Friday, April 30, 2010

Where In The World Is CJ England???

Inquiring minds want to know... And will continue to question through the month of May...


Hey all,

It is Friday April 30 and by the time you read this Jonathon and I will be visiting one of the oldest rainforests in the world, Taman Negara Park. We are really looking forward to this time away from the hustle and the bustle of the city.

There is no internet available at the small bungalow we will be staying in, so the next time I'll have to check back in won't be until Tuesday or Wednesday.

In the next few days we will be exploring the rainforest, taking a boat ride up a river, fighting off bloodsucking leeches, walking through the forest canopy on a skinny little rope-type walkway and listening to the sounds of the primeval jungle outside our window.

Then we'll head to Thailand on an overnight train to visit one of the oldest and most conservative settlements called Sungai Kolok. Let's just say I won't be wearing my shorts and tank tops here. But then again...neither will Jonathon. LOL But you can get a beer at the pubs. Go figure!!!!

Next is a train ride back during the daylight hours on the famous Jungle Train. Read up about it HERE. You can then share our excitement or our misery. It will be interesting to see if a goat will be my seat mate!

Then we switch to a faster train to head back into Kuala Lumpur. We have a couple days there before we head out on our next part of the trip... Cambodia and Vietnam!!!!

I'll be in touch when I can! Keep us in your prayers and thoughts. Already I'm a missing you!

CJ England
Follow Your Dreams

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Citizen Critics?

Hey all,

It's time for another guest blogger. Today I have the honor of introducing Meg Benjamin, a fellow Samhain author.

When she isn’t writing, Meg spends her time listening to Americana music, drinking Colorado and Texas wine, and keeping track of her far-flung family. She recently retired from twenty years of teaching writing, Web design, and desktop publishing.

A friend told me she knows she'll always have a good laugh when she reads Meg's books and I can't wait to see for myself when I try out her Venus In Blue Jeans.

And great writer and if this blog is any indication, a heck of a blogger too! Let's see what she has to say about a hot topic. Reader's reviews! Take it away, Meg!!!!!


Ted Allen made an interesting point in Food Network Magazine recently (yeah, I read it—I like to cook). A reader had asked if she should post a bad review of a restaurant on her blog since she hadn’t liked her meal there. Allen suggested that if she was going to become a restaurant critic, she should undertake the kind of rigor that real restaurant critics practiced.

First of all, she should visit the restaurant more than once before passing judgment (some restaurant critics visited four or five times). Then she should make sure she knew something about food and cooking. Maybe she didn’t like the way the lamb kidneys tasted because she didn’t like lamb kidneys: that’s not exactly the restaurant’s fault. Finally, she should keep in mind how hard it was to run a restaurant. Although that might not be an excuse for consistent lousy service or terrible food, it might be an explanation for an off night. In other words, he suggested that if she was going to take over a critic’s job she should try to have a critic’s qualifications.

I thought of that the other day when I stumbled onto a discussion of readers’ comments on some of the bookstore sites around the Internet. Several authors were sharing horror stories about having gotten rave reviews from the reviewing sites and then having gotten slammed by a “citizen critic” at a bookstore site. Frequently the citizen critic review would be the only one up there, and the author would be left wincing at the thought that readers would only see the negative and have no idea that the book was actually well thought of by others.

Now one of the great advantages of the Internet has been the ability to see how other people have reacted to things you’re thinking of buying. Were people who bought that car satisfied with it? Was that DVD player actually a good buy? I’ve been known to make decisions about which appliance to get based on what users have had to say about them. The thing is, though, when you complain about your experience with an appliance, you’re usually talking about something concrete. The slow cooker was too small for a pot roast, for example, or the timer didn’t work well. When you talk about a book, you’re talking about something a lot more subjective. Did you like it? Why or why not?

And this is where Ted Allen’s advice comes in. If you’re going to be a critic, you have a responsibility to look at the book the way a critic looks at it. What was the author trying to do? Did she come close? Where did the book succeed, and where did it fall short?

When you come to a book, you’re always bringing your personal preferences with you. Maybe something about the hero turned one reader off. Maybe another reader doesn’t like serial killer plots. Maybe yet another reader hates first person narrators. Those are all personal reactions. Perfectly legit, mind you, but personal. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the book itself is bad, just that that particular reader didn’t like it. An honest review needs to make that distinction.

