What I learned in 2021…& a 8,500 word sneak peek into Souls of Sand and Smoke

Today is the first day that I’ve sat down at my laptop in (probably) the longest time I’ve gone without opening up. (poor thing didn’t know what to do with itself without me pounding its keys). The past 7 weeks we’ve been busy fostering a little puppy with a broken leg, having guests stay, and generally dealing with the holiday season, which means writing has been hard, admin even harder, and I haven’t been on my socials in months.

But now…it’s 1st January 2022 (here in NZ) and I started today as I mean to go on. I cuddled Mo (house rabbit), gave the horses their breakfast, did an hour yoga session, enjoyed thirty minutes of crafting (currently doing diamond painting – highly recommend!) then had a lovely breakfast with the hubby. And now…I am back on my trusty machine with its overused keys missing paint and a clunky hard drive full of unfinished books and I’m ready to put into words what I’ve learned, how I’ve grown, where I failed, and what my goals are for this year.


Get ready for a long blog post (‘cause those are my jam) and apart from some admin, this post is all I have on my agenda today before I dive back into my High Fantasy Romance (Souls of Sand and Smoke) tomorrow and get lost in a completely different world.

So…grab a wine or a coffee (depending on the time zones) and let me regale you with some of my garnered wisdom, my flops, and faux pas.

For ease of reference, here is a table of contents 😊

  • Pepper’s Tricks to Happiness
  • 2022 Goals
  • Book Stuff! (along with a 8,500 surprise sneak peek into Souls of Sand and Smoke. If you want to read that instead…CLICK HERE TO CLAIM!)

(Please excuse typos, I haven’t run spellcheck 🙂

I know I’m an author and you probably want me to skip to the book stuff which (let’s face it) is why you follow this blog, BUT before we get to that, I wanted to share my tricks to happiness that I’ve come to learn, adapt, and implement since I ran head first into a proverbial wall and was forced to go slower a few years ago. Thanks to that event, my lifestyle changed radically. Ever since, I’ve put these tips into practice and I can say, with all my soul, that I’ve never been happier, healthier, or more ‘centred’ in life and wanted to share them with you.


That word can mean so many things. It can be the full heart you get when your pet snuggles in your arms. It can be the euphoria of lust and new love. It can be the contentedness of hanging out with a best friend. It can be the peace of watching your family laugh. It can be the rush of retail joy when you buy something new. It can be the bubbly excitement of doing something fun.

Happiness is literally the best emotion.

It makes us love harder, care deeper, and strive to keep fighting, even when days are dark and depressing. It can come in so many shapes and sizes, and each is priceless in its own way, but the happiness I’m talking about is the kind that makes every day SPARKLE. There are no niggles of annoyance or snappiness of stress. You don’t get irritated, short-tempered, or passive aggressive. This kind of happiness lasts long past the new thing you bought has faded or the laughter has died or the pet has left your arms. This happiness (I believe) is the true essence of life and has made mine a million times richer than I ever could have imagined.

Quite simply…the happiness I’ve been able to tap into is found in quietness. It took me a few years of practice to be able to live in this zen-joy full time (and even now have moments that try to pop my balloon). And when I say quietness, I mean quietness of the mind. You can stand in an empty field and not be quiet unless the incessant chatter that fill our heads is tamed.

I learned how to do that and I hope to try and explain how.

  1. Time.

Time is our enemy. We all know that. We have a finite amount of it on this planet and if we don’t succeed in our goals, then are we just supposed to die as ‘failures’? Die without ever knowing the joy of being (insert here) rich, famous etc etc…

I used to feel that way.

Ever since a young age, I wanted to be wealthy. To start with, my reasons were superficial. I wanted freedom to buy the flashy stuff. The nice house, the pricey car, but slowly, gradually, those things felt empty and no longer worth striving for. Now, I value money for good health and necessary care for my loved ones and the freedom to be able to live a calm, peaceful life on a slice of paradise, unbeholden to anyone. I value being able to help creatures, great and small, with donations and my time – things that are so much more enriching than the latest gadget.

If I were to say to my younger self (the one who still believed that overworking was a badge of honor and stress was a trophy to be proudly shown), that time is nothing more than a lie…I don’t think I would’ve understood nor wanted to. Time to me were stepping stones in making my dreams a reality. The present was something to slog through to get to a future I wanted. I was happy to put aside the present day happiness for a promise of enjoying myself when I’d succeeded. And…if I’m honest, if I lived my life back then the way I do now, I don’t know if I would’ve achieved all the things I have, purely because I no longer have that drive to gather ‘things’ to make me happy. Happiness can make you wealthy NOW. Happiness can make you grateful for all the things you have NOW, not the things you’re fighting to have in the future. Happiness can make you content, which is the most valuable thing in the world, but it can also mean that you no longer buy into the doctrine that we need bigger things, flashier things, to be seen and noticed to be deemed successful. To admit that (a self-confessed addict who literally almost killed herself with heart palpitations and stress) is a big step. I would never have been able to even contemplate that I would be happy without all those large dreams. And to say it now, when I come from a place of privilege that the hussle and stress of yesterday granted me almost seems sacrilegious, because I have no doubt that financial freedom and living my dreams have a lot to do with me reaching the level of happiness that I’ve been lucky to achieve. BUT…it’s also granted me wisdom to admit that…you don’t need ‘things’ to be happy. You just have to see time for the truth of what it is.

