Hello my little demons, I interrupt your Sunday with another Author Interview…
I also want to apologise for missing posts, work has been getting progressively busier and more stressful, so on my days off I tend to find a dark corner to hide in…
But, I hope this new blog post makes up for it. Because today I have an interview with another fellow author, one who has quite a few similar interests as I do… and I don’t mean that we’re both authors… Say hello to Marcus Liotta!
About Marcus Liotta
As well as being an author, Marcus, who is originally from Chicago, IL, works in Information Technology (as he calls himself; a ‘Technocrat’), defining himself as a Programmer, Hacker and Social Engineer, as well as a public speaker (rather him than me!)
He also seems to have a long list of hobbies and skills, from Philosophy, Psychology, Archery and Survivalism. He even has some legal skills (I feel the need to explain he’s not BAR registered, just to avoid any future confusion).
Although Marcus has managed to scramble together words into stories a few times, from novellas to short stories (I’ll leave some of his links below for you to check out), but I just wanted to quickly tell you about his most recent works, ‘Adrift’.
I’ve always been a fan of sci-fi, especially if it entails space and all things thus contained in space (okay, I like spaceships! There, I said it!) and this one really has the feel of the ‘Expanse’ series (written by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck – pen name James S.A. Corey – also a TV series), I mean, you read the synopsis and the interview below and you tell me…
The silence of space can be overwhelming. It can drive a man to madness. When one is consumed by the Empty, a region beyond the reaches of known star maps, there is no rescue. In the vast Empty, nothing can be trusted. A scavenging crew discovers this first hand when they ransack an aged provisioning vessel. Far from any possible civilization, they encounter something more deadly than they could have ever imagined. They should have known better. Often, this place is where starships go to die.
What’s your current book about?
My most recent work, “Adrift“, is a Dark Science Fiction novella about the perils of space travel. A scavenging crew finds more than they are prepared for when they board a derelict vessel, one who contains a deadly secret.
Can you tell me a little about the main character(s)?
The main characters include a muscular blonde woman who doesn’t take heat from anyone, yet also finds herself treating a flying utility drone as a puppy dog. The drone, a massive human-sized machine with sleek metal of a black obsidian sheen, it always hovers nearby and comes when called; but that glowing red eye never blinks.
What got you into writing?
I was always pushed to write when I was very young, given my active imagination. Later, I continued to write short stories and participated in Dungeons & Dragons (or other role playing games), as a Game Master – crafting stories of Monsters, Magic, and Mayhem. That was really enjoyable and kept me writing in my spare time.
Do you use a pseudonym? If not, have you considered it?
No I do not. I considered it but the negatives seemed to outweigh any positives.
How do you deal with criticism?
I assume the critic is correct in some perspective and considered how to better my writing. If someone responds very poorly, they may not be interested in providing criticism but rather use the review process or a twitter / author contact response as an output for their own internalized-anger. It is important to accept and understand that many who are unhappy project internalized-anger onto others, and into much that they do. Once one realizes this, it is easy to accept another individual for who they are and what they do, while not becoming annoyed or aggravated by their words.
Do you play music while you write – and if so, what’s your favourite?
Yes and no. I often write in silence, but at times when specific scenes are benefitted by listening to a theme song for them, I will listen to a specific set of music for the section. Often, this is non-voice and dramatic music intended for a specific sort of action or dark (creepy) sequence.
What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?
“A Wizard of Earthsea“, by Ursula Kay Leguin. This book is an amazing adventure and depicts the struggles of Good and Evil, in vivid detail. It is a perfect book to demonstrate the need to accept the consequences for one’s actions, while learning how to cope with the grief of both failure and how to face one’s own demons.
What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?
A story that can steal one away from the world and wrap them in a newfound reality is important. This means that integrating a Good Plot, Interesting Characters, Twists the reader never saw coming, and being Consistent in a Story is key. Consistency means both keeping character behavior the same unless some development would sensibly change them, but also not pursuing a plot which would create holes in the story arc. At the same time, consistency also means not introducing new plot mechanics which could cause a reader to lose their ability to suspend disbelief (and take them out of the reality a writer creates.)
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I’m a Hacker and Programmer, so often my hobbies revolve around code and computers.
Do you write every single day?
Yes, but not always on a specific project. I work on my blog, poetry, various short story concepts or stories for my paintings I often post. When I am working toward publishing a project I absolutely work on it every single day, whether it is writing or editing.
Where do you get your ideas?
I take pieces of our own reality and twist them, shaping them into something that is similar but not as we would normally see..
Are there any themes in your work you are trying to portray?
I love detailing the conflict between Good and Evil, and how one must fight to be a better person.
Do you have any projects you’re working on at the moment?
I am working on a horrific book relating to a small town and terrifying ordeal that some must endure. A newcomer brings all sorts of terrible reasons to fear an otherwise uneventful town. I’m also working on another piece relating to Fantasy; both Magic and Dragons.
If you would like to learn more about Marcus and his works, or follow him on social media, here are a few links:
This blog post is a little different today, and I know I said ‘self-diagnosing’, there’s a lot of issues surrounding self-diagnosing medical/psychological/neurological issues, but bare in with me…
I had Selective Mutism…
You may already know that I had Selective Mutism as a child. I haven’t been officially diagnosed with it, but I’m 100% sure I had it as a child (and still suffer slightly with it today – either I clam up and don’t talk, or someone says/does something that is a ‘trigger’ and sets off an anxiety attack). If you didn’t know, I recommend you read my blog post here and check out my very first video on my new YouTube channel here.
Now, the reason why I haven’t been diagnosed is simple… it was missed. Instead, I was thought to be ‘shy’ in school, which is true, I was shy. Painfully. But, I also believe it was missed because there wasn’t enough education into it back in the 90s and early 2000s when I was at school. And the reason why it hasn’t been diagnosed, or at least officially put on my medical records NOW is because of three reasons;
1. I only learnt about it recently, say in the last few years. I stumbled across it actually. I can’t remember where it was I first saw/heard about Selective Mutism, but something in the name made me think “can it be?”. Before then, I never knew it was a ‘thing’ – I thought I was different, special, ‘odd’, that I was the only one who suffered the way I did as a child. Then, one day I came across it, read up about it, and went, Oh. My. God. That’s a THING?! So, yeah!
2. I kinda grew out of it. I developed SM (Selective Mutism) when I was at Primary School (about the age of 4 or 5) and it got worse as I became a teenager through Secondary School. But when I went to college, I went to a completely different college than all my cohort at school so I was no longer around those kids that new me as The Girl Who Whispered and I managed to break the cycle – if I didn’t, I probably would be still suffering today.
3. I learnt to mask. It took me YEARS, but I learnt to mask, hide, pretend I didn’t have it and learnt to fake confidence around people. I was ashamed of having it. I was ashamed of what people would think about me if they found out how weird I was in school, that I didn’t talk, that I whispered. So, I would mask that I had it, to the point of pretending that part of my life didn’t exist. When people would reminisce over their school days and say how they wish they were in school still, I would disagree, saying I hated school, but never said why. It was also hard to explain why I have a fear of certain things – one for example, I HATE people whispering to me now, because that was one thing the bullies in school would do, but try explain that to someone that doesn’t know about your background and you don’t WANT them to know.
It’s not that I don’t want it on my record, I just haven’t yet had chance to really talk to the doctors about it. I struggle with talking to the doctors, not only because I have moved around a LOT over the last few years, but because I have had some very bad experiences in the past. Plus, with the whole Covid situation at the moment, I find it difficult to go to the doctors – I can’t just walk in and ask for an appointment and I’m absolutely TERRIBLE on the phone (I had recently had to email my new doctors surgery to ask for an appointment, but they have just emailed me back asking me to ring them – urgh! Need to find the courage to do that!)