Am I saying citizen critics should knock it off? Not at all. It’s liberating for readers to be able to post their reactions to various books. But it’s also easy to be careless, to toss a book aside and then trash it on Amazon—maybe too easy. And it hurts to see several months’ (and sometimes years’) work dismissed in a couple of lines. I guess I’d like to think that citizen critics take their duties seriously, and that they give books the same consideration that a professional critic does.

And if all else fails, maybe they should consider Thumper’s maxim: “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.”


An excellent blog, Meg, and one I heartily agree with. I'm sure we all have seen the reviews that were nothing but smoke and nastiness, but there are those, professional or not that are insightful and helping to the reader.

So, what do you think? Tell Meg all about it in the comments below!

If you want to know more about Meg, check out her WEBSITE. You can follow her on /meg.benjamin1">Facebook MySpace and Twitter Meg loves to hear from readers—contact her at

She writes about South Texas, although she now lives in Colorado. Her comic romances—Venus In Blue Jeans, Wedding Bell Blues, and Be My Baby, all from Samhain Publishing—are set in the Texas Hill Country in the mythical town of Konigsburg.

I'll be back on Friday with a short reminder of where I am in my travels. Check on back and see Where in the World is CJ England???? And if I can't comment, know it's because I have no way to do so. Internet is going to be spotty in some of these places!!!

Hugs to all,
CJ England
Follow Your Dreams

Monday, April 26, 2010

There's No Place Like Home-Fraser Place

Hey all,

I've only got a few more days here in Singapore and I think it's time I showed you all where we spent most of our days and our nights. Fraser Place and Fraser Suites

For most of the time I was in Singapore we stayed in what is called a residential hotel complex. The one chosen by the company, (who will remain nameless) was a beautiful place complete with 24 hour gym, pool, library and wonderful people both in housekeeping and down at The Hub, which is where we had our breakfasts each morning.

It's like being in an apartment, only you don't have to make your bed, do your dishes, clean the bathroom or mop, sweep and vacuum. I loved it. LOL Of course, I couldn't not do things. I am a woman, but mostly, I don't like people messing with my stuff. So I did our bedroom myself. I know...I me anal or paranoid. It's just the way I am. *sigh*

Anyway, the place I spent the most time was Fraser Place. This was the property down by Clarke Quay and it is close to everything. I loved the area. Right between Chinatown and Little India it was easy to get to the MRT and surrounded by restaurants of all kinds.

At night we could go down to the plaza in the picture above and watch the soccer games with the big crowd of people and it was a hoot even though soccer has never made my heart beat fast. But you do get caught up in it over here. You don't have much choice. Even when the Olympics were on, they didn't get much coverage...there were more important soccer finals going on. LOL

When Jonathon got off work, we'd meet and eat at some restaurant then walk home along the river. It was lovely. I hated it when they moved him to the other Fraser Suites, but as a "guest" I appreciated the huge pool and great library they had over there, so I guess it all balances out.

But I digress. Let me show you some pics of the two hotels and introduce you to some of the people I met. I may not come back again, but they will always have a place in my heart.

This was one of the first people I met when I came to Singapore. I was coming back from a ramble and was hot and tired. I wandered through the courtyard and as they do, this gal came out and asked me if I wanted to sit and have a drink. I thought...why not? So I did and from that time on she and I always waved and talked when I came by. She went out of her way to make sure I was taken care of when we ate at her place. Her name is Mahendra (Mal) and I send her a big HELLO and THANK YOU!!!

This was one of the living rooms in the apartments. You could look out the windows and see the courtyard below in one of them. The others looked out on the street and you could watch the people go about their business. Nice views over all.

The kitchen in the smaller of the apartments. Not much different than ours at home except there is a step in and out of every room in Singapore. We called them High Lows and you never knew when one would jump out at you. Drove me nuts. I stared at my feet the whole time I was there, just in case.

This was the pool at the second Fraser Suites. We didn't like the hotel as well, but the pool area was awesome. It had this huge pool, a separate cool water (they don't do hot here) jacuzzi, a kiddie pool and tons of chairs, couches and table. Quite beautiful.

This next picture is of the entrance to the pool area. A lovely fountain is just perfect for this tropical setting. And the dolphins were a nice touch.

