Writing Memoirs: Biography Fiction

Writing Memoirs: Biography Fiction

 Natalie Bright

Award winning author Jan Sikes spoke to the Texas High Plains Writers group in November about her biographical fiction series detailing life with her extremely talented husband, country singer Rick Sikes. The events are true; but to be able to share these immensely personal details, she tells the stories in third person and replaced real names with fictional names. To be able to tell the story, she fictionalized dialogue into scenes that she didn’t witness first-hand.  She noted that the series is semiautobiographical told in a fiction format, 90% true and 10% fiction.

This method poses a unique way to write your family stories, and because Jan wanted total control of the material she self-published.

Self-Publishing Key Points

Jan stressed the importance of having a “good quality piece of writing before you release it.” That means hiring a professional editor. True, there are more opportunities for writers than ever before, but self-publishing has a bad rep because of the less than quality material that has flooded the eBook market place. Constructive feedback is very important.

Have a publishing imprint and purchase an ISBN number. The $5 package from CreateSpace is limited as to where your book can go. It will only be available on Amazon.


Jan reminded us that whether you’ve gone with traditional or self-published, writes must promote themselves. Traditional publishers have very limited marketing funds, and understandable those dollars are targeted for a small group of top selling authors. Mid-list authors, whether traditional or indie publishes, have to do their own promotion. For her particular series, Jan has seen the most success through one-on-one interaction with readers. She participates in community events and book festivals throughout the year.

For indie authors, there are numerous organizations that support and assist with promotion. Jan recommended the Texas Association of Authors, Independent Authors Network, and the Historical Novel Association.

Thinking About Theme for your Story

The success of this series and her unique writing style is in part because of a no secrets left unturned approach. Remember that old saying, “write like your momma’s passed on and will never read your story”? This is real life at its darkest. The main characters take a downward spiral into drugs, motorcycle gangs, Texas honky-tonks, and federal prison. Despite the events in life and insurmountable odds, what emerges from the chaos is a love story with music being the salvation. Rick built the first sound studio inside the walls of Leavenworth and was able to smuggle his songs out to his family and fans.

While each book can stand alone as a fascinating read, I started with the second book in the series, The Convict and The Rose, which won a first place award for biography fiction from the Texas Association of Authors. Music CD’s are also available.


Injecting Life


 Injecting Life

The twisted little body lies on the slab. So far that’s all it is, just a lifeless rag. I’ve put a suture here and there to string pieces together in an effort to make the body whole. There are a few loose ends, but those will heal once the life begins.

I have a whole ward of these lifeless little things. Some of them could be beautiful; some of them could be powerful. All of them are mine. The only thing missing from each one is a beginning sentence.

These special little wads of bodies are ideas that I’ve had for stories. They pop in my head at random times, sometimes uncanny in their ability to find the most inappropriate moments to show up. I can be in the middle of a sentence during a conversation with a complete stranger when one of these ideas knocks on the door and says, “Guess what!” Or I can be deeply immersed in reading an amazing book, except for the split second when I hear, “Sort of like what happened to me.” Music brings them, pictures bring them, people walking down the street bring them. One time an idea spoke so loud I woke up from sleep in the middle of the night to listen.

I take the idea and lay it on a slab, gluing it down with my ink and a promise saying, “Don’t go anywhere, I’ll be right back,” and usually I do come back and fiddle with it a little more. Occasionally, though, they get tired of waiting on me and go on to find someone else with more time—but for the most part, they wait patiently.

So I look at this one particular idea and see the marks of where I have tried to find the right sequence of words to inject into its veins that will open its eyes. I see a lot of needle marks, but still the eyes have not opened. There was a flutter one time, for a split second. This poor little waif is in two parts, and the second part is set. The first sentence of that scene caused the eyeballs underneath the lids to roll in a curious REM fashion, but they did not open. The first part is not there yet.

From all the words that exist in language today, there has got to be a combination that will work to open these eyes. And so I will continue to look for the perfect fit, that special key that will give life to this story. Then I can move on to the next.

Nandy Ekle

A Writer’s Thanksgiving

A Writer’s Thanksgiving

by Adam Huddleston


Well folks, it’s that magical time of year again when leaves are falling, footballs are sailing through the crisp air, and turkeys everywhere are acting a bit…skittish. It’s Thanksgiving! There are many things that I am thankful for, and a few of those are specific to me being a writer.