Is this Autism…?
Which kinda brings me onto my own self-diagnosis of Autism…. because SM is a SIGN of Autism… especially in women. So, when I learnt that… I did some digging.
Firstly, I want to apologise if I say anything that may offend anyone, I am still new to Autism, I’m still trying to understand it and I may get things wrong, or may say something that isn’t politically correct. Please bare in with me, I mean no offense. I know at least that some people do not like to be defined by their autism, there is a difference between being ‘a person with autism’ and an ‘autistic person’. I’m new to this concept and am still trying to get my head around it. I will probably use these interchangable and I do not mean offense. I’m still unsure how to define myself – and if I should even be using the term undiagnosed.
Now, I knew about Autism, I’ve heard about it, I’ve seen it, but my understanding of it was HUGELY WRONG. So, yeah, I used to think there were a few things that I saw in myself, but I never really associated myself with Autism until very recently (in the last few weeks).
Another sign of Autism, I have recently found out is masking. Which I do! A LOT! And I didn’t/don’t even realise I do! Masking is the ability to mimic non-autistic traits, or social interaction to hide the fact you have Autism. I’ve heard this is more prevalent in women with Autism, as opposite to men. I used to say that because of my SM, I didn’t learn social skills, but I’m now starting to think that, yeah, the SM didn’t help matters, but actually, my social skills were actually a result of Autism. In fact, I didn’t even realise this was a thing until recently either, because I just thought “this is how we learn” to socialise. Nope, it’s just me, being different.
There are a few other signs/criteria for autism, and more specifically ones found in women, and I will break those down, focusing on the main ones for women, because I want to show you why I have decided to self-diagnose myself with autism…
I took the following list from a YouTuber (shout out to Dan @TheAspieWorld, thanks, dude!) which I will post the video down below for you to watch. He has been diagnosed with asperger’s (which is technically Autism, but that’s a whole other discussion that I personally do not 100% understand yet, so will refrain from saying anything and getting it wrong…)
Autism in Women
Lack Of Eye Contact
✔️ Yep. I used to HATE looking people in the eye. I felt it was too intrusive. I felt like I was staring. Being rude. I also felt uncomfortable when people would look at me too long too, so if I felt uncomfortable, I would think others would too. I wouldn’t know how long to look, do I glance to make them aware I know they’re there and talking to me? How long is too long until it becomes weird and awkward? But, I learnt that eye contact was a ‘typical’ thing to do – so I had to learn how to make and keep eye contact. Some days, though, if you catch me on a bad day, or I’m a little too intimidated by the person, I will struggle – One of my coping mechanisms for those days, I find something else to put my eyes on.
Also, I am an anxious person so I tend to be hyper-aware of my surroundings, and even if I’m not hyper-aware, I am easily distracted by sounds, sights, lights, smells, etc, so if I look like my eyes are darting to things like that… it might not be that I’m struggling to keep eye contact, just something shiny has caught my attention.
✔️ Yep. Difficulty starting conversations (I hate small talk) and keeping them going. Although, this isn’t always the case, if you start talking to me about something I am interested in, passionate about (I can talk for hours about my book, for example) then I can talk so fast, you wouldn’t be able to keep up. I also struggle to understand what is oversharing, what is undersharing, when to stop talking if I’m talking too much, when to ask for help, and what the correct ‘socially accepted’ response is. I used to get people asking me how I am… and I would answer truthfully (“I’m terrible today, I just had a bad day with…”) and apparently people aren’t actually interested in knowing how you are… apparently this is a typical ‘greeting’ for some people. So, I learnt to say (“I’m good, thanks, how are you?”).
Introverted Personality But Outgoing In General
✔️ Yep. I have said to a few people before I am introverted (I like my own company) but I LOVE going outside. Maybe not to bars, clubs, restaurants, etc. Because they can be too loud, or busy, or have too many people. But I love the outside/nature (as long as it’s not too cold, but that’s a story for another day!) I love going out somewhere new, taking my camera, exploring the sites, smells, sounds, etc. I do also prefer going out with people… usually just the odd one or two people that I get on with, as that tends to help with my confidence, but if it’s someone I don’t know well, I’m too worried about how to act around them that I don’t tend to enjoy myself too much.
✔️ I feel personally attacked. Let me just hide my Pokemon collection… My postcard collection… And my collection of bad habits… okay, maybe not including in this category… But yeah, I have been and still am a collector… and a hoader. I also go through phases. I had a large collection of bouncy balls, keyrings, postcards (which I regret getting rid of), bugs (yep, I was that kid! Sorry, mum!), I even came back home from a holiday with a new collection of pretty shells at one point. Unfortunately, I either stupidly got rid of a load of stuff, was asked to get rid of stuff (i.e. moving house) or I lost interest in that thing (I mean, why bouncy balls? What was I going to do with them?) but I have always been one to collect things, to the point of obsession. Currently, I am obsessed with collecting Pokemon on my Pokemon Go app, recently re-started a Pokemon card collection and re-started my postcard collection too. I also, not sure if it’s really an obsessive collection as such, but I HAVE to get something as a memento from where I went – a little gift to myself from a holiday destination, postcard is a must of course, but maybe a painting, or an ornament, heck, even a stone! And LOTS of photos! I also hoard, I’m terrible for it… I don’t like throwing something out if it may be useful in some way – tin cans I can upcycle, jars to store things in, a pretty candy wrapper for no other reason but because it’s pretty – and then I throw away because it’s technically rubbish, ribbons that I think will be useful for something, somewhere, someday and left forgotten in a draw, buttons… because you never know when you’re going to need a bright purple button from a cardigan you had when you were twelve… birthday cards, old electronics because you might want to learn how it works or try to fix it… boxes… does a collection of unironed clothes also count, or is that just me being lazy and hating ironing?
✔️ I have already mentioned this previously, so I don’t feel the need to expand too much on this one. It’s obvious this means Selective Mutism, right?
Masking To Meltdown
✔️ Now, what this one means, is that you mask so often, to the point of exhaustion and then something tips you and BOOM meltdown. If I had seen this without the context that Dan said in his video, I probably would have disagreed with this one. But when he mentioned about the meltdown over something simple like realising someone has eaten all the chocolate sauce and you couldn’t have ice-cream and chocolate sauce… yeah… I realised that was me too. I may be fine one day, have the ‘issue’ not bothering me (Oh, you’re going to replace it… okay, that’s fine!)… but if I’ve had a bad day, or I’m exhausted from masking in a social situation all day… I would have meltdowns over something minor. (IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD!) It could be from moving something I own. Breaking something. Eating my chocolate in the fridge. It could even be just asking me to do something simple. I can have a meltdown. And it physically hurts… I mean, seriously feels like an anxiety attack. It’ll also take me a while to calm down, and it’s seriously difficult to be around me because I can either get mad and angry, or I can turn the opposite and get depressed.
Shy And Quiet
✔️ This one is a yes and no answer. But only because I struggle to know whether I was actually shy, or if it’s my SM and/or social skills OR if it’s my masking, but I used to define myself as ‘shy and quiet’ but less so now because I have had to ‘force’ myself to be confident and outgoing to ‘fit in’ and be ‘professional’. It’s difficult, it’s exhausting, and there are times when I just cannot be bothered to be social as I’m so tired from it, so I will become quiet. But I’m not sure if the shy part actually defines me. I guess you could say I used to be, I am nervous in social situations, especially if I don’t know you or there is a big group or I’m put on the spot to talk (please make ice-breakers illegal!) but I feel as if that goes hand-in-hand with the selective mutism checkpoint.
