Has it been a year?
Normally, I do a personal post about once a year but I have no idea when the last one was. To be honest, I’ve been deliberating if I should write this one or not. I’ve been postponing for the past two weeks, hoping that I wouldn’t need to…but, alas, I kind of do. And to be fair, doing a post like the ones I have in the past are good as they cleanse inner thoughts, add a certain amount of accountability, and also help deepen our relationship between author and reader in a way that (I hope) proves we’re all just human, struggling along in our own little journey.
First, the ABC’s. And ignore typos as I’m not hunting them all out.
I’ll structure this post to include Audio Book News, the personal post on Burn-Out, and then what is Coming Next.
I’ll try to keep it short as we’re all super busy, but I can’t promise anything.
Number One: AUDIO BOOKS
I have a number of heads up on audio books.
The Boy & His Ribbon: Audio is Out Now and read by Will M Watt and Hayden Bishop. You can listen to the sample on audible:
The Girl & Her Ren: Audio is locked with Audible and being approved (hopefully) as we speak. Which means it will be available for sale in a few short days. You can listen to an exclusive sample:
Twisted Together (Monsters in the Dark #3): I know you guys have been waiting FOREVER on this audio and I must beg forgiveness. The reason it’s taking so long is…this book needs a fair bit of trimming. The manuscript needs a bit of an edit to improve the storyline, but as I’ve been so busy lately, it keeps getting pushed to the back burner. Plus, as this book is 173,000 words, that makes it a MASSIVE audio undertaking which means it’s very expensive. For now, it’s in the works but no ETA. Just like Je Suis a Toi, I’m afraid. I hope you can forgive me.
Unseen Messages: Again, this is a MASSIVE book at 188,000 words. It would be close to 24 hours listening time and that sort of dedication from narrators and listeners is a lot to ask. As for now, being a standalone and an older title, it’s not a huge matter of urgency.
Destroyed: As Fox is Russian—or raised in Russia, I want to find someone who can do this audiobook justice. It is also yet another long book at 147,000 words so finding someone who isn’t booked for years in advance is tricky.
I’ve been brutally honest on why there have been delays on those books. However, those are the only ones of mine NOT produced and missing their audio counterparts. The rest: The Indebted Series, The Dollar Series, Pure Corruption Duet, Truth & Lies Duet, Can’t Touch This, Tears of Tess, Quintessentially Q, and The Boy and His Ribbon are all completed and available on iTunes and Audible.
Number Two: BURN OUT
Now, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has felt those terrible two words. In fact, I have a feeling the majority of us these days feel like that to some degree. I never thought I’d be the type of person to admit that I wasn’t superwoman who could work all hours, never sleep, and continue in a perpetual cycle of forever and never suffer the consequences.
I was wrong.
Basically, I haven’t been off a fast moving treadmill in five years.
To be honest, it’s been even longer than that but we’ll use the moment I released Tears of Tess as a good date to explain. I’ve done posts on this before—how amazed, humbled, and shocked I was that my words found readers and my career grew. I never took a single second or sale for granted and fully expected this amazing journey of being an author to finish as rapidly as it had occurred.
Feeling that awed kind of fear that at any moment this incredible journey would end meant I fixated on doing the best and most I could before that day came.
This gave me the single-mindedness to write and write and write. Luckily, I LOVE to write. I adore hanging out with the characters inside my head and on a daily basis am so damn grateful that this is my job. I mean, how lucky am I? How insanely lucky to get to write for a living when it’s something like a fairy-tale.
I loved writing so much and wanted to deliver as many books as I could that slowly, month by month, year by year, I gave up pieces of my life to ensure I stayed focused on my goal: to keep working; to not stop until it was taken away from me. And even then, watch out.
For years, I kept up that momentum, setting new goals when I met the current ones, forever moving that line in the sand where I always had to keep striving, running, crawling towards, never feeling a sense of accomplishment or peace to just STOP for a moment and breathe. Because who in their right mind–when they have their dream career–would ever bemoan the long hours or whinge about the never-ending obsessive taskmasker in their brain? I am so LUCKY. There are so many people with higher stress, longer hours, and crazy hard careers who also have families to juggle and other things and THEY cope fine. So who was I but WEAK to admit that I was getting to the end of my tether on keeping up the pace I’d set.
The pace no one else had created or enforced but me.
Me…the boss from hell.
I recognised I was on a slippery slope two years ago which brought a return to horse riding and everything equine back into my life. I’d given up everything else. I no longer ate out with my husband. No longer took walks in the forest, read on the beach, went to a coffee shop just to read a magazine, or go to a mall just to browse. I’d forgotten how to be STILL or do other hobbies that didn’t include, evolve, or exist apart from working.