This was one of the walkways to the elevator. On either side, there was a pond. In one were these beautiful fish and in the other were turtles. I loved to talk to them as I waited for the elevator. Another reason people thing I'm crazy. *snicker*

This was one of the shopping areas near the first Fraser Place apartments. You can see the clock tower in the back. That's where all the soccer games were watched. At night this pathway was filled with tables and servers vying for your business. Every kind of food you can imagine.

And here is a pic of the place we ate most of our complimentary breakfasts. No continental breakfast here. We got eggs, anyway we wanted them, fruit and a full buffet of both western and eastern fare. Yummy!!!! It filled up fast in the morning, but no one ever went hungry with the servers we had there.

And finally, I've saved the best for last. These people became our friends--not just the ones who served us. From left to right, my sweet baboo-Jonathon, Tam, Helen, Yours Truly and Miss Hong Kong (MHK).
They took care of us at breakfast and any other time we needed food. Tam was always there to answer questions and get us anything we needed, while Helen and MHK did the cooking. MHK wasn't a talker, but Helen made up for it. I never did know MHK's real name, but that in her youth she was Miss Hong Kong, so that's what she was called. LOL Helen was the head of the kitchen and wonderful. She remembered everyone's name and what they liked and when she saw you, she'd pipe up with your name and ask if you wanted that omelet with or without cheese. I loved these guys!!!

So there you have it. Our home away from home. At least for now. Who knows where we will be next week!!! So, I say goodbye to this fantastic place, it's people and all it's memories. I'll lift a glass--or maybe just this great hookah set up filled with beer--in honor of the time I spent here.

If you can...come on over and tell them CJ sent you. I wonder if they will remember the crazy American who wandered around town writing books aloud???

We leave out of here on Wednesday, for the first stop on our Asian tour...Taman Negara Rainforest Park. We will be visiting parts of Malaysia and Thailand over the next week.

Then, from that point on, throughout the rest of May, I'll have a few posts here and there as I can. Some will be pre-done just to let you all know where I'm supposed to be, and I'll have guest bloggers keeping things going for me throughout the month. Others will be posted as I can, when and if I have internet. We've decided to take Lucas with me so we can research places we are going, but other than that I won't be spending much time on the computer. Too Busy!!! LOL

For this next Wednesday, I have another guest blogger coming to visit. Meg Benjamin is a new author to me, but what I've seen so far, I really like. Please come say hi and see what she has to say.

And until I talk to you again, I ask that you keep Jonathon and I in your thoughts and prayers. Traveling mercies and prayers for good health, prosperity and safety if you would please.

Take care all and I'll see you next in Malaysia and Thailand!!!!

CJ England
Follow Your Dreams

Friday, April 23, 2010

Nothing Would Be More Tiresome Than...

Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.

Hey all,

This quote by Voltaire sums up my feelings about food quite well. I love to eat and when it's excellent food I figure that's a slice of heaven. One of Jonathon's and my favorite activities is trying new foods and new restaurants, and Singapore is a gastronomic's delight!

There are more restaurants, food courts, food stalls and vendors in this city than I think in the whole of Florida together! And that's a lot!!!! And unlike westerners, they don't spread them all apart. All of their restaurants are set up like what you'd see in a mall food court. Each type are all together in one place to make it easier on the consumer to check out all the competition.

And what a competition it is. As you walk down the street they have people standing outside and they all shout at you to come in. If you make eye contact, you're a goner. They'll chase you down and herd you back in. It's crazy.

There is one area just off the Marina district, Jonathon and I call Vendor Row. It starts at the river and ends at the statue of the big golden pigeon. (Don't ask why they have a statue of a big golden pigeon. I don't know why. But it is done in great detail down to the puckered anus under the tail feathers. Appropriate I guess...being a pigeon and all. LOL)

Anyway, the first time we walked down this little street I wasn't sure we'd make it out alive. We were attacked...literally. Menus pushed in our faces, little Chinese gals taking our arms and trying to push us inside. I felt like I was in some bad movie running the gauntlet and I wasn't sure if the torture would ever end!!!!

We finally pushed our way out, but I made Jon promise never to make me do it again! I don't do well in crowds on a good day, but this type of thing drives me nuts. Too bad too. There were several restaurants I'd have been interested in trying if they hadn't been such a hard sell.

But we have found some great ones. And for those here in Singapore as well as those around the world, if you ever have a chance to visit these places, tuck your napkin in deep. You may never want to leave!!!

First off, let me introduce you to my two favorite places to eat Chinese food. One,is in Food Row in Chinatown, the next on the famous Orchard Blvd. Two very different places, but both with the best food of their kind I've found around!

