Menagerie Blog Tour: Day Six With Jan Sikes

Hey, Readers! Welcome to February. Yes, I know it’s already the second, but it’s my first time posting this month. It’s also Ground Hog Day. I’m not sure if that little varmint saw his shadow or not, but I do know I don’t like winter!

By the way, here in Texas, we have Bee Cave Bob. He’s an armadillo that also predicts if we’ll have a long winter or early spring. In case you don’t know it, armadillos are a Texas icon. The song “London Homesick Blues” written by Gary P. Nunn and made popular by Jerry Jeff Walker talks about a Texan who is stuck in London, is homesick for his state, and wants to go home where there are armadillos and good country music.

But back to the subject. Today is the sixth stop on the Menagerie book tour. As you probably know, I feature a different story and tell readers what inspired me to write it.

Today, I’m visiting with fellow Texan Jan Sikes. She and I had the pleasure of meeting in person last fall and it seemed like we’d known one another forever. Jan is a Story Empire contributor, an award-winning author, and a music lover. Her latest release Saddled Hearts is the third of her White Rune Trilogy. If you haven’t read this series, I highly recommend it.

Below is a list of the stops. Links will be updated as each post goes live. Comments are closed here, but I’d be delighted if you’d join me today at Jan’s site. Not only do I talk about writing, but also music. (Imagine that!)

  • Day One – Mae Clair
  • Day Two – Staci Troilo
  • Day Three – Harmony Kent
  • Day Four – D. L. Finn
  • Day Five – Gwen Plano
  • Day Six – Jan Sikes
  • Day Seven – John Howell
  • Day Eight – C. S. Boyack
  • Day Nine – Beem Weeks
  • Day Ten – Stephen Geez
  • Day Eleven – Marlena Smith Burris
  • Day Twelve – Judi Post
  • Day Thirteen – Teri Polen

Guest Author Jan Sikes – Saddled Hearts

Hey, everyone. As promised, today I have the pleasure of hosting Jan Sikes to talk about her newest release Saddled Hearts. Jan is a good friend, an award-winning and talented author, and also contributes to Story Empire.

In case you missed it, she and I met in person a couple of weeks ago at an author meet and greet event. I felt like I’d known her forever and we had a blast.

Please welcome Jan to my blog today.

Hello, Joan! I am super excited to be visiting your blog site today. Thank you so much for offering to let me take over. I deeply appreciate your support.

Jan with Deryl Dodd. (Notice what he’s holding!)

Today I want to talk about the obstacles I faced when attempting to use a real person as a character in Saddled Hearts. It’s no secret that I am a huge supporter of Texas music and have become great friends with a lot of the artists. Deryl Dodd is one of the most accomplished songwriters in the business, having honed his skills with seasoned songwriters in Nashville for many years. He even played guitar in Martina McBride’s band for a period of time. Due to a catastrophic health issue, he came back home to Comanche, Texas, to heal and regroup. And he never left.

As I wrote Saddled Hearts and Buck Layne’s character formed, I knew I needed to use one of Deryl’s songs in the story.

“One Ride In Vegas” is a story song. The lyrics are listed in the book as I wrote a scene with Deryl and Colt singing together at a benefit. It is about a man’s dream, and while it specifically mentions bull riding and rodeoing, the message of the song could fit any dream.

When I approached my publisher about using Deryl and his song, I was met with some stiff resistance. But his willingness to sign the waivers of liability and my persistence finally wore them down, and they agreed to let me use it. I am deeply grateful to Deryl, as it added to the story.

Here’s a very short snippet:

“There’s a special song I want to do tonight. Not only to honor Colt, but his grandfather, Buck Layne, who I had the pleasure of knowing for a short time. Buck and others like him were the inspiration for this song. Hope you enjoy it.”

Sage drew in a breath and leaned forward.

Deryl strummed the opening chords. “He’s packed up his boots and his saddle. Seventeen, heading out on his own. He’ll rodeo from Cheyenne to Texas, dreaming of one ride in Vegas. One ride in Vegas.”

The band kicked in behind him.


Of course, Deryl didn’t know Buck Layne because he is a fictitious character.

