If You Are a Lover of Clean Fiction, You’ll Love This Magazine!

The Autumn Edition of Clean Fiction Magazine is available!

If you’ve been wondering why I haven’t posted many Book Reviews here on my blog for a while, it’s because I’ve been writing 11 of them for the Autumn Edition of Clean Fiction Magazine. So, if you read Clean Romance and like my reviews, I wrote 7 of them for this Edition and I wrote 4 reviews of books in the Mystery genre.

The Autumn Edition of Clean Fiction Magazine is AVAILABLE NOW in paperback on Amazon for $15.99. On September 20th, the price for the paperback will be $16.99, so save a dollar while you can. Also, the ebook version is available for preorder for $2.99 and will be available on September 20th. This issue is chock full of some great book reviews, winners of contests, including the winning Fantasy Allegory story of the Windows Into the Multiverse Contest and the Science Fiction winning story of the Windows Into the Multiverse Contest. The new Windows Into the Multiverse Contest is featured on a page. There are some poems featured, and the 2nd and 3rd place winning Clean Fiction Magazine covers are also pictured, and so much more!

You can also join the Patreon and get additional things like 2 “Sneak Peek” pages per months, Book Swag, access to the Patreon section of the Clean Fiction Community Discord, and more. Choose the level you want to join based on the extras you want to receive. Join the Patreon Section at this link: https://www.patreon.com/cleanfiction

First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts an Anthology by The Insecure Writer’s Group

My Review of the Anthology:

First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts

First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts is an anthology of love stories put together by The Insecure Writer’s Support Group and published by Dancing Lemur Press, LLC. As a Book Reviewer, I received a free copy of First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts, and this is my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor any review.

There are ten love stories by ten different writers in this anthology. The writers from this anthology range from this being their first published story to those who have one book published to some who have multiple books published. The contributing authors are: Linda Budzinski, Melissa Maygrove, Katie Klein, Templeton Moss, Sammi Spizziri, Sylvia Ney, Michael Di Gesu, Kim Elliott, Denise Covey, and S. E. White.

The stories range from a variety of genres. They also range from characters in their twenties to their fifties to post-retirement. Each of these stories is unique and each is extremely well written. Each drew me into the story from the start and held my attention throughout. Each story and several characters made a strong impression upon me, from the man with the inability to clearly recall his first love to the young orphan who married a man an entire town hated.

I highly recommend First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts to anyone who truly enjoys and craves good romance stories with a unique plot, endearing characters, or both. I don’t reread novels, no matter how much I love them, because I don’t have time, as I’m always reading new books because there are so many great new books to explore and, of course, in my case, to review. However, because these are short stories—I can read one in half an hour—I look forward to reading the stories in First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts again and again. And don’t ask me which of the ten stories I liked best, because I honestly couldn’t pick just one favorite from the bunch. I truly enjoyed them all because of their high writing quality and unique story lines.

Interview of Ten Authors Pt. 2

Welcome back, if you read yesterday’s post. If not, you might want to, as this is the second part of yesterday’s post — my interview with the second half of the ten authors who wrote short stories for the anthology First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts.

Today we start with Author Sylvia Ney:

Q: Your website lists “First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts” as a YA/NA book. What is the difference between YA and NA?

A: YA means young adult, and NA means new adult. YA is usually aimed at ages 12-18, and NA at ages 18-25. However, there is a lot of cross readerships between the two, and older adults are known to enjoy some of each as well… such as with the Harry Potter and Twilight series.

Q: You write stories of many different genres. Does that make it more difficult to gain a readership following?

A: Yes, and no. Some people are only interested in a specific genre and will only follow authors who write in that single genre. However, there is an increasingly eclectic audience that enjoys a variety. I’ve noticed those fans are more concerned with voice than genre. Once they find an author they like, they will watch for any release by them.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you and read more of your writing?

A: My website at: https://www.sylviacney.com/about-sylvia and social media is a great place to learn more. All of my fiction pieces are available through Amazon, and a lot of my nonfiction can be found for free online via my website.

Michael Di Gesu:

Q: It’s unusual for men to write romance stories, although Nicholas Sparks definitely proved that men are quite capable of doing so, as does your story, “Oliver’s Girl,” which is a very touching, sweet romance story. How was “Oliver’s Girl” chosen to be included in the “First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts” anthology?

A: I believe “Oliver’s Girl” was chosen because it had the requirements necessary for this particular anthology. The judges were looking for a “sweet” romance about first love, and I believe my story hit on both these requirements. The story is also unusual because it spans six decades and has an unlikely character, Olivia, who brings an unexpected reunion between her great-grandfather, Oliver, and his first love, Francesca.

Q: On your blog you mention that this short story that is part of “First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts” anthology is your first “baby” going out into the world. Do you have plans for future stories or novels?

A: Actually, I have written three novels and several short stories in the past decade which I hope will be published. “Oliver’s Girl” was written specifically for this anthology. Most of my writing has been Middle Grade Fantasy, Contemporary Young Adult, and a Narrative Non-Fiction. I am currently working on a Chicago Noir novella. I have varied writing styles, and I am pushing myself to write in other genres. Once I stepped out of my comfort zone, my story was accepted and published. I also plan to write more romance since readers seem to enjoy it.

Q: I mentioned your blog. Will you provide the link here for readers? And, is this the only place readers can go to learn more about you and watch for more of your writing or can you share other links as well?

A: I would be delighted. Blog: https://writing-art-and-design.blogspot.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/DAK86 and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/michael.gesu

Kim Elliott:

Q: You have a novel, first of a planned series, about a superhero, so what inspired you to write about a rock and roll band for this anthology?

