Penny’s Birthday Grove

So, November is here, whether we like it or not. Which means it’s officially Autumn and Winter will soon be here (no, we’re not talking about the C word!)

November for me has always been greeted with a mixture of feelings; I dislike the fact it’s getting cold, I dislike that it’s getting darker at night and less hours in the day – although sometimes I don’t mind the early dark nights – but I love the colours on the trees.

But, there is one thing that is ‘personal’ about November…

November, is also the month I was born! It’s my birthday!

And this year, I’m doing something very different; I’m planting trees!

Okay, so, technically, I won’t be the one physically planting them. But after moving to Inverness (you can read about that here and here) I came across a great charity that is planting trees to re-wild the Highlands; Trees for Life.

Up on the Highlands of Scotland used to be a vast forest; the Caledonian Forest, spanning the right across, with only select areas now remaining. Trees for Life is an ambitious, award-winning conservation charity that is rewilding the Scottish Highlands, planting trees and encoraging wildlife to return.

So, rather than writing a wish list full of new books, DVDs, music, things for my new flat, tech, etc, for my birthday, I set up a website on Trees of Life for people to consider donating a small fee to this Grove to help rewild Scotland, restoring balance to the ecosystem and combating CO2 emissions. I have already paid to have one tree planted, each new tree is only £6!

Click here to donate to Penny’s Birthday Grove

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I also recently had my hair cut off for charity! Read about it here!

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My Podcast Interview – Breaking the silence and becoming an author & activist – It’s Never Too Late

Hello my little demons!

For those of you who follow me on social media (see the links below if you’d like to follow), you may have noticed that I did a podcast interview recently and was waiting for it to air.

Well, it all started when I was approached by Megha on Twitter, asking me to do a podcast interview and I jumped at the opportunity. Not necessarily because I love supporting fellow authors and creative minds (which I do), and it’ll be good publicity for me, but because I will be getting out of my comfort zone HUGELY.

If you don’t know, I had Selective Mutism as a child, you can read my previous post on ‘Why “The Girl Who Whispered“‘ here, which explains more about it, and as silly as it sounds, talking is something I have always struggled with.

When we scheduled to do it, I was very nervous, I could literally feel my heart beating in my chest. Megha was so lovely though, so understanding and I eventually felt myself calming (okay, a little).

I’ve been waiting for it to go live with baited breath, although the hard part was over, I was still really nervous about it going live. All those years worrying about speaking and I was going public on the internet. But the podcast went live today at 14:30 BST and I couldn’t be happier. It came out great!

If you’re interested in listening, here it is on spotify:

Huge thanks to Megha for the opportunity, it was great to make such a lovely connection too, and thanks everyone who has already listened to it – I was told Megha’s listeners love it (I think it’s my British accent!)

If you’d like to support Megha and her podcast, please check out her links:

website: meghaupadhyaya.com
facebook: facebook.com/itsnevertoolatepodcast
instagram: instagram.com/takeitsleeazy/
twitter: twitter.com/Young_blackbird

If you’d like to support Megha’s podcast, you can do so here!

Here was a little teaser trailer (I sound awful, but here it is for completeness anyway!):

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Don’t forget to like, reblog, share, comment and/or follow!
I also recently had my hair cut off for charity! Read about it here!

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Travelling Route 66 for Charity – Update

Hello my little demons! 😈

I wrote a previous blog post explaining about my charity tour of America, and why I’m doing it, here.

Since then, I’ve already done a lot of planning (yet, still a lot more to go!). I’ve come up with lots of amazing ideas, bought some maps, found some amazing resources and I’m finally getting there with the intial interary.

We’re doing a road trip down Route 66!

(c) Penny Hooper

Now, Route 66 sounds like an easy thing, just follow the sign posts for Route 66, right? But Route 66, as I have found, has had many alterations over the years, bypasses and re-directs, bridges no longer used, cities and towns built up over it, even the start and end posts have moved.

The original Route was established on the 11th November 1926 (although, from what I can gather, it was being built before this), it was altered in 1930 to follow a completely different line between Springfield and East St. Louis. In the late 1930s, the route was redirected again to cut off Santa Fe. The original route used to connect gold and silver mines such as Oatman, but in the 1950s these were cut off, leaving Oatman abandoned. And a lot of the interstates that were constructed saw the Route 66 abolished, some even cut through the route, meaning it’s no longer possible to drive the whole of the old route anymore. I even saw one section is on private land now – and the owners were selling parts of it to keep it safe from further distruction!

As for the start and end points, these were also moved, both in Chicago and Los Angeles, which you will learn more about both when we come to do the tour but also in blog posts along the way. You can see the map below has the old and new routes, the red is the newer route, the pink/purple bits are the older routes.

Now, we could just stick to the newer route, the one that is mostly mapped on modern maps, but that would be too easy! So, we plan to travel down as much of the old route as possible (unless the road is too dangerous, a dead-end, on private property or no longer exists) to see the areas that those early road trippers would have seen.

Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Route_66#Changes_in_routing

Originally, when I was coming up with ideas on what I wanted to do for this American tour, I was adamant to fit in lots. I wanted to see the Florida Keys, Atlanta, Washington DC, maybe visit New York city again, drive up to San Francisco up the California State Route 1 and visit the Bonnerville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City. When I realised doing the Route 66 will take a minimum of three weeks as it is, I knew we couldn’t do all of it. Well, not unless we can take two months off work and have lots of spare money! So, we stuck to Route 66. There will be other opportunities to see the others another time (maybe, if this one is successful, more road trips?)

Of course, we will be doing a few smaller things, such as going up to Milwaukee to visit the Harley-Davidson Museum (already got an invite), a two-day detour to see the Grand Canyon and another one/two-day detour to see Las Vegas (driving over the Hoover Dam of course!). We also plan to fit in a motorbike ride in Los Angeles, not all the way up to San Fransisco, but maybe at least to Pismo Beach.

