Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 and the Excitement of Something New

Hey all,

It's the last Friday of the year and we get to end 2010 with a wonderful guest blogger.  RaeLynn Blue is an author of SciFi, Fantasy and Contemporary erotic romance, and she has some great things to tell us about her plans for next year.  But before that, let's get to know her a little better, shall we?  The following comes straight from her blog...
RaeLynn Blue is the author of numerous tales of erotic interracial romance and speculative romance. With an imagination that's varied and diverse, her tales explores love in all its many shades, situations and scenerios. She fell into romance stories at the ripe age of eleven and has been writing stories ever since. A humble scribbler of tales, RaeLynn is actively writing another story of lust, love, and romance.

I'm sure glad she scribbles.  LOL  I've enjoyed what I've read of her work and I think you will too.  So let's see what she has to tell us about 2011.  Please join me in welcoming RaeLynn Blue to my blog!


Hello everyone! Thank you, CJ England for having me here at your posh place on the web. I’m super thrilled to get the absolute last blogging invitation before the New Year. So, my blog today is about the excitement of something new.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a new cup of coffee or a new home, getting something new is exciting. No doubt about it, newness brings with a rush unlike anything—including sex.

I hear the gasps and I see the shaking of heads in sharp, frowns of disagreement. Hear me out on this one. That’s why we read and write romance stories. The lure of witnessing two people fall in love for the first time is one of the reasons why we read romance stories. The rush of meeting someone new, the thrill of learning about that person’s dreams, passions, interests, and the strong, nearly intoxicating allure of uncovering the subtle nuisances of the next person. The goose bumps and chills of that first kiss is what romance authors like me write about all the time.

For most of us, 2010 has been a year of frustrations wrought with a sluggish economy, political infighting and overall hardships. It seems that whenever I watch television or surface the internet, I’m bombarded by the depravity and absolute worse of human nature. Sickened, gloomy, and sad, I find my job in interacting with my family, my friends, and my characters—not necessarily in that order rebuild my self-esteem and my mood.

Still unconvinced? Okay.

When I sit down to write a new story, sometimes I have to force my hands to steady. I’ve written over 25 erotic romance stories, and each time, I am swept up in the nirvana of a new story. Captured by the characters’ love affair and new discoveries, I too am rejuvenated by their story. Above all, when I finish each story, I have great hope that someone out there is finding that powerful love, that unmovable love that is rooted in unconditional love and respect. I hope my readers, who sit down to read one of my stories is also wowed by the new, fresh story.

So, as the New Year approaches, I want you to remember that feeling—the zeal of a first kiss, the bursting of warmth in your chest the first time your daughter opens her gift, and the first time you sat in your new car. Or the very first time your eyes fell on your true love. Nothing is as sweet as the first time you hold your child.

On January 1, 2011 a new year will be upon us. I plan to greet the fresh year with the same zeal, eagerness, and above all hope that I encounter most new adventures. Won’t you join me?

Thank you, CJ for having me today.


RaeLynn Blue


Sounds like a very good thing, doesn't it?  I know I'm looking forward to 2011.  I've got a lot of plans myself, and I think you'll all be very happy with what I've got going!  How about you?  What plans do you have for 2011?  Let RaeLynn and I know in the comments below!

Hugs to all,

CJ England
Follow Your Dreams

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's A Magical Disney Hong Kong...

Hey all,

We're back.  And we had a blast.  As most of you know, Jonathon and I spent Christmas Eve day and night at Hong Kong Disneyland.  Since we very much enjoy Disney, and used to live and work at Disneyworld in Florida, we thought this would be a wonderful way to celebrate our first Christmas alone together.

So we headed out early, early Friday morning. Our ferry from Macau left at 7:00am so we were up and out of the house by 6:15, in a taxi and to the terminal in plenty of time.  But unlike back in the states, when the time of departure is 7am, they don't mean they are actually going to leave.  Oh no.  That means they open the gate, herd you on as quickly as they can, and then whenever they get things together, they leave.  So the 7:00am departure's more like a suggestion.  LOL

But we made it over and through customs with no worries.  Since we lived in Singapore, we are used to moving around by subway, so Hong Kong's MTR system was no problem at all.  We found the right train, settled on the destination--the Disney resort--and were there in less than a half hour.

Now I have to say something here about the HK Disney trains.  They have a special one that picks you up in Sunny Bay and takes you directly to their resort.  And this isn't like any train I've ever been on.  We took pics because it was so awesome.  Cushy seats (unheard of on a subway train) but it was the Disney ambiance that amazed us.  Take a look!  (click on pics to make bigger)

 Check out this window in the train. They are all like that.  And right behind Jonathon you can see a statue of Minnie Mouse.  There are character statues all over the train.

 Look close and you can see even the hand holders are Mickey ears.  Disney doesn't miss a bet!  Talk about detail and theming!

