Tag Archives: Jan Sikes

The Birth of a Wonder – The Short History of #RaveReviewsBookClub #RRBC

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(Image by All-Free-Downloads.com)

On Sunday, December 8, 2013, I remember sitting at my dining room table and staring at my computer monitor…surfing thru my Twitter feed.

After having finished reading a book that had been tagged on Twitter as “#GreatRead!” and being sorely disappointed and wanting to then tag a more truthful review – “#WorstReadEver” (as it was poorly written, in need of a professional edit and proof and so much more), the wheels of my brain began to spin rapidly.

“I’m going to create a forum where I can post honest reviews of the books that I’ve read,”  I said, half out loud.

After creating the forum and giving more thought to how I could make an even greater contribution to the literary world by posting honest reviews of books, I decided that it would be a great idea to offer more under the umbrella of what I had initially planned; more in the sense of creating a community of readers and writers who could also offer and benefit from honest book reviews.

There were a handful of authors on Twitter who I had developed a special rapport with, and the first one that I reached out to was Bruce A. Borders.  Bruce and I had been supporting one another for quite some time and I had read one of his books and knew that he was a good writer, and also a strong reviewer.

“I’m going to form a book club under the umbrella of Rave Reviews By Nonnie Jules.  A forum where authors will come together to support one another, and also a place where readers can expect that the reviews of books will be honest.  I’d like you to join me and serve as my VP.”

“Sounds like a great idea.  I’m all in,” Bruce said.  “Just let me know when you’re ready to start.”

After the site was fully established with the book club and all that it would offer, I reached out to a few more that I had been reciprocating support with, and, who I also knew would be assets to the club.  The late, Kathryn C. Treat was next on my list and she would serve as our first Membership Director up until two months prior to her death.

In the first month of formation, we added over 300 members to our roster.  By month 5, we had over 600 members.  Membership at that time was really inexpensive: it was FREE.

Since one of the asks of the club was that members #Follow one another on Twitter, we soon came to realize that many were joining us simply to grow their Twitter following.  It soon became abundantly clear that they had no desire or intentions to support their fellow members;  they merely wanted to #follow so that they, in turn, would be #followed.

In our 6th month, we instituted a $25 annual membership fee, which in my eyes was still FREE, especially when you think about all that the club offers.  The advent of the fee was our way of keeping the riff-raff off our roster as we sought to add more of those who were serious about what we were working towards.

I had a TEAM of 7 at the time, and sadly, now I can’t even remember everyone’s name as they weren’t on our roster long (for their own personal reasons)…although we continued to support them off the roster.

Contrary to popular belief, Beem Weeks and Marlena Smith (Marlena Hand at that time) were not original TEAM members of the club.  I noticed Beem, as he was one of the few supporting other authors on Twitter just as much as I was.  I knew that he would be a great asset to the club and he has never proven me wrong.  (After the 7 TEAM members, Beem was the 2nd member on our roster in January of 2014.)

Marlena was also a great supporter of others, and there was something about her persona on Twitter that made me KNOW she would be the best Secretary ever – and for all these years, she has been.  When I asked her to join and serve, she stood back and watched for a couple of days before she said “YES!” (This will surprise many of you, but Marlena was the 174th member on our roster in January of 2014.  And, that was before January 14, 2014! The club was a little over one month old!)  So, as you can see, our membership was growing by leaps and bounds – when it was FREE.

Although Shirley Harris-Slaughter was among my core group of those I reciprocated support with on Twitter, she didn’t come aboard immediately.  Her name was added to our roster shortly after Beem joined, and she has never wavered in her support of RRBC.

Fast forward 5 years and many changes to the faces on my TEAM.  We have had some awesome authors to serve on the RRBC board.  There are some who hold Lifetime Memberships, who have given and who continually give of their time to serve the community of RRBC, who I’m sure will be around until the very end.  Some faces joined our TEAM much later, yet have proven to be committed to serving the RRBC community and our agendas of support.  They’re so awesome, I often wonder how I ever got on without them (Wendy Scott, Jan Sikes, and Mary Adler to name a few).

Although some of the names on our roster have changed over the course of these 5 years, the goals and mission which I established on day one, have not.  We are a community of support.  We are committed to being recognized as an establishment of Indie authors, who take very seriously the business of writing and publishing great works.  We believe in lifting as we climb and we stand by the policy that “honesty” in book reviews, is always the road to travel.  We strive daily to ensure that we put forth our best and most professional “author” face ever so that we are one day placed in the history books alongside other literary greats.  And, with the inception of RWISA (RAVE WRITERS – INT’L SOCIETY OF AUTHORS), we aim to be the very best.