We have a lot of ideas that we want to do along the way too, as you know, we will be doing this for charity; well, we have picked out at least four charities. One is close to my heart, one is close to Mozz’s, and the other two we both choose. Of course, I haven’t contacted any of them yet, as I’m still finishing off the itenary, and I have to sort out some personal things, but hopefully in the next few weeks, we can share! But we also have a few ideas such as little challenges or charity events on the route itself, one is even quite big, but again, I need to contact a particular charity to pull it off!

Although we have planned a lot of it already, not only researching where the old route goes, marking it on a map, what sites to see, what time of year to go, and so on. We still have a lot to do.

* We need to make sure we get the right visa; this isn’t just a tourist visit, we plan on filming and fundraising, this might not be suitable on a tourist visa,
* We need to work out the best camera equipment; do we spend a bit more to get a decent go-pro or will cheap action cameras be okay,
* What rigs will we need to set up cameras inside a car and on bikes/helmets,
* Maybe even microphones so we get a decent quality sound,
* We need to work out costs involved; visas, flights, fuel, car, insurance, food, side-trips, hotels, even the costs of bags, cameras, internet wifi dongle, subscriptions and software we might need,
* we also need to know which areas are American-Indian territory so we can respect their land (I plan on contacting the AIANTA – American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association for this too),
* And lots more!

I still have yet to set up a YouTube channel, get it establed now and practice filming, editing and the like. I also plan on getting my social media verified, which is very difficult to do. And of course, around all this, I work full time and I’m trying to publish a new book and write a memoir.

So, now I’m going to get back to marking sites on my USA map after spending two days researching the route and marking it out, then hopefully, I can contact the charities and get the ball rolling!

Watch this space!

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Don’t forget to like, reblog, share, comment and/or follow!
I also recently had my hair cut off for charity! Read about it here!

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Author Interview – Noir Hayes

Hello, my little demons! 😈

Here’s the third installment of Author Interviews, and I had the privilege of speaking to Noir Hayes.

This was another one I had good fun with, and upon reading her answers, it’s amazing how much we have in common (minus the ballet bit!)

Razor Blades

Of course, first I wanted to quickly speak about her book “Razor Blades”. It sounds really interesting; dark and gritty gangs set in New York. What’s not to love?

Here’s the synopsis:

Enter into the minds of the most dangerous gangs in the city. Razor, the gang’s leader, is known for his brutal, cut-throat methods, and cold eyes. His arrogance, getting to the better of him, prevents him from noticing some of his member’s evil intentions. Every man in the gang has their role, and it’s up to you to determine who is genuinely Razor’s right-hand man.

You can find it for sale here

Within Cessation (Out October 2020!)

And, of course, can’t leave without talking about her next book which is out next month; Within Cessation.

In case you can’t see the image, for what ever reason, this is what it reads:

“Tatum Hyland is a man obsessed with reinventing himself. Determined to cast off his reputation as a washed up former romance novelist, he challenges himself to write something completely different – an apocalyptic survival story. But as the world arround him spirals into chaos, Tatum must learn to differentiate between reality and fiction, choosing between his own survival and that of his work.”

Interview with Noir

Now let’s get into the interview… I bet you’re all excited to read this, as much as I was!

What got you into writing?

I’ve always been super anxious and quiet, even as a kid. A lot of times, I used writing as an escape. In my mind, I figured, if I couldn’t say certain things or open up about my experiences, I would just write and create character that could do the things I was unable to. I also loved the idea of having no real rules. In math or in science, it’s either wrong or it’s right. In writing, I make the rules and I have always loved the freedom that came with that.

What’s your writing Kryptonite?

I care too much about what people might think. Sometimes I hold myself back and think, “No, I can’t write that. What will they think? Will they think I’m this super violent person? Will they think differently of me?” A lot of it is mental, and I’m always trying to work through it.

What comes first, the plot or characters?

It’s always been the characters for me. I have always found enjoyment out of building a character from the ground up. I let them tell me what they like, don’t like, what their fears are, and what their story will be. I let them create the plot for themselves – I am merely the person that writes it all down for them.

Do you want to be more original or write that the reader’s want?

Original, always. I once stumbled across Billie Eilish’s Vanity Fair interview and in it, she said: “If everyone dropped dead right now and I didn’t, I would be left with what I had created for myself. And what the hell would the point be if I was just creating something that somebody else wanted me to create that I had no say in? And that person died, and everybody else died, and nobody else matters but me? I’m stuck with this stuff I didn’t want in the first place and that’s trash.” And that has always stuck with me. I create what I want. It will reach the people it is meant to reach, and those who are meant to love it will love it.

If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?

Don’t create with the intention of being the next Hunger Games or Divergent. Write what you want to write and do it unapologetically. It doesn’t need to be cookie cutter. Those who are your true fans will never judge your writing material – so just write what you want.

What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?

I really, really loved I Have No Secrets by Penny Joelson. It is a book about a fourteen-year-old that has cerebral palsy, so she can’t speak or move. Whenever her caretaker’s abusive boyfriend admits he murdered someone and tells the narrator because he knows she literally can’t tell anyone, it creates this amazing and thrilling story. I have hardly seen anyone talk about it and it surprisingly doesn’t have too many reviews on Amazon.

Do you hide secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Yes, of course! I sometimes hide song lyrics that inspired my writing in character dialogue. In “Razor Blades” one of my characters gives out a series of codes, and some of them are my parents and sibling’s birthdays. There are too many hidden secrets to count!

What was the inspiration for your book, “Razor Blades”?

It’s actually an interesting story, haha. Back in my younger years, I did a ton of online roleplaying. Two of my characters, Razor and Brett, were originally characters I just roleplayed with. Both Brett and Razor were inspired by songs off of this industrial metal band’s (their name is Combichrist, I definitely recommend looking them up) album entitled We Love You. So, Brett and Razor have been with me since the beginning. Things really got rolloing whenever I visited New York last summer with my dad. From there, I said screw it, dropped Razor and Brett in New York, and let them tell the stories themselves.