 And here is the resort station.  Spotlessly clean, well planned and even the columns are themed.  The sorcerer's hat is used as decoration.  Beautiful.

Now we'd been told not to expect much from Disneyland Hong Kong.  It's like the orphan stepchild of the larger and more grand Disneys, and yes, it is smaller.  About a third of the size of the one in Orlando.  And it only has one "thrill" ride.  Space Mountain.  And only one track on that.  It has a few other rides...including the Jungle Cruise, Small World, Autotopia, Orbitron and Winnie the Pooh.

It's got three different "lands"-- Tomorrowland, Adventureland and Fantasyland which all look very similar to the other parks we've been in, but not exactly the same.  And that's how the whole experience was.  Like the Disneys we knew, but not the same.

Case in point.  The vending carts.  While we are used to getting turkey legs in Disney, having fish balls available as well as dried (smelly) squid was something that made us smile.

But once we got past the idea of comparing this park to the others, we had a wonderful time.  We've never opened a park before, but we did this one.  They did a countdown, just like it was the grand opening.  3-2-1 and we were off!  We headed straight to Space Mountain and walked right on.  We were in the back of the vehicle which is usually the best, but this one didn't have the dips we were used to, so we couldn't give it high marks. 

Yet the ambiance of the ride...the way they had it themed was top notch.  Better than the "refurbished" one in Orlando by far!  And when we went back later, we were lucky enough to do a second ride in the very first car and that was BEYOND GREAT!! Note to everyone:  If you ride Space Mountain in Hong Kong make sure you get in the front.  It's the BEST!!!!  (sorry the photo is a bit out of focus.  My camera sucks at night time pics)

On we went.  Since we had more time than usual,  we went to rides we hadn't been on in years.  Orbitron, which I had to promise my sweet baboo I wouldn't move around too much before he'd join me.  I myself haven't been on the thing since Gradnight in Los Angeles back in *mumbles date softly*.  Ahem.  I don't remember much about the ride.  LOL  I was a little impaired at the time.

We saw several shows, some in Chinese and some in both English and Chinese.  In the Golden Mickey Awards, one guy pretended to be Tarzan and OMG, he was ripped, but you had to wear sunglasses.  He was as white as the underside of a snake's belly!

In It's a Small World, they were singing Christmas songs, in many languages and it was amazing.  I have to admit, I love that ride but rarely get to go on it since no one else does.  But Jonathon was curious about the Merry Christmas singing going on, so he broke down and went with me.

The Jungle Cruise has people who do the spiel in Mandarin, Cantonese AND English.  It was the same ride we've always gone on, and other than it being hard to understand their type of English, it was fun as always.  We rode it once during the day and a second time at night, and the last time the gal was an awesome spieler, but it must have been the last run of the night for her, because she did the ride in half the normal time.  So, in actuality, there was a second thrill ride.  LOL

We watched the Let It Snow parade, and it was an excellent Disney type extravaganza.  Full of color, dance, song and wonderful floats.  We were surprised at the number of Westerners in it.  All the princesses were white except Snow White (ironic isn't it) and many of the dancers were also European.  In fact, as we went through the park, we discovered a copious number of Western performers.  Dancers, singers, fire eaters and even some of the cast members. But as you look at the wonderful costumes and displays, you tend to forget mundane details like that.

So, as you can see, we had a great time.  The only thing that bothered us was that in all our travels, in all the parks we've ever been to, this was the most INEFFICIENTLY run place on the planet!  The rides were slow, the restaurant seating was just bloody weird and even the way they sell you tickets made you scratch your head.

OMG... I could do a whole rant on that by itself.  In fact, I think I will.  Since what we saw at Disney just magnified a lot of what we've seen over here in Asia, I feel a rant coming on!  Check back on Monday for that!
But, overall, our Disney day was great.  We closed the place down, after watching fireworks and eating our way all around the park.  LOL  It was a wonderful way to spend Christmas Eve and even though I still missed my kids something awful, enjoying the park with the one I love most on the planet made up for a lot of that sadness.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the pictures and the story of our day.  I will be back on Monday with a rant about efficiency and tell you a little more about THAT part of Hong Kong Disney.  But on Friday, my blog will hosting RaeLynn Blue, who will shout out the old year with another interesting post.

And don't forget to check out my FREE READ.  My characters have taken over and I'm just following along.  LOL

Have an awesome weekend!


CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Day After the Day After Christmas

Hey all,

As you read this I'll still be on my Christmas holiday, but I wanted to touch base with you all with some of my favorite videos and cartoons of the season.  So enjoy these and I'll be back with a regular blog on Wednesday.

Hope you enjoyed them all.  I'll be back on Wednesday with my blog on what we thought about Hong Kong Disney!

Hugs to all,

Friday, December 24, 2010

Making A List and Checking it Twice...