So, yeah, reading through that, it makes me realise I hit all of those points. But, I want to point out there are others, some I agree with, such as the sensory overload issues – only today I had to move my feet from the floor of my flat because downstairs was making noises that was vibrating up through the floor. Inability to listen to people (I find it easier to read conversations/information than listen… it will seriously not go in!). Inability to express or understand emotions (well, there are some I understand such as anger or disgust, but others not so much – I’m really not good with knowing if someone is flirting!)
But, other points I don’t agree with; some Autistic people apparently are good with numbers, I’m not, I am TERRIBLE with numbers, my brain just cannot understand them, I’m terrible with dates of birth, for example (but I’m good at problem solving, I loved algebra in school and found statistics fascinating!). Some Autistic people have great memories, I haven’t, mine is terrible, remembering someone’s name, remembering what I did yesterday, apparently this is a trait from mental health issues too though. Some are geniuses, and yeah, I have a few qualifications, but I do not see myself up there on the genius scale at all – I had to fight to get my MSc, I nearly failed it!
I also, have heard that women with autism can be misdiagnosed with ADHD (or vise versa) and one of the traits in ADHD is the inability to stick to one task, having to do things all at once… that’s me too. I also get distracted easily, by something shiny, or something out of place, something wonky (my damn picture on the wall keeps moving, guys!) But I feel I relate more to Autism than I do ADHD, plus, if I don’t finish a task… I get nervous and frustrated. If I start a task, I have to finish it. It’s hard to let go.
Should I self-diagnose?
But, why have I self-diagnosed myself? Why did I decide in the last few weeks to just go ahead and start saying I am Autistic without getting officially diagnosed? Well, because it helps me. It helps me understand myself, it helps me try out the label and see how I feel about it, and it helps me explain to others about myself.
One of the things I have always struggled with is getting people to understand me. I remember writing about it in a diary I used to keep once, I was so upset that people didn’t understand me. I couldn’t understand why people struggled. I tried to explain myself all the time. Online. To people’s faces. I would write hand-written letters with all the intention of sending them and chickening out. It was EMOTIONAL. I was more upset about that, than actually keeping friends. And yes, that also upset me. It still does to some extent. I really struggle to make and mostly, keep friends. My MSc was torture for that reason and I ended up struggling with my mental health for a bit too. I also tried too hard to get people to like me, which I think put people off.
I recently spoke out on my Facebook profile, my personal one for my friends and family to see, that I am going through the process of diagnosing with Autism and a realisation hit me… if I get this diagnosis, will people finally accept me? Will they finally understand me? And oof… all the feels… I was emotional again!
I also came across another YouTuber (shout out to Paige Layle) who talks about self-diagnosing and explains why it’s okay to self-diagnose. You can watch it below too, I have included the video at the end of this blog. Yeah, okay, I live in a country with free health care – but believe me guys, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be! (That’s a whole other rant that I will not discuss here!) I will at least say that a lot of people have said it’s difficult to get diagnoses for these things here in the UK. It took me until 2010, when I was in my 20s to get diagnosed with depression (one counsellor even said I was just ‘having a bad day’ after one meeting!). It wasn’t until I moved to Scotland (about 25/26) that they did tests to see if I actually had thyroid issues or vitamin deficiency. Getting a diagnosis for Autism is going to be hard and I’m expecting to get misdiagnosed too!
So, although I am probably going to be referring myself as Autistic from now on, for these reasons I have mentioned, I am still going to push to get a diagnosis. To put my mind at rest – and to have it officially on my record in case I need any extra help in the future (ie. with work or education, which I feel would have benefitted me so much if I had that before!) AND, in the process, I hope my SM will also be diagnosed officially too.
Another thing I hope to get diagnosed is my Fibromyalgia. I’m 90% sure I have it now, as it’s getting worse, but that is also one other thing I have had trouble getting a diagnosis. Again, for my own peace of mind. But, this also is another story, possibly for another blog post!
Lastly, here are the videos I recommend you guys watching:
Dan @TheAspieWorld on the Female Autism Checklist:
Paige Layle’s Video on Self-Diagnosing:
I just want to point out, that although I personally have self-diagnosed myself with Autism on these above points, this isn’t a proper diagnosis, so please refrain from diagnosing yourself or someone else you may know, especially on just this one blog post. Please do your own research or, if it’s possible, seek professional advice. This blog post is only short in comparison to all the information out there, and all the research I have done, it’s only scratching the surface. This is only to inform you why I have done this in the limited space I have available on a blog post, and doesn’t give you the full picture. 🙂
Don’t forget to like, reblog, share, comment and/or follow!
It’s Sunday and here’s another blog post for you guys. This week I have another author interview for you guys, come and meet the true story inspired author; S. J. Krandall!
About S. J. Krandall
Based in New Jersey, S. J. Krandall lives with her husband, two sons and two dogs. Having worked with children for more than twenty years, she’s now a stay at home mom, using what spare time she has to enjoy her interests such as travelling, writing, art and photography.
Fun fact, today is actually her birthday, so please join me in wishing her a very happy birthday!
Fear Farm No Trespassers
Fear Farm No Trespassers is a short story collection that is based on true stories. And there’s something about true story inspired horrors that really interests me, especially after reading the reviews on Amazon! It’s going straight on my wish list!
Within one year, reports of several missing people took over the media. The victims, all had ventured to parts of the deep wooded countryside never to return. Rumors, posted from local townsfolk, of what might have happened to them caught the attention of the public. Some said the undead may have taken them. Others believed that quick changes in weather patterns played part in their disappearances. A survivor, the only witness, was committed for madness as her story went uncredited. Even though some information was strange investigators, family, friends and adventure seekers all looked into them finding nothing. The lack of any evidence baffled the minds of the people involved as they continued to search for answers. Among them, a young woman so obsessed with these stories in her past that her own nightmares become a reality as she stumbles upon unspeakable horrors playing out before her very own eyes. Are they made up in her mind? Are they a dream? Or is she next? Whether real or fantasy, a story was unfolding before her and she could not stop the images that played out as she confronts who or what was responsible for these individuals grotesque fate.
Now, let’s try to understand how her mind works and where the imagination for this book came from…
Where do you get your ideas?
I get my ideas from the world around me. Nature plays a significant role and I am able to focus and create through my surroundings. I take walks and visit the country a lot, which where most of my ideas come from.
Do you have a schedule when writing? Or do you try to fit it in when you can?
I do not have a schedule when writing. I try to fit it in when I can or when the ideas come to me. My days make it harder to follow schedule so this works for me at this time.
Are you working on anything at the moment?
I am working on my second book at the moment. It will be part of the Fear Farm series which is a series of quick scary reads. I am also dabbling in some short stories.
What’s your current book about?
My current book, which was published in July, is a collection of shorter stories that all come together for one gruesome ending. It is about missing people and the mystery that surrounds their disappearances. It is all seen through the eyes of one obsessed traveler as it retells each and every person’s horrible fate.
Is your book based on a real person?
My book is based off of real events that have occurred to real people in real settings. Their names and locations have been changed and embellished upon for the sake of fiction.
Do you prefer to read the book first, or watch the movie first?
I need to read the book first and compare it to the movie version, but I am a movie buff. I love watching movies.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
When I am not writing I love to create in other ways. I do photography (which can be seen on my social media accounts) and art. I love to garden, take walks and travel. I am also a mom to two wonderful sons and we do many things as a family.
How do you use social media as an author?
I am still learning a lot about social media use. I can be found on twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I post a bit about myself and my work along with my photography and other fun things. I like trying to communicate with readers and other horror fans and I love to see what others are creating in return. I have seen such amazing talent on those sites.
