“The most beautiful thing in Life is that our souls remain hovering over the place where we once enjoyed ourselves. I am one of those who remembers such places regardless of distance or time. Let not your worrying about the future interfere with your tranquility.”
— RICK SIKES
You write songs, poetry, short stories, screenplays, and novels. How do you choose a form?
I started out with a screenwriting class when I decided I had to tell the story, as I was thinking movie. (I still am, by the way.) I quickly concluded that the story was way too big to tell in one short movie. So, I branched out and took novel-writing classes not realizing at the time it would take four books for me to tell the story from beginning to end. I was originally thinking trilogy, but the last book got way too lengthy and I had to find a way to divide it. When writing fiction, I tend to gravitate toward short stories. However, I am on the second book in a series of full-length fiction novels now. I suppose the answer to the question would be, whatever direction the story pulls me. Sometimes it’s no more than a short poem and other times a 90,000 word novel.
How did you realize you have a story to tell, what drives you to continue?
In all honesty, Rob, I thought someone else would come along and write our story. So many people passed through our doors over the years, and they would say, “Someone needs to write y’all’s story.” I agreed, but never in a million years thought it would have to be me. I thought my NY Times and USA Today Bestselling author sister would tell it, but she put it back in my lap giving me lots of support to tackle it. It was about two years after Rick died that I woke up one morning to the realization that my sister was right. I had to be the one to tell the story as I was the only one there. And, that I had to get busy and learn how to do this. So, I started taking creative writing classes and learning the craft. When I started trying to put the story together, I was telling it in first person. But, I found that it was way too personal to continue it that way. I was stumped and didn’t exactly know what to do. So, I was sitting around one day talking to two of my girlfriends and one of them suggested I create characters to tell the story through. That was the lightbulb moment. It was exactly what I needed to move forward. I created Darlina Flowers and Luke Stone to tell the story through. That allowed me to back away and let the characters tell it. Rick died in 2009, and I published the first segment of the story in 2013 with “Flowers and Stone.”
What drives me to continue with this story is the message that each segment carries. If my story can touch one life, I am happy, and I’ve done my job.
In your synopsis of, Flowers and Stone, you write, “Darlina embraces the lifestyle, traveling with him and his band up and down the many roads of Texas playing their music. Luke decides to make her a part of his show bringing go-go girls to country music crowds. She is ecstatic to be included.” Is Darlina you or did she change as a character as you wrote her?
Based on my answer above, I think you already know I am Darlina and she is me. Honestly, I think I wrote Darlina as a much stronger woman than I was at the time. I truly didn’t know anything about life and was so unprepared to jump into it with both feet. Like Darlina, I wanted to try everything that had been forbidden by the strict religion I was raised in and didn’t give much thought to consequences. Darlina trusted Luke completely, with her body, her mind and her heart, as did I.
How does music affect your writing. Does it affect the way you pace the line?
The way music affects my writing is that it permeates almost every single thing I write whether it be a short story or novel. In the true story of mine and Rick’s lives, music was such a huge part of it that there was no way not to include it. And, that included releasing a music CD of original music with each segment of the story.
I can’t say that music affects the way I pace a line. However, that being said, I do believe that a story needs its own rhythm. For me, finding that rhythm usually comes through the dialogue.
What is Outlaw Music?
That is such a great question. Contrary to what most folks believe, the Outlaw Music movement wasn’t a bunch of law-breaking musicians. It was writers and musicians that dared to break away from the strict “Nashville” way of making music and become true Indie artists blazing new trails. They dared to do things the way that felt right to them rather than following the status-quo.
Would you describe yourself as an Outlaw writer?
Based on the definition I just gave above for Outlaw music, I suppose I am an Outlaw writer. I’m an Indie author, so far in my writing career. That means I’ve self-published all my books. That being said, I am trying hard to get a publisher for the new fiction series I’m working on.
Would you describe yourself as spiritual? (I ask because I have a sense of the spiritual when I read about your relationship with Rick)
I tell people that I am probably the most anti-religious person you will ever meet. I see so much horror that has been inflicted on humans throughout history in the name of the ‘church.’ But, that being said, I am very ‘spiritual.’ As my journey took me from the holy-roller church to following a Guru, I have quite a varied spiritual spectrum. At this point in life, I’m tuned into the Angels, my spiritual guides and teachers. I do meditation and have a deep indescribable love for the Creator that is the essence of everything. I also love working with gemstones, and have taken psychic development classes. I suppose I am a mixture of a lot of different aspects of spirituality. Rick practiced the American Indian spiritual beliefs. One time a Baptist preacher came to our house to invite us to church. In conversation, he asked Rick if he gave thanks for food before he ate. Rick’s answer left the man speechless. He said, “Why would I give thanks for the food I eat without taking time to give thanks for each breath that I breathe? For without the breath, I need no food.” That said it all!
What advice do you have for people who think they may have a story to tell?
Oh, my goodness! If you think you have a story to tell, don’t ignore it. I think we are channels and if an idea comes to you, there is a reason. So what if you don’t know how to craft a story? Get busy and learn! I want to read your story.