Here is food row in Chinatown. In this pic it's pretty quiet. I took it during the day. But at night, things start jumping and during the Chinese New Year? You couldn't even walk down the street. But as you can see, vendors line the side and the tables are right out in the middle of the street. It's a great place to people watch and I adore the ambiance of the area.
This place is my overall favorite. Not just because of the delicious food--they make the best seafood rice on the planet--but you haven't really lived right until you order at one of the carts and then they either shout at you when it's done or bring it out to you where you sit. And woe to you if you don't finish your plate. One of the people who pick up the tables is this cute little old dude. One night Jonathon ordered something a little too hot and couldn't finish it. Boy, did that elderly man look disappointed. He just shook his head and sighed over him. LOL We were very careful to clean our plates after that. And now each time he sees me coming, he cleans off a table and pats his tummy and just grins! I love it!

The second food stand is in an underground food court below a myriad of Orchard shops. It has many choices, but when Jonathon first arrived he tried the Hong Kong noodles they make and loved them. Since then we've tried them all over town and only one has come close. A tiny little stand up in the big food court in Vivo City. But over all...this place is the winner!!!!We've found there is a difference between wet and dry Hong Kong noodles. The wet ones are okay, but it's the dry ones we really love. Doesn't this look scrumptious?

This is another one of our favorites. A Malaysian place located in the famous old Lau Pa Sat Festival Marketplace. It is an outside Satay stand and's wonderful. The prices are right and let me tell you, they feed you well. The sauce they make is out of this world good and they even throw in some cut up veggies to balance the meal. Watching them cook over an open fire is part of the fun. I wish I had a pic, but it came out too blurry because it was dark.

And for Indian food, the winner hands down is Khansama's in Little India. This place rocks!!! I am not a curry fan--dislike hot food, but they've won me over with their delicious meals. I promise you, if you love Indian food, this is the place to go and if you aren't sure, let their wonderful wait staff help you put a perfect meal together. That's part of the fun. You'll order something and they'll nod happily, or if it's not quite right they will gently steer you in the direction of what you should order. And they are never wrong.
One of the owners, Rakesh Kumar, came over to ask us if we were enjoying our meal and we wound up talking to him for a good half hour. An interesting, creative man, he's going to get me the recipe for their delicious tamarind sauce.'s great!!!

I know there may be other great places in Singapore, but these are the ones that we went back to again and again. We are really going to miss the easy access food stands and the fact you can't spit (remember, spitting is illegal in Singapore) without hitting something that has to do with food of some type. We can't wait to sink our teeth into a good steak, but I'll never be able to eat Chinese or Indian again without wishing I was back on the streets of Singapore chowing down with some of my favorite people in the world!!!

I'll be back on Monday with my final post from Singapore. This one will give you a taste of residential hotel living at Frasier Place. Our home away from home!!!

Take care all,

CJ England
Follow Your Dreams

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Looking For That Special Someone

Hey all,

It's time for another guest blogger. Today I have the honor of introducing Selena Robins, a fellow Samhain author. This is what it says about her on her website...

Unable to stay focused in school—science and math didn’t equate to happily ever after—Selena excelled in Daydreaming 101 and Creative Writing. Her entrepreneurial skills became evident in the latter part of Junior High when she found herself penning essays and short stories for five bucks a pop. Her future as a writer was foreshadowed by winning first prize in a contest run by the Humane Society—a romance about two race horses who fell in love (the filly won the race and the stud).

And the rest is history. LOL So let's get to know her a bit better, shall we? Please join me in welcoming, Selena Robins!!!


Looking for that Special Someone...

Only those who possess a wicked sense of humor and a sense of the absurd need apply.

Do you have the following qualifications?

Willing to take field trips (may include stalking) to observe and interview police, hookers, military personnel, farmers, morticians, mobsters, mechanics, Walmart greeters, nuns and prison guards—if you own a pair of night vision goggles even better.

Please note: Some of the above personnel may take exception to inquiring minds and we would therefore venture into Googleland instead. After all, our partnership would be hindered by broken bones or head injuries.

Do you enjoy leisurely lunches, brainstorming ways to dispose of dead bodies, discussing angst, heartbreak, emotional baggage and new and improved ways where a couple could make love? At the same time not feel intimidated or embarrassed if by chance the luncheon conversation is overheard by bystanders?