What do you hope readers take away from this book?

Razor Blades is really violent and gritty. That being said, I want readers to see that even in the darkest of corners, you can find stories of love and hope. I want them to meet a character like Razor, someone who is bad through and through, and see his development and see the way he changes, the way that he has different sides for those he truly cares for.

How many unpublished or half-finished books do you have?

Well, next month my second book entitled Within Cessation comes out, which is exciting! As for unpublished books, though, I’ve been holding onto a Young Adult Dystopian novel that I wrote way back in high school. I plan on taking it, revamping it, and publishing it by next year. Half-finished books and ideas, I have anywhere between five to ten rolling around, even if it’s one paragraph in a google document somehwere, haha.

Who is your favourite author, and why?

Chuck Palhniuk’s Snuff helped me write Razor Blades, as I loved the way he changed multiple POVs (point of views) so well. From there, I just started reading and falling in love with a lot of his work. More on the cliché side, though, I’ve always been inspired by big names like Stephen King. In fourth grade, I was already reading Pet Semetary and The Shining, and it was King that helped me realize that writing was what I wanted to do – that I wanted to big like him.

Do you prefer to read the book first, or watch the movie first?

Good question and when it comes down to it, I’m not sure if I have a preference! I think there’s something so magical about reading and falling in love with a book and seeing it on the big screen. To have your favorite moments comes to life and to have them pulled together with music, the looks certain actors and actresses can pull of, ugh, it’s so magical! There are also some movies out there that are better than the books… a controversial opinion, I’m sure haha.

What are your thoughts on audiobooks?

I appreciate audiobooks so much! I commute to school and work three to four jobs (when we aren’t in the middle of a pandemic) and last semester, I was driving five-hundred miles per week. I really dove headfirst into having an arsenal of audiobooks to keep me entertained during my long drives. Sometimes holding a physical book just isn’t possible, and I think having an audiobook is a great option if that’s the case. Especially if you spend more time in your car than in your house, like I do.

Was writing your dream job as a child, or was it something else?

Always deep down, yes. I was writing horror stories and giving them to my mom to give to her friends at work as a kid. Every single experience I had I made into a story. As I got older, unfortunately, I somehow convinced myself that I could never make a living out of writing. So, I wound up going to school for something else I’m interested in. I’ve said since the beginning, though, if I could wave a magic wand and have whatever I wanted – to write all day every day as an occupation would be my dream.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I’m a jack of all trades, honestly, haha. I am a full-time student in my senior year of a Criminal Justice program. When I’m not in school, I’m probably in the dance studio teaching ballet (yes, I was a bunhead for the majority of my life). Outside of all that, though, I am a huge nerd – I love to play video games and watch all kinds of movies. I also have a pretty impressive Funko pop collection.

Thanks, Noir Hayes! It was a pleasure.

Please do check out her out, here’s the link to her twitter page.

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6 Months in the Highlands – Thanks, COVID-19!

In one of my previous posts (here’s the link), I talk about moving to the Highlands. It was just a small ‘travel’ post really, with a few pictures, intended to be a precursor to future travel posts.

But it didn’t quite work out the way I planned.

And… I *might* be moving again!

Pre-Covid-19

On Feburary 24th, I had my first day at my new job – but it was in London. I travelled down to London from the southern part of Scotland where I had been temporarily living. I got to the hotel, realised it was the wrong one, so ordered a taxi to the correct one, and the next day was my induction training.

My induction training lasted two days; Monday and Tuesday, although I didn’t see much of London in that time, so no cool photos to show you guys (sorry!). By Tuesday evening, I was on a flight to Inverness.

Wednesday morning, I started my first day in the office.

I took with me, one medium/large suitcase, my laptop bag and a work laptop bag (which I collected from the induction day).

I have been living out of that suitcase for 6 months!

For the first few weeks, I had planned to get settled at work and get a feel for the area. Once I knew the best area to live, public transport routes (currently car/bike-less, don’t judge!) and how much I could possible afford, I was going to find a nice place to rent.

A few weeks in, I started looking at places, I viewed two flats, and contacted a lot more for other potentials…

Then Covid-19 hit.

Post-Covid-19

For the first few weeks before the UK was put into official lockdown, I was given the option to work from home, the last week before lockdown, I did. I found it cool and novel – I’ve always wanted a remotely working job!

Then lockdown officially started 23rd March. Shops started to shut (except for essential shops). People weren’t allowed out except for 1 hour exercise (this wasn’t set in stone, apparently, but it was ‘advised’ to limit to an hour). We had to have letters to say we were keyworkers if we got stopped by police.

I was classed as a keyworker, but was lucky that I had a company laptop so I could work from ‘home’. And, I was equally lucky that the host of the Airbnb I had booked was more than happy for me to stay with her until lockdown lifted. I pay her a small fee a month, instead of booking continuously through Airbnb – and it works out a lot cheaper.

The novelty of working from home wore off quickly. Especially since I couldn’t go anywhere! I was inside for work. I was inside on days off. Summer came, and I was inside for that too. The only time I could go out was for walks/exercise or shopping. That was the only time I could see bits of Inverness; the area I was really looking forward to exploring! When lockdown restrictions eased a little, I started to go a little further afield. Which is the next section…

University of the Highlands and Islands

This is something that is pretty close to where I have been living for the past six months. When I first moved, pre-Covid-19, I would walk through the grounds to get to the office. Post-Covid-19, I would either walk through to get to Tesco to do my shopping, or just go for a walk to get my hourly exercise.

Although it’s not exactly a destination to pack your bags to go see (unless you’re starting a course there!), it certainly is a lovely place to walk around when the sun is shining!

Culloden Woods and Battlefield

I went to Culloden Woods/Forest a few times, it was suggested to me by a colleague from work. I had no idea what to expect, I couldn’t find any information on it. But, to do something different to my usual walk around the University grounds, I went here on a day off instead.