 Hey all,

Happy Christmas Eve!  I hope each and everyone of you have an awesome and wonderful start to this most special holiday.  As you read this, Jonathon and I will be in Hong Kong at their Disneyland.  We can't wait to see what is the same and what is different.
And since it's Friday I have another great guest blogger for you all.  She's got a blog that will make you look at more than just the presents you may have under the tree.  But first, let's get to know her.  She's Angela Kay Austin who has this to say about herself....

After twenty years of practicing marketing: writing copy, designing layouts, developing advertising campaigns, she realized each piece of the plans she put together eventually told a story. And, since she was a ‘tween reading her mother's Reader's Digest, and every teen magazine she could find she'd dreamt of telling stories. Angela has written for webzines like Rithm 'n Blues.

Her first book, "Love's Chance" stayed on Red Rose Publishing's Best Seller list for 10 weeks. Her latest release, “My Son”, will be available from Red Rose Publishing.

And I have to say what I've read of her work has been very well done, so make sure you check the links at the end of the blog for info on how to pick it up!  But before we get into that, let's see what Angela has to say.


It’s the end of the year, and like so many others, I take this time of year to assess what I did and did not accomplish. 

For me, this includes taking a look at where I was…and where I am, now, as a writer. Books written. Books submitted. Books published. Classes taken. Classes completed. Promotion. Conferences. Networking. The list is unending. And sometimes, overwhelming.

A lot of these I can put a big red checkmark beside, as accomplished or in process. But, one of the most important things…networking, I can’t put that big happy checkmark next to. Why? Because life got in the way. 

It’s amazing how easily you fall out of the habit of blogging, visiting sites, catching up to friends over coffee, listening to and participating in radio (Internet) programs, etc. At first, it’s one or two, then you look up, and the whole year has flown by, and you did—maybe—one or two appearances.

Writing is such a solitary world. In the art of “creating worlds”, you forget to be a part of the world. That does not lend itself to keeping readers’ attention. How can you write and create stories of love, if you’re not out living and loving? 

You might find it interesting how story ideas come about. They can be sparked from: news, radio, TV, and yes, conversations with friends. Anything. Anytime. Anywhere.

Networking (or spending time with friends) could just solve that inevitable battle with writer’s block, and help me write the next great American novel ;-)

So, yes, one of my goals for the New Year: network, network, and network.

How do you plan to start your New Year?


It is so absolutely true that when we writers create a world we have a tendency to forget to live in this one.  My own sweet baboo despairs of me sometimes when we'll be out and about and my mind will wander to how Eámanë is going to get back through the faerie myst with her new lover, David, or if Jhara will be rescued when she is kidnapped by Kylian rebels.

And it is difficult to pull ourselves out of those worlds to deal with such mundane "chores" as emails or interviews.  But, since we get to meet such great people doing it, those things are more than worth it.

Find out more about Angela and her work by checking her out at the following links.

I'll be back on Monday with an after Christmas special report on all the weekends going on!  You all have a wonderful and dream filled Christmas.


CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Where Are You Christmas?

Why can't I find you?
Why have you gone away?
Where is the laughter
You used to bring me?
Why can't I hear music play?

My world is changing
I'm rearranging
Does that mean Christmas changes too?

Hey all,

This Faith Hill song really sums up how I'm feeling about Christmas this year. As some of you may know, this is the first year I'll be away from my kids and it's been really tough on me. I can't bake cookies with my son, Jasiah, or watch White Christmas with my daughter, Jessaca. Or even kabitz with my oldest son, Jeramiah about what the best Christmas music is.

After twenty odd years of being WITH them, sitting in our apartment halfway across the world and not having them shaking presents under the tree (which they do no matter how old they are), it feels like a part of me has gone missing.  Even with Jonathon here--and he is the center of my world-I finally understand what my own mother must have felt like when I flew the proverbial coop.

I really miss my babies.

Christmas is a time of year where the family--or lack thereof--seems to take center stage. You have those people who roll their eyes about the cousins coming for the weekend, and you have those who wait expectantly by the door waiting for Grandma and Grandpa. But whether you are looking forward to the company or not, for most people the holiday season brings forth an outpouring of love, friends and family.

This year since we are going to be alone, we've planned something special to help take our minds off the fact I won't be making Christmas Eve dinner, or watching my kids and critters tear into their stockings on Christmas morning.  Jonathon has them both off, so on Christmas Eve day, we're taking a quick trip over to Hong Kong and visit Disney. Since we usually spend time at Disneyworld this time of year, we figure it will be a way to remind us of that time with our kids.

And then on Christmas day proper, we'll get up (not NICE thing about being kidless  LOL) and once we've had our present unveiling, we'll head into town to see Harry Potter-Deathly Hallows.  We've put it off, once we couldn't make the first showing, so this will be a treat.   Then we plan to have a really great meal at the same place we went for Thanksgiving.  That may change if we hear of somewhere else, but that place (THE MGM) was awesome, so we can't lose if we have our Christmas tucker there.