It doesn’t matter.

Sure, you need alarm clocks for certain appointments and you need calendars to keep your life in order but…the rest of it?

It’s nonsense.

Yes, we age, and yes, we will one day die but contrary to what we’ve been taught—that we can only be happy when we have XYZ or go on this holiday or have that car, we can be happy right now and not sacrifice the present moment for a promise of something in the future.

Forget time.

Forget the days and the hours and the years and just BE.

Be in the moment.

The only one that matters.

It’s not an easy task to accept – I still have moments where I slip and start panicking that I haven’t written all the words or done a certain task. Adrenaline kicks in and the stress (that is always wating for a crack to consume you) tries to slither its way back. But each time that happens, I just remind myself that what will be will be. Life will carry me along to the same destination—with me cracked out on stress or zen on happiness. I will arrive exactly where I’m meant to be—at the place that I focus on, strive for, and am grateful for.

And that’s the key.

Take your dream and imagine its real.

Focus on it, mediate on it, and go to sleep imagining it’s already real, and just have faith that your life will unfold in the exact way you want it to – regardless if you’re stressed or not.

Listen to your intuition that helps guide you toward what you want and deserve.

Allow life to flow you forward.

And don’t let time steal your most valuable thing.


  • Worrying

This little word and pastime is the biggest waste of life imaginable and I am the biggest offender. I would pride myself on looking at EVERY scenario. Literally everything. Go out in the car – I’d picture accidents and issues that could happen. Lock the car in carpark and I’d go over every hypothetical scenario that could happen to it while I was gone – stolen, dinged, blown up, windows smashed. This sort of habit did grant some benefits – thanks to overanalysing every little thing, I would see things that my hubby would not. I’d predict things that would amaze him because I’d literally gone over every situation that at least ONE of them had to come true sometimes. It was those moments of ‘see I told you’ that would justify my worrying. I’d convince myself that the rabid, runaway voice in my head that spoke of doom and gloom was needed because it’s good to think of all things that can go wrong and ‘plan for the worst, while hoping for the best.’


Worrying drains you of life.

It steals your happiness.

It chips away at your confidence.

It is not a gift.

It is a sickness where you put yourself through hours upon hours of nonsensical fear and stress.

My worrying became so bad, my inner voice was constant. When we got horses, I would constantly imagine all the accidents and injuries they could get up to. When Mo was sick, I would go over and over his hypothetical death, beating myself up with guilt and shame that I didn’t do something sooner, better, quicker…

It was what contributed to my burnout and was a major contributor to my heart palpitations (and when I say palpitations, I don’t just mean annoying heart flutters – I mean, on the floor, breathless, and unable to move with my pulse 230 (actual readings) for over an hour).

It took MONTHS of intensely hard work monitoring my thoughts to finally understand how I ‘worry’ and how to stop it. It’s taken years of technique and diligence to say I have now mastered the art of NOT worrying.


It sounds easy…until it’s not.

I just chose to STOP WORRYING.

If something happens and my mind goes into a freefall, going over every scenario for a certain event, I stop, reign in those troublesome thoughts, and THINK ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE.

That’s it.

To start with, I kept a keepsake in my pocket and I would touch it to ground me while I’d repeat a mantra full of gratefulness. In the moment, you might not feel grateful. You might be mocking yourself in your head or convincing yourself that you’re justified in all these very important worries, but believe me…just by repeating a simple phrase such as ‘I’m thankful for…(whatever resonates with you.) you can change your entire mindset.

When I first chose to stop worrying, I was repeating mantras all day every day.

It was hard.

But…little by little, the worrying quieted.

It hasn’t fully gone – I doubt it ever will as it’s human nature and how we’ve been programmed, but I can now choose to fall into that pit of concern or just use it as an aid to ensure life is safe for all involved.

So remember this: if you start worrying, just stop. Repeat a phrase or think about something that makes you happy. That’s it.

  • Fear

Another huge happiness stealer is fear.

Fear of the unknown.

Fear of what people will think.

Fear of failure.

Fear of success.

Fear of being hurt, judged…

The list is endless.