That’s great advice Jan!
Will you share a few paragraphs from one of your novels? (perhaps Flowers and Stone)
Excerpt 1 from “Flowers and Stone”
Darlina stood where she could watch this group. It appeared that Luke Stone was the man in charge and everyone around him either seemed to respect and love him or fear him. She couldn’t tell which, and maybe it was a little of both.
The attractive dark-haired lady to the left of him must be his wife, she concluded. Many of the customers approached his table, and he seemed to know them all personally.
Sherry joined her. “Whatcha’ lookin’ at, sweetie?”
She quickly looked away. “Just watchin’ the show.”
“Let me give you a little advice. Luke Stone is bad news. And besides that, he’s way too old for you.”
“I have no intention of getting any closer to him than to take his order and serve his food.”
She knew in her heart the words that came out of her mouth weren’t true. He fascinated her.
Excerpt 2 from “Flowers and Stone”
Luke Stone couldn’t remember the last time he’d bought a piece of jewelry for a lady, although lots of ladies had bought jewelry for him. He wondered how in the hell this sweet young girl with sparkling blue eyes had gotten under his skin so quickly. He imagined what it would feel like to run his fingers through her long auburn hair and speculated that it must smell like sweet blooming flowers.
As he stood at the counter in one of the finest jewelry stores in Abilene, he asked the clerk, “What would you suggest for a very sweet young lady that I just met?”
The clerk immediately brought out a tray of necklaces. “These are all very nice, Mr. Stone.”
He looked them over and spotted a small gold heart on a delicate chain with a tiny diamond set in the middle of the heart. “This one oughta’ do.”
The clerk placed it in a black velvet box, and Luke paid for it. He blinked and reached for his sunglasses when he walked outside into the bright sunshine. He wasn’t accustomed to being out of bed at ten a.m., much less cleaned up and purchasing jewelry.
Excerpt 3 “Flowers and Stone”
Before long, Luke was back. He escorted the girls to the area behind the stage where they would wait for their cue to go on. Darlina’s heart began to race, and her breath came in short gasps. She reached out for the drink in Sherry’s hand and took a big swig, as she made a conscious effort to calm the nerves. She wanted tonight to be perfect.
Luke squeezed her hand reassuringly. “Okay baby, I’ve gotta go back, so you girls just hang tight, and we’ll get you up soon.”
It sounded as if the place was full, and Darlina peeked out to find a standing room only crowd.
Sherry moved close beside her. “Look at all those men in uniforms!”
Darlina nodded. “I see them. There must be 500 or more, and now I’m more nervous than ever.”
The girls shared the rest of the drink and soon Luke announced them to the audience. “Ladies and gentlemen, the Rebel Rousers have a real treat for you tonight. All the way from Abilene, Texas; we bring to you the Rebel Rouser Go-Go Girls!”
As they burst onto the stage, cheers, whistles, and hollers echoed from all around.
The band played Mustang Sally, and the noise from the crowd rose to a crescendo. The excitement was like electricity in the air, and the girls danced exactly as Marketa had taught them, bringing round after round of applause and cheers from the soldiers.
Darlina glanced at Luke and saw him beaming. He winked and blew her a kiss.
The four-hour show ended, and Luke and Darlina went back to their dressing room to change into street clothes. A knock on the door startled them both. Luke opened it to find a uniformed officer standing there.
“Luke, that was the best show you’ve ever brought us. I can assure you that you’ll be booked back here again soon. The soldiers need entertainment, and that’s what you gave ‘em tonight. I just wanted to let you know how pleased we are.”
“Thank you, Commander. We enjoyed entertaining y’all. I’ll be in touch about another booking.”
The man handed Luke a large amount of cash and left after shaking his hand.
Thank you Jan!
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All images by Jan Sikes
This article is also published on Surviving My Past
Repulsion and Trauma
First posted 2/24/2016-Revised October 2018
Decompensation: Psychology, a loss of ability to keep up normal psychological defenses, sometimes resulting in depression, anxiety, or delusions. Dictionary.com
Miss Lonelyhearts is an advice columnist who slowly loses his mind from the suffering he reads. This passage is toward the close of the story:
“After a long night and morning, towards noon, Miss Lonelyhearts welcomed the arrival of fever. It promised heat and mentally unmotivated violence. The promise was soon fulfilled; the rock became a furnace.
He fastened his eyes on the Christ that hung on the wall opposite his bed.
As he stared at it, it became a bright fly, spinning with quick grace on a background of blood velvet sprinkled with tiny nerve stars.
Everything else in the room was dead–chairs, table, pencils, clothes, books. He thought of this black world of things as a fish. And he was right, for it suddenly rose to the bright bait on the wall. It rose with a splash of music and he saw its shining silver belly.
Christ is life and light.
“Christ! Christ!” This shout echoed through the innermost cells of his body.
He moved his head to a cooler spot on the pillow and the vein in his forehead became less swollen. He felt clean and fresh. His heart was a rose and in his skull another rose bloomed.