A: My kids have a huge impact on my writing because I’m inundated by whatever they happen to be taken with. I’ve always loved superheroes, but the main inspiration for my novel was my daughter’s obsession with Marvel cartoons. I wrote about rock music because my kids fell in love with ’80s hair bands. They listened to songs like Eye of the Tiger and Don’t Stop Believin’ on repeat. I found myself getting into the music along with them. Another factor that informed my story was winning a radio contest. Years ago I called in and received advance screening tickets to Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Though time has passed, I still feel attached to that station. Those are the DJs I listen to most often, even though I prefer the music on another station. In “Clyde and Coalesce,” I wanted to explore what it’s like to have a deep connection with a local radio station.

Q: What did you like best about writing for “First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts”?

A: I enjoyed the experience of working with a publisher. My other works are self-published, so it has been a great learning opportunity!

Q: Where can readers learn more about you and read more of your writing?

A: My website is the place! https://kimelliottauthor.weebly.com/ Readers can find information about who I am, the genres I favor, and upcoming projects. If visitors want to explore further, there are links to Amazon, Goodreads, Wattpad, and more.

Denise Covey:

Q: With everyone growing tired of the seemingly unending pandemic, what made you decide to write it into your story for this anthology?

A: I am aware there is a negative view regarding writing the pandemic into our stories and therefore I usually avoid mentioning Covid-19. However, my story idea was inspired by many things, including Covid-19, so I used it for a springboard into my story and offered hope that one day the pandemic will end. C’est la vie.

We all have differing opinions about how we write, and I like truth in my writing. If we’re writing a story set in this time, it makes sense to me to give the pandemic a mention seeing it’s all around us. I’ve read countless novels set in the wars, including some documenting the great disaster of the Spanish flu. I don’t understand why mentioning Covid-19 is frowned upon by some. I allude to it in other pieces of my writing, but in “Marmalade Sunset” it is an underpinning element to the action.

Q: You write quite a bit of paranormal romance and a bit of contemporary romance. Your story for “First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts” is a romance set in Greece and includes a lot of history. What inspired you to write about Greece and some of its history?

A: I had taken a cruise to the Greek Islands just before the pandemic hit. Most of the action in my story is in places/situations where I have first-hand experience. Through my character, Cora, I tried to recreate the exhilaration I felt zipping along the gorgeous paved streets of Santorini and popping into musty little shops full of treasures. On a tour of Oia at the top of the island, I learned of the tragic wartime history of the inhabitants who hid in caves and lived on onions and grass and how hard it has been to come back after losing so many of its citizens.

I love learning something new when I read a story, so I hope someone learned something new reading Marmalade Sunset.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you and read more of your writing?

A: I’m an emerging Australian writer of both paranormal romance and contemporary romance who has self-published 5 novels or novellas on Amazon, available to buy or read for free on Kindle Unlimited.

-My paranormal romance series set in Renaissance Italy and Paris has 2 of 4 books published. -I have used my experience of living in Paris for 6 months and visiting often, to write a women’s fiction with romantic elements series called “It Happened in Paris”. Paris Dreams, first in the series, is published and features fashion and art. I’m currently working on the second in the series, a cookery school novel set in Paris. My characters come from around the globe to learn to cook traditional French dishes. If the planets align, it will be published in October on the anniversary of Paris Dreams. -I’ve also published 3 booklets of short stories, 1 in the contemporary romance genre and 2 in the paranormal genre with Halloween in mind.

You can find a full list of my titles on my Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Denise-Covey/e/B016U970GG/ref=aufs_dp_fta_dsk

You can find out more about me and read free stories on my blog: https://dencovey.blogspot.com/ You can visit/join my Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/171668358295270/permalink/199872862141486/?sale_post_id=199872862141486 My Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14548548.Denise_Covey And you can sign up for my Reader group at: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/a0g9b3

S. E. White:

Q: Your story in the “First Love” The Art of Making Doughnuts” anthology, “The Castle of Ohno” is very much like a familiar fairy tale. Is it supposed to be a “retelling”, or is it your very own fairy tale?

A: “The Castle of Ohno” is not so much a retelling as it is a love letter to classic fantasy tropes and fairytale flavor. I love the almost forgotten about, less-well-known stories like East of the Sun, West of the Moon; The Robber Groom; or Allerleirauh. They could be quite successful horror stories if they were marketed a little differently. And all of them take real situations, real feelings that humans experience, and add a touch of magic. Which, to me, is what falling in love for the first time feels like. The title was a direct riff on the classic Gothic story, “The Castle of Otrano”, though. My story has less deadly helmets and sudden skeletons telling prophecies, and more happy endings. If that helps.

Q: “First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts” anthology was created by The Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Are you a member and can you tell us a little bit about this group?

A: I am a member of the group, and have been for around five years now. I will happily tell you about it! The group meets online (the socially anxious rejoice!) once a month, on the first Wednesday of each month. It’s built around the idea of making connections to share Our stories, air out our insecurities, and get some support from the digital friends we make from all over the world. It’s a great group to be a part of, and the support is real. I very much recommend checking it out if you are an author or writer of any type.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you and read more of your writing?

A: Readers who are so interested can check out my website: https://sewhitebooks.com/ They could also try Instagram if they like social media (@sewhiteauthor), although I will warn them in advance that my Instagram contains many listicles rating alien romance by some highly improbable features.

