometimes asked why I switched from writing romance to paranormal, especially when I had a growing readership and editors offering me multi-book contracts. It’s a long answer but the Cliff Notes version is I needed to strengthen my writing muscles plus I encountered my first ghost. That one brush with the supernatural shifted my focus from love and happily ever after to love and life in the here and after. In my novel Fuller’s Curse and my short stories in Voices from the Block (Volumes I & II) and Lyrical Darkness, I explore life in all its many dimensions. That’s something I’m not sure I would have been able to do with romance.

Thanks, Ann!

Meet the Members: Donna Marie Miller

“I would love to have a Lone Star beer with Larry McMurtry on his front porch in Archer City someday.”

-Donna Marie Miller

A member of the Writers’ League since April 2016, Donna Marie Miller lives in Austin.

DMMiller headshot for Writers' League of Texas 2016Scribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Donna Marie Miller: I write nonfiction. I prefer to write historical and creative nonfiction. However, I also currently write interviews with musicians and filmmakers for two magazines, Elmore and Creative Screenwriting.

Scribe: What author(s) would you like to have a drink with, and what beverage?

DMM: I would love to have a Lone Star beer with Larry McMurtry on his front porch in Archer City someday.

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

DMM: Definitely Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry.

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

DMM: I have often discovered useful information while attending any one of the WLT’s annual Agents & Editors Conferences.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

DMM: This fall Texas A&M University Press will publish my first book, The Broken Spoke Legend: More than 50 Years as Austin’s Favorite Honky-Tonk.

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down?

DMM: It’s a Long Story: My Life by Willie Nelson with David Ritz.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

DMM: I would like to share the address for my blog that provides links to all of my most recently published work and will soon feature a book page: https://donnamariemillerblog.com

Thanks, Donna!

Meet the Members: Kathryn Lane

“I hope the book takes readers on an entertaining trip of unimaginable twists and turns.”

-Kathryn Lane

A member of the Writers’ League of Texas since April 2016, Kathryn Lane lives in The Woodlands, TX.

Book Photo K. LaneScribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Kathryn Lane: Mystery and suspense with a little romance thrown in.

Scribe: What author(s) would you like to have a drink with, and what beverage?

KL: Frederick Forsyth – a good Belgium beer, Saison;  Daniel Silva – Corona beer; Louise Penny – a cup of cappuccino; Salmon Rushdie – a double expresso; Don Winslow – Montejo Mexican beer; Ben Fountain – can I switch to a Margarita on the Rocks?

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

KL: Homer’s The Odyssey (even if Homer did not write it). I’d also like to have the The Iliad, which provides the background for the The Odyssey. Each time I read these two epic poems, I learn so much.

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

KL: As a new member, I’m just beginning to see the benefits of the Writer’s League. Thus far, it has opened a window to writer conferences and Texas authors.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

KL: Physically, to Barcelona, Spain plus medieval towns and prehistoric caves in northern Spain to write my third novel. Intellectually, I hope my writing will take me to higher storytelling abilities, while the book takes readers on an entertaining trip of unimaginable twists and turns.

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down?

KL: It’s older than a year, but Lowell Mick White’s novel titled That Demon Life is based in Austin and brings that quirky, wonderful city to life through its characters. It’s my favorite Texas-based book. It won the Gival Press Novel Award and was nominated for the National Book Award.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

KL: Here’s my bio:

Kathryn Lane, originally from Mexico, writes fiction inspired by Latin American cultures she experienced firsthand during her career as an international finance executive. Her first novel, Waking Up in Medellin, was released by Pen-L Publishing on March 25, 2016. Additionally, Alamo Bay Press will publish an anthology of her short stories later in 2016.

Kathryn’s short stories have been published in The Texas A&M New Border Voices: An Anthology (2014); Alamo Bay Writers Anthology (2013, 2014); Arriba Baseball! from VAO Publishing (2013) and Swirl Literary Journal (2010).

The Association of Writing & Writing Programs (AWP) featured Kathryn as a reader on the panel of Arriba Baseball! in Seattle in February 2014.

Kathryn also writes poetry that has appeared in the Austin International Poetry Festival Anthology (2012, 2013 and 2014 editions); Janie’s Garden, an anthology from Alamo Bay Press (2014); Primitive Archer-Poet’s Corner (six issues); Swirl Literary Journal (2010, 2013 and 2014 editions); Poetry at Round Top Anthology (2012) and Homeless Diamonds, a London-based journal. She has two chapbooks of poetry, A Conversation on India and Spirit Rocks, both published in 2012. The Friendswood Public Library featured her poems when their blog showcased the Rothko Chapel and Mark Rothko’s art. She performs poetry in both English and Spanish.

Kathryn has served on the panel of judges at Washington Carver High School’s Poetry Out Loud contest in Houston, Texas in 2014 and 2015. She also serves on the Montgomery Literary Arts Council and she resides in The Woodlands, Texas, with her husband, Bob Hurt. Visit her online at www.kathryn-lane.com.

Thanks, Kathryn!