Big thanks to S. J. Krandall and opening me up to her extremely interesting book! Another happy birthday and all the best in future endeavors! (i.e. Book 2!)
If you would like to learn more about S.J. Krandall and her books, or follow her on social media, here are a few links:
I’ve recently been thinking a lot about the LGBTQ+ community and my own sexuality/gender , I have always had a “it’s your life, your business” kind of attitude towards everyone.
If you want kids. If you don’t want kids. If you don’t want to get married. If you’re happy being single. You like to watch cartoons. If you’re a model. If you’re a stripper. Have a weird fettish. If you’re a stay at home mum. If you like to collect Pokemon cards (ahem). Want to live on a boat. Want to move country. If you are gay. If you were born in the wrong body/gender. If you prefer the pronouns ‘they/them’.
I have no say over how someone wants to live their lives. I have no say over someone’s gender or sexual orientation. I have no say over the individual’s struggles. I personally do not understand why there is such a big deal over it (and that wasn’t an open invitation to tell me, so please, keep your negative comments to yourselves!). As far as I am concerned, if you are happy – then I am happy. As long as you’re not being violent, racist, sexist or otherwise shaming someone else, for what EVER reason. And, yes, I also am aware of the biological side of things, but this isn’t a post about explaining how it IS possible! I just want everyone to live their most authentic/true/happy life!
Okay, I will admit, there was a time when I was a teen that I hated gay people. Mostly gay men. Why? I have no idea. It was a social norm, I guess. Everyone else around me either hated, disliked or would avoid gay men, so I learnt to do the same, I looked up to the adults in my life and learnt it from them. It was expected of me to be a woman, get married, get a house, have kids (I want to point out my mum was never like that, this is more of a ‘community’ or social norm – my mum has always been interested in me just being happy and healthy). Until, one day, I found out a very good friend of mine at college was gay. I was immediately ashamed. Not because he was gay. But I was ashamed that I had EVER hated gay men. This guy was the NICEST person you would ever meet, he was funny, smart, and was an absolutely joy to be around.
It got me thinking about gay men and lesbians, and I realise now that I had never had an issue with lesbians (I have heard they don’t like being called gay, as the word ‘lesbian’ was shunned in media/films and they’d be referred to as ‘gay’ instead – so, if I ever say ‘gay’ and refer to a lesbian, I apologise!) and I realise how bad that was. I hated gay men, but never thought negatively towards lesbians. Why? Media. Gay men were always seen as ‘wrong’ yet lesbians were okay because they were seen as a sexual item, for men’s entertainment. And, don’t get me started on my thoughts on how women are perceived as objects! That’s a rant for another day!
My own sexuality/gender
Fast forward a few years and I started to question my own sexuality. Not because I knew something was wrong, not in the conventional “having to hide in the closet” sort of deal that most people have had to go through. But I started to realise that I wasn’t just attracted to men, I was also attracted to women. And started to think I was bisexual. I have never really felt the need to officially come out though (hi, mum and dad!)
Now, over the years I have had this in mind and started to educate myself in the LGBTQ+ community, watching as the letters in the acronym grew (I will refer to it as LGBT+ or LGBTQ+ periodically in my blogs, posts and other ramblings, but please be aware that I mean no disrespect if I miss a letter!) and attempting to learn along the way. Not only learn about the community, but also question my own sexuality and gender.
I then started to educate myself in what ‘demisexual’ and ‘pansexual’ was. If you don’t know, demisexuality is a branch of asexuality where a person only feels sexually attracted to a person when they have a deep connection with them on an emotional/intelligent level. Pansexuality is basically similar to bisexuality but openly agrees that there are more than two genders (hi, to my gender-fluid and non-binary friends!) And, when I heard someone refer to themselves as demi-pansexual, and learnt what it meant… I immediately went… THAT’S ME! (I never understood why people can have one-night stands).
Recently, however, I had to further educate myself in what it means to be pansexual. I have in the past told people that I am pansexual (or part of my sexuality) because I openly didn’t mind if I became involved with someone in the trans community. BUT, I recently found out that THAT isn’t what it means to be pan, in fact, that is extremely offensive to a trans person because that is implying that they are NOT that gender. For example, if I were to meet a trans man and say to him I would date him because I am pansexual, I am implying they are NOT a man. Because, whether they have transitioned or not THEY ARE A MAN. For me, my pansexuality means that I recognise there are more than two genders; that I also include gender-fluid and non-binary people.
On top of that, I also started to think about my own gender. Mostly after coming across a few videos about non-binary and gender-fluid. I have always been referred to as ‘she/her’. A woman. Or a girl (although I hate that as it implies I am a child) – I also recently started to refer to myself as ‘Ms’ instead of ‘Miss’. But, most people will know that I have never been girly. I hate having my hair done. I hate wearing dresses. I’ve never been into the same things that girls my age (when I was a child) was into. Everyone called me ‘a tomboy’. That’s still true. I am. But, it’s led me to realise that what does that mean about my gender? Am I female? Who just likes cars, bikes and drinks whisky? Or am I actually a man? Or am I non-binary? Or gender-fluid? I told someone at university once that I was more ‘gender-fluid’ than a woman, and it fits more, so I consider myself that more than anything. I cannot detach myself from womanhood completely, but I also cannot personally identify as a woman as it doesn’t quite ‘feel right’.
HOWEVER, I also recently had a think about all these labels; demi-pansexual, bisexuality, gender-fluid and I’ve come to the realisation that labels are for other people, not for me. I only really worry about these labels because it’s a way of explaining to others who I am. When the conversation of sexuality comes up and people wrongly assume “when you get a boyfriend” I feel the need to explain. When someone wrongly assumes that I must like girly things because I was born female, I feel the need to explain. These labels aren’t for me, they’re for others, because others cannot understand who I am outside of what the stereotypical majority are. And, because the majority of the world doesn’t actually understand what demisexuality or pansexuality is, I am also having to explain what they are, and I don’t really have a connection to the words, only the meaning behind them.
So, for clarification; I am Penny. I go by the pronouns ‘she/her/they/them’, and unless I openly say I am attracted to you, my sexuality isn’t any of your business.
I don’t like labels.
Being an Ally & adding in the LGBTQ+ community into my writing
Supporting the LGBT+ (and yes, that also includes transmen/transwomen too!), doesn’t mean you have to be LGBT+ yourself. You can be an LGBT+ ally! I’m looking at you straight cis men/women!
And, they also need you! Regardless of your gender identity or sexual orientation! We need to add to the discourse to educate ourselves and end the stigma. Although, I consider myself part of the LGBTQ+ community, I try to stand up for people, I actively engage in educating myself and I am open to understanding different view-points. I am not going to say that I am 100% right, there is still a lot I need to learn, and there is a lot that I will probably get wrong. Just like my previous view on gay men and what it means to be pansexual, and there are a lot of people out there that have a viewpoint and openly express that opinion. I just want to say to those people; it’s okay having an opinion, but it’s not okay spouting off hate and misinformed ideas at people trying to shove this opinion on them when it can be damaging. Not only is it damaging to those you are talking about (trans, gay, lesbian, etc), but it can enforce ideas in the general public and you are indirectly causing damage. Let’s learn to have healthy conversations, ask questions, don’t enforce your ideas, look up research (real peer-reviewed research, not news reports!) and question your ideologies. Just because the majority of the people, the ‘social norm’, thinks it’s one thing, doesn’t mean it’s true. Heck, the whole world thought everything revolved around the Earth and when Galileo suggested everything revolved around the sun, he was sentenced to life imprisonment! I will just leave that thought with you.