There you have it. If you have read both yesterday’s post and this post, you have received a little taste of the stories and a glimpse of the authors you will find in tomorrow’s great new release: “First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts” anthology. The authors whose stories are included in the anthology are all part of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

If my interview with the 10 authors of “First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts” hasn’t convinced you that you should buy a copy tomorrow and read it for yourself, then come back here tomorrow and read my review of “First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts”.

Interview of Ten Authors

I have had the unique privilege of interviewing ten authors who have written short stories for a new romance anthology, First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts, which releases on Tuesday, September 6, 2022. I also received a free ebook copy of the anthology to read to aid in creating questions for each author, and to write a Book Review of First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts, which I will post here on Tuesday.

Because there were ten authors to interview, I will post my interview questions and the answers of five of the authors today and the other five tomorrow. This is not an in-depth interview of each author. Instead, in this interview, I ask each author a little bit about the story they wrote for the anthology to whet your reading appetite in hopes that you will grab your own copy of First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts on Tuesday! I have also asked each author where you can find more about them and more of their writing.

The first author is Linda Budzinski:

Q: Where did your idea for the short story, “The Art of Making Doughnuts”, come from?

A: I write young adult romance, so when I saw the anthology’s theme was First Love, I, of course, thought about writing something with teen main characters. But the more I thought about it, the more I was drawn to the idea of writing about someone who finds her true “first love” later in life. And I wanted this character to be happy with her current situation, because although I am a romantic at heart, I absolutely believe that people can be happy on their own as well. I wanted the romance to be a “plus” for her, not a “must”. I needed her to be independent and wanted her to have an interesting job, so a cop seemed like a good fit. And who would a cop fall in love with? Why, the man who makes the doughnuts, of course!

Q: I read that you write mainly Young Adult Fiction, so what inspired you to write about characters that are 50+?

A: I’ve been writing teen romance for about 15 years, so I was a little nervous about writing one for adults. But it wasn’t so different. Every good romance starts with the character, and Gina is a much more mature, self-confident person who knows herself better than any of my teen characters have. She is simply in a different stage of life. She knows who she is and what she wants, and has been working toward it for many years. So her relationship with Pete has a very different sensibility than a teen romance might. I ended up falling in love with both of them as I wrote their story (and, in fact, am currently working on turning it into a novel!).

Q: Where can readers learn more about you and read more of your writing?

A: They can find me at https://lindabudzinski.com/ and can follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LindaBudzinskiAuthor/ and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/LindaBudz

Author Melissa Maygrove:

Q: Your story, “My Heart Approves”, is a Mail Order Bride story. Are you aware of any records that tell of any mail order brides from real life that did include a “real love relationship” and not just a marriage of convenience or necessity?

A: Many mail-order couples corresponded for months before deciding to marry and grew quite fond of each other. On the flipside, there’s the story of Eleanor Berry, who courted by mail, only to discover at her wedding that her groom was the same man who had robbed her stagecoach.

Q: What draws you to writing Western Historical Romance?

A: I grew up watching Little House on the Prairie and have always felt I was born a century too late. I love the stoic, hard-working mindset of 19th century settlers as well as their traditional values. I’m also fascinated when I study the details of how they lived.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you and read more of your writing?

A: They can follow me on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Melissa-Maygrove/e/B00JL4UPCY and BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/melissa-maygrove and they can get a FREE book titled Bride for Sale when they sign up for my newsletter at: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/uonrrvm6ze My website is: http://www.melissamaygrove.com/

Author Katie Klein:

Q: I found “How to Save a Princess” a very unique story. What led you to such a unique idea for a romance story?

A: I actually started with a writing prompt I stumbled across online. I was poking around for some inspiration and found a prompt about a handsome neighbor saving a girl from an ex-boyfriend. So I made the ex her first love and the neighbor someone she’d been wanting to meet, and the story grew from there.

Q: Do you always write your main character in first person, and if so, why?

A: I do. I know the genre is divided on this, and every reader has their preference, but I love writing in first person, and I love reading it. It makes me feel fully immersed in the story.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you and read more of your writing?

A: I blog at https://katiekleinwrites.blogspot.com/

I have a free first in series urban fantasy available (The Guardian) at: https://books2read.com/u/mv1MNz

And I’m pretty active on Twitter: https://twitter.com/katiekleinbooks/status/1564271152909979650

Author Templeton Moss:

Q: You’ve written a lot of books for kids, so what inspired you to write a story for “First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts” which is geared more toward adults?

A: For me, the focus is always on telling a good story. One that is of interest to me and (I dearly hope) others. My style tends to gravitate toward the silly and fanciful which is why so many of my stories come out as “children’s stories”.

Q: Would you write a romance story again, and would you consider writing for adults again?

A: In a way, everything I write has been for adults. I think it’s important for grownups to remember what it’s like to be a kid. So while I’m pleased that kids do read my stories, I consider my work to be more “kids’ stories for grownups.”

Q: Where can readers learn more about you and read more of your writing?

A: If they visit http://www.sixtysomethingtrees.com/, readers can read several stories and poems I’ve written (some for kids, some for grownups) as well as links to where they can buy my various books, or books that my work appears in, like First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts.

Author Sammi Spizziri:

Q: How would you explain the importance of fact-to-face interaction to young adults?

A: The importance of face-to-face interaction is something that’s better experienced than explained. It often requires greater risk and vulnerability, but it’s that very vulnerability that allows for a deeper connection. I think you can absolutely make great friends online and keep in touch with old ones long distance but nothing beats being in the same room as someone. I actually met my husband online but we always say there’s a difference between online dating and online meeting. We met online and very intentionally moved to in-person quickly so as to truly get to know each other outside of written communication. This short story explores the difference between starting a relationship purely online–with all the filters and self-editing you want–and one in person, when it’s raining and you’re anxious and all your flaws are all to visible.