The horses were supposed to help me remember how to relax.
But unfortunately, it only added more stress. The world seems to be less tolerant of horse riders, so riding on the road is now a big no as it’s so dangerous (I’ve had a guy drive toward me at warp speed only to try and reverse into me, for no other reason than we were sharing the road). The forests are all government owned and banned, the beaches were trying to get horses banned, and even putting a horse on a trailer and driving to a farm where a farmer has kindly allowed you to ride (ignoring the stupid rules on Health and Safety and Liability and all the other paper-pushing nonsense), it’s stressful.
In the past two years, I’ve ended up in the ER with my head split open and requiring seven stitches–I now have a Harry Potter scar. I’ve broken three fingers, two toes, ended up on crutches from being kicked in the knee, and a grazed face from my horse falling over a jump and both of us somersaulting. When I was younger, injuries didn’t faze me. Now, I’m older I know (very aware, in fact) that I’m not immortal. Which has raised more questions if horse riding is truly worth it. We don’t live on site with the horses, so every day I have a 1.5 hour return trip of feeding etc–which should give me that chance to relax that I was looking for…unfortunately, it’s proven the opposite.
It only made me more stressed.
Stress that I should be writing.
Stress of a clicking clock reminding me I would have to leave the house soon.
Now stress…we all have it in our lives. It’s an unavoidable by-product of our world these days. And I tend to thrive on stress. Give me an over packed day and an overflowing to do list, and I’m like a badger tearing its way through those items, never stopping, barely breathing until everything is completed. And then I make a new list, and another, and another…never fully taking time to bask in the completedness…only worrying about yet more things I should be doing.
I’ve kept up that momentum none stop for five years.
My body has steadily threaded stress with anxiety to the point where my insomnia tendencies (that I’ve had all my life) have now evolved into full blown sleepless WEEKS not nights. That overtiredness doesn’t affect me in the way I expected. I never FEEL tired. I can still focus—unfortunately, I hyper focus now, and the anxiety means my hands constantly shake. The drive to do more, work harder, achieve higher rules my system with rampant adrenaline to the point where I’ve forgotten how to breathe deep, can’t turn my mind off even when watching a movie or hanging with friends.
There is no relaxation in my life.
I’ve literally forgotten what that even feels like. And I’m not saying that for dramatic purposes. I LITERALLY have forgotten what boredom, relaxation, and peace feels like.
Sleeping tablets no longer work on my chaotic mind—where before I could at least grab a couple of hours after a bad spell of insomnia.
The shakes have turned into full on heart palpitations. I got pneumonia out of the blue which turned into pleurisy…most likely from running my system down to zero.
The anxiety has turned me into a crazy, snappy, irritable person who feels GUILTY constantly. If I’m on a horse, instead of sharing that bond with my trusty stead, I’m thinking what I SHOULD be doing – Facebook ads, plotting a new book, arranging a sale of an old one, replying to emails, paying invoices. When I’m doing laundry, I rush to get back online to manage this world that has well and truly turned me into an addict.
And I AM an addict.
Work is the only thing that makes me feel better.
And that’s what made me take note.
What I’m feeling isn’t normal.
Stress and anxiety is normal, yes. But feeling it 24/7 to the point where you have a panic attack for no reason at four a.m. for a year isn’t.
The only reprieve from that shaky anxious stress is to work.
The moment I open my laptop, turn to a manuscript, and type…that’s the only time my system gives me a break.
I’d hoped I wouldn’t have to be so honest or share how twisted I’ve made myself become.
But in reality, I know I’m not alone.
Never in a million years would I have EVER categorized myself as a stressed out, anxious person who couldn’t cope. Even now, I don’t fully believe it. And some days, I feel normal. I smile, I laugh, I feel as if I can take on the world. And you know what I’ve found? Those are the days I’ve slipped and worked my manic hours and found some way to feed that addiction that my system now craves.
It gotten so bad three weeks ago—and I won’t go into details—but at five a.m., after sleepless night number five, I called a hot yoga studio and basically begged for help. She listened to my convoluted crazy thoughts and said that I needed to reboot. Otherwise, I was going to break. She said I was the perfect candidate to find balance with Yoga and I wasn’t alone. Just having a total stranger get it, showed me how far off my own path I’d strayed.
Now, I’ve tried Bikram Yoga 12 years ago and rolled my eyes at it. The breathing at the start made me uncomfortable. The poses made my mind race and mock. But, I was at the point of reaching out and went to my first class with my hands shaking, like normal, my lungs breathless, like normal, and my mind whipping me for even THINKING of doing something other than working. I signed up for a month trial, entered a 40 degree centigrade room, and hoped for a miracle.
You see…thanks to this crazed ideal of working every hour of the day, I’d not only let happiness slink away from me but exercise too.