Then we'll probably go walk around Senado Square and people watch while we walk off our dinner.  It will be a nice time, and if our lifestyle is going to be like this from now on, I guess I'd better get used to it.  But I have to say, right now I'd give all my teeth just to be able to see my kids on Christmas morning. 

But like Faith sings,

My world is changing
I'm rearranging
Does that mean Christmas changes too?

And I guess it does.  No matter how hard we'd like to have every Christmas like that most special one we might remember, it does change.  And rather than fighting it and wishing for something else, I'll try to be wise and understand that each Christmas is precious in it's own way.

Whether you are up to your ears in bows, wrapping paper, egg nog and cinnamon rolls and surrounded by family, or sitting on your balcony watching the ships roll in as you and your sweet baboo (or babette) sip coffee, open that one special gift and maybe get in a really good Christmas kiss.

Friday, I have Angela Kay Austin here to do a special blog on  networking and looking at goals for next year.  I won't be around to remind you, so please take a minute to drop by and say hi to her. 

But for now, I wish each and everyone of you a most joyous holiday.  Merry Christmas and let the light of Jesus' birth send you the sweetest dreams possible. 


Monday, December 20, 2010


Christmas Countdown

Hey all,

OMG...  How did it get to be the week before Christmas so fast?  Part of it is because I don't have the kids whispering their wish lists in my ear, but still...OMG.

So, how are you all doing?  Have you finished your shopping?  Are you one of those organized few who have it all done by Thanksgiving, or are you like the majority of people and rush around through December wishing frantically they knew exactly where that Model XYZ-OMGTHISISCRAZY is still in stock.

Over here, there isn't so much pressure.  But the Chinese people get into it just as their western counterparts do.  I mean, from what I've been told, Christmas is NOT an Asian holiday, but I tell you, you couldn't tell by the decorations, displays and store windows.

If they wanted me to feel right at home, they've succeeded.

But is dragging our westernized version of commercialized Christmas over here a good thing?  I mean, does little Su Li HAVE to have that one of a kind doll?  Will little Han cock up his toes if he doesn't get that model car he's been dreaming off?  What about the real reason for the season?

I can say I've yet to see a Santa waiting for the kiddies to sit on his lap.  And I was kinda disappointed.  I was really curious to see what a Chinese Santa Claus looked like.  LOL  But maybe NOT seeing him means the kids aren't as gift oriented as the children in the USA.

Yet I don't think so.  As I've walked around town I've seen many shoppers bustling around with all kinds of packages, just like I do in the states.  And there is no Wally World or other budget department store chain here, so the prices are as you would expect in a regular store.
But commercialized or not, I hope that Christmas over here will be what it's supposed to be.  Whether you're like me and celebrate this special holiday as the day of our Lord Jesus' birth, or you only have Santa whooshing down your chimney, it all comes down to one thing...

Gifts, eggnog, trees and decorations aside.  This is a holiday for fellowship, giving and loving your fellow man (and woman).  So reach out and touch someone this Christmas season.  Let them know you care.  Share your heart.  And I'll bet your gift will come back to you multiplied many times.
And since I'm not one to say something and not back it up, I have for all of you a very special gift.  A FREE Christmas story for all my fans and readers.  I had a blast writing it, and I hope you'll enjoy reading it.
Go here...  and you'll see my December Newsletter which is open to everyone this month.  Enjoy the newsletter, get a sneak peak at my Newsletter FREE READ, and at the bottom you'll find the link to get to my FREE CHRISTMAS STORY.  And once you read it, please let me know what you think.  Givre wants me to do one each year to celebrate, but it'll be up to you guys just as much as the characters in my head.  :-)
You all have a wonderful Monday, and I'll be back on Wednesday with more Christmas chatter!
Hugs to all,

Friday, December 17, 2010

Where Writers' Ideas Come From

Hey all,
Another Friday has rolled around and today we have a great blog by the awesome, Joe Vadalma, who gives us a look into where he gets his ideas and how he brings his characters to life.  But before we get into that, let's take a closer look at Joe.  This bio came from

I am a technical writer retired from a major computer company and am a voracious reader of all kinds of books, but especially science fiction and fantasy. I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, but have been living in a small town in upstate New York for many years. I am married with four children, ten grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. My hobbies, other than writing, are computer games and do-it-yourself projects. I have had many short stories published in internet E-zines such as The Fifth Dimension, SFF, Dark Moon Rising, Swords Edge, Aphelion, Writer's Hood, Martian Wave, and Planet Magazine.

This time around, Joe has something to say about how ideas come to him.  So join me in welcoming Joe Vadalma to my blog.


People are always asking authors where they get their ideas. In my experience this varies with each writer and each piece of writing. With me, ideas seem to come from the oddest things, usually something a little peculiar or strange that I encounter. 