Q: Do you find it more difficult to write short stories than novels? Why or why not?

A: Each format has its own difficulties. I don’t read as many short stories as novels so writing them doesn’t come as intuitively for me. It’s hard to develop a character and tell a full story so succinctly. On the other hand, novels require so many moving parts and subplots and details, which makes keeping track of everything its own challenge.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you and read more of your writing?

A: While I don’t have any other published work just yet, readers can keep up-to-date with any new releases on my website: https://sammispizziri.com/ and follow me on social media (links on my website).

Be sure to come back tomorrow to read the interviews of the other five authors who wrote short stories for First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts.

Flash Fiction Friday: A Promising Entanglement

American Labrador Retriever and English Labrador Retriever

A Promising Entanglement

by Kelly F. Barr

Tara awakened to sunshine lighting her lavender bedroom curtains. She turned her head to look at the clock on her bedside table – 8 a.m. She smiled, thankful she had slept well and later than her weekdays allowed. She sat up and Atticus plopped his forepaws and front part of his body on her lap. He lifted his head and licked her chin.

Tara giggled and scratched the black Labrador Retriever behind his ears. “Good morning to you too, Atticus. Give me half an hour to shower and dress, then we’ll go for our morning walk, and if you’re patient, we’ll stop by Scratch Bakes for breakfast.

“Woof!” The big guy responded as he moved, allowing her to move from the bed. He watched as Tara grabbed her clothes and strode to the bathroom, his tongue lolling out of his mouth.

When Tara turned off the blow dryer after showering, she heard Atticus whining on the opposite side of the bathroom door. She checked her watch. Forty minutes had passed from the time she’d entered the bathroom. “Okay, big guy. Sorry I’m a bit late, but cut me some slack. It’s Saturday.”

Atticus responded with another whine and Tara grinned as she brushed her hair and applied a light coat of hairspray. Then she stepped into her jeans and slid a purple short-sleeved t-shirt over her head. She hung up her bath towel and opened the bathroom door to find Atticus sitting, looking up at her, his tail wagging.

She gave him a scratch behind the ears, kissed the top of his head and moved to sit on the foot of the bed to put on her socks and lavender sneakers. Then she moved to the bedroom door, opened it and walked through the living room into the hallway to her apartment door. She stopped to grab her purse from the small table near the door, as well as Atticus’s leash and her keys from hooks above the table. She attached the leash to her eager Labrador Retriever and the two of them left the apartment and jogged down one flight of stairs and through the building’s lobby.

They entered the park and followed the walking path. Lots of people were in the park and several others walked their dogs on the path. Tara always moved Atticus to her right side and held him close to her side whenever anyone passed them, well aware that some people were uncomfortable with Atticus’s size. As an English Labrador Retriever, the larger of the two Labrador Retriever breeds, though Tara knew he was gentle and friendly, strangers to him weren’t so sure.

As they walked, Tara spotted a man jogging with a smaller, American Labrador Retriever on a leash running alongside him. Though Tara, again, pulled Atticus close, the jogger made no move to pull his dog in and as they drew near, his dog looked at Atticus and he returned her interest. Tara realized the jogger’s Lab was a female, and though Atticus was neutered, she knew he’d want to greet this pretty female.

“Atticus, no. Heel.” She spoke to her dog in a quiet but firm tone. However, the jogger’s dog crossed the path and met Atticus face to face, bringing the jogger to a stop. The two dogs sniffed each other and attempted to maneuver around to sniff each other’s backsides, as dogs do, and entangled their leashes.

The jogger became frustrated at the situation and Tara began to laugh out loud.

The jogger looked at Tara for a moment, then joined in her laughter. After a couple moments, he stopped laughing and said, “I’m so sorry.”

Tara stifled her giggles and said, “Well, I will try to untangle the leashes if you will follow my instructions. I’m pretty good at untangling dog leashes. Atticus has gotten into such predicaments before.”

The jogger raised an eyebrow at her. “Atticus? That’s your dog’s name?”

Tara nodded.

“So you are either a fan of To Kill a Mockingbird or you’re a lawyer?”

Tara smiled. “I’m not a lawyer, although I am a secretary to a lawyer. But, yes, I am a fan of To Kill a Mockingbird and Atticus is my favorite character in the book.”

“Mine too, although I do love Scout and Jem as well.”

“So are you a lawyer?” Tara asked in a teasing tone.

He chuckled, then said, “No, I’m a history professor at Lancaster Bible College and To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the books I require.”

“Good for you. Now, let’s get these dogs untangled.” Tara returned her attention to the leashes.

When the leashes were separated, Tara petted the jogger’s Lab.

“Thanks, um…”

“Tara, and you already know my dog’s name, but I’m afraid I didn’t catch either of your names.”

“Oh right. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. This is Lila.” He patted his dog’s head. “And I am Michael. Where are you headed?”

“Atticus and I are headed to Scratch Bakes for breakfast.”

“Sounds delightful.” He lowered his gaze to her hands. “I hope I don’t sound too forward, but I don’t see a ring on your left ring finger. Does that mean you’re not married?”

Heat crept into Tara’s cheeks. “No, I’m not married.” She lowered her eyes to the path as the heat of her cheeks told her they must be bright red.

“Neither am I. Could we meet at the dog park next week? That way Lila and Atticus can run without becoming entangled. We could talk more and, maybe … make plans for dinner without Lila and Atticus?”

When she looked up at him once again, she noted his cheeks had turned pink. She smiled and said, “I think Atticus and I would like that. So, same time next week, but at the dog park instead?”