First time I went, I was happily exploring; following the path, taking in the sights, smells and sounds, and I came across a sign that said ‘Culloden Battlefield Trail’. It didn’t tell me how far it was to the Culloden Battlefield, but I at least figured the walk might be intersting, even if I didn’t walk all the way there. But, I did end up walking all the way to the battlefield!

And, I was glad I went, as although I was only there for a little bit, it was a really interesting site. It’s the site where the Jacobite Rising came to and end in 1745. There is a visitor centre (which was closed due to the lockdown) which holds a cafe, museum and shop, there is an old cottage (Leanach Cottage), clan gravestones and memorial cairn (be careful not to walk on the grass on this bit, there are real remains there – I found that out afterwards and felt really guilty!) and then there is the battlefield itself with the different flags to represent the two sides of the battle, and there are markers dotted around with more information.

Second time I went, I visited more of the woods and forest, this time around it was really foggy and I got some really interesting shots in the fog.

Long walk to North Kessock

I add emphasis on the ‘long walk’ here, because I was out for six hours! I walked all the way from Cradlehall/Westhill, through Inverness City Centre, over the Kessock Bridge and into North Kessock and Craigton… then back again. I was sore for a few days afterwards.

Again, I got some really interesting shots. North Kessock is a lovely little place, right on the edge of Beauly Firth, I found a lovely little swing seat on the edge by some woods, there was a fog coming in which hid part of the Kessock Bridge. I saw a few sights walking through Inverness too.

Inverness Castle and the Islands

When lockdown started to ease, and the shops started to open, I decided to go back into Inverness to do some shopping. But the main part of my walk into Inverness was to see Inverness Castle! No trip to Inverness is complete without at least seeing the Castle!

Unfortunately, the Castle was closed, but not because of Covid, but because it’s undergoing some renovations, so I wasn’t able to go inside. When I get back to the UK after my contract abroad, and if I get my old job back in Inverness, I am looking forward to seeing it again, hopefully go inside this time!

As well as Inverness Castle, I also had a wander along the River Ness. A little further down is what’s called ‘The Islands’ or ‘Ness Islands’, which, as the name suggests, is a colletion of islands on the River Ness. There are a few bridges across them so you can walk along them, and they have a few trees and lights up along them (which I can only imagine look nice in the evening).

Motorbike Ride to Nairnshire

One day, I had the pleasure of catching up with an old friend from college. He was coming up for a tour of Scotland on his motorbike and decided to pop in to see me. He brought his spare motorbike helmet and we took a trip out to see Nairn, an area I had hoped to see when I first moved up, pre-Covid-19. And yes, I am aware there is still a Covid risk, but luckily he had already had Covid and had the anti-bodies. There was no risk of spreading.

We went to Fort George to begin with, it was closed, but we were still able to walk on the pebble beach and around the old Fort. We then got back on the bike and headed to Nairn Beach, where we wandered about, sat and caught up, had lunch and then headed back. We stopped at Sueno’s Stone – a 9th Century Picto-Scottish standing stone, Clava cairns and the viaduct close by.

My next adventure

I can’t talk too much about my next adventure. I have mentioned it a few times, so it’s not exactly a secret. But I don’t want to dedicate a whole blog post to it just yet, as it hasn’t been officially confirmed.

However, I will say; I was recently given the opportunity to go to anther country, with the company I work for!

At the moment there are a few issues with Covid-19; the borders being closed and, I have a few issues with my visa. But when things have been sorted, if I am still able to go, I will give you more updates!

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You can check out my other photos on my Instagram, see the link below.

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Author Interview – S. D. Reed

Hello, my little demons! 😈

The second instalment of Author Interviews is here, and today I have an interview from “a new author on the block,” S. D. Reed!

I really enjoyed this interview, S. D. was a pleasure to talk to, and after speaking to him, I’m really interested in his new book that is coming out! Today is the day the cover, title and release date was annonced, and I have to admit, it looks really good (I’m a little jealous!). See more about it below.

We also seem to have a few similarities with ideas when it comes to writing too, especially question 6 in the interview, this is certainly something I have been doing in my upcoming book, “Rose Garden Sanatorium” and I really like this approach, like we both agreed; it benefits the long-term readers.

Kerwall Town (Out 18th October 2020!)

Before we get into the interview, I first want to plug his book a little. It’ll be rude not to – besides doesn’t the cover look fab?

The novel is set in the late 70’s and is centred on a fictitious failed goverment experimental town that has long since been forgotten. That is until one day when two strangers arrive in town and claim to be the new owners and mayor.

Here’s the synopsis S. D. gave me:

After two strangers appear in the dilapidated town of Kerwall, the lives of every resident change. Members of the community are forced together as the number of bodies and secrets increase with every passing moment. With knowledge as their only tool against the world’s deadliest predator, the hunt for power commences. Kerwall’s hope rests on the shoulders of its youngest residents, forcing them into the depths of the earth, questioning everything they’ve ever known.

Inverview with S.D.

Right, now let’s get into the interview!

What inspired you to start writing?

I don’t think one singular thing inspired me, but rather a collection of things, and I also think it’s been brewing inside me, like I was born to write… does that make sense, or is it too cliché? Well, that’s it anyway. I would watch films and read books, and I was totally immersed. I wanted to do the same for others, to give them hope and escapism in the form of a book.

Do you use a pseudonym? If not, have you considered it?

I do, yeah, just because I feel my novels are more interesting than me. I want them to speak for themselves.

What was your hardest scene to write?

Well, without giving too much away about my debut novel, it was a certain death scene. I didn’t want to write it as I grew so attached to the character, but alas, the book needed one final sacrifice.

What does being a successful author look like to you?

Being Happy, and yes, with a capital ‘H’. Isn’t that what life is all about too? It’s not about the race, it’s about the humans, earth and making a difference. Ultimately, I’d like my novels to make a positive difference in someone’s life. That’s the mark of success to me.