For example, in my humorous fantasy The Book of Retslu, there is a scene where Dorian, the protagonist, enters a tunnel marked with the words "Dead Man's Tunnel" and a skull and crossbones. Well, I used to travel a road that went under a railroad bridge. Because it was also a curve and the road was narrowed to one lane, many head-on collisions occurred when a car entered it from each end at the same time. As a result, someone had placed graffiti in the tunnel in large bold letters, "Dead Man's Curve" with a skull and crossbones beneath it. 

That gave me an idea for a character who must travel through a tunnel marked in such a manner. I thought, Perhaps my hero is lost; maybe he was enchanted by a sorcerer to always head in the wrong direction. This thought gave me Dorian, a naive youth, who on his way to a tournament to win the hand of a princess is enchanted by evil sorcerer Mordrake to cause Dorian to always take the wrong path.

My Morgaine Series of eBooks started while listening to that old seventies hit, Dancing in the Moonlight. I pictured the scene, a moonlit clearing in the woods and odd people, Wiccans perhaps, dancing in the moonlight. I thought, what if an ordinary woman should come upon such a scene. I wanted to make it a supernatural romance, so I decided that the love interest would be an immortal sorcerer posing as a psychic, and the woman who falls in love with him would be an ordinary woman. 

Of course, there had to be a rival, which was a witch, Morgaine. Then I got to thinking, if the sorcerer was immortal, sooner or later he would have to disappear since he would not age. In another novel of the series, I had him go missing. His love, of course, hired a private investigator to find him. In another novel in the series, I got to wondering how Morgaine became a witch. I also saw a picture of little men attending a university of magic. I had Morgaine step into that picture to learn to be a sorceress. 

In another of the series, I got my inspiration from The Book of Revelation in the Bible. My protagonists had to stop an impending apocalypse.  So you see, ideas can come from anywhere. All it takes is a little imagination to transfer something mundane or unusual into a scene, which in turn translates into characters (to be in the scene), background and an event. 

One thing leads to another, and soon you have story or a novel. 

I know all too well how a chance meeting or a glance at a picture can springboard into a great idea for a novel.  After all, my Easter story, Here Comes Peter came out of nowhere.  I'm STILL trying to figure how I came up with that one!  LOL

Anyway, learn more about Joe and his wonderful work by checking him out at his website, which gives information about his novels, contains a free short and serial, and also an interesting blog.

Hugs, and I'll be back on Monday with more fun and a special countdown to Christmas!
CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Blessings In Another Country

Hey all,

After the last few blogs I've done on the cultural differences between the USA and Macau, I've had a few letters from readers asking me if Christmas will be different for us over here.  So I thought today I'd do a short blog on a few of the things we have done the same...and a few things we've done differently.

Here is Macau the Christmas decorations are beautiful.  Very different from those in the states.  In the USA, there are lots of trees and twinkie lights everywhere.  In fact, I'd say lights and trees are the major decorations.  But here in China, they don't have the access to Christmas trees so they do something different.  And while they do lights, even those aren't the same as we do.

Instead of trees, we get to look at the cutest paper/plastic type of blow up lantern sculptures.  Most are are of pandas, which is, of course, China's big decoration over here.  They are wearing Santa hats, riding sleds, playing instruments and a hundred other different themes.  There are also puffy looking reindeer, Santas, elves and other Christmas characters.  All very Chinese and so much fun to look at.  And I'm told they will keep these up until the Chinese New Year in February.

And the flowers...they go crazy over here.  Poinsettias, mums, coleus, and many others, all in bright festive colors, line the streets, circle the decorations and dot the steps of all the casinos.  Live Christmas trees, the few I have seen are usually in the bigger hotels or casinos.  And I can't help myself.  I have to stick my face in them and inhale! smells so good!

The lights here are different as I said.  They use LED type lights and they are amazing.  They race, they drip, they sparkle and they glow in so many different ways it's hard to describe.  But the different displays are incredible and watching them come on at dusk, it finally feels like Christmas.  Here is Jonathon in Senado Square with icicle lights dripping overhead.  You can barely see the big blue Christmas tree flashing behind him.

Check out a few of these other pics.


And doing our regular Christmas traditions?  We're adapting them a bit.  There isn't any Christmas music on the radio over here, so we've had to use itunes to download enough to get us through.  I've got a few CDs, but you can only listen to Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas Story and the Beach Boys Christmas Album just so often before you want to hurl them out the window.  And since music stores are still something we haven't discovered here yet, the internet is a Godsend.

This evening we were able to enjoy a tradition we do every year.  We had to change it up a bit because of where we are, but overall, it was the same fun time we usually have.  Every year, no matter where we are, Jonathon and I love to go to some special place and have a coffee and a treat and just wander around.  We people watch, look at Christmas decorations and do some shopping.