This is another drain on life and something we do not need. Fear is only necessary if your life is in danger. It’s a good thing to be afraid of a burning building or a hungry lion, but when fear starts interrupting our everyday lives and filling us with adrenaline on hypothetical scenarios that may or may not happen…it’s disruptive.

I mastered this the same way I mastered worrying.

I chose to stop.

Just stop.

I guess I have a little superpower now—courtesy of the burnout and the intense heart palpitations I suffered (that has left me with a condition called PAF). It acts as a perfect barometer on when my stress levels are rising. If I have an ‘attack’ I know precisely that I haven’t been focusing on my mental quietness and its time to double down on my focus to cut out fear and worry.

For those who don’t have a heart that flutters at the first taste of stress, don’t panic…just remember this simple thing:

If you find your mind skipping down a road full of doom, gloom, and what-ifs full of darkness – stop. Grab that keepsake in your pocket, close your eyes, and shift your thoughts.

Think about your loved one (without letting it spiral into dark thoughts or fear)

Hug your pet (but be 100% with them and not in your head)

Do something that you know captures your attention 100% and focus only on that.

Gradually, the fear that likes to squat on our shoulders will eventually slide off and grant yet another layer of much-needed quietness.

(This is even more relevant in today’s world with all the current events. I won’t list them as I refuse to watch the news, go on social media, or read anything that is mostly clickbait to make us depressed and fearing).

Things will happen – good things and bad. But it offers no value to anyone, especially you, if you’re worried all the time. Take the necessary steps to stay safe and healthy and then…let it go.

All of it.

  • Positivity

This one word has been the key to all my success.

Every book that’s ever hit the bestseller lists. Every sale, every accolade—it all comes down to…positivity.

Without knowing the value this would bring to my life (even while plagued with fears, worries, and stress), I used positive thinking to bring everything I ever dreamed into reality.

What do I mean by that?

I mean…ten years ago, while in Phuket, Thailand with my hubby (who was having dental work done –we flew over to have work done due to the six star service and incredible reviews we’d seen from others who had gone on a ‘dental holiday’) I found a little street seller selling semi-precious figurines. I picked up a tiny obsidian turtle and liked the weight and feel. I decided, there and then, that I would carry that turtle around every day and each time I touched it I would say: I’m a successful, published writer. Even though I didn’t believe it. Even though I had no idea how it would come true seeing as I’d dropped out of school and didn’t exactly have a good track record when it came to education, I stuck to that promise and I can’t tell you how many times I repeated that phrase. Millions. Easily.

It took two years.

Two years since I found that semi-precious turtle and repeating that phrase constantly until I became a USA Today bestseller.

Do I attribute my success to writing a book in a genre that was on the upward swing? Do I pat myself on the back for being successful thanks to self-teaching, growing, and evolving with each story I put out?

Yes, of course.

I was incredibly lucky and continue to be so.

BUT…I wouldn’t have had the gumption or the little nudges within me to try if I hadn’t planted that seed in my brain that I was a successful published writer.

I remained positive, even on the days when I didn’t believe it.

I didn’t let negativity or fear sway my focus.

I let intuition guide me into places where I needed to be and do things that I needed to do in order to be what I dreamed of being.

And…through the law of attraction and positivity, my dreams came true.

If you have a dream and want it to manifest, do what I did.

Plant that dream, not just in your brain but in your sub-conscious and soul. Repeat it, over and over again, no matter how crazy it seems. Believe even when it’s unbelievable.

And it will come true.

I promise you.

Whatever you want.

It will be your reality if you commit.

That is the power of positivity.

  • Let it go…

My final trick for happiness is:


All of it.

I used to pride myself on remembering everything. (Apart from arguments and grudges—for some reason my mind blacks out on those.) I can’t for the life of me remember arguments or hold a grudge. It’s a gift really, even though it makes me completely tongue-tied if I’m ever confronted.

I used to remember what I’d eaten on a particular day when I was doing XYZ. I’d associate a song with a certain memory, a smell with a certain event, and everyone around me would comment on my ‘elephant like’ memory.

Now…I don’t care.

I don’t worry about losing memories.

I don’t cling to recollections because I fear letting them fade will be detrimental in some way.

The past is gone.

It taught me, helped sculpt me, and I will always be grateful for every event as they all led me to where I am now. I’ve lost loved ones and pets that broke my heart when they passed. I’ve gotten married and travelled overseas and indulged in so many incredible things. Things that are unbelievably precious and always will be.

But…I no longer try to hold onto them.

I don’t let my mind be cluttered with the past or the future.

This isn’t callous or cold-hearted…just freeing.

Freeing to accept that the past is gone. Good or bad. Healing or hurtful. The past is gone. It has no hold on you now. No sway over what you are or what you can become.  

It’s been liberating to let it all go.

To let yesterday go.

To let a decade go.

This trick is even more relevant in today’s world.