He nodded, then looked at his dog and said, “Okay, Lila, you’ve got a date next Saturday morning and I may have one next Saturday night.” Lila barked once and Tara and Michael laughed.

What I Learned About Writing by the Seat of My Pants

Photo by Matt Moloney on Unsplash

First of all let’s take a moment to address the phrase “flying by the seat of your pants”, since “writing by the seat of your pants” stems from that original phrase. Where did that phrase come from and what does it mean?

The phrase “flying by the seat of your pants” came from the early days of aviation and first came into use in 1938 and was in relation to Douglas Corrigan’s flight from Ireland to the United States, when a mechanic had to help him rejuvenate the plane. It also was used because in the early days of aviation, they didn’t have a radio, instruments, or other navigational or communication equipment.

The phrase “flying by the seat of your pants” means you’re entering into the unknown and taking action without planning.

And that’s what “writing by the seat of your pants” means–writing without planning or just sitting down with your characters and an idea and simply writing as it comes into your head.

Well, that’s how I have written ever since I first began writing as a school student. The problem is that ever since I’ve been trying to write a full-length novel, writing without a plan hasn’t worked out very well. My first attempt at writing a novel did not result in a full-length novel. My second attempt at writing a novel ended up in the trash pile.

After those first two failed attempts, I heard about “Planning (or plotting) your story”, which means you do a lot of prep work for your novel: complete character interviews and write your characters’ back stories and descriptions of their physical appearance. In addition to that, you need to have a good idea of each scene from start to finish and you need to have your story mapped out. So, I decided to try this, but this literally killed my creativity. By the time I was finished planning, I had no interest in writing the story. I had spent all my creative energy doing character interviews and writing their physical descriptions and back stories, and I didn’t have any interest in writing scenes. I couldn’t even create a story beginning.

So, I decided to try a bit of a combination of writing by the seat of my pants and planning/plotting. I wrote physical descriptions of my characters, created back stories for them and knew who their immediate family members were and what kind of family life they had. In addition, I researched everything I thought I needed to research for the historical aspect of my story, and I had a very good idea of how the story would play out from beginning to end. But this didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to either.

I got about two-thirds to three-fourths of the way through my novel and suddenly, out of nowhere a new character showed up — not just a minor character, but this one had to be a major character who needed to be in the book from very close to the beginning all the way to the end. So, just when I thought I was nearing the finish line and ready to edit and publish, now I had to do some MAJOR EDITING.

At first I thought I was going to have to START ALL OVER, but thanks to a group I belong to on MeWe, I was able to ask if there was a way to do it without having to start over, and an already published author gave me excellent advice! She explained how I could place this character into scenes I had already written and simply build the character and the character’s presence from there.

Of course, I did have to scrap quite a few scenes and write new ones, but it is coming along quite well. But, now I know that I will do more planning/plotting before I begin writing, but not enough to kill my creativity. I have figured out the balance for me and I look forward to finishing my current novel’s edits so that I can begin the next book in the series, using my newly learned balance to writing both by the seat of my pants and, by doing some necessary planning, and I hope that this will help me produce the second book much faster and not require as many edits.

So, if someone insists you have to decide whether to write by the seat of your pants or to plan or plot your whole novel before starting to write, remember there is a balance between the two that might work for you. The key is finding what works for you and the way your creative mind works.

A New Chapter

I have begun a new chapter in my life. I graduated my youngest son from our homeschool in June, 2022, after eighteen years of homeschooling, I have finished that journey. Does that mean I’m dropping out of the homeschooling world? No. I am still meeting monthly with a group of ladies in different phases of homeschooling: one, like me, who has graduated her only child, some who have just begun, and some who are somewhere along the journey. This allows me to share all I have learned in my homeschooling experiences to help and encourage those who are on the journey.

In addition, I still really enjoy teaching creative writing to all age groups, so I am looking into the possibility of teaching creative writing classes in local homeschool co-ops.

As a writer, I will still be attending the field trips, the field trip coordinator plans, that interest me because they could provide information for something I choose to write about: a character’s career, an animal/animals my character(s) may have to deal with, or any of many other possibilities.

However, homeschooling is no longer my primary focus nor will it take up nearly as much of my time as it has for the past eighteen years.

So, what will take up most of my time? Well, I am now working as a Book Reviewer for Clean Fiction Magazine (see the badge on my sidebar and click it to find out about this magazine). Therefore, I am now reading books and writing reviews to submit to Clean Fiction Magazine by a deadline for each quarterly issue, in addition to continuing to read and write reviews of books that some authors contact me, personally, to request. These will have to be squeezed in between the ones I write for Clean Fiction Magazine. And, then, there will still be, hopefully, some time for an occasional book for me to read and review for BookSirens, where my book reviews became sought after. There is also a BookSirens badge on my sidebar.

In addition to all this wonderful reading and Book Review writing, I am devoting a large portion of my time to my passion and the thing I have always dreamed of doing — writing fiction novels. I am currently working on the final round of edits for my first novel and hope to have it published in the first six months of 2023, but it all depends on how it gets published. I have been planning to indie publish, but I have found one small publishing company that I am quite impressed with, to which I am seriously considering first submitting my novel. So, we will see which way this novel ends up getting published. After this book, I have lots more story ideas in my head that need to be written. As a matter of fact, this book will be the first of a series of three or four books, and then there will still be more stories to follow.