Deal Breakers:

This is not the partnership for you if:
A. You won’t share your stash of chocolate.
B. You suffer indigestion while sharing a bottle of whine with a side order of well done rant.
C. You take yourself (or me) too seriously.

If there was such a thing as the above could be an ad for a writer in search of their vocational partner.

For a writer, finding a critique partner could be as daunting as finding a spouse, throw in the requirements that your critique partner must be creative, critical yet compassionate, be as passionate about your work as they are of theirs, be on call twenty-four-seven for a shoulder when a bad reviews or rejections come in, be non-judgmental, understand your quirks and accept your swinging lifestyle (I’m talking about mood swings of course).

I’ve been fortunate to partner with two writers; Nancy Darryl and Denise Agnew. We brainstorm, laugh and cry together on our writing journey.

Although we differ in our outward personalities—Nancy and Denise being the extroverts and me being the shy, demure and very serious one (admittedly, tongue is planted firmly inside cheek)—our differences have strengthened our friendship and working relationship.

Our writing strengths and weaknesses complement each other, helping us to learn from one another with the goal of producing a stronger work of fiction. Our similarities—love of family, books, laughter and chocolate are the added elements that have turned our working relationship into a strong friendship.

The main ingredient when working with a critique partner is to have one-hundred-percent trust in each other and give and take suggestions and opinions with respect for your partner’s work.

There are times when we don’t take each other’s advice, and that’s okay, as with any partnership you’re not always going to agree with everything. Every writer has their own unique voice and perceives the world differently, and that’s a good thing—vive la difference. What is needed in a good critique partnership is the ability to embrace those differences and make them work for the team.

The literary world can be harsh and ruthless and can wreak havoc on your writing confidence at times. A writer not only has to be her harshest critic when looking at her work objectively before submitting, but needs to believe and know that her critique partner has her back and is assured that her partner wouldn’t let her send a manuscript out that isn’t polished enough for submission.

A critique partner is someone who is willing to slay the “I suck at this” dragon when it rears its ugly head. As with writing, the main thing is to enjoy your partnership and having someone who understands the journey, celebrate each step of the way, even something like finishing a chapter or writing your first blog.

Selena Robins

Mischief is Maddie’s business....and business is BOOMING
Samhain Publishing


Thanks Selena for that amusing look at finding crit partners. A lot of writers swear by them and it's great to see when it works so well. Check her out at the links above and please make sure you leave a comment to let her know how well you liked her blog!!!

I'll be back on Friday with a look at my favorite places to eat in Singapore!!!!

Hugs to all,

CJ England
Follow Your Dreams

Monday, April 19, 2010

Part Three: Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.

Hey all,

That quote by Franz Kafka, really says it all for me. And when I went on my writing retreat, I was able to do just that... Fall into the abyss of my dreams and imaginings and really get some work done.

Once Jonathon left, I did just that. But I had to let him go and that was really hard. I hate being apart from him, one of the reasons I'm here in Singapore in the first place, but I really wanted to try and finish the book so we agreed to give the retreat a shot.

So off we went to the bus station. Omar was our cabbie again and when he saw how upset I was at Jonathon going away, he went out of his way to make sure I was okay. He took me to his wife's favorite material store and helped me wheel and deal for some beautiful silks. Helped me feel better and I think he had a great time doing it. In fact, he was so sweet he did something really unexpected. When I told him I was going to use the material to make native dresses, he drove me back to his house and talked his wife into giving me an outfit to use as a pattern!! Can you believe that? How generous is that?

And he didn't stop there. When he remembered I had a daughter, he grabbed one for her, too! So I have two handmade Malaysian dresses not only to use as a pattern, but to wear and remember him fondly. In fact I wrote Jessaca and told her she had a new honorary Uncle Omar. And when I get back, I'm going to send his wife some materials like calico to thank her for allowingOmar's generosity and not knocking him up alongside his head! LOL

But I finally had to go back to the resort. There, I had my first and only run-in with the staff. See, Jonathon had made a special effort to let them know any housekeeping had to be done by the time I returned so I could jump right into writing. He knew I wouldn't be in great shape and would want to hole up. And it wasn't much. Just a couple things that needed to be fixed in the room. A sheet was torn and it desperately
needed to be vacuumed.

Well, it wasn't done. And I let them know I was NOT HAPPY. Very politely I told them they had fifteen minutes to make it right and when they saw how adamant I was, they moved really
quickly to get it done.