  1. My wife and kids for supporting me in extra-curricular activities that sometimes keep me from them.
  2. My critique group who encourage and enlighten on a regular basis.
  3. My laptop and work computers for holding reams of literature that may one day see the light of day.
  4. The freedom to express myself under the First Amendment in a country that, while divided, still holds onto a visage of its former self.

Happy Thanksgiving and happy writing!


Reasons to Write

     Why do I write? Is it because throngs of fans demand it, anticipating every word of my next masterpiece? Is it because I honestly expect to make millions of dollars on a bestseller, or desire to be famous? No.

This week I will share with you the 5th reason of why I write                                                                                                                                                                                   

Reason #5 – Endless Possibilities                                                    

On a recent business trip to the west coast, I noticed something amazing. Traveling along the highway, I read the billboards. Some of them knew I was reading them and said things like, “Caught you looking!” or “You’re so good. You read me like a book!” As spots on a connect-the-dots drawing, these towering advertisements had information about the grandest hotels, motels and the cleanest restrooms. They pointed the way to the best buffets and restaurants. Some revealed the places to go for the nightlife, and what it will cost if you drink too much of the highlife and turn into a lowlife while driving.

Occasionally we pulled into roadside rest-stops for short breaks and “free coffee,” and then we would load up on all the local vacation magazines, free maps and tourist information to read along the way. One visitor’s guide said that Arizona has more boats per capita than any other state in the nation—and they’re a land locked desert!

My point is that the possibilities for writers are endless because writing is everywhere. From billboards along the American road to epic novels, behind everything you read is a writer.

Rory C. Keel



By Natalie Bright

The writing life is a solitary endeavor, and routinely interrupted by everybody!

Seriously, at times writers have to put aside the world within their heads and face reality. Somebody’s always hungry (at least at my house), something needs cleaning, bills waiting to be paid, and laundry is piling up. I’ve been hit with reality for several weeks now and I can’t seem to dig out from under it. I really miss my fictional world.

Many experts suggest that you have to live a real life in order to find material for your stories. Overheard conversations, experiences, and research can add richness to your writing. That may be true. During this break my creative mind may be taking a pause, but my self-editor and self-doubt is partying hard. I’m a loser. I’ve been working on a 500 word piece for a month now and it’s just not coming together. At this point, I’m totally convinced that I will never write anything again that anyone will want to read. I can’t see that I’m making any progress towards building a writing career. I’m done.

Thank goodness part of the real world this past weekend included a writer’s meeting. Author and song-writer, Jan Sikes, talked to the Texas High Plains Writers group in Amarillo about her series of books based on her life with a musician. Using the facts of her own experiences, she changed the names of the people involved to create what she explains is 90% true and 10% fiction. She even gave herself a fictional name so that she can step back from the very personal connection and bring this fascinating love-story to life. Her talk was excellent. I’ll share some of her writing advice with you next week.

Thank goodness I am reminded how sitting in a room full of creative people can give you inspiration to keep going.

Texas High Plains Writers meets every other month on the third Saturday at the Amarillo Senior Citizens Center in downtown Amarillo.




By Nandy Ekle


Feelings. Emotions. Moods. Heart. These are some of the heaviest words in the English language. They are also very important to a story. The reason they’re so critical is because our stories are about people. And people have feelings and emotions oozing from every pore.

Our feelings are what make the difference between a newscast and a gut wrenching story that stays with a person for days, begging to be read again. The stronger the emotion, the deeper the tie to your reader.

Now, as a woman, I realized something a long time ago. Emotions are scary. The more emotion I feel, the less control I feel. What this means as a writer is that I tend to shy away from emotional writing. Cramming so much feeling into my words touches my own emotions and I feel the longing, the desperation, and the pain of my characters. But the thing to remember is it will also touch my readers’ feelings and make them love the character.

Some of the emotions we need to use copious amounts of are anger, sadness, betrayal, fear, happiness, love, depression, confusion, hunger, and longing, just to name a few.

One of the main things I find myself saying to people when they ask me to edit their stories is “more emotion.” Make me feel her desperation for love. Make me feel his helplessness. Make me want to cry my eyes out. And make me want to curl up in a ball in the corner and cover my eyes as I tremble with terror.

I think the way to do this is to truly connect with my own character. And this will be the subject of my next blog.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Thanksgiving Cuisine

Thanksgiving Cuisine

by Adam Huddleston

This week, just for grins and giggles, I thought we’d look at a few traditional items found on the dinner table on Thanksgiving Day and try to come up with a few adjectives for each. These are my descriptions, so it’s possible, but highly unlikely, that they’ll differ with yours.