Alongside my self-discovery of both my own gender/sexuality and educating myself on LGBTQ+ topics, I also try to add these elements into my writing. I mean, yes, I try to add topics that revolve around certain issues – such as my book ‘I Fell In Love with a Psychopath’ which talks about psychopathy and trying to bring about the idea that psychopathy as not overtly bad (because not all psychopaths are mass-murders, they can be model citizens and a part of the community!), as well as the idea of adding in topics about being gay, lesbian, trans, gender-fluid, mental health issues, and many more.
I recently decided to write a story about a girl with Selective Mustism, it’s a true story, in a way, although the characters are made up, the experiences in it are very true and what I have both experienced and still experience, it’s going to be called ‘The Girl Who Whispered’.
I also will be adding in MANY topics into my book Rose Garden Sanatorium, which, I cannot say too much as I do not want to give anything away just yet – and also because I haven’t finished writing it, so things might change (again!).
But I don’t want to just add in a character just to make them ‘fit’ in the story to keep everyone happy. I don’t want a story that is supposed to be about demons, supernatural, the underworld, and randomly add in a new character that is a lesbian and she have no real point to the story. I will add in a few, because of course, the real world obviously have them, but not MAKE them fit just because. The story will have gender-fluid, gay, and demi-sexual characters because it fits with the story – with the plot… I feel like I am both contradicting myself and not making sense… Read the book/s (when it’s finally done) and it’ll make sense.
The J Rowling Fiasco
I feel the need to add a small section about this, as this is probably where my recent interest in educating myself in the trans community was really sparked. J Rowling. And, you’ll notice that I say “J Rowling” here and not “J. K. Rowling” because the “K” was added onto her books to make it “look better” – she doesn’t actually have a middle name!
Recently, say in the last year or so, J Rowling has done and said a lot of things that publicly shuns the trans community. I won’t go into detail, as again, it is very long and not the point of this post. If you want to know more, I encourage you to research it and form your own opinion. This section is merely to tell you why I no longer can support J Rowling and the Harry Potter franchise – and believe me… it’s been a VERY difficult decision for me!
You might have come across that I would mention that a lot of my writing work has stemmed from Harry Potter. I have always been interested in reading and writing my own stories, from the age of about eight. But my interest in books came back when I was in my teens and I came across Harry Potter. I had a troubled childhood, as I had Selective Mutism (read more about this here) and Harry Potter was one of my ‘escapisms’ (along with Dragon Ball Z). So, after my mum gave me that first book, I was hooked. I would wait eagerly for the next book to come out. I would wait eagerly for them to come out on film (although, I wasn’t as interested in the films as I was the books). I would write fan-fiction. I would day-dream about being in the world of Harry Potter and away from my horrific life. I went to the Harry Potter studios in London. Dreamed of going to the studios in Orlando, Florida. Collected different editions of the books. Even collected different languages. Got loads of clothes, trinkets, notepads. I even got a damn tattoo of the Hogwarts castle on my left arm!
But when I heard that J Rowling has been publicly supporting transphobes and making her own comments on the community… I was torn. At first I believed that she was just misinformed, that she isn’t educating herself and being as someone with such a public following and power in the community, should. She made some comments that made sense about looking after children’s welfare, but as many in the trans community have explained, are just not accurate. I was torn because I felt like J Rowling was just speaking out wrongly, she wasn’t actively being transphobic, just voicing her (inaccurate and very wrong) opinion, and although she was going about it the wrong way, there wasn’t really much wrong with having an opinion and starting a discourse (although, her ‘research’ was very inaccurate and not actually sourcing credible, reliable and peer-reviewed sources!)
UNTIL I heard that she was writing a story about a ‘man in a dress’ that goes around killing people. And THAT was when I put my foot down and said ‘NOPE!’ to J Rowling and the Harry Potter franchise. I looked this up and true enough, her newest book is based around a ‘man in a dress’, who kills people: here’s the wiki page for it (bare in mind, this book was done under her alias Robert Galbraith). And yes, there is a small bit on the wiki page that says “the transphobia accusations were baseless and slanderous, noting that Dennis Creed is investigated along with a dozen other suspects” and “people who have not read the book were making wrong assumptions based on a single review.” A small bit of research also found her other book ‘The Silkworm’ (under the same alias) also has a transgender character ‘Pippa Midgley’ who tries to attack a character with a knife (here’s the wiki page). And okay, I will have to admit, I haven’t read either of these books, so I cannot comment on the context or the full story on these characters, nor will I be interested in buying these books and letting any more of my money go to support a transphobe, so there may be something I am missing here. I also will note that Wikipedia isn’t the best source, but without actually plagiarizing the books, it was my way of showing you some truth about these books at least. But, add this with everything else she has done to build a picture.
Yes, there have been more incidents too, which a few men and women in the trans community (and allies) have explained. But, forgive me for not going into detail about everything! This post isn’t to discuss everything surrounding J Rowling’s transphobia, it’s about why I currently cannot support the woman and the Harry Potter franchise. Like I said, I encourage you to go out there, do your own research on both sides, speak to people, and form your own opinion, but be willing to be open.
Either way, I was hurt. Upset. And extremely disgusted that not only the woman I looked up to, a writer myself wanting to be LIKE HER, but my whole childhood now feels like it has been a lie. My writing has been influenced by her; the realism in my books is taken from Harry Potter. Even the book sizes are deliberately EXACTLY the same size as hers.
Now, the reason why I am writing this, is because I feel the need to OPENLY disagree with her PUBLICALLY. I need to OPENLY support the trans community PUBLICALLY. And I hope this encourages others to do the same! Now you know where I stand. Let’s stand up together for trans rights and LGBTQ+!
Like I said before, this is my own opinion, and just my way to explain why I cannot support J Rowling and the Harry Potter franchise. I haven’t gone into detail about other research I have done – including watching videos of trans YouTubers (I recommend checking Samantha Lux and Jammi Dodger) – and I still have a lot of research to do too. My opinion may change slightly – but either way, I support the trans community!
NB: I have purposefully removed the ability to comment on this blog post to avoid any negative, hateful, hurtful and violent comments.
I’ve included a few links for help with LGBT+ and mental health and people you should check out:
Mindline Trans+ (part of Mind, the mental health charity) is an emotional and mental health support helpline in the UK for anyone identifying as transgender, non-binary, genderfluid… mindlinetrans.org.uk
Scottish Trans is an Equality Network project to improve gender identify and gender reassignment equality, rights and inclusion in Scotland: www.scottishtrans.org
Samantha Lux’s YouTube Channel – an (absolutely beautiful) transwoman who talks about her struggles with her transition, being trans and other transgender issues: www.youtube.com/user/samproductions516
Jammi Dodger’s (Jamie Raines) YouTube Channel – a (yes, he’s pretty handsome too!) transman who talks about his struggles with his transition, being trans and transgender issues: www.youtube.com/user/MrPinocchio17
As always, don’t forget to like, reblog and share, and/or follow!
So, there has been a ‘slight’ hick-up, which has resulted in changing my plans with my Route 66 Charity Tour.
BUT DONT FEAR! I’m still going!
I won’t go into detail, but long story short – I’ll be going on my own now. The friend I was supposed to go with has decided he no longer wants to be my friend. Don’t ask me why, I cannot answer that. As I cannot for the life of me work out what I said or did, I am just going to assume that it’s got nothing to do with me. I also do not want to divulge into it publicly as it’s not fair to do so. I will wish him luck in the future though.