Do you Google yourself?

Ha! I did once and Google didn’t know who I was… Nor did Alexa or Siri.

What is your most unusual writing quirk?

I have two, the first is that I’ll often have a character that enjoys making puns and the second is I work in long term story telling. What this means is, you may not get all the answers in one novel, but you may in another, as all my novels are connected in some way, you just gotta look for them…

Do you have any writing blogs you recommend?

I do indeed! There are so many wonderful writing blogs out there, but it would be remiss of me to not recommend and of course, yours too!! (aww, thanks!)

The ones I can recommend right away:
@PamelaRossAA

@avidbookworm78
@dansbookblog
@FootnotesMgmt
@CanvassartS

What is your favourite word, and why?

So, so many! Right now, it’s a simple one; fantabulous! I just love how positive it sounds. Another favourite is beatific!

Are there any themes in your work you are trying to portray?

I always try to convey a sense of good and evil, and a strong sense of teamwork too, as that’s how I believe we will all achieve things; together.

Is your book “Kerwall Town” based on a real person?

Nope, all my novels are fictitious. But I do do (hehe) an awful lot of research as I write in a lot of different time periods and countries.

If a film were made of your book, who would you cast in the leading roles?

I would LOVE for Debra Jo Rupp, Catherine O’Hare and Tom Holland to be in the leading roles, but who knows. I’d be happy either way, but they would certainly be very cool. Ideally, I would have loved Robin Williams.

What other projects are in the works?

I’ve just started work on my next novel, based in suburbia and most notably, America, and with Foodnotes Management, it’ll be out next year sometime… as will something else…

Do you prefer writing in silence or to music?

I don’t really mind, as long as the music isn’t club level loud, haha.

What would you advise young writers trying to build a publishing history or an author platform?

Stay connected, stay grounded and most importantly, have fun and just beleive in yourself. Write often too, that is the key. It doesn’t have to be a lot either, just often to keep the practice up.

Thanks, S.D! It’s been a pleasure.

Please do go check him out, here are the links to his website and social media handles:

sd-reed.com
Insta: sdreedauthor
Twitter: S.D.Reed.Author
Facebook: S D Reed

~~~

Don’t forget to like, reblog, share, comment and/or follow! 😊

thegirlwhowhispered.com

facebook.com/TheGirlWhoWhispered
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Goodbye Goldi-locks

Well, they’re not gold, my locks, but it’s catchy, don’t you think?

…Yes, hello, my little demons! 😈

You might be following me on social media and have already seen that I have had my hair cut off! …It’s short!

….Is it suddenly cold or is it me?

I had the intention of getting my hair cut short anyway as I am moving to a hot country in the next few months (thats another story, watch this space!), I had booked myself into The Hair Chair in Lanark, after going down to see my parents, and it was the salon’s suggestion to donate my hair to charity!

What a fantastic idea!

So, I got the two ladies to photograph the progress (thanks, girls!) and then style it into something cool (in both senses of the word!)

As I don’t live in the area anymore, having moved to Inverness for work (yes, I have a full-time job that I love as well as writing!), I had to take my locks with me and post them from there.

… I must admit, it was a little weird having a little paper bag with hair in it!

When I got back to Inverness, I got in touch with The Little Princess Trust to ask about the process (I don’t currently have access to a printer, so I had to put a hand-written note in with my hair!) and they were extremely lovely to speak to.

So, I wrote them a letter, wrapped up my hair in a plastic bag to keep dry and popped the plaits into a padded envelope.

Yes, the envelope is being reused, I had the intention of buying a brand new envelope when I went shopping last, but after forgetting to pick one up (although, I seemed to remember to pick up a motorcycle magazine!) I decided to reuse one I already had – I figured it was more environmentally friendly and I saved my pennies (ha!)

A few days later (unfortunately I couldn’t get to the post office while working – awkward hours!) I decided to venture out into the outside world, taking a trek down to the local Tesco’s where the nearest post office is located.

Okay, I cheated taking that photo of my legs, the first one came out blurry and awkward, so I had to stand still on the pavement… I must have looked a right idiot standing like that while I photographed my legs.

I know, why take a photo at all? Well, then I wouldn’t have this funny thing to tell you… and brain decided it would be a good idea… I’m still not convinced! But you all get to see my cool boots!

Anyway… back to my hike… trek… okay, short walk… to the post office! It was touch and go for a while, when it started to rain…

This photo is not sponsored by Cranfield University… don’t look at the logo! Stop it!

But I finally made it to Tesco’s!

I did a little bit of shopping to get myself some dinner (and a little treat for myself). Running up and down the shop like a mad woman… this way to the chicken… this way to the tea bags… oh I need… better go this way… ooo, what about cake….? Is this way to the… nope… okay, screw it… ooo…. what about if I got some decent instant coffee… HOW much?! Okay, tills…

When shopping was done. I was free to continue on my quest… to the post office!

And alas!… posted my hair off to The Little Princess Trust!

After weighing the parcel and seeing if it fits the “large envelope” sizing (it didn’t!), the conversation with the lady on the desk was funny:

Her: “Is there anything flammable in this?”
Me: “No, it’s just hair.” 😊
Her: ….
Her: *puts the stamp on the parcel*
Me: ….
Her: *finally reads the address*
Her: Oh! *points to the lable*
Me: Just clicked, has it?

Hahaha!

She then proceeds to ask me how long it was before and praises the charity.

I leave feeling pretty good about myself. Even though it’s raining again – and harder this time.

BUT, this happened…

Look closely, you can just about make out the rainbow.

taste the rainbow

…..I think it’s a sign.

… that it had been raining while sunny….

Anyway, when I got back, I made a well deserved cup of tea and sat down with my cup cake I bought from Tescos.

My little adventure to Tesco’s complete.
Now I can relax.

Oh, and I’ll be keeping a close eye on my email inbox over the next week or so, as they apparently will be sending me a certificate! Win!

Update 18/09/2020: I received my certificate yesterday, check it out at the end of the blog! 🙂

Thanks for coming on this little journey with me! I’m really glad my long hair, that had been annoying me for ages, will light up a little girls face one day, when it’s finally made into a wig!

And I love my new hairstyle… so, big shout out to the girls at The Hair Chair in Lanark, Scotland!