  1. Turkey-juicy/dry (depending on the bird and the cook’s ability), succulent, savory
  2. Stuffing-earthy, salty, fluffy
  3. Cranberries-sweet, tart/tangy
  4. Green bean casserole-creamy, crunchy,
  5. Broccoli and rice casserole-cheesy, comforting
  6. Sweet potatoes-smooth, filling, sweet
  7. Rolls-hot, yeasty
  8. Pumpkin pie-sweet, delicious

The Trilogy

Outtakes 222

The Trilogy

by Cait Collins



Take a seer, an archeologist, a magician, a navigator, a sprite, and a warrior, add a legend and an exotic locale and you have Stars of Fortune, book one of the Guardians trilogy. Nora Roberts is a master in writing serial releases. Her fantasy/paranormal romances are among my favorite reads. I got hooked on this line of her works when I read the Three Sisters Island trilogy. I have not been disappointed. What makes the trilogies good reads? It’s in the essential elements of the books.

Characters are the key element of the stories. Each person possesses special skill sets. In many cases, the character knows his primary talent. For others it’s a learn-as-you-go revelation.

E ach character has flaws. Despite their gifts, each one must overcome his weakness in order for the group to fulfill its destiny.


Unity is primary. All skills are necessary for success, but trust is essential.

Good and evil are clearly defined.

Actions or lack thereof are the choices of the character.

Magic is a respected gift that should not be abused.


Locales are exotic. Islands, gardens, forests, Ireland, and country inns provide setting. Bold descriptions make the story realistic. Local lore and customs ground the reader and allows her or him to become part of the story.

Romance is an element of the story, but it is not the story. Some of my friends view romance novels as silly and stupid. In their minds, it all about sex, But if the story were only about sex, it would become unbelievable. There has to be more than the physical response. In good romance novels, it is committed love that permits the characters to keep going when the odds are not in their favor. Love is glue that holds them together.

Friendships are cemented by love. Knowing that the members of the team are willing to fight and die for a cause frees the protagonist to step up to defeat an enemy.

Love is magic. With love all things are possible.

In skillfully combining these elements, Ms. Roberts weaves stories of bold deeds, causes won, and life fulfilled. And it leaves the reader anticipating the next installment of the tale. Even though the second book will not be released until late next year, the author will release a contemporary romantic suspense in April of 2016. And that, my fellow readers, is just one more jewel in Nora Roberts’ long list of successful novels. I wish I had her backlist.


Keep on keeping on. That’s the true secret.

Keep on keeping on. That’s the true secret.

DeWanna Pace


These are inspirational words that I have tacked to my office bulletin board from a local author and creative writing instructor. One of DeWanna’s dreams was to be a published romance author for Harlequin, and that dream was finally realized. Right after she sold to Harlequin, she was taken suddenly last year and sadly did not live to see publication of those stories.

We’re celebrating the release of her last book with Harlequin, THE TEXAS RANGER’S SECRET, which will be released in January 2016. The exciting news is that this book has received a Top Pick starred review. Please watch for more information right here at WordsmihSix Sunday Writer’s news.

Thanks to DeWanna Pace for her ever present encouragement and unfailing support of writers. She is greatly missed.


Willow McMurty has just arrived in Texas for her sister’s wedding. As a fiction writer, she hopes to learn a thing or two about Texas Rangers. When she meets handsome Gage Newcomb, she believes that she’s found the perfect man to teach her about Ranger life. Now all she has to do is get him to agree to help her. With a cunning outlaw on the loose whom Gage has been tracking for years, he finds it hard to trust anyone, including Willow.


Sunday Writings – 2016 WILLA Competition Open

2016 WILLA Competition Open

The WILLA Literary Awards honors the best in literature,
featuring women’s or girls’ stories set in the West that are
published each year. Women Writing the West (WWW), a
non-profit association of writers and other professionals
writing and promoting the Women’s West, underwrites
and presents the nationally recognized award annually at
the WWW Fall Conference. The award is named in honor
of Pulitzer Prize winner Willa Cather, one of the country’s foremost novelists.
Entries are now being accepted in seven categories for the 2016 WILLA
Awards. Books must have a 2015 publication date, feature a girl or woman and be set in the West.

Entry fee: $50. Details and application at www.womenwritingthewest.org.

Anne Schroeder
2016 WILLA Chair