I am also active on MeWe, where I post on my personal page and hope to start an author page sometime next year. I also have a group page for Christian Writers, as well as a group page for people who love Labrador Retrievers. I am also a member of a few other MeWe groups, some in which I participate in their chat conversations and some I just look at their page posts. Some I occasionally post or share a post on their pages. I have found MeWe to be my social media of choice and the only one I truly enjoy, so that is the only social media site I plan to be an active part of — because I enjoy it, and because social media requires a time commitment, and as you can see by reading the things I’ve already mentioned in this blog, it is not my only time commitment.

In addition to all I have previously mentioned, I will continue to post here on my blog as often as I am able. I also faithfully attend Sunday school and church and have church commitments and I have family and friends who require some of my time, as well as a Labrador Retriever/Boxer mix puppy I was given after my previous male Labrador Retriever passed away. These have required my time during my homeschooling years as well, as have some of the writing things I have mentioned. However, now that homeschooling will require much less time, most of the time homeschooling used to require, I will now devote to my writing endeavors.

I hope you will continue to find things of interest to you here on my blog and will continue to read and follow me here, and by all means, please feel free to ask questions or leave comments. I respond to every legitimate question and comment. In other words, I respond to every question and comment that isn’t spam, and I enjoy interacting with those of you who read here.

Death on the Boardwalk by Caleb Wygal

As a Book Reviewer, I received a free copy of Death on the Boardwalk by Caleb Wygal and this is my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor any review.

Death on the Boardwalk is the first book in “The Myrtle Beach Mysteries” series by Caleb Wygal. It is set in the coastal town of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The main character is Clark Thomas, a bookstore owner, ghost writer, and avid reader. His life is basically the same everyday, until one day when he arrives at his bookstore and finds a dead body wrapped in a rug, on the doorstep.

My Wygal does an excellent job of writing descriptions of Myrtle Beach and the scenes and characters in this story. When Natasha, who worked at OceanScapes with the murder victim, seeks Clark’s help in trying to solve the crime, he cannot resist, as he has a love of mysteries, instilled in him by his mother from a young age. Even Gomez, one of the investigative partners on the case, doesn’t seem overly concerned that Clark is poking around in the investigation.

Mr. Wygal includes quite a selection of characters who had motive to murder the victim, but the question is: did any of them also have the means and opportunity? This case is a tough one to crack, even for the investigative team. So, the reader is baffled right along with Clark, right up to the very end.

Death on the Boardwalk by Caleb Wygal is a well written murder mystery that keeps the reader guessing and wondering Whodunnit. Clark is a likeable character, and what avid reader hasn’t dreamed of owning, or at least spending a lot of time in, a bookstore? And the beach locations makes this a great summer read while you are sitting on the beach or a great winter read when you’re tired of the colder weather and wishing you were back on the beach.

If you like murder mysteries that are clean and do not include the graphic details, you’ll like Death on the Boardwalk. Also, if you like mysteries that include amateur sleuths sticking their noses into the investigation and trying their hand at solving the mystery because, maybe, you’ve dreamed of doing the same thing, you’ll like Death on the Boardwalk.

I look forward to reading the rest of the books in “The Myrtle Beach Mysteries” series by Caleb Wygal, and I give Death on the Boardwalk by Caleb Wygal 5 stars.

Twas Just Before Bedtime by Jessie L. Best

As a Book Reviewer, I received a free ebook copy of ’Twas Just Before Bedtime by Jessie L. Best. I was not required to write a positive review nor any review. This is my honest review.

’Twas Just Before Bedtime is a collection of short stories and poems for children. There are fifteen stories and fourteen poems. Each poem tells a story and has a rhyme scheme. Every story and poem in this collection is short enough to be read to young children and to be read “just before bedtime”.

Every story includes some kind of magical happening or magical creature. There are a few witches, though not scary, and lots of fairies. The poems include characters that are animals. For parents who like reading fun, magical stories that are very rich in make believe, these stories are for you.

I found all of the poems well written and delightful and most of the stories are fun.

A few of the stories may be scary for younger or more sensitive children.

For my readers who prefer stories that include character building or biblical lessons, this is not the kind of book you’re looking for.

I give ’Twas Just Before Bedtime by Jessie L. Best 4 stars.

Release Day for “Fearless” EP by Jodi Essex & The Jodi Essex Interview

Hello Jodi, it’s a pleasure to discuss your album and single title release “Fearless”. Before we get into the album, though, I’d like to know a little more about you. I’ve read that you’ve accomplished many things in your life. You’ve acted in T.V. and film, and you’ve done producing and film-making as well. You also became a licensed airplane pilot and a model. You are also a cancer survivor.

So, how would you answer the question, who is Jodi Essex?

First, hello to you! Thank you for taking the time to conduct this interview, appreciate it tremendously…and wow, looks like you’ve done your research! I really appreciate that as well.

Good lead-off question. I have indeed gone after many pursuits in my lifetime. We only have so much time on this planet and I’ve always thought it wise to make the best use of it. Of all the things I’ve done, experienced, or amassed, nothing compares to my mission at hand… being a fearless warrior for Christ and speaking truth through my music. 

Your music is Christian Rock and your songs have strong messages? Do you write all of your own songs?

Yes, definitely a Christian rocker! Though I started out singing adult contemporary and worship songs as a child, ending up singing music of a rock genre was a pure evolution of how my personality would develop; how I was shaped by life experiences. The messages in my songs are also indicative of that. I believe that we all come out of the womb wired a certain way. I think I came into this world wired as a generally strong person. How we develop from that point into our adult lives is an amalgamation of how we are raised, people that may influence us (negatively or positively), adversity or hardship we experience, and the decisions we make along the way—the good, the bad, the ugly. 