What happened last week is no longer needed. What was said in heated arguments is over. What was done to you or what you did to others is no longer a part of your life. It’s only layering stress and worry and making us fear tomorrow.

Cut out the past.

Stop worrying about what you did or didn’t do.

Stop holding grudges.

Stop repeating backstories and reliving tragedy or triumph.

Just let it go.

If you drag your mind into this moment and only this moment, automatically worry, stress, and fear are gone.

Life is so much simpler if you just focus on today.

And I don’t mean ignore goals or events you have planed in the future, of course not. Life is always moving forward, and we need to move with it. I only mean, we live in THIS moment.

If you’re warm and fed and safe…then that is a perfect moment.

And if we can find perfection in normalcy and happiness in quietness, then we can find that never-ending joy that is priceless.

Let it go and be at peace.

I truly hope those little tricks help. They’ve helped me to the point where I wish to share and try to help others reach the same level of contentedness I have.

In summary, the five tips that I’ve found to happiness are:

If start worrying – stop and think about something else.

If you start fearing – stop and be grateful for all you have.

If you start stressing – stop and repeat a calming mantra.

If you start falling into the paradox of time, stop and BE.

Just be.

In this heartbeat.

In this very second.

And let all the noise fade away.

Because it’s tradition to do New Years goal setting and I do enjoy thinking about what I could hopefully manifest, I’ll list a few hopes that I have for 2022. Let me know what yours are!

  1. I want to do 250 hours of yoga this year (2021 I did 178 hours)
  2. I want to have Souls of Sand and Smoke translated into Thai (random I know. Let me explain.) To me, Thai language is one you only get if a book is a super-mega star. To get a Thai translation and have a pretty paperback all wrapped in plastic (would rather not be plastic for environment sake) for sale in Phuket would be an ultimate dream come true.
  3. I want Souls of Sand and Smoke to be the book of my career, not because of fame, money, or accolades, but because I truly, TRULY believe in this book and believe it has a much deeper theme to share than just a romance story.
  4. I want to continue having a quiet, happy mind, a calm, wonderful marriage, and continue saving, helping, and enriching every animal’s life that I come into contact with.

And now, finally!

I truly hoped I would have dates and even pre-orders up in January for Souls of Sand and Smoke, but alas…things are happening in the background which mean my hands are tied at this point in time.

I can’t even reveal a cover or blurb!

This is the longest I’ve ever gone not announcing when my next book is coming and it’s teaching me the art of patience.

The reason information is slow in coming is…I am actively seeking the best publishing avenue for this High Romance Fantasy.

I believe in it.

With all my soul.

I am MADLY in love with this book and truly believe it deserves the best possible chance at being read by as many people as I can reach, which means I have to take my time and make sure I chose the right path.

This might mean traditional publishing.

It might mean self-publishing.

I have dreams of a TV series, impeccable audio, and as many book formats as possible.

I want this in major bookstores around the world, and to do that, I need to lay the right foundation.

So I greatly appreciate your patience and kindness while I figure out where Souls of Sand and Smoke will find its home.

And, because I’m aware I haven’t been able to give you anything concrete for a while now, please accept this SURPRISE SNEAK PEEK as payment 🙂

It’s unedited, copyrighted, and subject to change

8500 word prologue is all yours!


To receive, you have to input your email address. Rest assured, you’ll only be emailed the pre-order links and release day information, nothing more!

The prologue I’ve shared is over 8,500 words.

It won’t be available for long so if you want to read, download from Book Funnel here:


And…the best news?

This book is BIG.

I mean big.

Almost 200,000 words big.

I’m LOVING not having to restrict myself to a contemporary word count. I’m loving being able to deliver a world that’s rich in diversity, magic, lust, danger, and mystery.

And I can’t wait to share more with you!

As for other book news, I can’t really share that either.

It all depends on release dates for Souls of Sand and Smoke and what may or may not happen in the background, so…I guess watch this space for more.

I’ll be sure to keep you guys informed whenever I have news! I’ll be shouting loudly, believe me.

For now though, I hope you are safe and happy and 2022 brings you a year of mental quietness, peace, and overwhelming happiness.

Thank you for your support over the past decade.

Thank you for reading my books.

Thank you for coming on this journey with me and allowing me to use my platform to share other things as well as book news.

Thank you for being you.

With love, Pepper

(and if you missed the link to read 8500 of Souls of Sand and Smoke… CLICK HERE TO START READING! )

One thought on “What I learned in 2021…& a 8,500 word sneak peek into Souls of Sand and Smoke

  1. It’s first thing on New Years Day and I have just read the most tantalizing of chapters for a new book, I can not wait to read the rest of Souls of Sand and Smoke, once again Pepper has not let her fans down.
    Thank you Pepper for creating a another new world to escape into.

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