It never really crossed my mind to cancel any of my plans. We had discussed a trip around the Highlands (the NC500 – Scotland’s Route 66), taking camping gear with us, and I’m still planning on doing that in the Spring/Summer once I’ve got my motorbike. And, of course, he was going to come with me down Route 66. If you’ve been following this story from the beginning, you will know that I tried to do something like this before; I was going to tour America and Canada for Charity, I had actually paid for a working holiday visa to Canada already, but my plans fell through. I’m determined not to let my plans fall through again! You can read about it here.
Plus, I really want to raise funds and awareness for Selective Mutism!
In light of what happened recently, it has made me realise that the only person I really trust is myself. People can easily let you down. So, I’ve made the decision to do this ALONE. It kinda feels poetic, actually, like one of those soppy life-changing movies that hit you in the feels. But with cars, motorbikes, food and the open road!
Hell, it’s going to be scary, but I’m hoping that I’ll build up my confidence, work on my skills filming and editing, and plan the socks off it, all in the next year or so until I go. It also has some new challenges that I never thought of before.
The three main challenges are; 1) filming myself – I have limited filming experience, other than just starting filming myself for my YouTube channel I am going to create, which involves me sat… still… at my desk, I have no idea how this will work. I’m going to research into hand-held cameras, go-pros or similar and figure out what the best options are. I know for sure that my beloved Nikon DSLR isn’t a good option – it only records 20 minutes at a time for a start! And I cannot see the screen to record myself – sitting at a desk is fine because I can set it up and sit still…. or try to at least.
2) the other biggest challenge is doing all the driving! With a second person, the driving can be split between us, but now I will be driving it all. Theoretically, I don’t see it being an issue, as I love driving and I will be taking my time seeing sights anyway along the way, so will be doing plenty of stops. I also am pretty handy, knowing a fair bit about mechanics in case something breaks, and will be considering this in the planning stage in case I need to look into breakdown cover options, researching recovery companies in the areas I drive through, and even taking a set of tools with me. But practically, I could get tired and make mistakes, getting lost or stuck. I also have to be weary when I’m taking to a camera and driving!
3) the last, and probably one of the more important ones, is personal safety. I’m sure the majority of the trip will be safe enough. I will be researching how safe areas are, making sure I only stop in safe areas and stay at hotels that have good ratings and so on. I do have some self-defense training from one of my old job roles, but I am also considering taking self-defense classes too. This is going to be one of the biggest things I will be researching and planning, especially being a female solo traveller!
On the up side though, doing it alone has it’s benefits – I can do what I want without compromise. I’m also introverted; socialising can drain me and I need to recharge, doing a whole month-long trip with someone else can get very tiring, and I know I like my own company. I can also be in control of the music. Also, being a solo-traveller, you’re more likely to get upgrades! 😉
So, although it was a huge shock and was a little upset when I lost a friend, I’m not going to let these things stop me from what I want to do in life!
Watch this space for more updates soon! Also, watch this space for my first YouTube video – it’s currently being edited and will be uploaded soon!
Don’t forget to like, reblog, share, comment and/or follow!
Here’s my fifth installment of author interviews, and this one we’re doing things a little differently; we’re interviewing a LGBT+ author! I’m super excited about this one!
Continue reading to find more about A. C. Thomas and two of her books and an interesting interview with my first LGBT+ author.
About A. C. Thomas
A.C. Thomas left the glamorous world of teaching preschool for the even more glamorous world of staying home with her toddler. Between the diaper changes and tea parties, she escapes into fantastical worlds, reading every romance available and even writing a few herself.
She devours books of every flavour – science fiction, historical, fantasy – but always with a touch of romance because she believes there is nothing more fantastical than the transformative power of love.
Space, LGBT+, Romance, even a space-cowboy, this book seems to have everything!
Here’s the Synopsis:
Dr. Aristotle Campbell is a desperate man. His twin brother has been abducted, and Ari will do anything to find him. Forced out of the comfortable solitude of his laboratory, Ari must leave their home world of Britannia and search the farthest reaches of space for his other half. He hastily equips himself with a flawlessly tied cravat, a handful of clues, and his small science vessel. Now, all he needs is a pilot to get him across the Verge, a barrier separating the civilized world from ungoverned space.
Pilot Orin Stone is a desperate man. No ship, no pay, no prospects. He spends his days barely scraping by in the rough colonies lining the Verge interior. When he gets an offer from a frantic, upper-crust professor in need of a pilot, he has no choice but to take the job. He just can’t believe it when the professor turns out to be the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen and that his offer includes a ship of Orin’s own. If Orin can keep his heart (and other portions of his anatomy) from leaping every time sweet, innocent Dr. Campbell looks at him, this should be his easiest job yet.
Rugged Orin and aristocratic Ari work together to navigate the lawless areas of space beyond the Verge, soon discovering that they work well together in all areas. Their immediate and intense attraction to one another is an obstacle to their plans that neither saw coming. More than sparks will fly when they break through the force field and enter restricted space, all alone together for the perilous journey, leaving barriers to their growing attachment far behind.
In their search across the stars, can two desperate men find their home in one another?
Currently pre-orders are available, with this sweet Christmas themed story ready to be released just in time for Christmas! Put your thick socks on, your favourite blanket and sit by a warm crackling fire with this one!
Home for the holidays for the first time in five years, Clayton Osborne steps off the plane with a chip on his shoulder and a suitcase full of grief…only to come face to flannel-covered chest with his worst nightmare. It’s Jake Carver, his high school nemesis and guilty crush. Clayton never expected Jake to still be working on his family tree farm. Of course, now that he’s older and wiser, it will be no problem to ignore Jake’s axe-swinging, barb-slinging, larger-than-life presence. Right?
Jake Carver loves his work, running NorthStar Tree Farm like it was his own. He’s let other things in his life fall by the wayside as he poured everything he had into his job. Until Clayton Osborne, star of his teenage dreams and his greatest regret returns home as beautiful and feisty as ever. If Jake just keeps his head down and focuses on his work, he can make it through the holidays without revealing his lingering feelings for Clayton. Right?
The mountains of North Carolina ring with more than Christmas bells when boyhood enemies collide as men. Long-buried feelings blossom and grow while the pair work side by side to save the farm, until Clayton must confront his obligation to return to his job in Chicago. He’s going to have to choose. Does he want his big-city life, or love in the mountains? All of this hinges on whether he and Jake can finally bury the hatchet. Can love overcome the years of conflict in their past?
With the help of a good old-fashioned Christmas miracle, it just might.
Now that I have you interested in her books, here’s a little interview I did with her!
What got you into writing?
I’ve always been writing, always telling stories. I won my first little creative writing award at age seven and I was hooked. I’ve just always loved it. Even when I wasn’t writing for others, I still wrote for myself.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes, always. There was never a time that I didn’t want to be a writer. There were plenty of times that I thought it wasn’t possible, but I always wanted it.
Do you play music while you writer – and if so, what’s your favourite?
I don’t. I know that’s a little odd, but I can’t concentrate on writing when there are lyrics in the background. I think it’s the same quirk that makes it difficult for me to hear when people are speaking while I’m reading. I can handle instrumental music while I’m writing, but I just prefer silence.
What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?
That’s a tough question. Persuassion is my favorite Jane Austen novel, and I feel as though it gets overshadowed by the flashier romances in Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility. The mutual pining in Persuasion just hits so deeply and the ending is so satisfying that it’s one of my favorite books of all time.
What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?
The first and more important thing to me is writing good characters. You can quibble over technique and style forever, but if your characters are solid and relatable, they you really have something. Look at fanction. Endless stories based on well-written, compelling characters. Exposition and setting can be perfectly and beautifully written, but it will never stick with the reader like an excellent character.