One thing I try to remember is that our beginnings don’t always define our endings. I dealt with a lot of dysfunction growing up that could’ve steered me straight into a spiral of drugs, misdirection, and maybe even death if I had let it. But during those times, my faith in Jesus held me together. My emotional and mental strength, working in tandem with hope and prayer, helped me make good decisions. No matter how bad things were at their beginnings, I clung to hope that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel and here I stand today (praise God!) writing and singing Christian rock music.

I do write all my own songs. From time to time, I may perform a cover song of another artist but most of the time it is all original material—both autobiographical and biographical.  I also love the synergistic energy of collaborating with other people as well!

Why did you choose Christian Rock over other music genres?

I like to think we, as humans, have layers. As I mentioned above, I started out singing adult contemporary and worship music, but rock music became an identity for me. I have an older sister who used to listen to Stryper and Petra back in the day. I instantly loved the dichotomy of both the energetic rock sound, in contrast to a ballad like “Don’t Let Your Heart Be Hardened” (Petra). I was drawn to the feel of that sound. There was a holy irreverence to it!

Rock music, being a bold style, usually carries a strong message along with it. It sometimes reflects an outspoken, willful, and fearless warrior behind the mic. It’s energetic and spirited; a liberating and let-it-all-out style with no holding back in one’s delivery. The style is definitely reflective of my personality.

The layers I mentioned make us multi-dimensional. Music is part of my soul and how I connect most in my times with God. “Layers” refers to the love of singing other styles as well…nothing like a heartfelt hymn, a maranatha-era worship song, an oldie from The Imperials or a classic by Amy Grant. And Lord knows I love Sandi Patty! Perhaps there will be an iteration of one of her songs in the near future….hmmm…BUT I am a rocker at heart!

How did you become a Christian and what does being a Christian mean to you?

I was born into a Christian household.  I’m half Filipino and half Irish. Though my dad, who is Filipino, was raised Catholic, I grew up attending a non-denominational Christian church as my mom did throughout her life. I don’t think, as children, we actually grasp the true concept and meaning of Christianity and what a true walk with Jesus looks and feels like until we’re a bit older. So, though baptized as a child, I didn’t start that deeper process to my faith journey until I was about 12 and baptized again as a teenager around age 13.

My walk since then looks like the peaks and valleys of an EKG screen! (laughs)

There have been awesome moments, filled with the highest highs, the lowest lows, the greatest happiness, the deepest sadness and incredible disappointments. There were a good many battles between being “in” the world versus “of” the world. I also spent some time really mad at God for various reasons, including trauma that occurred within my family.

To sum it all up, I was human, born of free will, and made some good decisions and bad decisions. But my faith was always embedded deep inside me somewhere.

To me, being a Christian starts with commitment. An acknowledgment to accept Jesus into your heart as Lord & Savior, followed by the action of doing just that—living in a way that reflects the commitment you have solemnly made to Him. Living heart-in-hand to God and allowing yourself to be open and vulnerable to Him, and the change only He can inspire in our lives.

Is this transformation an easy road? No. Remember I mentioned my life looking like an EKG read-out? Following Jesus is hard at times. It takes discipline, consistent stewardship, and being irreverent to the world for the sake of the path that God has carved out for us. We also have to be bold enough to stand up to the naysayers for what we believe in. We need to suit up in our armor, go out, and truly spread the word no matter the cost. Would you go the lengths and do what Jesus did for us? Think about that. What we are called to do is an incredibly small price to pay for what He had to endure here on Earth. Forget all that you think you’d lose by following Jesus and living a life “of” the world, along with all its trappings and treasures. 

It’s nothing compared to all you would gain for being His warrior! 

I read an interview Dan Locke did with you for Unrated Magazine on December 27, 2019. In the introduction, Dan wrote, “After years of casually ignoring God’s prompting to write faith-based music, Christian-rock artist Jodi Essex is ready to answer it boldly, and he goes on to talk about the title song from your first album, “Irreverent”, which was released in January 2020. What made you decide to answer God’s call and start writing faith-based music, and how do you feel about that decision now?

There were many times as I traversed my life phases, mad at God and all, I was prompted to write and record faith-based music. Years ago I founded and participated in a couple of secular rock bands. I was receiving those promptings even then, but I chose to ignore them and kept doing what I thought was right for my life. Now, I’m not judging those who listen to secular music—I listen to secular music, but my heart is not rooted in it. I believe a lot of people are blessed with the gift of music and it’s up to them how they decide to use it. There’s nothing like a ballad from the “voice,” Whitney Houston, or a ray of sunshine melody from The Beach Boys. You can’t deny their gifts or influence, but it comes down to one’s own personal convictions and heeding those convictions.

I was receiving very heavy-hearted prompts to turn the bus around and go a different direction. I am stubborn, so naturally I kept doing what I was doing at the time, until I hit an emotional rock-bottom. Life is good at that—beating us down to the point we literally feel that we own the biggest piece of real estate in the pit of despair! Sometimes we decide to call upon God only when we’ve truly reached the very bottom. So ironic that so many people call on God only in a crisis (me included). I’ve since learned to call on God even when things are going well in pure gratitude. 

Anyway, after feeling like Moses in the wilderness for 40 years, I finally decided to heed the call. I will always recall the very moment I deem the “turning point.” I gave up everything in my mind and heart that I had built up as an identity for myself. I made the decision to shed all the things the world made me think I needed over the years. I made the decision. I made the commitment. God broke me wide open once again and let all the light shine in. I felt like a huge burden had been lifted, though it would look to “the world” like I was giving in and giving up. 