~~~

Don’t forget to like, reblog, share, comment and/or follow! 😊

thegirlwhowhispered.com

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Touring America for Charity!

A few friends will remember that I had planned a trip around America and Canada for a charity. I was going to go to Canada first, find some work, save up, and then travel around, maybe even visiting other countries. All doing this to raise awareness and funds for a charity.

I was deadly serious about it too, I had bought my Working Holiday Visa to Canada, got police certificates for it, set up a page, I even got a few people invested, including a few celebrities – at least they shared my posts.

But, due to personal reasons, I had to cancel it all. And I felt defeated that I failed and let people down.

I was also met with a lot of negative criticism from friends and family. “Why don’t you do something smaller?” “Do you even have a plan?” I had lots of people think that I was just after money from them when I asked for support, but in reality I just wanted them to help share the word, to show that they were rooting for me and wanted me to succeed.

I lost friends over it. And I felt like I had proved them right; I failed.

I never stopped thinking about it, what I missed out on, the friends I lost, it still eats away at me. But I also never stopped believing that one day, I would do it! I’ve always been one with big ideas, and yes, a lot of times they don’t work out, but I also believe that people can do big and amazing things if they work and persist. And I want to be one of those that didn’t give up, and made a different!

So, I am planning it all again!

This time I plan to go to America on a food, bike and car tour, raising awareness and funds for charities that support world hunger, mental health and/or child abuse.

Most people know I love my cars, having tinkered with most of the cars I have owned, from basic maintenence such as services or timing belt changes, to going mad and stripping it for track. I also love my bikes, having wanted to get my bike licence for years but keep putting it off due to the costs. I love the naked, deep sounding Harley-Davidsons and Triumphs (the Triumph Bobber Black is on my Christmas list!)…and of course, who doesn’t like food?

As for the charities, mental health is extremely important to me, as I have had, and to some small extent, still suffer with mental health issues myself. I had selective mutism when I was a child (to read more about this, I wrote a post about it here), which caused no end of probelms growing up, even to this day it causes a few issues. I then developed depression and anxiety because of it.

And of course, stopping world hunger and child abuse are both important to me too.

For this trip, I plan to set up a YouTube channel to document it, setting little challenges for myself along the way, so that people can watch my progress. I plan to visit sites of interest, places like the Harley-Davidson Museum, the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah, watch a Monster Truck show, try out an electric motorbike, eat at the best food joints, whether that’s street food, restaurants, maybe even try wild hunting, I plan to find the best roads to travel down – yes, Route 66 may very well be on the list, maybe even meet a few interesting people – I have a few in mind, if I can pull it off.

It’s going to be big, requiring a lot of planning and it’s going to cost a lot, I know that. It might not work out the way I plan, but either way, I plan on going one way or another. I have to.

I also may not be going alone. As I have been discussing the idea with a friend of mine who is also very interested in going. He’s a massive foodie and car nut himself, and loves America!

Planning might take a while, as there is a lot to sort, and I have just signed a 12 month contract with work (that’s a story for another day!), so I have plenty of time to plan, make contacts and save. I also have yet to get my bike licence! I also plan on getting a few sponsors, such as travel companies, bike/car companies, even clothing companies, if I can.

Either way, I am extremely excited to start off this new adventure, to visit more of America, experience new things, meet new people, and most importantly… make a difference!

Black Lives Matter!

I know I’m a little late to the game, but I really wanted to think about how to write this post, make a decent attempt at writing something about this sensitive topic. But I also couldn’t sit on my arse any longer and not say something.

I have seen a few actors, singers, comedians, and many others who are in the public eye getting slated for either not saying something, or when they do say something, saying it ‘too late’. I don’t consider myself famous, but I am in the public eye at least a little bit, so I feel I need to say my bit and show support.

This too might be late, but I, like many others, have tried to find the best way to talk about it. I probably could write this much better too, but I feel like it needs to be said.

I am writing this for my black friends. My black friend’s friends and family. The black friends I will make in the future. The black kids who will grow up and deserve a life without oppression and discrimination. To the black community as a whole all over the world that I may never have the privilege to meet.

I am with you, my black brothers and sisters. Black lives matter!

In this post, I am going to talk about why it’s important to stand up for black lives, why these protests are important, why right now we cannot say ‘All lives matter’, my thoughts on George Floyd, police in both the United States and the United Kingdom, the vandalism, the tearing down of statues and how to help.

Why do we need ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests?

I know I am not the best person to speak; I am a white woman living in the United Kingdom. I am not black, I am not even in the United States where the majority of the discimination is happening. Although, I have heard there is still discrimination/racism here in the UK.

But the fact I am white should, hopefully, speak more, because more white people DO need to speak up, that’s half the problem in the first place, white people aren’t speaking up for the injustice.

We also need to stop the discrimination, the oppression, the hate, the racism towards my black brothers and sisters. They deserve to live the way they want to live. They deserve to live without judgement, without hate, without being oppressed.

Why not ‘All Lives Matter’?

I saw a post on Facebook that summed this up really well, a young girl was holding a sign at a protest that said:

We said –> Black Lives Matter
Never Said –> Only Black Lives Matter
We Know –> All Lives Matter
We just need your help with #BlackLivesMatter
For black lives are in danger!

So, yes, of course, all lives matter. All lives DO matter. White, black, Asian, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, LGBT+, non-religious, etc. They all matter. I get annoyed when I hear racism towards my Muslim brothers and sisters. I get annoyed when I hear racism towards my Chinese/Asian brothers and sisters. I get annoyed when I hear women are still being treated differently. I get annoyed when my brothers and sisters from the LGBT+ community are being oppressed, hated, even killed!