How many unpublished or half-finished books do you have?
Right now I’m working on the second book in my Verge series, Captivated. It follows Theo, the missing twin from book one, Restricted.
I also have portions of the third book written. I’ve recently written a paranormal romance short story that I am considering reworking into a novel and I’m keeping another series on my back burner. That one is a regency romance series with heavy doses of humor. I have nearly finished the first in that series and have written portions of the other two. So, I have six partially written books going at the moment.
I’m one of those authors who works through writers block by switching to another project, so they tend to stack up.
Do you prefer to read the book first, or watch the movie first?
I read the book first, absolutely. There is no effects budget that could possibly rival the imagination. I’ve enjoyed some movie adaptations, but I always prefer the book.
What is your favourite word, and why?
Meerscheweinchen. It’s German for Guinea pig. I just think it’s fun to say and sounds so cute!
Was writing your dream job as a child, or was it something else?
Yes, always. It took me a while to realize and accept that what I really wanted to write was romance novels, and that most of them would be LGBTQ+. Once I had that epiphany, the rest fell into place as natural as breathing.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love baking. Creating elabroate pastries and cake decorating. I make multi-tiered decorated cakes for special occasions and even considered opening a wedding cake business for a while.
Can you tell me a little about your book ‘Restricted’?
Restricted is the first book in my sci-fi steampunk Verge series. Restricted is definitely heavy on the romance, light on the sci-fi, just the way I like it. I enjoy placing characters against the sweeping backdrop of space and then focusing in tightly upon their developing relationship.
The first book follows Dr. Aristotle Campbell, aka Ari, along his journey across space to find his missing twin. His first task is to hire a pilot to get him across the dangerous barrier of the Verge, and he soon finds Orin Stone, ace pilot and rugged heartthrob, to serve in that capacity. When Orin offers to serve in other, more person, capacities as well, Ari doesn’t quite know what to do with himself. Orin’s gentle guidance leads Ari past the Verge as well as into his own sexuality in an adventurous leap into the unknown. Developing feelings never factored into either of their plans. What will they do when those feelings interfere with their goals? In an ocean of stars, two heats collide.
Now, tell me a little about the main character(s)?
Ari comes from a neo-Victorian planet, Britannia, and has led a very sheltered, privileged, and repressed life up until the moment of his twin Theo’s disappearance. He is a shy, virginal scientist with very little experience in life beyond academia. Ari has always been the more timid, sensible twin and must scrape up every last bit of courage to embark upon his journey across the stars.
Orin Stone comes from a Wild-West style Verge colony, with rough manners and an even rougher past. He’s been stranded with no ship, no money, and no prospects when Ari offers to hire him as a pilot and guide in exchange for his small ship at the end of the quest to find his brother.
Aristocratic Ari and rugged Orin clash on the surface, but soon find deeper connection. Their attraction to one another is immediate and irresistible, and neither of them could have predicted how it would affect their journey.
Do you think the LGBT+ community in literature is unrepresented?
Very much so. I think we’re starting to see changes made, but progress is slow and remains a daily struggle for the community.
Growing up, and I’m sure this is true for a lot of people, the only queer content available to me was fanfiction. Published LGBTQ+ content was difficult to acquire. This is getting better, but it’s still true today.
I am a cisgendered white bisexual woman, and I realize that while I am a member of the community, I still need to step back and listen when underrepresented voices speak up. I think we need to amplify voices of LGBTQ+ authors until their creative works are given the same space and respect as the work of heterosexual authors.
I think we’re seeing important strides in publishing, but it still isn’t enough. We’re not there, yet.
Do you have a LGBT+ book you’d recommend everyone read?
I highly recommend Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas. It’s a paranormal YA romance featuring trans Latinx characters written by a trans Latinx author. It’s gripping and funny and has the emotional heft that I enjoy in a book.
What is your upcoming book about?
Burying The Hatchet is set a little closer to home, in the American South, the mountains of North Carolina.
Clayton Osborne left the family farm years ago and never looked back, not until a family emergency brings him home just in time for Christmas. To his dismay, Jake Carver, his teenage nemesis and star of Clayton’s guilty adolescent fantasies, still works on the farm. Looking even more like a pornographic Paul Bunyan that Clayton remembers.
The two must work together to save North Star tree farm, discovering that they have more in common than they ever thought possible. Long-buried feelings break through the ice over Clayton’s heart as he finds that there is far more to Jake than flannel and a swinging axe.
Will the boyhood enemies be able to bury the hatchet and find love in the least likely of places? With the help of a good old-fashioned Christmas miracle, they just might.
If you’d like to check her out, here are some links:
They say, when you’re writing a blog, you should find your niche and stick to it. Write content only for that niche. I’ve never been one for sticking to the rules.
There are a number of things I enjoy in life, including, but not limited to; travel, photography, history, books, writing, cars, motorbikes, and… food. As I am planning a Route 66 charity tour with a good friend of mine, which includes at least five of those things I enjoy in life (maybe even writing and books too, but we’ll see) my blog will also include all these things. It’s only fitting. All of these are my niche.
So, this is my first food blog post – breaking the rules of keeping to a niche. Oh, and I should mention, I am not a chef, I have no professional training, and this blog will include mistakes, I am learning too!
1/4 cup of butter 1 leek (sliced) 4 cups of fish stock (you can use water) 1 pound potatoes (cut into chunks) 1 carrot (sliced) 1 large salmon (cut into chunks) 1 cup of cream (heavy or light) Salt and pepper Fresh chopped dill
Melt the butter in a pot. Add the sliced leek and saute until translucent (about 7 minutes) – try not to eat it all, as it smells so good!
Also, the butter, I found, is mostly to give it it’s oily consistency at the end and to help cook the leeks. But don’t do what I did and add too much!
Step 2. Add the stock, carrot and potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes over medium heat.
Add the salmon and cream. Cook for about 5-7 minutes until it starts to boil.
I have absolutely no idea if I had enough or too much cream in mine. I didn’t actually measure out my ingredients.
Step 4. Turn off the heat, add dill, salt and pepper. Close the lid and wait another 10 minutes.
(I hope turning off the heat is optional…)
Traditionally Lohikeitto is served with Rye bread, but I find wholemeal or white goes much better.
This is certainly a quick winter warmer, and it is one of my favourites! If you have had it before, or decide to try out making it yourself, please do let me know in the comments below!
Don’t forget to like, reblog, share, comment and/or follow!
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!
Here’s another installment of author interviews, and this week is slightly different as today it’s a short story author.
I’ve been meaning to interview Jethro for a while now (sorry for the delay, Jethro!) and I’m glad I finally got around to doing it. Although, I hate to admit I haven’t read his books, after interviewing him and reading the reviews on Amazon – they’re both going straight onto my wish list! Seriously, you guys have to check them out!
About Jethro Weyman
Jethro is a fellow Brit, born in Buckinghamshire and raised in Hertfordshire, not only does he write mind-boggling short stories, he works for the NHS as a physiotherapist in Birmingham. He manages a small team of five (including himself) on a specialist stroke and neurology rehabilitation ward. He also recently snagged some work as a supporting artist working on a film – which he can’t name yet!
As well as writing (and acting, so it seems), he enjoys cycling, bouldering, and as many forms of media he can cram in. He’s a big fan of nature, so tries to surround himself with that as often as possible. He loves animals, although doesn’t currently own any, and in his own words he “also loves not having fur or vomit or the outdoors all over the house!”
Bang to Begin
One of Jethro’s books; Bang to Begin, is a series of short stories, although a mix of genres, they are all linked and, by the end, become one. It’s designed to be a bit of a “head messer”, but also one that grows with a second read through. Read the synopsis below.