That first class, my mind was a mess.
The second one, it was still a mess.
The third…yep, still a mess.
I’m on my third week and eleventh class and I’m still a mess.
I’m still not sleeping…even though I’ve been given stronger sleeping tablets just to try and break the vicious cycle I’m in.
But…I can see the light now.
I’m slowly remembering there are other things in life than just working. No matter if that work gives me purpose, feeds my soul, and grants that creative outlet I crave.
Life isn’t about the destination. We’ve all heard that saying before. But that was how I was treating my life. I wasn’t enjoying the journey. I wanted everything done NOW, THIS VERY SECOND. And I still have that voice on my shoulder saying that should be so…but I’m learning to tell it to be quiet once in a while.
At the start of this, I did a stress test online and the results were the slap in the face I needed. That article led to another that listed the symptoms of Burn Out.
Here is the test if you want to do it: https://www.15minutes4me.com/free-online-test-stress-anxiety-depression-burnout/
And the symptoms of Burn Out: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/high-octane-women/201311/the-tell-tale-signs-burnout-do-you-have-them
Lo and behold…I fit almost every single one—apart from lethargy and unable to concentrate—I’ve gone the opposite and I’m jittery and hyper-focused, but everything else…nailed it.
I know Googling symptoms sometimes isn’t advisable but it helps to know I’m not alone in this. That it isn’t ME being snappy at my husband or ME thinking life is too hard or ME thinking every day is a fight.
It’s chemicals I’ve let steal me from myself.
Besides what am I fighting when I have everything any lucky person could ever want?
For the unattainable goals I’ve set myself?
For the stress that my system now no longer knows how to survive without?
Fighting isn’t the answer. And I’ve been forced to take a step back and reassess.
To get back into exercise, to just go to the paddock and hang with my horses WITHOUT my laptop or notebook to constantly work. I try and focus on movies—even going as far as sipping a cocktail to help calm myself (I don’t drink).
I’m not sharing this for pity or for comments or for any other reason but to show I’m human and I know I’m not alone in this. The careers we choose for ourselves, the goals we set ourselves, the dreams we strive toward are all required to live a perfect life.
But so too is nothingness.
The art of sitting still with a magazine in a patch of sunlight and having a nap. – I’ve never been able to do this and I’m jealous of those who can.
The peace of sitting on the beach without a book or music and just drift away in gentle thought. –I’ve never been able to stop my mind plotting or business brain racing.
Right now, everything stresses me out. Literally everything.
But now that I know that isn’t me, now that I’m remembering what I used to be like, I’m doing my best to be gentle and open my eyes to the life around me that I was letting slip away.
I haven’t succeeded yet, and, thanks to other people who have written about Burn Out online, I’m not anxious about that because I know it will take months to undo the damage I’ve done and find balance again.
I’m determined to be healthy in both body and mind and remember how to relax and just BE rather than running, always running.
But with that being said, I’m still writing. As that is my happy place. Going cold turkey and not writing makes me worse (I’ve tried) as I’ve also been a creative person and that is my method of my art. I still have stories and characters providing a constant chatter inside my head which I wouldn’t trade for the world. All I’m trying to do is remember to stop and breathe occasionally, and thanks to hot yoga, my lungs are remembering how to inhale and exhale and not just shallow sip. My core is stronger, my legs leaner, and by feeling better in myself, it makes me want to continue being healthier in not just exercises but eating and happiness, too.
It’s a much better cycle to be on.
And the reason why I’ve shared all that with you is just to add accountability to myself to continue playing as well as working, to remind myself that I can do anything and not buckle beneath stress, and that life is meant to be so much more than constant anxiety to work.
And to remind you guys too.
Take time out from your own stresses. Have that nap. Go for that walk. Watch that cheesy TV show. Talk to someone if that would help. TURN THAT GUILT OFF. And who knows, maybe even try Bikram with me…because I honestly can feel it helping.
Which leads me to my next part…
Number Three: Coming Soon
I have two books inside my head right now.
The Son & His Hope
A spin-off tale about Ren and Della’s son from The Ribbon Duet (can be read separately)
“Things you should know about me from the very beginning:
I was born to true love, witnessed the destruction it causes, and vowed never to let such agony happen to me. I am not a story-teller like my father. I am not a writer like my mother. I am just a son—their son.
I am happy being alone.
And that is all I ever want to be.”
The day he was born, Jacob learned his hardest and longest lesson.
It wasn’t a lesson a boy should learn so young, but from his earliest memories he knew where happiness lives, so does tragedy. Where love exists, so does heartbreak. And where hope resides, so does sorrow.
That lesson carved him from the kid to the teen to the man.