This year we went to Senado Square which is one of the main tourist areas here.  We grabbed a holiday Starbucks coffee, and then, to our delight, we found a guy selling hot chestnuts.  Now that's a story in itself. The guy takes the chestnuts and puts them in this little cement mixer type thing over an open flame.  He cooks them that way and the scent drifting across the square is mouthwatering.  Then he pops them in a paperbag and hands them to you.  Fresh, hot and ready to eat.

We munched our way up to the Ruins of St. Paul and just sat down and people watched for awhile.  Again, the decorations were beautiful and for once it wasn't so crowded.  Teenage girls giggled and teenage boys strutted like peacocks trying to tempt a mate.  Tourists gawked and took pictures by the score.  None of which would come out since it was probably too dark.  LOL

There wasn't any Christmas music playing as is usual this time of year, but the sound of babies laughing and my sweet baboo whispering how much he was enjoying himself was music enough.  I loved the time we spent together, and although it isn't "the normal" Christmas celebration, it will be one I remember for the rest of my life.

Hugs and I'll see you on Friday with our latest guest blogger, Joe Vadalma.  He's got a great blog about how the smallest things can trigger an idea that turns into a wonderful new story!

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Monday, December 13, 2010

You're Gonna Do What With Those Thngs???

Hey all,

Today we will continue with my on going, b-monthly (or so) series on the cultural differences between where I am now--Asia--and where I was born--the USA. I've got PLENTY of blog fodder I promise you so I'll probably be able to keep this up for as long as I'm here.

And in all honesty, sharing the pain (or pleasure) with you all is a big part of the fun.  It's like coming home and telling my kids, OMG, you are NOT going to believe what happened to me today!

So, sit back, grab a cuppa and enjoy what makes this country different from anything I've known before.

1. So, you all know Jonathon and I like to eat.  One of our greatest pleasures is trying new restaurants and tasting new and exotic foods.  (except baby pigeons--remember, NEVER going there)  And since we've been overseas so often, we're used to the slightly different ways you are served depending on the country you're in.  For example, when we were in the UK, we found the farther north we went, the smaller the glasses of coke got.  Is this a standard for that country?  Probably not, but it amused us none the less.  By the time we got to the far northern part of Scotland, we figured the waiter would be handing us a thimble filled with the drink.  LOL
And in Mexico, you learn very quickly NEVER to drink the water.  Montezuma's revenge and all that.  Bottled water or if you're lucky, at your hotel or casa, they will have a water purifier so you don't have to worry about nasty microbes that will give you the trots.

But I've learned too, the longer you stay in a place, the more acclimated your body becomes to the water.  Now I'm not talking about the really nasty bugs.  Haiti is an excellent example of water that is bad no matter how long you've been drinking it.  What I'm referring to is the natural stuff that is just there and as you are exposed, you just get used to it.

So, after several months of "acclimating", we don't worry so much about whether our ice cubes are made with tap water or even having that same tap water with our restaurant meals.  But what we do still scratch our heads over is when we are served warm water in a regular drinking glass.

That's right.  Instead of the nice glass of ice water we would get in the states, we are served warm, sometimes even hot water.  In the same drinking water glass.  At first we thought it was just really weak tea, but nope.  Water.  Then we wondered if they were going to bring us a tea bag or something to add to it.  Nope.  Just water.  We finally decided this restaurant was just weird, but then we found out a great many of them do it this way.  Whether it is a neighborhood cafe or the fancy-dancy restaurant at the top of the MGM casino, hot water with your meals is the way to go.

But why?  It took us almost four months before we came up with a reason.  Maybe those little microbes aren't as benign as we like to think and so they boil the heck out of the water to make it safe.  That would make sense, knowing how health conscious these people are.

Or maybe somewhere back in history some emperor or dignitary liked their water warm and so it became a trend.  Everyone jumped on the bandwagon and now no one can remember why they do it.  Sometimes the simplest explanation is the craziest one.

2.  So I was looking to replenish my supply of vitamin E pills at one of their local pharmacies.  But I discovered their pharmacies and ours are two very different things. If you go into a Walgreens or a CVS in the states you can get all kinds of things, plus whatever prescription you need, right?  Including vitamins and health needs.

Not so here.  While their pharmacies have some things, vitamins and suppliments are very difficult to find.  And when you do, they are outrageously expensive.  We actually have our kids ship them to us from Florida.  It's a quarter of the cost.  But that's all really beside the point.  When I asked for vitamins, (and believe me, that's a blog worthy experience all by itself) after the usual gesturing and language difficulty, I was sent to another place.  A Chinese pharmacy.  And those places are eye-opening.

In the window, they've got dead caterpillars on sticks.  (Why?)  Huge piles of fungi. (or is that fungus, I can never remember the proper term)  They've got deer antlers arranged neatly on a tray (poor Bambi) and some sort of fin shaped thing we never did find out what it was.  (obviously Willie never was freed here in Asia)

And once you get past those lovelies and are into the store proper, the vitamins you find are NOT Flintstones Multiples or One a Days.  Seriously, why would any one take tiger penis? For your manhood?  Is this the Chinese version of Viagra?  It didn't do anything for the poor tiger, now did it? 