Have you ever tried using a real person or song in a fiction book? How did you go about getting permission? Let’s talk!


Colt Layne owns the Layne Horse Sanctuary. He lives an idyllic life between caring for the animals and playing music with his band. That is until a stranger appears with unreasonable demands. When someone murders the man, Colt is arrested. He’s been framed, but by whom and why? 

He needs to talk with his deceased grandfather. But that’s impossible. Or is it?

Sage Coventry is gifted with the ability to communicate with the deceased. Skeptical but desperate, when Colt consults with her, he gets more than messages from beyond the grave as she breezes into his heart with sweet patchouli fragrance and tempting lips he longs to kiss.

The race against time to clear his name and save the ranch launches them on a mission that brings shocking revelations.



Connect with Jan:










Book Review: Saddled Hearts

Hey, everyone. Jan Sikes is a friend and a fellow contributor at Story Empire. Like me, she lives in the Lone Star State, which is the setting of her White Rune series. I’ve enjoyed all three books, but in my opinion, she saved the best for last.

Jan will be a guest this Thursday, but I wanted to post my review seperately.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Saddled Hearts is the third installment of the White Rune series, and hands-down it’s my favorite.

Colt Lane operates a sanctuary for horses on the Central Texas ranch he inherited from his grandfather. When a stranger named Jeremiah Tompkins shows up claiming he had won the ranch from Buck Lane years earlier in a card game, Colt believes something is amiss. He seeks advice from medium Sage Coventry.

Inexplicable things begin happening at the ranch including a pasture fire and contaminated hay. Believing Tompkins is responsible, Colt locates him where they have a public confrontation. Shortly afterward someone kills Tompkins, and Colt is arrested for his murder.

Sikes left plenty of red herrings to keep readers guessing at the killer’s identity while weaving in romance and family dynamics. Her descriptions of a Texas ranch were spot on. All these elements blended together for a page-turning read and a fantastic wrap up of the series.

Be sure to come back this Thursday to visit with Jan and learn more about Saddled Hearts.

This Week at Story Empire

Hey, everyone! Are you ready for ghosts and goblins? Halloween is just around the corner. Time for me to watch the all-time classic, It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.

Yes, there are still some things from my childhood that I enjoy. I even reread The Incredible Journey this month, one of my favorite childhood books. It used to be an annual tradition for me to read it in the fall. Several years had passed since the last time, but it was still as enjoyable as I remembered.

At Story Empire, we featured a variety of topics. In case you missed them, here are the links.

Another week on the books. My husband and I plan to take a day trip to Oklahoma to see some fall foliage. Looking for good weather and determining when the colors will peak is tricky, but we hope to hit the road soon. And when we do, I hope to have lots of photos to share here and on Instagram.

In the meantime, I took this photo several years ago at a nearby park. This area was the inspiration for the opening scene of my book, Unknown Reasons.

Hope everyone has a great weekend! On October 31, I’ll have a bonus Mystery Monday post. See you then.

This Week at Story Empire

It was another busy week around the Hall household. I’ll not bore you with the details of needing a new car battery or the parts place first telling us the battery was good, but the alternator was bad. Suffice to say we had a busy and “interesting” day Tuesday. But all is now well, the car is fine (so was the alternator), and we were able to replace the battery at no cost.

Today, I plan to have lunch with my former co-workers. Wanda, the person who retired the same day as me, is also joining us.

But enough about me. Time for this week’s Story Empire links:

  • On Monday, Jan Sikes continued her series on marketing. This week’s post cautioned readers to beware of Marketing Scams.
  • C. S. Boyack took the stage Wednesday with another Expansion Pack post. He had an interesting view of writing specific types of scenes. Be sure to check out Writing From the Side.
  • Wrapping up the week with today’s post, Harmony Kent continues her series on Prologues.

Another week in which I didn’t take any new photos. Since I’m thinking of autumn, and our trees are just starting to turn, I thought I’d share a shot I took in 2009 with my first digital camera. It was only a little 8-megapixel Sanyo point-and-shoot, but I was still able to capture some nice images with it.

Hope you enjoy the weekend.