It was a major reset for me and without realizing it at the time, I had loads of songs ready to write themselves and float through the sound waves into the ears of today’s culture.

I can’t imagine life happening any other way. It happened as it should and, in God’s time. I should say that one of the most frustrating things about being a believer is that things don’t necessarily happen when we want them to. God’s plan and timing for our lives is better than we could ever plan. He is the master architect!

It’s been said that “you’re not afraid to speak your mind and/or offend people to spread Your message”. Who do you see as your target audience and what message do you want them to get from your music?

For me, doing Christian music has the word “mission” attached to it. It comes with a specific purpose and I am committed to that. I hope to inspire and influence people for God through the messages woven in my songs. Therefore, I think my target audience is anyone who will listen, believer or not. If you’re a believer, I hope to inspire you to keep fighting the fight. I hope to equip like-minded listeners with the courage, boldness, and tenacity to speak truth into others’ lives. If you’re thinking about needing a change in your life…if you feel lost…if you feel you need something in your life to help you find your way out of your own pit of despair—I hope my music speaks to those people, as well as those who are curious about God. If you’re curious about Jesus or you’ve wandered away from Jesus, let’s rock it all out together and move toward action and fearlessness to move ahead! The awesome thing about being inspired to make a change is that you can start now. Immediately. God doesn’t get caught up with your past, nor should you. He wants your present and your future. NOW. Forever. Remember where I stated that your beginning will not define your ending. Make it so. Let’s do this!

Your upcoming single from your upcoming album, is the title release, “Fearless”. In the song there is a line that says “Speak the good, expect the wrath. I wanna say ‘I knew you’,” and the chorus says, “You’re gonna be fearless. I can see you now. You’re gonna be fearless. I can show you how.” Since the Covid Pandemic began in 2020, fear has become prevalent in the everyday life of many people. Was that the inspiration for this song and what are you hoping people will get from its message?

While I think the pandemic is great cause for the seemingly massive increase in fear-driven living, I think fear en mass was already bubbling below the surface. I feel like the unfolding of it all also served as a vehicle for fear-based actions and behaviors as well. It did magnify everything that already existed. I think we have been existing in a culture of fear for decades now, fueled by political action and inaction; the woes of internet-based activity, and major shifts in cultural platforms and societal systems.

My story behind “Fearless” is a call to action of individuals from all walks of life—some inspired but fearful of next steps; some down-trodden by life’s, oftentimes turbulent storms just trying to get by, and some on a ledge debating whether they matter. I’m here to tell everyone that they matter. That they are all worth it. Every single moment. By the grace of God, every human deserves a place in His heaven.

When I look at the word “Fearless,” I see a simple message in that very powerful word: “Fear less.” Literally. By fearing less, we’re capable of so much more. Being rooted in fearlessness can make life a bit easier to traverse. Being FEARLESS allows us to let go of things we hold so tight that add little to no value in who we are and will become. HOWEVER, fear is not without power, as it keeps us either focused on the past or worried for the future. That’s a huge stake of distraction in our heads that we sometimes find impossible to escape. I think if we truly understand the power that fear can have over us, the desire and drive to disentangle ourselves from FEAR becomes even more imperative and even palatable. 

In the beginning of the song and throughout the song, there is a tribal chant that bellows out, “Warrior, lift up your face, be a warrior in His race, warrior!” We cannot lose when we suit up in the armor of God and go forth to do what we are meant to do. Warriors are not passive followers. WE are His soldiers. Has he not done enough for us that we might, in return, be the warriors in His race to make the world aware of our fearless leader?

At the heart and foundation of it all, we need resilience, a fearlessness to get through, to get by—not just to survive—THRIVE. This is what FEARLESS is about. Lean into God and be equipped!

There’s a song on the upcoming “Fearless” album that was already released as a single on September 10, 2021—“Offend”. It’s a great song with a great message. It seems to be a challenge for your listeners. Will you share what that challenge is?

 (Laughs) Oh yes. A similar challenge happened with the song “Irreverent” from my first album as well. I’m more than happy to clear that up. It’s as simple as this: I am not saying to go out and offend people for the sake of the gospel. What I am saying is that while we are called to go out and speak truth, there will be people who will naturally be offended by what you have to say. Some people are innately offended by religion as a whole. No matter what you say to them, they will be offended no matter what. 

I will reinforce that—regardless of how strong their rebuttal is to the truth of the gospel, we must stand firm and resilient in our beliefs and not let the opinions of others derail our hearts and mission. Stay the path. Know your truth and you will not be swayed or influenced by all the un-truth out there. People will try to wreak havoc on your spirit, but stand strong and, if it means you have created an “unsettling” in someone, then you have done your job. You have them thinking. But be confident in your mission and as a Christian soldier, always deliver and share your truth in bold love. 

Do you have a Bible verse that you lean on when you face struggles and challenges? If so, would you please share it here? 

Ah yes! My all-time favorite is Isaiah 40:31. 

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

All I have to do is say this to myself and imagine the incredibly beautiful visualization of it all!

Would you share links where readers who want to hear your music can purchase or access your upcoming “Fearless” album, as well as links to your other music?

Of course!

Here is the link to pre-save the “Fearless” single:

https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/jodiessex/fearless

If you’re feeling really brave, here is the pre-save for the “Fearless” EP:

https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/jodiessex/fearless-2

This link will lead you to everything you’d like to know!

https://solo.to/jodiessex

Thank you so much for your time. May God bless your upcoming song and album, “Fearless” and use it to reach and encourage listeners.

Thank you so much! Appreciate your kind words! It has been an absolute privilege being able to share my faith and music journey with your readers. Go forth and be FEARLESS!