I saw stuff I could only imagine in fantasy novels, including, and I kid you not, Extract of Kangaroo.  WTF?  How do they even bottle something like that?  What is in a kangaroo that I'd want in my body? The tail?  The hair?  How about their big feet?  Maybe it's like caffine and a natural way to make you bouncy?   LOL

3.  Since we moved to Macau, Jonathon and I have discovered we have a new skill.  I guess it's not a skill really, more like a super power.  One so special and amazing, I even wrote to Marvel Comics to see if they wanted to do a story about us.

We can turn invisible.

That's right.  When we are walking down the street, no one can see us.  It's fantastic, astounding and bloody annoying when they walk right over the top of you!

Seriously, they don't know we are there.  I mean, I'm taller than most Chinese and I dress pretty vividly in bright colors and clothes that can be a little flashy, and still, they'll mow me down without a second glance. 

At first we thought they were just being rude (and believe me, in all my travels, Chinese can be the rudest people I've ever met) but when we called them on it, the offender would apologize so sincerely we realized they weren't being rude this time.  They just didn't see us.

How can that be?  And why?  Is it because we're European?  White?   Foreigners?  They'll move out of each other's way, but when they are coming towards us it's like we aren't even on their radar.  We can literally stand still right in the middle of the sidewalk or hallway and they won't go around, they'll barrel right into us.  It's gotten so annoying we've taken on the attributes of a puffer fish.  When we see someone coming at us, both Jonathon and I swell up just to look intimidating.

But it's hard to intimidate when you're invisible.

And when they run into us, they are always so bloody surprised and shocked, I just wanna scream,  "I was standing right here!  Couldn't you see me?"  But since that would be losing my temper and losing face, which I talked about in my last blog, instead I just grin and do my puffer fish imitation and they flee my presence as fast as their little feet can carry them.  I may get run over on a regular basis, but I'm still mean enough to scare the hell out of them.

Just ask Jonathon.  *grin*

4.  Now this last one is something I've been wanting to share with you for a while now.  It's one of the hardest things I've had to get used to over here.  We ran into it in Singapore, flirted with it in China and here in Macau it is almost an everyday occurrence.

The Asian's are fanatics when it comes to keeping their public toilets clean.  In all my travels in this area I can only think of a couple places where the bathrooms where too icky to enter.  Most of the time, not only are they tidy, you can literally eat off the floor in them.

Most of this is due to the attendants.  That's right.  You heard me correctly.  A lot of bathrooms, especially in the bigger places, like hotels and casinos have people who do nothing but keep the bathrooms clean.  And while I appreciate that, how they do it is a little offsetting.

So here's how it goes.  You go in to use the toilet and instead of privacy, you'll find this Asian waiting for you.  In the ladies side, (Jon says it's much the same over in the men's bathroom, except they can watch you), you smile politely and scoot in to the stall to do your business.  And you hope desperately that someone else will come in so you don't have to be alone with the attendant when you finish.

Why?  Well, first of all, even though everyone KNOWS you do it, going to the bathroom is still a private thing, so knowing that someone is out there listening to you pee is intimidating, no matter how free and easy you may be.  I often wonder how the guys do it.  Pee into one of those urinals with the dude just standing there staring.  But the main reason I hate doing it is the guilt.  I swear these attendants all must be mothers because they have the whole guilt look thing down to a fine art.

Still don't understand?  Okay.  Let me explain.  I go in to go pee and I have to do my thing knowing this lady is out there listening.  That's bad enough.  But when you're done, you barely open the door to the stall and she's there.  Her black eyes gleaming with irritation and in her hand are these tong things and she snaps them at you, just like a bloody crab.

Oh, she's not after you.  The pinchers are for whatever mess you might have left behind in the stall.  A stray bit of toilet paper.  A gum wrapper.  Or heaven forbid, you dropped something more damaging onto the floor.  But she doesn't even wait until you quit the bathroom to clean up.  Seriously, I barely get out of the cubicle and she's pushing her way in to clean up.  Obviously, no germ is allowed to flourish and grow in her domain!

Which is all good and right except for the fact that the whole time she's in there cleaning, she muttering and snapping those pincers and by the time you shuffle out of the bathroom, you swear you'll never go potty again, you feel so damn guilty.  It's probably the reason so many people have bladder problems.  They're just afraid to go.

So there you have it.  The latest installment of cultural difference between the old and the new.  Please give me your thoughts and comments.  I love hearing what you all think of what I share.