They were all smiles when they finished, but those smiles turned confused when I told them I wouldn't need any housekeeping while I was there. I would ask if I needed towels or anything else, but other than that I wanted to be left alone. I think when they left they were whispering in Malay about how eccentric that white woman was. LOL

A shower and a beer and I was ready to start. But first, I had to get myself ready. If I was going to spend time at a Malaysian seaside resort, I would do it in style. So, I took the desk Jonathon had bribed the workers for and I moved it to the window where I could look not just to the sea, but the restaurant as well. I love to people watch. Anyway, I got myself fixed up and then I sat down to do some writing.

I'm not sure if I can explain to someone who isn't a writer how wonderful it is to be able to sink in and immerse yourself in the world you are creating. No TV. No kids, pets or lovers. No interruptions at all. It's only you and your characters and you can delve so deep into the abyss you don't want to come out. It's wonderful and fulfilling and honestly, it was the best time I've had in all my writing career. I'd do it again in a heartbeat if I could.

The days there were wonderful. As I mentioned in the first blog I got 85+ pages done and really got into my characters. I wasn't able to finish, but I got close.
I spent so much time inside my character's heads I forgot where and when I was! LOL

So, whenever I'd swim to the surface it usually took awhile to come
back to reality. As the days went by I fell into a schedule. I'd get up around 8, shower (always cold--remember, this is a primitive resort) and go down to order breakfast. I'd bring it back up with me and eat while I went over the writing of the day before. I'd continue writing until between 4 and 5 where I'd need a break.

Then I'd go out on one of my rambles. Taking a notebook with me, I'd write in shorthand as I walked around the resort. The staff got used to me muttering under my breath and wandering through the corridors. There were times I'd run into a wall and they'd point me in the right direction and get me going again. LOL

I'd wander through the halls and out to the road. Even the people around the neighborhood--farmers and cows mostly--got used to me walking around. Monkeys, jumping spiders, birds and a snake or two were things I saw each time I rambled.

Since I was the only semi-permanent guest, the staff got used to me. They learned my schedule pretty quickly and knew when I wanted a drink or snack and when I wanted dinner. They'd meet me coming back from a ramble with a ice cold drink. I tried all the juices they had available, but my favorite overall was the watermelon juice. OMG... it's made with fresh watermelon blended with a small amount of water and sugar to taste. And in the morning, they'd add milk and that too was wonderful. Give it a try. You'd be surprised at how delicious it is.

With cold drink in hand I'd head back to my room and work for a few more hours. I'd transcribe my notes and then write a little longer until about 8 when I'd head down and eat my dinner. And what dinners they were!!!

I know I mentioned how delicious the food was. But I'll say it again. I've eaten seafood at some of the best restaurants around the globe and hands
down, the dishes in this tiny resort were the best I've ever tasted.

Fish, cuttlefish, crab and many other seafood that were beyond yummy. My favorites were the little baby squid and steamed crab. I also loved the steamed and curried fish and the rice dishes. I tell you I had to leave just to keep from gaining 20 pounds!!!

I finally got them to add veggies to my
meals. I had them start cutting up cukes and tomatoes just so I could eat a more balanced diet. I think they thought I was a weird type of rabbit, but everything was just so delicious. As far as breakfast
breakfasts were concerned, they had a selection of rice and noodle dishes available. I usually ate the seafood rice along with my watermelon and milk drink., but a couple of days I just had a plate of fries. Whatever I ate, I rarely could finish it all, the food was so plentiful.

Now, just so you don't think I'm ridiculously rich, the food here isn't only delicious, it's cheap. The squid dish you see above was less than 3 dollars! Usually 10 to 15 dollars in the states IF you can get them to make it. Baby squids aren't common on a menu.

And the crab you see above? Well, I'd get three of them for only 5 dollars. And this type of quality meal can be 20 to 25 dollars in the USA. Plus. I don't think they ever charged for the wonderful vegetable dishes they kept making up for me. Now you see why I could eat so well. LOL And it was the same anywhere we visited in Malaysia. Great seafood at totally inexpensive prices.

So, well fed and happy, I'd wander around the resort after dinner to walk off my meal. There would be people there fishing or families visiting, but most of the time it was just me and the sea. And of course the wildlife. In fact, the first night we were there, the river otters came out and sang their chirping songs to us. It was awesome to see and hear.

After my walk, I'd head back to my room, take my shower and get ready for bed. This was my quiet time. I'd read, dream and finally sleep the sleep of the content.

And the next morning, I'd start all over again. A few times I got up early enough to see the sunrise. And it was one of the prettiest sunrises I've ever seen. I made this into a background picture for my computer. Just lovely it is.

And the sunsets, while not as dramatic, still weren't anything to sneeze at...

So, before I end this blog, let me introduce you to a few of the staff members who took such good care of me. In fact they were such a help, I'll be dedicating the book I worked on to them. For those of you who are curious about the book, it will be my first Asian offering. A sea fantasy about a woman who thinks her life is over and the merman who gives her something to hope for. It is called The Merlion, in honor of my time here in Singapore. An adventure romance it will have all the signature heat and emotion I'm known for with a great taste of Asian flavor.

I couldn't have done it without them. Their care, their courtesy and their help made the book come to life. And on my last night, I was fortunate enough to be able to sit down with several of the crew and just talk. We talked about everything. School, politics, work , space and literature. We talked about my books and about their families. More came and joined us as the night went on, and it was my best night there because we were able to work through the communication differences and learn about each other.

If anyone reading this ever has a chance to go to the Tanjung Piai Resort, please do. It's not fancy, but it's got great ambiance, fantastic food and a staff that will bend over backwards to please you. It was beyond wonderful, and I hope with all my heart I can go back some day.

Now, I'll apologize right off because while I had one of the staff write down all the names for the book dedication, I was so worried I'd lose it, I stored it away, and now I can't get to it. So, I don't have names for those in the pictures that are to follow. But these guys are the ones I saw the most often, spent time with and who mostly took care of me. And to them all I express my thanks for all they did.

These three I had the most contact with. The young man on the left was one of the junior managers, the young man in the center was a waiter/bell hop/johnny of all trades and the young lady was a server and also part of housekeeping. I think they all did whatever was needed whenever it was needed. LOL They were the best!!!!

The young manager is on the left, and the next man in the pale blue shirt worked in the kitchen. He was the one who made most of my juice drinks. I bowed down and worshiped him and they all thought that was a crack up! LOL I just hope it wasn't blasphemous or something.

The next two young men were kitchen help, servers and general staff and of course my other good friend on the end. These guys were always around when I wanted something and I felt pampered and very well taken care of. Thanks to all of you!!!

So there you have it. A look at what I did on my writing retreat. I can't say enough how wonderful a time I had there, both writing and resting. I would love to do it again sometime. A little room to myself, a great view and people who took care of my every need. Talk about feeling like a queen!!!!!

For you writers reading this blog, if you ever have the chance to do what I've done and take the time for yourself, do it. Get past the feeling of your being selfish and just give yourself the gift. I will always be grateful to Jonathon for pushing me to do this time away. Next time I won't fight so hard to let him do it for me.

So, now Lucas (my computer) and I will bid you adieu. It's back to the daily job of living life in a hotel room in a foreign city. That's just enough stress that I'll remember my days in Malaysia very fondly. But only a couple weeks left and then Jonathon and I are off on yet another epic adventure. Traveling through Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand! Whew!!!! I'm tired just thinking about it! LOL Jonathon says I can only buy enough souveniers to fill a backpack. Little does he know they have huge backpacks on wheels these days.

Anyway, I'll be back on Wednesday with another guest blogger, the awesome Selena Robins. Come see what she has to say about meeting that other part of yourself...your crit partner!!!

Take care all,

CJ England
Follow Your Dreams

Friday, April 16, 2010

Part Two: In The Jungle, the Malaysian Jungle, CJ Sleeps Tonight...

Hey all,

So when I last left you, Jonathon and I had just stuffed ourselves at the night market. Well, since the next day was our anniversary, we headed back to our hotel to get a good night's sleep and make some plans for the morrow.

After "celebrating" our anniversary, *VBG*, we slept like babies just to wake up and "celebrate" again. It was so nice just being lazy. Since we'd gotten to Singapore we were always out and about not wanting to miss anything. Sleeping in and enjoying each other was a gift in itself.

We finally went down to breakfast and for those of you who don't know, over here, most of the hotels include breakfast in your room rate. Most of them are buffets and you just help yourself. We'd had good and we'd had not so good, but it's always an adventure to lift the lid of the pan and see what they call breakfast in these parts. LOL You haven't lived until you lift the top off and see little tentacles floating in a soup. I swear they wave at you.