But that’s not the POINT. The point with #BlackLivesMatter, just like where the feminist movement came from, something needs to be done to stop the racism direct and indirect discimination towards our black brothers and sisters.

There are separate movements, issues and support for the other communities. #BlackLivesMatter is specifically to help the black community.

The ‘All Lives Matter’ tags, speeches and movements are seen as another form of oppression to the black community. Let’s share #BlackLivesMatter to start a discourse, to stop the discimination in the black community so that we can finally say All Lives Matter. But until then, we cannot.

And yes, let’s also stand up for our Asian, Muslim, LGBT+ brothers and sisters too! These are also issues, and we need to stand up just as much for them as we do our black brothers and sisters!

But George Floyd was a criminal!

I’m not going to agree or disagree, I don’t know George Floyd, nor do I know whether he is/was a criminal. I have heard he was, and I also heard he was on drugs. I have also heard that he was accused of buying cigarettes with counterfeit money.

Does that mean he should have been killed? Does that mean the police officer’s actions are justified? No. Of course not.

Never mind that his past criminal actions shouldn’t define him, certainly if he’s been through the system and has paid his dues. If he was arrested due to new criminal activity, or due to his drug issue, then he should have a right to be put on trial. Of course, I don’t know the US legal system, but I’m pretty sure death by a knee on the neck isn’t part of it.

And if he was handled in such a way for suspected counterfeit money? Is that fair? Or excessive use of force? Was he really in possession of counterfeit money? Or was the shop owner racist and assumed he was?

Okay, George Floyd may not have been completely innocent, he may not exactly be a saint, but he certainly didn’t deserve to die because of it.

Plus, we cannot assume things based on hearsay. Look at the facts. He died in police custody. He died from the knee on the neck. If Joe Bloggs down the road heard someone say that George Floyd was a criminal, and told you, who’s to say that it is true? How much is true? I’m sorry, but if I was to put that in a research article and reference Joe Bloggs, I’d probably get a huge fail for it.

What about the white men killed by cops?

Yes, absolutely, there clearly is a problem with the policing system in the United States. Too many people are being shot or dying in police custody needlessly. I completely agree! Something needs to be done about the policing system in the United States!

But that is a separate issue. Hopefully, from these protests something will be done. Better training, perhaps.

From what I can gather, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I see the black community seeing this death as the last straw. They have got to the point that they are tired of their voices not being heard, from being oppressed, disciminated, and so on, and George Floyd’s death was the last straw.

Plus, I have heard that there are more black deaths in the hands of the police, than there are white people in the United States.

Here’s a link to an article I found: https://journalistsresource.org/studies/government/criminal-justice/deaths-police-custody-united-states/

A quote from the article: “It finds that black people were most likely to die in police custody.”

And, I was very shocked to see that it isn’t just the United States, statistics show that black people are more likely to die in police custody in the United Kingdom too.

Here’s a link to an article: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/jun/11/black-deaths-in-police-custody-the-tip-of-an-iceberg-of-racist-treatment

And yes, okay, there are some criticisms of the actual references I gave; they’re not peer reviewed research articles, although the first one is paraphrasing from a real research article, but it at least shows you there may be an issue and something needs to be done!

Is it right to be loot and vandalize in protests?

It depends.

Looting, I would say no. That is just exploiting a situation for your own gain.

But vandalism, I can see why people do. Of course, I dislike vandalism, I dislike the idea of trying to fight hate with hate, or causing unneeded destruction, especially to properties or businesses that had nothing to do with the oppression, causing more fear and hate.

But, I understand it. Imagine you were in a work place and you were being disciminated against because you had a different eye colour. Snide remarks, jokes that you don’t find funny, being left out of meetings or social gatherings, being given the shitty jobs to do, missing out on a promotion, and you hate it. You go to complain, but there is no system and no one listens to you. Days, weeks, months, years pass and you try each time to voice your concerns, to get people to stop, to show them you’re no different to they are, that you have the same likes they do, same interests, are just as capable as they are. Then the years of discimination gets the better of you and you lash out.

That’s what I think is happening right now. And this is why we need to speak up for our black brothers and sisters to help.

I don’t agree with the vandalism, but if all other options have failed, then yes, this is probably their last resort.

Is it right to pull down statues?

This was all sparked off by a statue being removed and thrown into a harbour in Bristol: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/12/opinion/edward-colston-statue-racism.html

Was this right? Should they have been allowed to do this?

Again, it depends.

The statue was of Edward Colston, he was a 17th-century slave trader. Between 1672 and 1689, his Royal African Company shipped 100,000 enslaved people from West Africa to the Americas and the Caribbean. Over 20,000 people died of disease and dehydration, their bodies thrown into the ocean. Colson’s statue was engraved with ‘…one of the most virtuous and wise sons’. People have been petitioning to have the statue removed for ages (I’m not sure how long, but my money is on before the protests). So, yeah, I think they were right to pull this down. And apt to have it thrown into the harbour too.

So, in answer to that question, first look at; was the statue of a person who was a slave trader? Did the person get his fame for the slave trade? Was he a horrible person? Then, yes, probably best to take down the statue.

But, was the statue of a man who faught in a war for his country? Died for his country? But might have had some ties to the slave trade in a small way? Then no, probably shouldn’t be taken down.

Of course, this is just a very basic idea. It’s not going to be straight forward as that.

A lot of the United States and United Kingdom (and other countries), history is based around the slave trade. It’s an unfortunate part of our history. I don’t think every statue or memorial should be taken down just because of links to the slave trade. I believe statues that commemorate only actions in the slave business should.

Statues of people mean that we worship or look up to them. It’s a show of power. A person who built his/her power based upon the slave trade or other forms of suffering, shouldn’t be looked up to. Thus, taking down the statue is a good idea. But maybe replacing it with something else to commemorate why the statue was taken down, explain the history of that person and why we no longer accept it.