(It’s already on my wish-list, Jethro, will be purchasing it as soon as I move into my new apartment!)
Reality is Relative. There is no such thing as universal truth. But lies are always lies. From auctions to assassinations, from cosmos to subconscious mind, the roots feeding into these short stories start fine, but thicken and tangle as they grow deeper. Follow these wayward souls through their darkest moments, each beginning with a bang and each trying desperately to avoid ending with the same. A metaphysical, visionary exploration of the human psyche and all that it means to be real – discussed via an anthology with a difference.
Interview with Jethro
Now, let’s get into the interview and learn more about the inner workings of Jethro’s mind and these books of his…
What got you into writing?
I actually got into it a little by accident. I had an idea for a scene stuck in my head for a few momths and just felt I needed to get it down on paper for it to stop irritating me. Fortunately, that didn’t work… and I was irrirated all the way to writing a full novel. It definitely wasn’t expertly written, but it was something I could work with. I recently edited that scene out, which was a bit of a blow, but I’ve got it stored on my hard drive for reminiscence purposes.
What is your most unusual writing quirk?
I’ve got no idea if I have any quirks, let alone unusual ones. I guess I’ll need to set up a camera and keen an eye on myself… although, I probably wouldn’t like what I find!
Do you write every single day?
I wish I had the discipline and the energy, but sometimes I get home from work and jus tneed to sit down and watch something mindless for a while. I do go through periods of daily writing, but it’s rare these days. If Twitter stories count, then I do write most days, but substantial writing probably comes about twice a week right now, at best. There’s a lot of life happening at the moment and that’s not necessarily a good thing!
What is the most difficult part of your writing process?
That definitely has to be the editing side of things. I can quite easily have the enthusiasm sucked out of me by a long editing stint, especially when I’ve had some brutal feedback calling for a big rewrite. I’ve had to kill a lot of darlings… I’ve had to kill a lot of things I wouldn’t call darlings too, but I’m a bit of a perfectionist as I write too… so having to go back and realising how imperfect it all is after a first draft can be quite dishearening. But such is the life of a writer!
What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?
For me, as a reader, it’s all about the flow. If a writer can entice me with their premise and make me look forward to reading what sounds like it will be right up my street, only to write in a clunky and fluentless way, that’s really disappointing. It also shows when someone has a handle on their genre or their style as well… it probably shows even more when they don’t. Since starting to write myself, I feel like I’ve become a lot more critical over these aspects as well. I’ll notice and get annoyed by a lot more than I used to, but I think that’s probably true of all of us.
How do you use social media as an author?
I am definitely guilty of a shameless self promo or several, and I think social media is a fantastic marketing tool, at least in the early days of a writer’s career (which is my only experience). I also use it to connect with other writers, to practice my craft with short stories using many word prompt games and also, to a certain extend, to feel part of a wider community, especially in times like these where it’s more difficult to have a social life. I’ve made a lot of friends via social media, primarily Twitter, and if you ignore as much of the toxicity as possible, it can be a very rewarding place to be.
What’s your favourite and least favourite part of publishing?
Self-publishing is definitely a pain – My least favourite part of it (or most hated) was formatting. Especially in the first book I published, which is made up primarily of Twitter stories. The formatting took forever and it drove me a little insane for a while… in fact, the remnants are probably still rattling around in there somewhere. My favourite part was definitely the satisfaction of being a published author, although I do still feel I need to get traditionally published before I can truly accept that. Anyone can publish a book these days, but not anyone can nab an agent and get a publishing deal.
How much research did you need to do for your books?
I must admit… I’m a bit of a write now, research later kind of chap. If I stop too much to focus on the details, I lost that all important flow and that’s something I really try to avoid. However, there are certain things I had to look up beforeI wrote for example: the geography of where I used to live in Buckinghamshire for my first novel – I needed travel times and names of nearby places and I even did a bit of google map street viewing to make sure it was accurate. For my fantasy novel, I did very little research other than finding names and designs of weapons which could be used or modified for use in the story. And with Bang to Begin, the only thing I can remember fully researching was what happens to someone when they hang themselves for one of the horror elements… so my search history is probably not as bad as Stephen King’s, but there’s a few dodgy key words on there.
What do you need in your writing space to keep you focused?
I wish I’d found it!… probably an EMP device which stops all electronic devices apart from my laptop from working… and will only let me use the internet for research purposes. I basically need a parental lock on my writing space.
Have you ever Googled yourself?
Of course… there’s nothing particularly interesting on there, but it does come up with the awful photos that are on the profile I have with an Extras casting agency. Twitter and my books come up as well… but I’m yet to get the all important Wikipedia page… maye I should make one myself!
Do you play music while you write – and if so, what’s your favourite?
I used to be unable to write unless I was in total silence, even bird song would put me off. Nowadays, maybe I’ve mellowed a bit, but I put on instrumental music. This could be acoustic guiter or piano music, but my favourite music to write to is Neo-Soul or Chillstep – there are a good few playlists on Spotify which absolutely hit the spot for this, including one called Mellow Beats and another called Lo-Fi Beats. When I don’t need to think too much about how I’m working things, I often put on some Tom Misch or Jordan Rakei or their playlists. Whatever I have on… it has to be calm and rhythmic.
Can you tell me a little bit about your book “Bang to Begin”?
I can! The idea for the book came to me after the 6th chapter; a story called The Death of Fate. Originally I was just writing completely disparate episodes as a series for a reading subscription website called Channillo. After that 6th chapter, I thought it should be more than what I set out to create, especially as this chapter gave me the idea of how to link them all together. The concept of face (and other metaphysical concepts) are the cornerstone of the book. What if these concepts were personified? What if that personification were a construct of an individual’s perception or ego? So, I worked prospectively and retrospectively to fit all of the stories together… the original versions are still available on the website and are even harder to follow than the final.
It’s all quite dark and more than a bit twisted, but writing in this way gave me space to dabble in all of the genres I’ve had an interest in. There are stories primarily based in the thriller/suspense genre, in horror, in fantasy and sci-fi and, to begin with, it can definitely be quite confusing. I’ve written it in a way which, I hope, begs for a second read, because there are little callbacks and subtleties that won’t be noticeable at first. I don’t want to give anything away, but once you realise what this book really is… it should come as a bit of a revelation, if not a relief! Plus, it’s only short… which can only help.
Both of your published books are short stories, have you considered writing a novel?
I definitely have considered it and I’ve done it. I wrote a thriller called Kept in the Dark, which I’m currently querying – this was my first foray into proper writing and I’ve had some good feedback from readers, but I’m yet to land an agent. I’ve done some more revisions recently, and I hope that helps. It explores government and insitutional corruption and how the people who oppose this are viewed. It’s set in what I call a near-future dystopia – a little bit Black Mirror. I’ve also written an SFF novel called Craft (Working Title), which explores social, racial and gender inequality in a way I hope is unique. I try to incorporate more meaningful themes into my work when I can.
Do you have any projects you’re working on at the moment?
Too many, and I curse myself whenever I add another. I’m currently working on a short story (should end up about 5000 words) which is a YA (ish), supernatural thriller. I’m not too far off finishing the first draft of this, but I have no idea what I’m going to do with it. I’m also editing my first screenplay using the wise words of Syd Field and some beta readers as a basis. I would love to write for the screen, so I’m going to try and make a go of this. It’s a post-apocalyptic comedy. I should be editing my second novel, but it is hard to tear myself away from the new stuff (this is always a problem) and I did start writing the sequel to this as well when I was stuck in a Brazilian airport for about 8 hours. So, I’ll get back to that at some point as well.
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: