When Inner Peace Begins

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

A long-time fan of bestselling authors and coaches Marc and Angel Chernoff, I look forward to reading their emails and blog posts. Here’s an excerpt from a recent post:

In the present moment we all have some kind of pain: anger, sadness, frustration, disappointment, regret, etc.

Notice this pain within yourself, watch it closely, and see that it’s caused by whatever story you have in your head about what happened in the past (either in the recent past or in the distant past). Your mind might insist that the pain you feel is caused by what happened (not by the story in your head about it), but what happened in the past is NOT happening right now. It’s over. It has passed. But the pain is still happening right now because of the story you’ve been subconsciously telling yourself about that past incident.

Note that “story” does not mean “fake story.” It also does not mean “true story.” The word “story” in the context of your self-evaluation doesn’t have to imply true or false, positive or negative, or any other kind of forceful judgment call. It’s simply a process that’s happening inside your head:

*You are remembering something that happened.

*You subconsciously perceive yourself as a victim of this incident.

*Your memory of what happened causes a strong emotion in you.

So just notice what story you have, without judging it, and without judging yourself. It’s natural to have a story; we all have stories. See yours for what it is. And see that it’s causing you pain. Then take a deep breath, and another…

Inner peace begins the moment you take these deep breaths and choose not to allow the past to rule your present thoughts and emotions.

Note: I highly recommend subscribing to Marc & Angel’s website.


Spotlight on The Babel Apocalypse

I’m happy to welcome award-winning linguist and author Vyvyan Evans. Today, Vyvyan shares his creative journey and new release, The Babel Apocalypse.


What was your inspiration for this book?

The Babel Apocalypse imagines a future in which we stream language directly to neural implants in our heads.

Today, we stream anything from movies, to books, to music, to our ‘smart’ devices, and consume that content. Smart devices use streaming signals—data encoded in IP data packets—encoded and distributed via wi-fi internet. Language streaming would work, in principle, in the same way. With a ‘language chip’ implanted in our brains, we will be able to ‘stream’ language from internet-in-space on demand, 24/7.

Moreover, based on an individual’s level of subscription to a language streaming provider, they would be able to stream any language they chose, with any level of lexical complexity. This means that someone could, potentially, apply for a job in any country in the world, without needing to be concerned about knowing the local language. Rather, the individual would just draw upon the words and grammar they need, to function in the language, by syncing to a language database, stored on a server in space. And call it up, over the internet, in real time, as they think and talk. It means that everything someone needs to know, to be able to use a language, is streamed over the internet, rather than being stored in someone’s head. Language learning, thus, becomes obsolete.

I have a research background in linguistics and cognitive science, with a PhD in linguistics, and having worked for many years as a professor of linguistics. Over the years it increasingly struck me, what if language were no longer learned but streamed. The rise of intelligent AI and ChatGPT makes there seem more plausible. And the technology is currently being developed, to make neural implants for humans possible, to create a so-called “transhuman”.

I wrote The Babel Apocalypse because, in the near future, such developments may even put language under threat. Hence, the inspiration for the book was that it should serve as a warning: when we lose language we all lose.

What is the best part of being an author? The worst?

The best part of being an author is the writing. And that’s also the worst part. But the hardest part is the marketing that follows the writing.

Which authors have inspired you?

Given I am a trained linguist, there are two books, by two quite different authors that have inspired me. Both these books ingeniously explored the impact of language on how we think and experience (illustrated through the conceit of a protagonist learning an entirely new, and alien, language).

The first, Babel-17 is by Samuel R. Delany. It was first published in 1966 and was joint winner of the Nebula Award for best novel in 1967.

The eponymous Babel-17 is a language that alters the perceptions and worldview of any who speak it. This is a conceit that draws upon the principle of linguistic relativity.

Linguistic Relativity holds that divergence in the grammatical organization and lexical structure of the language we speak alters the habitual perception of the world around us, even dramatically changing how we think. As an example, we now know that the brains of Greek speakers perceive certain colours differently from speakers of English because of how Greek labels for colour divide up the colour spectrum. This is an unconscious consequence of speaking Greek versus English.

In the novel, Babel-17 is the language spoken by Invaders, as they wage an interstellar war against the Alliance. The novel’s protagonist, Rydra Wong, is a linguist and cryptographer who possesses a rare ability to learn languages. She is recruited by the Alliance to try and decode the language of the invaders, Babel-17, to uncover clues for attack vectors.

Babel-17 is an exemplar of a very high-concept conceit. When Delany was writing the novel, linguistic relativity was still only a hypothesis, first dubbed the Spair-Whorf hypothesis in 1954.

Delany asks a classic ‘what if’ question: What if the language we speak fundamentally changes the way we see the world, the way we feel, our belief systems, the way we act? Babel-17 then explores the logical, and extreme consequences of this proposition.

In the novel, as Rydra Wong learns the strange, alien tongue, she starts to see the world, and think as the invaders do. And the consequence is that she starts to become one of them. She ultimately betrays her own command and her government, acting as an agent of the Invaders.

And in this way, Delany shows that in the context of warfare, when the notion of linguistic relativity is taken to its logical extreme, language can serve as the most powerful weapon of all.

The second is the novella, Story of Your Life, written by Ted Chiang and first published in 1998. This story was subsequently adapted as the major motion picture Arrival.

Again, this story features a linguist as its main protagonist, Dr. Louise Banks. The story involves Banks narrating the events that led to the arrival of her new-born daughter. In so doing, she explains how her work, translating the language of the alien Heptapod species, led her to understanding time in a new way, where she could perceive her past and future simultaneously.

The consequence is that as learning a new (alien) language transforms thought, the novella explores issues relating to linguistic relativity, determinism and freewill.

Any advice for aspiring writers?

Hone your craft, be consistent in setting writing goals, never give-up, rejection is part of the process. And finally, no one ever wrote a masterpiece in one go. It takes time, sometimes years, to get a manuscript right—be kind to yourself during this process. Everything is a learning opportunity.

What are you working on next?

The Babel Apocalypse is the first instalment in the Songs of the Sage book series. There are six projected books in the series which, in increasing turns, examine the role and nature of language, and communication. The thematic premise is that, in the wrong hands, language can serve as a weapon of mass destruction. This overarching motif is explored, across the six books, both from Earth-bound and galaxies-wide bases.

As language involves symbol use and processing, the book series, perhaps naturally, also dwells on other aspects of human imagination and symbolic behaviour, including religious experience and belief systems, themselves made possible by language.

The second book in the series, The Dark Court, is set five years after the events of the great language outage depicted in The Babel Apocalypse. It explores how the language chips in people’s heads can themselves be hacked, leading to a global insomnia pandemic. The Dark Court will be published in 2024, as book 2 in the series.


Language is no longer learned, but streamed to neural implants regulated by lang-laws. Those who can’t afford language streaming services are feral, living on the fringes of society. Big tech corporations control language, the world’s most valuable commodity.

But when a massive cyberattack causes a global language outage, catastrophe looms.

Europol detective Emyr Morgan is assigned to the case. His prime suspect is Professor Ebba Black, the last native speaker of language in the automated world, and leader of the Babel cyberterrorist organization. But Emyr soon learns that in a world of corporate power, where those who control language control everything, all is not as it seems.

As he and Ebba collide, Emyr faces an existential dilemma between loyalty and betrayal, when everything he once believed in is called into question. To prevent the imminent collapse of civilization and a global war between the great federations, he must figure out friend from foe—his life depends on it. And with the odds stacked against him, he must find a way to stop the Babel Apocalypse.


Ebba was all too aware that she was viewed as an anomaly by pretty much everyone; she was neither feral nor out-soc. So, some of her students—especially those from outside the Republic, such as the Grand Union, and other places too—thought she must be breaking the law. It was a common misconception. She had even once been reported to the authorities by one of those types. For being an unchipped ghost, as they called her. That made her laugh; a dark laugh at the irony of it. The mutes, she called them. Those who had been fitted with Universal Grammar tech.

But while she officially resided in the Nordic Republic, and as long as she remained there, Ebba wasn’t doing anything illegal. The Republic was something of a curiosity even among Tier One states, never having passed a lang-law. Yet this singular absence was offset by the special requirements of Nordic birth licenses. To have one granted, prospective parents had to consent to their newborn being fitted with Universal Grammar tech. So everyone got a language chip at birth anyway, together with an ear implant transceiver. Which meant that voice command tech was, for all intents and purposes, de rigueur even without a lang-law. But that was the Scandinavian way. In the Nordic Republic, they organized freedom.

For her part, Ebba knew it wasn’t her. It was everyone else who had the problem. “That’s what you would think,” her braver, typically male students told her. “You’re Ebba Black.” Ha! Whatever that means. How do they know what Ebba Black would think anyway?