But statues of people we commemorate that only have small links to the slave trade, that represent other aspects of the person, like his service in a war for example, I don’t believe should be taken down.

We need to remember our history, remember the good and the bad. So that we learn from our mistakes. I don’t believe we should forget what happened, but I also don’t believe the statues of slave traders should be worshipped either.

What can I do to help?

The first and foremost you can do, is stand up and show your support. If you can’t actively attend a protest, then show your support in other ways. Post it on social media, tell your black friends, and be there to listen and learn.

Learn is the most valuable thing you can do. Even if you think you’re not racist, you still need to educate yourselves. There is such a thing as indirect racism and uncouscious bias.

I am still learning. You should too.

Here are a few links that I just found (I know, I need to do some more research myself) that you might useful:

https://blacklivesmatter.com/

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/black-lives-matter-charity-donate-uk-stephen-lawrence-stop-hate-a9544786.html

https://www.timeout.com/things-to-do/how-to-support-black-lives-matter

If you have any more charities, or links to where you can help, please do let me know and I will update this section.

Summary

I’m not sure how else to end this blog post, there are still a lot of things I feel I want to say. It’s a complicated topic, but I hope I at least voiced my thoughts on a few of the more relevant ones.

I will end this, however, with this small plea: please stand up for #BlackLivesMatter.

And please, do not fight hate with hate.

(and yes, also stand up for other lives! Let’s stop the hate, discrimination, oppression of all!)

I am sorry if I have said anything that is offensive, anything that isn’t politically correct, or incorrect, I am still learning.

Also, please note, any rasist, violent or unneeded negative comments will be deleted. I am happy for a discource into the subject, that’s what the world needs, a discourse to find a way to end the issue and to educate, but anything that is just unnecessary hate will not be tolerated. Thank you.

I’m moving to the Highlands!

Hello my little demons,

Some of you may know that I have been looking for work, and it’s been a tough few months trying to get back on the career ladder. But this week, all my hard work has paid off!

And, what better place to move to? The Highlands!

81682024_2912592225633718_7654147362360655872_n
(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: somewhere in the Cairngorms, Scotland.

I took a little trip up there for an interview, and from where I currently am, it was a long train journey, yet I managed to do it within a day. But what a long day that was!

I set off early in the morning, got on the train, headed for Edinburgh first, had a quick train transfer and then up through the Highlands, arriving just before lunch time.

82453141_2912592158967058_2641919286683107328_n(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: inside the train, somewhere in the Cairngorms, Scotland.

The train took overall just over 4 hours to get to Inverness, where my interview was. I took some sandwhiches I pre-bought the day before, and a load of sweets to keep me entertained. I forgot my magazine I bought as I rushed out of the door to get my first train but luckily took my charger for my phone, so I could prepare on the train for the interview and just watching the world go by.

82220002_2912592265633714_4537422305847934976_n(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: Dalwhinnie Train Station, Scotland.

As the stops when by, I wondered what the areas were like, and wondered about the possibility of one day getting off at one of them to go explore. Aviemore is high on my list of stops, and Dalwhinnie was certainly a possibility, being a fan of the whisky.

When I finally arrived at my destination, I was there a little early. Giving myself enough time to get off, stretch my legs, have a quick look around if the weather was kind to me, have a tea-break and then find the bus to my interview.

81752257_2912592322300375_7767083402854924288_n(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: Victorian Market, Inverness, Scotland.

I headed straight to the Victorian Market opposite the train station, after doing a small bit of research into the area before hand. I figured that was the best place to find a range of cafe’s and it was indoors so I could escape the cold and/or rain when I get off the train.

It was smaller inside than I was expecting, but it was a cute little place. There were a few cafe’s inside, I found one where I sat upstairs in a little section and relaxed on a comfortable sofa for a few minutes with a pot of tea while googling where to get the bus from.

81877693_2912592472300360_8765863633629478912_n(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: Pot of tea at a Cafe in the Victorian Market, Inverness, Scotland.

After a long break warming up with a pot of tea and finding where the street is to get my bus, I decided to get up a few minutes early and go for a wander around Inverness, at least down to the River Ness as it wasn’t that far from where I was.

But as soon as I got out of the safety of the covered market, I realised it was raining – was a little difficult to know that where I was sat!

But I decided I had already made the decision to go, so I was going!

82181985_2912592582300349_1512224243658522624_n(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: River Ness, Inverness, Scotland.

The weather was terrible, it was freezing with a bitterly cold wind going through the town and it was raining. But I still managed to get to the river to have a very quick look and snap a few photos.

I didn’t stay there long though, as I decided to go back, see if there was an earlier bus or find somewhere else to go get a drink and sit down, or at least find somewhere warmer!

In the end I decided to just get on the bus and head to my interview.

I didn’t see much else of Inverness, I literally had my interview, got back on the bus and was lucky to get on the next train back home. I didn’t even stop to have dinner (I had a left over sandwhich I ate on the train!)

But, my hard work paid off… the long train journey and the cold Highland weather was worth it… I got a call the next Monday saying they’d like to offer me a position.

Now I’m just waiting for my start date so I can book temporary accommodation.

Keep an eye out for future travel posts from the Highlands!

~~~

If you liked this blog post, please do check out my others:

Living in Australia – Part 2: My first Christmas away from my parents (Christmas Special!)

A small trip to Reading – Wokefield Mansion

Douglas, South Lanarkshire – A Hidden Gem

Living in Australia – Part 1: Breakup from hell and Brisvegas

Best places to visit in South Lanarkshire

Rose Garden Sanatorium – Chapter 5

Happy Birthday! But why do we celebrate?

Remember, Remember, the 5th of November…

The HALO Trust: Safe Steps – Challenge Complete!

I won! I came first in the Earnesty Writer’s Awards 2018 Paranormal Genre!

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