Hugs and I'll see you on Wednesday,

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bar Food and Real Food

Hey all,

Can you believe the year is almost over?  I sure can't.  It feels like we just got over here to Macau and now we're looking at Christmas.  Where did the time go?  Each week feels like it flies by, but in my case I sure look forward to Fridays.  
Because that's guest blogger day and today I have a fun blog by fellow Samhain author, Meg Benjamin.  She's got something to say about food and you all know just how much I LOVE that delicious topic.  But before we sink our teeth into that, let's get to know Meg a little bit more.

Meg Benjamin spent twenty-plus years teaching writing and Web design in South Texas before pulling up roots and starting all over again on the Colorado Front Range. Her comic romances are set in the Texas Hill Country in the mythical town of Konigsburg, which gave her a chance to sample some great Texas wine and some wonderful Texas food (research—it’s all research!).

Sounds awesome to me.  I'm always up for a little food and wine sampling.  LOL  So, let's see what else she has to say about sampling.  Whether it be food or a taste of love...  Please join me in welcoming, Meg to my blog!


One of the supporting characters in Brand New Me (released December 7 by Samhain Publishing) is a chef named Clem Rodriguez. Clem is trying her best to convince her boss, Tom Ames (our hero) to start serving dinner at his honky tonk bar, the Faro. Now to some, this may seem wildly unrealistic—a honky tonk that’s also a gourmet restaurant. But this is the Texas Hill Country, and anything is possible.

Now the granddaddy of all Texas honky tonks, Gruene Hall, doesn’t serve food normally (although they have a few special nights where they do), but that’s because they’re surrounded by restaurants in Gruene, most notably the Grist Mill, which is right up the hill and will allow patrons to order to go. John T. Floore’s Country Store in Helotes, another legendary honky tonk, has a kitchen and prides itself on its steaks and enchiladas, both of which Clem serves too. The Luckenbach Bar and Dancehall in (where else) Luckenbach, Texas, doesn’t serve food, but you can bring some with you. Hondo’s in Fredericksburg (the physical model for the Faro) was a restaurant in its previous life and still serves good stuff (or at least it did the last time I was there). Try the Southwestern “Slobb” salad, which is my particular favorite. 

Clem does bar food too, but it tends to be different from the bar food you might look for normally—quesadillas with brie or nachos with gulf shrimp, for example. That’s not actually outside the realm of possibility in the Hill Country. One of the most legendary honky tonk roadhouses in the area, the Hilltop Café, is also a gourmet restaurant of some renown. You can dine on Cajun delicacies and listen to the band if the weather’s right (it’s a tiny place and the bands are sometimes outside). 

And there’s always the amazing PoPo’s in Welfare, Texas, although they now bill themselves as a “family restaurant” rather than a honky tonk. Still, PoPo’s started as a dancehall where bootleggers peddled their wares at a quarter a shot during prohibition. Even family restaurants come with a past in the Hill Country.

But, of course, you don’t go to a honky tonk to eat. You go to listen to the music and drink beer and dance. Mainly you go to a honky tonk to have a good time, something my hero and heroine definitely manage. Honky tonks may not be everybody’s first thought when it comes to food, but they’re great places to fall in love, and the setting definitely works this time around.

I don't know about you all, but now I'm hungry!  LOL  Now, like Meg said, her lastest book is set in a bar.  She's given me the blurb for it, so check it out...


If any man wants more than a dance with her, they’ll have to get past him…

Deirdre Brandenburg has an MBA and a dream to become the coffee supplier for Konigsburg’s growing restaurant industry. What she doesn’t have is money, courtesy of her billionaire father’s scheme to make her come home. All she needs is three months until her trust fund kicks in. Until then, she needs a job.

Hiring the new girl next door is a no-brainer for ex-gambler Tom Ames. He’s already succeeded in making his bar, The Faro, a growing tourist draw. Deirdre’s beauty will pull in the locals—particularly every red-blooded male in the Hill Country. As he watches her transform from tentative business wonk to confident, sassy barmaid, he realizes he wants first crack at her heart.

When Big John Brandenburg sends Deirdre’s ex-boyfriend to drag her home, the plan backfires, leaving Tom’s bar in shambles and Deirdre kidnapped by a band of loony Texas secessionists.

Things are looking pretty bleak—except the good people of Konigsburg have no intention of giving Deirdre up, either. Even if it takes every Faro employee, every last Toleffson, and one cranky iguana to give the honky-tonk lovebirds a chance at forever.

Warning: Contains dirty dancing, hot summer sex, a honky-tonk makeover, and one nippy iguana.

And you can click here for an EXCERPT.


I so wanna read about the iguana!  LOL  I'm picking up this book as soon as it comes out! 

To learn more about Meg and all her work check out these links. She can be found at her WEBSITE as well as on FacebookMySpace and Twitter.  Meg loves to hear from readers—contact her at Brand New Me is her fifth title for Samhain.

You all have a great weekend.  I'll be back on Monday with more fun and games for everyone!


CJ England

Follow Your Dreams