Author Bio and Links

Dr. Vyvyan Evans is a native of Chester, England. He holds a PhD in linguistics from Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., and is a Professor of Linguistics. He has published numerous acclaimed popular science and technical books on language and linguistics. His popular science essays and articles have appeared in numerous venues including ‘The Guardian’, ‘Psychology Today’, ‘New York Post’, ‘New Scientist’, ‘Newsweek’ and ‘The New Republic’. His award-winning writing focuses, in one way or another, on the nature of language and mind, the impact of technology on language, and the future of communication. His science fiction work explores the status of language and digital communication technology as potential weapons of mass destruction.

Book Website | Author Website | YouTube Channel | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

The Babel Apocalypse earned a starred review in Kirkus: “A perfect fusion of SF, thriller, and mystery—smart speculative fiction at its very best.”

The full review is here.


The author will be awarding a physical paperback copy of the book (available internationally) to a randomly drawn commenter. Find out more here.

Follow the author on the rest of his Goddess Fish tour here.

Spotlight on Unwillable by Jackie M. Stebbins

I’m happy to welcome author and motivational speaker Jackie M. Stebbins. Today, Jackie shares interesting facts about autoimmune encephalitis and her memoir, Unwillable.

Here’s Jackie!

In 2018, after a traumatizing onset and near-death experience at age thirty-four, I was diagnosed with a rare brain illness, autoimmune encephalitis (AE). I had never before heard of AE, but I’m not alone; eight out of ten people in the world haven’t heard of encephalitis (spoiler alert, that’s one of my ten facts, please keep reading).

I wrote my memoir, Unwillable, to help raise awareness about my rare brain illness. And I hope to add to the conversation with this list.

Here are ten (hopefully interesting) facts about encephalitis:

What: Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain. It is caused by an infection or through the immune system attacking the brain. (I have AE. My immune system sneakily attacked my brain.)

Who: Anyone can develop encephalitis regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity. (I’ve met women and men older than me with AE, and I’ve met a boy who was diagnosed when he was under five years old).

Outcomes: Encephalitis can have a high death rate and survivors might be left with an acquired brain injury and life-changing consequences. Early diagnosis and treatment can save lives and improve outcomes. In some cases, encephalitis can impact mental health, causing difficulty in dealing with emotions and behaviors, and can lead to thoughts of self-harm and even suicide.

Death: Encephalitis has a high death rate (up to 40% dependent on cause) and a relapse rate of between 12 and 35% (dependent on cause).

Awareness: In many countries, encephalitis is more common than ALS, multiple sclerosis, bacterial meningitis, and cerebral palsy, but eight out of ten people in the world have never heard of encephalitis. (But not you, because you’re reading this blog!)

Symptoms: Autoimmune encephalitis symptoms may include: confusion, altered personality or behavior, psychosis, movement disorders, seizures, hallucinations, memory loss, or sleep disturbances. Infectious encephalitis usually begins with a ‘flu-like illness’ or headache, and more serious symptoms follows, such as loss of consciousness, coma, a high temperature, seizures, inability to speak or control movement, sensory changes, neck stiffness or uncharacteristic behavior.

Diagnosis: To diagnose encephalitis, doctors perform a variety of tests such as a spinal tap, CT or MRI brain scans, an electroencephalogram (EEG), various blood tests, and cognitive assessments.

Prognosis: Encephalitis can be complicated to diagnose and is often misdiagnosed. It can also be hard to treat the cause of encephalitis (infectious or autoimmune) and to treat the symptoms and complications arising from encephalitis.

Recovery: Encephalitis recovery can be a long and slow process, because the brain takes much longer to recover than other parts of the body.

#StebbinsStrong: I wrote Unwillable after Susannah Cahalan’s memoir Brain on Fire was a NYT #1 bestseller. I wanted to add to the knowledge base about my rare brain illness and I wanted to show people that even when life throws the worst at you, you can survive, recover, and rebuild your life in a meaningful way. There is life after autoimmune encephalitis!


“Jackie Stebbins’ UNWILLABLE is an inspiring story of a brilliant woman’s battle with autoimmune encephalitis and the circle of support–from loving family members to dedicated physicians–who helped guide her through a hard-won recovery. Her story is as moving as it is important and is destined to help so many others facing this condition.”