Other long-timers also remain on our roster.  Members like:  Bette A. Stevens, Karen Ingalls, Kim Taylor, Peggy Hattendorf, Larry Hyatt, Karl Morgan, Carol Marrs-Phipps, Micki Peluso, Marcha Fox, Joy Nwosu Lo-Bamijoko, Rhani D’Chae and so many more, are all part of this amazing family that we’ve created online.  This list is too extensive to go on, but, these are some of the early joiners. I appreciate each and every one of them for their staying power and loyalty to RRBC.

As with any organization, we have lost members over the years, but, I never concern myself with those who have moved on.  We accept that not everyone understands or subscribes to the theory of commitment and dedication.  If everyone did, that wouldn’t be real life, now would it?  My attention and focus are always reserved for those who remain.

For those members who have left our roster for things out of their control, (i.e. LIFE, etc.) we wish them all the best and we always welcome those members back into the fold, if and when they decide to return.  Many who have left our roster, later realize the importance of RRBC to the literary world and do return, by the way.

And, for every member who we have lifted, promoted and given name recognition to, yet in the end, moved on to try and compete with RRBC, as opposed to remaining and offering the same support to others, they’ve only made room for those who were actually designed to be here;  and, for that, I am grateful.

Until there is no more breath left in my body, RRBC/RWISA will continue to thrive and grow into the powerhouse it was destined to be, and, it will continue on as the most supportive arena for serious writers that it has grown into and that it is known for.

We don’t believe in looking back or dwelling on the past here at RRBC.  Our success lies before us…in the minutes, days, weeks, months and many years to come.  We know that as long as we remember that it’s not about self, but more about community that helps us succeed, we’ll do just fine.

I will end here by saying, “Here’s to another very successful 5 years, RRBC/RWISA!” 

HAPPY 5TH BIRTHDAY!!!

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Jan Sikes in “WHO’S ON THE SHELF” w/@Nonnie Jules – #RRBC @Rijanjks

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Hello, and welcome to “WHO’S ON THE SHELF?” with yours truly, Nonnie Jules!  Since we are a book club, you know we had to offer something that included a bookshelf.  A lot of interviews merely cover an author’s work or an individual’s career stories.  Here on this “SHELF,”  we get down and dirty and ask the questions no other interviewer dare ask.  We ask the questions that you want to open up a book and find the answers to on your favorite authors and fellow book club members, but, no one has dared to cover them.  We get personal!  Because when you sit on this “SHELF,” YOU are an open book! Even if I have to pry you open!

Today, we have a very special guest on the SHELF with us, RRBC & RWISA member, ASPIRE TO INSPIRE Co-Host and June’s “SPOTLIGHT” Author, JAN SIKES We have been celebrating her all month long and today, she gets to sit on the shelf with me!

***

NJ:  Before we get started, how do you like the design and feel of my new shelf?  Back in 2017 I tried to make it more comfortable, so I’m curious to know how it’s holding up in 2018.  I also wanted the lay-out to be a bit safer….you know, we’ve had a few accidents up here on this shelf.  Between you and me, I think the majority of those falls were because the guests were a tad-bit clumsy, but, nevertheless, I’d like everyone to know that you fall here at your own risk.  I was laughing so hard at my girlfriend’s the other day that I almost fell off her sofa, so I’m going to share with you what she shared with me and the way she shared it:  “Fall if you wanna.  We ain’t got no insurance over here!”  I’m still laughing at that!  So, are you comfy?

Jan:  Yep, I’m feeling right at home, Nonnie. Thanks for helping me up. You know at my age, climbing isn’t easy.

NJ:  Oh, I’m sorry, Jan.  You mean they didn’t offer you my medi-Lift to get up here?  Poor things.  They think I’m such a bear all the time that they even made this 97 year old grandmother walk up the stairs to see me.  They said they didn’t think I wanted anyone else using my Lift, because then I’d feel like I was using public transportation.  But, again, Jan, my apologies.  So, since we’re a bit delayed with this interview, let’s start by confirming whether or not your author name is your birth name or a pen name?

Jan:  My birth name is Janice Kay Smith, but when I was eighteen, I shortened it to Jan and Sikes is my married name.

3 Shocked dogs

NJ:  Well, Okie Dokie, Ms. Janice Kay Smith.  You people will never learn.  Y’all give away waaaaaaaayyyyyyy too much information in these interviews and you know the internet is nothing but a cesspool of stalkers…AND crazy folks.  But, I keep warning and y’all keep ignoring so let’s move on.  Tell us where you were born? Do you still live there now? If not, what city and state are you calling home these days?