The room was full of grace. A sweet, clean grace, not washed clean, but clean as the inner sides of the inner petals of a newly forced rosebud.
Delight was also in the room. It was like a gentle wind, and his nerves rippled under it like small blue flowers in a pasture.
He was conscious of two rhythms that were slowly becoming one. When they became one, his identification with God was complete. His heart was the one heart, the heart of God. And his brain was likewise God’s.
God said, “Will you accept it, now?
And he replied, “I accept, I accept.”
He immediately began to plan a new life and his future conduct as Miss Lonelyhearts.
He submitted drafts of his column to God and God approved them. God approved his every thought.”
My episodes of decompensation are less dramatic, but no less frightening.
It’s frightening to lose the ability to sleep and concentrate.
It’s frightening to lose the ability to distinguish between reality and fantasy.
It’s frightening to wake-up tired and hopeless and thinking that it never gets better.
decompensation is not necessarily a bad thing if it is part of the therapeutic process.
“…anxiety and panic symptoms are almost invariably “feeling flashbacks” triggered by a relatively benign event in the here-and-now, such as being alone in a room at twilight.” The Work of Stabilization In Trauma Treatment
The basic skills a trauma patient needs are these:
- grounding and centering techniques
- coping strategies for dealing with suicidal and self-abusive impulses
- contracting for safety with themselves and others
- anticipate stressful or triggering events
- learn how to calm the body and mind
- distinguish past from present reality and how to stay “in the present”
If the trauma symptoms include dissociative alters the alters must know about and communicate with each other.
This is not easy and my recent attempts to communicate broke through memory barriers and lead to this most recent period of decomposition and regression.
Regression is an unconscious defensive process by which the patient reverts to a previous level of functioning, usually to a certain infantile or juvenile stage.”
One of the best portrayals of regressive decomposition is in the film Repulsion by Roman Polanski.
Catherine Deneuve portrays Carol, a sexually conflicted young Belgian woman.
Carol lives in London with her older sister. .
The film suggests that either Carol’s father or some other man sexually abused her as a child.
I first saw Repulsion when I was in my 20’s.
Watching it again this week during an episode of decompesation was a revelation.
Polanski shows us Carol’s anguish and her rapid decline with brilliant accuracy; when the Sister leaves for a week-long holiday we enter the territory of Carol’s mind.
“…the most common effect of sexual abuse is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Symptoms can extend far into adulthood and can include withdrawn behavior, reenactment of the traumatic event, avoidance of circumstances that remind one of the event, and physiological hyper-reactivity.” Psychology Today
We see these symptoms when Carol’s boyfriend tries to kiss her. She reacts with disgust, runs into her apartment in a panic and obsessively brushes her teeth.
Among the trauma symptoms depicted in Repulsion are the loss of time
which begins almost as soon as Carol is alone.
We see her increased sense of disconnection from her environment.
Later, as her paranoia and hyper-vigilance escalates Carol re-lives her assault.
By the end of the week Carol is lost to herself and the film closes with a snapshot of Carol as a child, gazing angrily at her Father.
Kim Morgan of the Huffington Post calls Repulsion one of the most frightening studies of madness ever filmed.
My emotions were everywhere this week.
My decompensation was not as dramatic as Carol’s; it certainly doesn’t
have the narrative edge.
It involved lost time and laying in bed watching Repulsion followed by
non-stop episodes MST3K.
Thank God for that show and for the part of me that comes out to watch it.
The most difficult thing about surviving is surviving.
If you have a counselor or psychotherapist let that person know what is happening if you think you entering a crisis.
You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Remind yourself that memories are just memories; it is more normal to remember a trauma than to forget it.
When you have a panic attack stop and pace your breathing.
If you start to relive the past remind yourself of the present.
When you can’t sleep don’t lie in bed thinking or worrying; get up
and enjoy something soothing or pleasant.
If you have difficulty concentrating, give yourself time to focus on what
you need to do.
People with PTSD and CPTSD also have depressive episodes.
If the acuity lasts for more than a few days seek help.
If you think you are a danger to yourself or others call 911 or go to an emergency room.
Rob Goldstein 2016 revised October 2018
Video clips and still shots are from the film Repulsion and used
here for educational purposes.
Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional. I write about my personal experience. What works for me may not work for you. If you think you are having a psychiatric episode please see a professional.
National Youth Orchestra-USA performs Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
I know you’re angry.
So am I.
How could we not be?
Children ripped from their parents,
Concentration camps in Texas.
“I can’t breathe”
“I remember their laughter”
A child-man throwing ugly decrees from his high chair.
But from a high shelf in Europe come watercolor images a century on.
French families fleeing destruction.
Children starving in Yemen.
Corpses of trees standing witness as men follow orders into death.
As we follow our leaders.
They know who we need to hate.
In front of City Hall we are led in chants.
We know the story.
Our indignation gives us the right to hate.
We have worked so hard, but They stole our votes, our climate, our lives.
We will make them pay!
We will come here every night if necessary!
Bearing placards, twisted pictures of an uncrowned King.
A piñata we can beat to death
Until we get our hands…
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