Susannah Cahalan author of NYT #1 Bestseller Brain on Fire


While my complete stay isn’t embedded in my memory, because of what the illness was doing to my brain, my time there will never be forgotten because of its place in my life’s story. That experience definitively marks where I’m right at the edge between a well-educated, successful, driven, independent, and thriving woman and an incapacitated person, powerless and relegated to the care of those around her, on the brink of brain damage or death without the intervention of the correct diagnosis. And a small part of me now believes I then understood that I was teetering on a life-altering and explosive line. But that same small part of me can’t say whether, for the first time in my life, I believed my situation to be unwillable. Perhaps my own will would not be enough.

I will always remember crawling into bed the first night, ragged with emotion, and the racing thoughts my mind was still able to conjure up. The questions pulsed through my silent tears. What the hell happened to me? . . . I cannot possibly belong here. I haven’t led a life that would lead me to this dysfunction. I was doing so well. . . . I’m the senior partner at my law firm. I’ve never before had a problem with mental health. . . . Why am I at rock bottom? How the hell did I end up in a psychiatric ward?

Buy/Read Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Author Bio and Links

Jackie M. Stebbins was living her dream as a nationally recognized family law, criminal defense, and civil litigator. But Stebbins’s career as a lawyer abruptly ended in May, 2018, when she was diagnosed with a rare brain illness, autoimmune encephalitis. Stebbins persevered to make a remarkable recovery and turned herself into an author and motivational speaker. Stebbins is the author of the JM Stebbins blog and host of the Brain Fever podcast. Stebbins’s side hustle includes raising three lovely children with her wonderful husband, Sean, in Bismarck, North Dakota, and in her leisure time she can be found reading, trying to be funny, and aqua jogging.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn | TikTok


Jackie M. Stebbins will be awarding a custom #StebbinsStrong t-shirt (US only) to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.

Follow Jackie on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.

You’re Never Too Old to Grow in Your Thinking

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Here’s a thought-provoking reflection from international speaker and bestselling author Joyce Meyer:

Dr. Caroline Leaf, a leading brain scientist/learning specialist and committed Christian, notes in her teaching on the brain: “The Word and science believe that the mind and the brain are one.” The way you think is voluntary—you can control your thoughts. I want you to give your brain a new job and begin to teach your mind to work for you instead of against you.

One important way to do this is to make the intentional decision that you will begin to think positively. I realize your brain won’t be able to fulfill the new role completely overnight. You may be asking it to undergo a radical transformation, and that will take time. So give it a little grace, but determine that with your diligence and God’s help your brain will go to work for you instead of against you and become a powerful, positive force in your life.

I like what Dr. Leaf says—that the human brain takes “eighteen years to grow and a lifetime to mature.” Don’t miss this point. Although every other organ in the body is fully formed when a person is born, and simply gets bigger as the body gets bigger, the brain actually takes a full eighteen years to be fully formed. After that it continues to mature until the day a person dies. This means, no matter how old you are, your brain is still maturing. This is great news because it means you do not have to be stuck in any old or wrong thought patters. Your brain is still maturing, so you can still mature in your thinking.

Source: Trusting God Day by Day by Joyce Meyer

Spotlight on Girl Hidden

I’m happy to welcome author Jesse René Gibbs. Today, Jesse shares her new release, Girl Hidden.

10 Interesting Things About Girl Hidden

1. Yes, I was kidnapped…. twice. The first time my grandmother was rescuing me from my narcissistic mother and my stepfather who treated me like his girlfriend. The second time, my mother literally stalked me for three days, waiting for my grandparents to leave me alone. There was a knock on the door and a strange woman was standing there. She said, “Come quickly, your mommy is in the car.”

I was seven, happily in my dress up clothes with bare feet. It was December and the cold air chilled my feet. I said “no, I don’t go with strangers.” She blinked in surprise and replied, “you’re a very good girl.” Ten seconds later my five foot ten inch tall mother kicked open the front door and dragged me kicking and screaming down the path and threw me in the back of the car. I was covered in splinters from trying to grab the door frame and the banisters of the porch stairs and I was terrified.

2. I loved writing from the perspective of my mother; she was extremely abusive to me and my siblings, but I had all of her letters to reach into her mind and try and create a character that was honest about the abuse but also humanized her.

So often memories can be subjective and influenced by our own biases, and I was also deep in the well of the perspectives of my narcissistic mother, so research was one of the most important aspects of this book. My best friend June and I dug through boxes, did interviews, along with a lot of extraneous research to make this book come about.

June both collaborated with me and provided me with the support and encouragement that I needed through the entire experience. It can be challenging to organize and write about personal experiences, but having someone who believes in you and is willing to help can make all the difference. Writing a memoir can be a cathartic and rewarding experience, but it is also emotionally taxing. And she was my rock through the whole experience.