Jan:  I was born in Hobbs, New Mexico.  I left home when I turned eighteen and never looked back and at the moment, I live in Plano, Texas!

NJ:  At the moment?  Janice Kay, that sounds as if there might be a moving van in your future.  Hmmm.  OK.  Make sure you let us know when you’re moving.  Oh, and don’t forget the address and zip code and phone number, too.

Dog researching on the computer

(Psycho internet troll dog tracking you down cuz you made it easy for him)

So, Janice Kay, married or single?

Jan:  Widowed

NJ:  I’m so sorry to hear that.  Any kids?  What kind?

Jan:  Two beautiful, smart and kind-hearted daughters.

NJ:  Don’t you just love those kind?  I have two of those myself.  So, Janice Kay, if you’re not there already, when you’re old and cranky, which one will keep you at home to care for you themselves, and which one will immediately throw you into a nursing home and only visit you at Christmas?

Jan:  That’s a tough one. I can’t see either of my girls throwing me in a nursing home, but if they did, you could rest assured it would be the nicest one they could find. No, I think they’d probably work out a share system and I’d be at each house for periods of time.

NJ:  As much as I love my babies, I feel a nursing home, a remote control and some books in my future.  I have to tell the truth.  Any pets?

Jan:  I live in an apartment, so “No.”  But, I have had dogs, cats and fish in the past.

NJ:  Janice Kay (I just love that name!), what’s the food that’s so good to you, you go to bed dreaming about it, and you forego breakfast just to get to it?

Jan:  That’s a tough one. Food is low on my priority list, but there is one food that I’ve only had three times in my life and my mouth still waters when I think about it – homemade Baklava. Yummy!

NJ:  Hmmm, never heard of Baklava, but I had a feeling that you would mention this, so I had my cook to whip you up a little.  Hope you like it.  For those of you who are ignorant to this food that keeps Jan’s mouth watering, this is what it is:  a dessert originating in the Middle East made of phyllo pastry filled with chopped nuts and soaked in honey.

Baklava

They had me when they said “pastry.”  Nonnie = pastry-lover.  So, Janice Kay, what’s your favorite color?

Jan:  Any shade of blue

NJ:  OK.  How about your favorite sport…

Jan:  I love watching my grandsons play soccer and baseball, but I don’t watch any sports on TV.

NJ:  I wasn’t a sports fan at all until my daughter began playing volleyball.  Now, that sport dominates our world.  Love it (but only to watch her play it!).  So, do you have a favorite TV show?

Jan:  Right now, I’d say hands-down, “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Wowzer!

NJ:  OK, never heard of that, either.  Who’s your favorite Actress/Actor?

Jan:  I’ve always loved Meryl Streep. If I ever get my story made into a movie, and she’s still alive, she could play my part. Male actors – That’s a hard one. I’ve always loved the bad boys. I think Sam Elliott would win. I loved him in Roadhouse.

NJ:  Meryl Streep in “Bridges Over Madison County,” was it for me.  And that soundtrack?  I listen to it even now, a few times a week while I’m working.

Janice Kay, do you like to exercise to stay fit OR do you not mind just letting it all go?

Jan:  My favorite form of exercise is walking. I also love exercise classes because they push me. But, I do struggle with consistent exercise. It’s hit and miss.

NJ:  I love to exercise!  It really does make you feel so good.  So, Janice Kay, what’s the biggest pet peeve that makes you want to spit nails?  (For the record, NJ does not condone violence, but she does believe in being honest so she admits that there are those times and there are those people, who do cause her to want to spit a few nails in the direction of their foreheads.  Hey, just being honest.  It’s the only way I roll).

Jan:  As an apartment dweller, my biggest pet peeve in life is people who don’t pick up their dogs’ poop. That is disgusting!

NJ:  Thanks for the heads up, Janice Kay.  I was about to have lunch, but, that’s OK.  It can wait a few hours now (thanks to your visual).  So, are you neat or messy?

Jan:  Mostly neat. I like keeping my workspace organized, but around magazine deadlines, it can get pretty messy. I think I need a cork board.

NJ:  OK, that’s understandable.  I may have a bit of dirt in my car every now and again.  But, that’s my car…never my home!  So, Facebook or Twitter?

Jan:  Facebook for personal fun stuff and keeping up with friends and family. Twitter for business.

NJ:  You know, I’m amazed at the number of folks who feel the same way you do about these two mediums.  I don’t use Facebook much, so all of my online time is definitely work related but, if I did spend personal time online, I would separate them the very same way.

Janice Kay, we’ve come to realize that the internet is giving way to tons of budding friendships.  Who would you say is the one person you’ve connected with the most…your internet BFF or buddy?

Jan:  That’s a hard question to answer because there are several, but I’d say Wendy Scott is at the top of that list.

NJ:  Yes, that Wendy Scott is amazing, isn’t she?  If I could only get her to do this one thing that I want her to do.  Janice Kay, do you know any hypnotists?  Maybe I can get her that way.  But, we’ll come back to Wendy later…off air.  So tell us, who do you favor most:  Nonnie Jules or WonderWoman? Be honest

Jan:  WonderWoman for fantasy, Nonnie Jules for reality.

NJ:  Good answer.  We all know that WonderWoman has her truth lasso and Nonnie has…well, just her truths, in the no-nonsense way she forces us to be honest and tell it like it is, whether it makes others uncomfortable or not.  In your opinion, which one does a better job of making the world a better place?

Jan:  Nonnie, of course, because she’s real. Nonnie is making a difference in author’s lives around the world.

NJ:  Name two favorite INDIE books that you’ve read…

Jan:  Oh! That’s an easy one to answer. “Shadow of the Drill” by Rhani D’Chae and “Jazz Baby” by Beem Weeks.

NJ:  Good choices, Janice Kay!  So, how about sharing ONE good INDIE book you’ve read that was so good you wished the entire world would read it…

Jan:  Empty Chairs by Stacey Danson

NJ:  What was so great about it?

Jan:  This book is extremely well-written. It’s gritty and honest exposing child abuse horrors most of us can’t imagine. The fact that this book is a true story is its strongest and most powerful aspect. I have so much admiration for Sooz (Stacey) for laying it all out in such a way that it can’t help but bring awareness to a world-wide epidemic. If everyone would read this book, perhaps there would be more proactive people combatting child abuse, while also finding ways to help children living on the streets.

NJ:  Janice Kay, after you read books, do you post reviews?

Jan:  Yes

NJ:  What do you think readers should base their reviews on?

Jan:  To me, a review is simply my opinion of the book. I think it needs to express what I thought about the author’s writing ability, grammar, punctuation, etc, the plot, but especially for me, most of all the characters. I am a character driven writer and reader.

NJ:  Are you one of those who are afraid to be honest in their reviews lest the author gets upset with you, or is honesty your best policy, especially in reviews?

Jan:  No. I believe it is my duty to be honest with my reviews.

NJ:  Read any poorly written books lately?

Jan:  Yes. One.

NJ:  (Well, Janice Kay, I would have hoped that you wouldn’t have mentioned my book publicly.  I’m working on correcting it, you know!)

Angry dog

(Photo by AnimalWised)

Moving right along from the ugly part of the interview… Janice Kay, how many poorly written books have you read that you gave a high mark to in your review, when you knew they were horrible?  Be honest, I won’t ask you to name the books here in public.

Jan:  Zero. I won’t give anything above two or three stars for a poorly written book. To be honest, I rarely read a poorly written book because I don’t have time for such nonsense. Most of the time, I just put it aside and forget about it.

NJ:  There are some INDIE authors who have come onto the scene and have given our literary playing field a new look.  Can you name two INDIE authors who have done this in your eyes?  And, how have they changed the field for us?

Jan:  Nonnie Jules and Nicholas Rossis.  Nonnie has changed the playing field by challenging Indie Writers to grow and be better and providing a platform for that growth to happen. The RRBC Writers’ Conference and Book Expo is a good example. Nicholas provided us a wonderful tool to help authors bring the reader inside their character’s emotions with his “Emotional Beats” book. It is one of the best reference books I own, and I use it often.

NJ:  Why thank you, Jan!  Very kind of you to say.  Nicholas and I are sometimes joined at the hip in projects and lately, in these interviews, you guys have been linking us more and more.  I now think we’re starting to look alike and you should hear my Greek accent – and his is turning a bit more Southern by the day! LOL!  So, Janice Kay, are you an author?

Jan:  Yes, I am an author. It took a couple of years before I was comfortable saying those words.

NJ:  Well, good for you!  Are you a good author?  C’mon, we love honesty here.

Jan:  I am a good author who is still learning the craft. I think my willingness to learn and grow helps make me a good author. I’m always striving for better.

NJ:  Janice Kay, you know, there could not have been a better response to that question.  And, you are so right!  That is what makes us good authors:  the willingness to continually learn the craft so that we are continually improving and also, the ability to listen to the critiques of those who are clearly more skilled than we are in certain areas.  Good response.  I loved it!  How long have you been writing, by the way?

Jan:  Really, since I can remember. The first thing I can remember writing was a gospel song. But, I wrote my first book in 2012.

NJ:  Are you able to take constructive criticism of your written work?

Jan:  Yes. I welcome it. I won’t accept personal attacks or destructive comments, but I am wide open to constructive criticism.

NJ:  Name two books that you’ve written?

Jan:

FLOWERS AND STONE

Flowers and Stone by Jan Sikes

THE CONVICT AND THE ROSE

The Convict and the Rose by Jan Sikes

NJ:  Which one do you think is the best?

Jan:  That question is impossible for me to answer. They are both such vastly different books. I recently pulled Flowers and Stone down, revised and re-edited it so I know it is much better than it was when I originally published it. On the other hand, The Convict and the Rose has all Five-Star reviews, so many thought it was good.

NJ:  Yeah, I don’t put that much stock into reviews.  But, Janice Kay, do you have a blog or website?  I love GREAT blogs, so would you say that yours is written well enough for harsh critics like me to enjoy?

Jan:  I have both a blog site and a website. I think you would thoroughly enjoy my blog, Nonnie. I strive to keep it clean and well-written, whether it’s a book review or a short story.

NJ:  I must stop by there today!  Which online resource or organization has helped you as an author the most?

Jan:  The RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB

NJ:  You know, Janice Kay…I hear that a lot.  It must be true!  How have you been helped by the club?

Jan:  I’ve been embraced, encouraged and uplifted by my peers and I had not found that anywhere else I had looked. I’ve had one of my books featured as a Book of the Month. I’ve been on a RAVE WAVES radio show talking about one of my books. I’ve enjoyed many Blog Tours and other RRBC events.  Many members have read and reviewed my books. It was due to one member’s book review that I decided to re-write Flowers and Stone. The RRBC Writers’ Conferences have helped grow my writing and marketing skills through the many workshops offered. I’ve made friendships that I treasure. I’ve found a sense of belonging to a community of like-minded people. We are all in this together and there is no competition. When a member does win an award, like Ron Yates did in the KCT Literary contest, I get excited and want to help promote them. Ron didn’t know he’d won until I posted something on Twitter congratulating him. 😊

NJ:  Since you’re sitting on the SHELF, you’re obviously a RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB member, so what do you think of the club?

Jan:  I think you already know the answer to that question, Nonnie. I love the RRBC and RWISA family that I’ve found. Writing and marketing your books can be a lonely existence and it is so encouraging to find others in the same boat. Then, you can climb on that boat and sail together. That’s when you gain strength. That’s what I’ve found.

NJ:  Have you come across any other online entities like it?

Jan:  None. There are some organizations who offer one tiny aspect of the many things offered at RRBC, but NONE that give the whole ball of wax like RRBC.

NJ:  Would you recommend it to your friends and family?

Jan:  Of course, and I do.

NJ:  What’s your most favorite program or place here within RRBC?  (#PUSHTUESDAY, RAVE WAVES shows, Block Parties, Writers’ Conference & Book Expo, BOOKS OF THE MONTH discussions, “ON THE SHELF” interviews, etc.)

Jan:  That’s a tough one. I suppose if I had to choose only one, it would be the RRBC Writer’s Conference and Book Expo.

NJ:  This shelf is getting hard on my hiney, so we’re going to wrap this interview up.  Any final words for our guests today?

Jan:  It is an honor and privilege to sit in this seat for the month of June. I appreciate all the shares, comments and camaraderie from our members. If you are reading this and are not yet a member of RRBC, or maybe you are a member but haven’t fully “jumped-in” yet, I encourage you to do so. This is a book club, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a community of kind-hearted giving people who enjoy promoting each other. But, you have to give to receive. It’s the law of the Universe and Nonnie’s law as well. Thank you everyone, for all your awesome support!

NJ:  Jan, we can always count on you for such kind words.  Thank you!  Audience, for once, there were no “almost” accidents today!  Jan was the most perfect guest!  That’s a little disappointing actually.  I know most of you only come here for the drama.  (That’s OK…it’s the only reason I show up, too!  And also for the cookies!)

To my guests, please pick up a copy of either of Jan’s books.

Have you joined RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB yet?  Well, here’s your chance!  And, since Jan was on the “SHELF” today, tell them she sent you.

Until next time, take care.  We’ll see you next month, right here on the “SHELF” with another INTERESTING GUEST!!

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