And nothing and no one could change his mind.
I first met him when he was fourteen at a movie premiere of all places. A movie based on his parent’s life.
He was stoic, strong, suspicious, and secretive.
I was only ten, but I felt something for him. A strange kind of sorrow that made me want to hug and heal him.
I was the daughter of the actor hired to play his father.
We shared similarities.
I recognised parts of him because they were parts of me.
But no matter how many times we met. No matter how many times I tried.
He stayed true to his vow to never fall.
The Body Painter
“Must be slim, able to stand for long periods of time, and be impervious to the cold.”
The headline caught my attention.
“Hours are negotiable, pay is minimal, clothing absolutely forbidden.”
The second line piqued my curiosity.
“Able to hold your bladder and tongue, refrain from opinions or suggestions, and be the perfect living canvas.”
The third made me scowl.
“Other attributes required: non-ticklish, contortionist, and obedient. Must also enjoy being studied while naked in a crowd.”
The fourth made me shudder.
“Call or email ‘YOUR SKIN, HIS CANVAS’ if interested in applying.”
The final made my heart race.
I should’ve kept scrolling past the advertisement.
I should’ve applied for the boring receptionist job at minimum wage.
I should’ve clicked on any other job where I got to keep my clothes on.
But I didn’t.
My interview is tomorrow…
<3 <3 <3
Ren and Della’s tale really affected me. It’s unlike any book I’ve written before, but I thought once I’d finished The Girl & Her Ren, I’d be able to move on. Gil—from The Body Painter–was starting to whisper to me again, and I was looking forward to delving into his secrets.
However, that was before Jacob Wild started whispering louder. He isn’t done with me and I have no choice but to write his story, too.
I’ve been asked which book will come out first and when.
I honestly don’t know.
At this point, I’m letting Gil and Jacob talk to me at different paces. Jacob’s world is fully within my head after being in it for six months with Ren and Della, so his is faster and easier to write. However, Gil has developed his tale from two dimensional to three dimensional and I can taste, see, hear what happens in that book just as clearly.
I’m the sort of author who needs to FEEL the book, KNOW the book, LIKE the book before I even start writing. If the characters are still a little underdeveloped or the world building not quite firm or the plot not quite solidified, I can’t write it.
It’s a curse but one I’ve come to accept.
So…to answer, I’m guessing The Son & His Hope will be first, purely because that is what I’m breathing currently. However, that might change if The Body Painter overtakes my imagination.
As for release date, I’m not going to announce one as I honestly don’t know. I’m practicing Bikram, Hot Yoga, and Inferno Pilates three to four times a week right now to get my head back on straight, I aim to start riding often again (once my stress levels drop), and overall being a better wife to my long suffering husband.
I need to remember that yes, I’m honoured and lucky enough to have a dream career but I’m also lucky enough to have a life outside of writing and it’s time I visited that world once in a while.
Tonight, hubby and I, along with little Mo the house rabbit (after a very stressful three months of him having issues with his left eye which left him having to have it removed and is now well on the mend from his surgery and pain free finally) are having a night in the caravan to get him used to being away from home and in a new space. If he takes it well, we’ll be heading away for a couple of weeks where we’ll walk, explore, reconnect, relax, and yes, write.
I know that isn’t a helpful answer, but rest assured, I’ll have a couple more books out before the end of 2018. That is a guarantee. I’m not talking a year or two sabbatical. I’m only saying I might be another couple of months away not a couple of weeks. Which gives you plenty of time to read all the other excellent new releases from other favourite authors.
And now, before I wrap up this already very long blog post, I forgot to mention and show the prettiness. Crown of Lies and Throne of Truth have been made into a boxed set with a new cover.
I love it! What do you think?
PAPERBACK LINK: Boxed Set
eBook is coming soon and will be available on all platforms. And don’t forget audio is available, too.
Thanks so much for reading yet another novel and hope if you’ve been feeling a little stressed, I’ve reminded you to just be still, take that time off, and be gentle to yourself.
Read, relax, and unwind.
You deserve it.
3 thoughts on “Another Personal Post and ABC’s”
Take care of yourself first. Those who care about you understand.
You have a wonderful gift Pepper it looks like you have a wonderful husband too, please remember that your fans wish you happiness and good health always.
Take the time to play and find happiness with life see what’s around you, smile and enjoy
We sometimes forget, we work to live not live to work.
Hi Pepper. I have long been a fan of your writing, and fell further in love with it with Unseen Messages. Saying that I can totally see the line that a creative person walks when that pressure cooker of life, writing, being etc start to become a toxic stew that can make you so poorly. I send you my very best wishes for a return to balance. I am starting to find it but it is also taking a long time. I try to be patient with myself but it takes time. Much love to you.