3. I have always had a natural talent for storytelling, which I attribute to my mother’s charismatic personality and my grandfather’s love for fishing and fish tales. Writing is one of my may passions, and I take on the challenge of making my stories real, interesting, and engaging. Choosing to write my memoir in the third person adds another layer of complexity to the process, but it provides a unique perspective to the story. To make my memoir feel authentic, I incorporated sensory details to bring the reader into the scenes, added dialogue to bring the characters to life, and emphasized the key themes and lessons that emerged from my experiences. Staying true to my own style and voice is crucial in crafting a memoir that resonates with readers.

4. The story of how I met my best friend June is often asked about; June is an important friend in my life and someone who I consider my rock. Our connection was immediate, and it made me believe in the concept of love at first sight.

June was only seventeen years old when she visited her older brother at the inner-city commune where I lived. Her father, who was getting remarried, was no longer interested in being a parent, so he provided her with a one-way ticket to Chicago and essentially left her on her own. June’s older brother was friends with my ex-husband, so I did him a favor and picked her up from the airport on her arrival. By the time we got to baggage claim we were best friends. We later discovered that our grandparents had been friends for over thirty years, but we had never met until then. It felt like we were meant to find each other.

5. Elsie the dairy cow had her life end in the only way it could have on the Taylors’ farm: by cow suicide. My little brother Ezra had taken Elsie down the hill, over the creek, up the hill, and into the hayfield to stake her out to one of the trees. He hauled a half-full five-gallon bucket – nearly as large as he was at age eight – from the creek up to where the cow was tied and left her there to dine. Ezra didn’t realize that not only was she tied to a tree that was balanced precariously over a ravine, but that cows are not known to be that bright.

Elsie either slipped on the red mud, or could no longer handle life on the Taylor farm, and was found hanging from the edge of the cliff, breaking her neck and Ezra’s precious heart in the same moment.

6. As I was growing up, I was taught all of the specifics of “Purity Culture”: a Christian ideology that teaches young women that if a man shows any kind of interest in her, that it is because of what she is wearing or how she is acting. I was indoctrinated on how I should exist, from what I should wear to my very thoughts. I was pointedly taught that my stepfather was where I should practice being a godly girlfriend. For my birthday, he even gave me a ruby “promise ring,” asking me to pledge my virginity to him until he released it to my husband. All this from a man who took advantage of me under both the permission and supervision of my mother.

7. I delivered my baby sister. My stepfather woke me up at five in the morning to tell me that Momma was in labor, and I needed to get up and get the house picked up because we were having company that day.

Momma went from a few regular contractions straight into transition in a matter of minutes. She decided that getting into a lukewarm bath might help with the unreasonable amount of pain that she was in. She made it into the tub but before she sat down, her water broke. She screamed at me (I was in the laundry room next to the bathroom) to get her a towel, so I ran into the living room, grabbed a couple of towels, and threw them into the bathroom. She yelled, “Jesse you have to come catch this baby!”

I pulled open the curtain (we didn’t have a door on the bathroom) and saw my stepfather holding Momma up while she stood in the tub. The baby was crowning, so I grabbed the towels and hit the floor. Crawling between the tub and Poppa’s legs, I barely made it over the tub and up under Momma before the baby came out with a wet squelching sound. She was so sweet and quiet. I held her close as Momma caught her breath and was able to stand on her own. I handed the baby to Poppa and ran upstairs to get the birthing kit so that we could cut the umbilical cord and suction out her mouth. She didn’t make a sound. She was so sweet and quiet. Poppa cut the cord and that’s when we realized that after four boys in a row, we finally got a little girl.

8. I left home at the tender age of nineteen after my stepfather had given me a spanking the day before. I decided that of all the abuse that I had endured over the years, that experience was a bridge too far. My parents showed up at the radio station where I was a DJ and raided my office while I was on air. They found my suitcase and figured out that I was running away. There was a huge fight and after three hours of screaming at me, Momma went home while Poppa convinced me to come home too. By the time I got home, my mother had informed my siblings that I was running away because they had been bad, that I didn’t love them anymore and that I was possessed by demons. It was beyond heartbreaking.

9. It took nearly seventeen years before I saw my siblings again. There’s been a lot of conversations around my choice to leave home and a lot of things that my mother told them after I left that had to be undone. It has been hard, with a lot of apologizing and many tears, but there’s been so much healing having them back in my world.

10. I joined an inner-city commune when I left home and very much fell out of the frying pan into the fire. There’s been an incredible amount of deconstruction in my world between my mother’s religious fervor and the inner-city commune. But coming to terms with my own faults and foibles has been incredibly impactful and healing.


Echoing among the Blue Ridge Mountains were the cries of newborn babies that disappeared into the night. The screams of children nearly drowned out by the sound of crickets. A girl, hidden and waiting to be found, terrified, and confused. The fireflies sparkling in the woods, bringing light to darkled places.

The bulk of Jesse’s memories were of growing up in the farm country of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. The farm folks stayed pretty much outside of town, except for visits to the feed store causing random tractors to travel down Main Street. There were beatings and abuses, manipulation and terror carried out in spaces breathtaking in their beauty. There were twenty-seven Baptist churches, three non-denominational churches, and one Catholic Church.

There were annual Ku Klux Klan rallies on the street where they would walk right by all the black families who came out to watch and the white folks who came out for moral support—whether of the blacks or the whites, no one knew for sure. Black people did not marry white people in a civilized society, and so were rarely seen socializing. There was a young woman who was pregnant with a black man’s baby, so her parents disowned her. Jesse’s family was accused of killing the child and burying it on their property.

There was the Berkley House Bed and Breakfast toward the end of town, with gold plated silverware and hardwood floors, rumored to be the local sex worker house. There was a mansion up on a hill that overlooked the other humble houses in the town. In the local cemetery, there was “Will B. Jolly” carved into the graves used by bootleggers back in the twenties. Everyone had some form of thick southern drawl, though the length of the “aw” would extend the further south you went. There was a tiny baseball field and a tinier fire department. There was an old lady in the foothills that let the family raid her garden during the summer. And in exchange, Jesse’s family helped her husband bring in the hay for their animals every year.

There was a black snake in the attic—the door opened inside the closet next to Jesse’s bed. She would find his shed skins left behind in the summer months measuring close to seven feet in length. There was a creek with crawdads and a moss-covered bridge. There were mulberry and pecan trees that filled her and her siblings’ aching bellies as the weather turned.

There were hot summer days and freezing cold winters. There were dogs that were best friends, cats that kept her warm at night, and a cow that committed suicide. There was red clay instead of dirt, hayfields instead of grass, and a favorite swimming hole: Lenny’s Mill, the local grain mill on a glacier-fed creek where you could take a dip if you were brave enough to challenge the frigid waters.

Girl Hidden is the story of an unwanted child, born nonetheless and forced into servitude, desperate to protect her siblings and find her way out from under the vicious, manipulative abuses heaped on her by the one person who was supposed to love her unconditionally: her mother.


A siren howled outside the window down in the street, and she clutched the sacred book to her chest. A small-town girl in a big city, all alone… Man, did she feel lost. She opened the well-worn book to one of her favorite Psalms and reminded herself that God was still in control. Sometimes she wondered, in the quietest part of her heart, if He had dropped the ball.

She finished reading and asked God to watch over her family while she was away. She prayed especially for her siblings and named them off one by one as if God would forget them if she failed even once to remind Him. “Luke… Ezra… Noah… Judah… Faith… Louise…”

She turned off the light and lay there in the semi-dark. Her eyes adjusted and the streetlamps down below left weird shadows in the corners of the room. She tossed and turned for a bit. Twelve years of having little kids in bed with her made sleeping alone a strange feeling. She pushed and pulled and got some of the big pink comforter into a pile so that it felt like someone was next to her. She lay on her back and tried desperately to get her mind to turn off.

Eventually, exhaustion won the battle. Jesse slept.

Author Bio and Links

My name is Jesse René Gibbs and I am the author of Girl Hidden. I am an artist, designer, dancer and survivor. I am a stepmother to four, Amma to four more and blessed beyond measure with the family that I chose.

This book is based on the true story of my life, gleaned from years of my mother’s writings, my grandmother’s journals and my own experiences. I did my best to showcase the depth of damage that growing up with a narcissistic parent can have on a person, and how hard it is to come to terms with the amount of gaslighting that comes with that life. My siblings all have their own stories of being played against each other, bullied and even emotionally tortured by our parents. We were trained to not trust our own intuition, raised in a life of poverty, a lack of privacy and the endlessly traumatizing purity culture.

I was hunted in my own home by the man my mother married and escaped at nineteen only to land in an intentional community in Chicago that did nearly as much damage. My best friend in the book is also real, and she did more to walk me through my trauma, and she is the main reason that these stories were finally published.

My new life in Seattle didn’t start until well into my thirties, and I’m still working on deconstructing my life up to that point. I wrote this book to organize my life in my own mind and to undo years of lies. I also wrote it because others need to know that they are not alone.

Website | Instagram | Facebook | Tiktok | Amazon Buy Link | Email


Jesse René Gibbs will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.

Follow Jesse on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.

Interview with Judy Penz Sheluk

I’m happy to welcome back bestselling author Judy Penz Sheluk. Today, Judy shares interesting facts about her creative journey and new release, Finding Your Path to Publication.

Here’s Judy!

What was your inspiration for this book?

The germ of the idea started in November 2021, after I’d done a NaNoWriMo debriefing for my then local library— Failing (and Succeeding!) with NaNoWriMo. For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is an annual event with the challenge of writing 50,000 words during the month of November. When it came to the Q&A portion of the program, it became clear that most of the attendees were more interested in how to get published than chatting about whether they’d reached the 50,000-word mark. That led to the library requesting a workshop on publishing, and following that, one on self-publishing. Based on the number of attendees, and their thirst for knowledge, I knew there was an interest and a need, but I couldn’t find any single book that covered off all the different paths to publication. I’m a complete pantser when it comes to writing fiction, but with this book, my library presentation—Finding Your Path to Publication—worked as an outline, and I liked the idea of going back to my roots as a journalist.

What is the best part of being an author? The worst?

I love the writing process, whether it’s creating a world, researching, or in the case of this book, sharing would I know. The shameless self-promotion side of things, social media, etc., that doesn’t come easily or naturally to me. If I ever earn Louise Penny money, I’ll hire an assistant to do all of that. So far, I’m not taking applications, but hope springs eternal!

Which authors have inspired you?

I’m a voracious reader. In 2022, I read 56 books. Some I loved. Some disappointed, not quite living up to the hype. But I learned something from every one of those authors, and so I suppose you could say all of them inspired me to varying degrees. Reading is absolutely the best teacher. But if I am to be very specific, I’d say the late Sue Grafton. I read each of her Kinsey Millhone books as they were published, which means it’s been 25+ years since I read some of them. Last year I began revisiting the series in audiobook format. It was only on revisit that I realized how much her writing had influenced my own style. It was quite eye-opening.

What is your favorite quote?

“There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.” Agatha Christie

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

I’m super organized, the sort of person who has all her business tax records summarized on an Excel spreadsheet and ready for the accountant by the middle of January. I also really dislike clutter or excess. If I buy a t-shirt, I’ll toss out or donate a t-shirt rather than having an extra one I don’t really need. Oh…and I keep the books on my bookshelf in author alphabetical order (okay, and my soup cans in the pantry, too, though sometimes I go wild and put chicken noodle after cream of mushroom, just to convince myself I’m not totally bonkers).

Besides writing and reading, what are some of your hobbies?

I took up golf about 20 years ago. After all these years, I should probably be better at it than I am, but I’ve resigned myself to accepting that I’m never going to make the tour! What I love about golf is that it’s a social experience, but unless you’re in a team tournament situation, you’re only competing against yourself. I also love being outside and when the course allows it, I always walk, not just for the exercise, but to stay more connected to my game.

I also walk 90 minutes to 2 hours a day. I have a golden retriever, Gibbs, who keeps me honest on the walking front, regardless of weather.

Any advice for aspiring writers?

Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard. Write every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes, even if it’s your birthday, your kid’s birthday, New Year’s Eve, Christmas, or some other special occasion. I have a friend who would set her alarm every day at 5:30 a.m. to write for an hour before getting up to make breakfast for her three kids before sending them off to school (and then home-schooled them during Covid). On weekends, she sleeps in until 6 a.m. She eventually finished her book and landed an agent, but it wasn’t luck. It was hard work. The harder you work, the luckier you get.

What are you working on next?

Thanks so much for asking. I’m almost finished the next book in the Step-by-Step Guide series: Self-publishing: The Ins & Outs of Going Indie. It’s tentatively scheduled for Fall 2023, and I’m really excited about it. So many people think self-publishing is the easy way out. Nothing could be further from the truth, but I like to think this book will make the path easier.

About the book

The road to publishing is paved with good intentions…and horror stories of authors who had to learn the hard way.

For the emerging author, the publishing world can be overwhelming. You’ve written the book, and you’re ready to share it with the world, but don’t know where to start. Traditional, independent press, hybrid, self-publishing, and online social platforms—all are valid publishing paths. The question is, which one is right for you?

Finding Your Path to Publication is an introduction to an industry that remains a mystery to those on the outside. Learn how each publishing option works, what to expect from the process start to finish, how to identify red flags, and avoid common pitfalls. With statistics, examples, and helpful resources compiled by an industry insider who’s been down a few of these paths, this is your roadmap to decide which path you’d like to explore, and where to begin your author journey.

About the author

A former journalist and magazine editor, Judy Penz Sheluk is the bestselling author of two mystery series: The Glass Dolphin Mysteries and Marketville Mysteries, both of which have been published in multiple languages. Her short crime fiction appears in several collections, including the Superior Shores Anthologies, which she also edited. With a passion for understanding the ins and outs of all aspects of publishing, Judy is also the founder and owner of Superior Shores Press, which she established in February 2018.

Judy is a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association, Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she served on the Board of Directors for five years, the final two as Chair. She lives in Northern Ontario. Find her at http://www.judypenzsheluk.com.

Universal Buy Link: https://books2read.com/FindingYourPathtoPublication

More Rumi Wisdom

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Rumi (born Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī) was a 13-century Persian poet, Islamic scholar, and Sufi mystic. One of the most accomplished poets of all time, his musings on life, love, and the mysteries of the universe continue to resonate worldwide.

Here are ten of my favorite Rumi quotes:

You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean, in a drop.

Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.

Why do you stay in prison, when the door is so wide open?

Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor.

If the light is in your heart, you will find your way home.

There’s a field somewhere beyond all doubt and wrongdoing. I’ll meet you there.

Seek the wisdom that will untie your knot. Seek the path that demands your whole being.

Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.

Anyone who genuinely and consistently with both hands looks for something will find it.

Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd.

Happy May!

Named for Maia, the Greek goddess of fertility, May is a month of flowers and celebrations.

Here are 10 interesting facts about May:

1. There are two birth flowers for May: the Hawthorn and the Lily-of-the-Valley. The hawthorn represents hope, while the lily-of-the-valley symbolizes sweetness or the return of happiness.

2. The month’s birthstone is the emerald, a stone that represents love and success.

3. People born between May 1 and May 20 fall under the sign of Taurus, and those born later in the month fall under Gemini. People born under Taurus are considered to be intelligent and dependable, while those born under Gemini are known to be whimsical and adaptable.

4. May 4 is celebrated as Star Wars Day, a play of words on the popular line, “May the Force be with you.”

5. Cinco de Mayo (or the fifth of May) is a holiday that celebrates the date of the Mexican army’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla (May 5, 1862) during the Franco-Mexican War. In the United States, this date has evolved into a commemoration of Mexican culture and heritage.

6. Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of the month in over 100 countries worldwide.

7. On May 20, 1932, Amelia Earhart flew across the Atlantic Ocean, marking the first solo flight by a woman.

8. Famous people born in May include Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (May 2), Audrey Hepburn (May 4), Adele (May 5), George Clooney (May 6), Queen Victoria (May 24), and Bob Hope (May 29).

9. May has been designated Mental Health Awareness Month, Better Speech and Hearing Month, National Clean Air Month, Brain Cancer Awareness Month, Be Kind to Animals Month, National Salad Day, and No Mow May.

10. The global phenomenon Eurovision occurs during May. Held each year since 1956, this international song contest has launched the careers of several musical megastars, including Celine Dion and ABBA. Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra won the Eurovision Song Contest 2022 in Turin, Italy.

Strengthen Your Strengths

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Here’s a thought-provoking reflection from international speaker and bestselling author Joyce Meyer:

Aren’t you glad that everyone on earth is not exactly the same? We all have different abilities, different preferences, different opinions, and different strengths and weaknesses. Some people are not confident in their uniqueness, though, and they try to do what others do well, even if they are not gifted to do so. This is sad to see, because those people have strengths of their own. When they ignore their strengths and try to develop other strengths, they only become frustrated. If they resisted the temptation to be like someone else, they would enjoy their lives more.

I encourage you today to know your strengths and your weaknesses. Focus on developing your strengths and using them to serve God and others to the best of your ability. God has given you your particular strengths for a reason, and He wants you to make the most of them. Some people may suggest that you improve in an area of weakness, but I say don’t waste your time doing something you are not gifted to do that will require a great struggle for you to succeed. If you need help in a area in which you are not strong, God will send people to help you.

Source: Strength for Each Day by Joyce Meyer