Afterwards, we wandered around town a bit more, then we headed out to the place we'd decided to spend our anniversary night as well as where I was going to be doing my writing retreat. Another cab driver, a great guy named Omar, told us all about the rubber tree farms, the date oil plantations and the pineapple fields that still dot the area. He spoke English pretty well, and we understood most of what he was telling us, so it was like having a living travel log in the front seat.

We arrived at the Tanjung Piai Resort near the park of the same name in the early afternoon. This place is amazing. I can't even begin to describe it to you. It's not a five start resort. In fact, some people might be put off by how primitive it was, but for me, it was a little slice of heaven. As long as I had a place to shower, a clean bed to lay my head, food to eat and a place to plug in my laptop, I was a happy camper.

Tanjung Piai is a resort set entirely on stilts over the water and when we were there it was nice and quiet. It got busy on the weekend, but for the most part, I had the resort all to myself. Just a few other guests came and went.

We got this GREAT room. Out overlooking the water on two sides. I loved it. I had the best sunrises. (yes...I was shocked the sun did actually rise. I'd never seen it before. *snicker*) And unless I had a rude neighbor, (and I must say, there are a LOT of rude people over here in regards to being quiet in rooms), I was able to sleep quite well. But instead of describing it all, let me show you the resort. It is my new favorite place on earth!!!

This is our "enthusiastic cabbie/guide" and Jonathon walking across the bridge to the resort. As you can see it's a long walk. And on any given day you can run into a few monkeys sitting on the railings giving you the eye. LOL

Here is the view of part of the resort from the bridge. Each day the tide ebbs and flows and mud flats can be seen. The monkeys live in the trees and often climb out to eat the fresh crab and other leavings from the restaurant.

One of the corridors that lead out to the rooms. The first few buildings you see on the right are laundry facilities, storage and such. Everything to the left and past that are rooms. They have a private bungalow out on the far end as well as quite a few dormitory type set ups. On the weekend, they had a conference come in and filled them all up!!!

This was my building. My room was the far left hand one on the top. Two sides overlooked the water and I could get the sea breezes each time I opened up the windows. As you can see, the windows covered the entire wall. It was GREAT!!!

This picture looks down from the corridor outside my room over the patio and big restaurant area. The resort did big business every day at lunch and dinner. People came from miles around to eat there and I'll tell you the food was fantastic. The best seafood I've eaten anywhere on the planet. That's right...I said the planet. More on that later...

This area is part of reception. Big and open if you look past where Jonathon is peeking out, you can see the bridge to the mainland. It was a comfortable place to relax when I came back from one of my rambles. And the staff were always there to see what I wanted to drink to cool off. Watermelon juice was my favorite! Freshly made every time. To die for!!!
The view from my window out over the fishing pavilions. The land you can faintly see in the distance is Singapore. But between the resort and the far off land are literally hundreds of ships. Remember, Singapore is one of the top three busiest ports in the world.

Once Jonathon and I settled in, we took a long walk. We were stared at by all the locals. I guess taking afternoon walks just isn't done. Half a dozen people asked us if we needed help, which was cool. One even offered to give us a ride on his scooter. Both of us! LOL But we just wandered.

It was so interesting seeing all the countryside. We even surprised a big (and I mean bloody huge) snake. All I saw was the woosh of its body as it slid into a ditch. When I described it to my cab driver friend, Omar, he about drove off the road. He made me take him to where we'd seen it and I listened as he stopped a local and told him what I'd seen. Cue shock and horror when I heard we'd stumbled onto a cobra!!!! It was so dangerous, they planned to send out a hunting party to find it. (CJ faints dead away in the cab) At least the rest of the walk wasn't so scary. LOL Check out the pics below to see the countryside.

This is the main road from the resort. As you can see, the jungle surrounds it on both sides. You can't see through the trees in most places.

This was the little river outside the resort. People fished and swam in it. Not me. I'd seen water monitors and snakes swimming by when I was sitting outside writing. I'll wait and use the pool back in Singapore. LOL

These men were gathering and shucking coconuts. One man would shuck and then toss the husks to the others who would burn them. With the amount of coconuts I saw, their jobs are secure for a very long time!!!

Everywhere we looked we'd see these kind of cows. They were usually tied in place and the grazing seemed adequate. But they looked so skinny. It wasn't until later we found out that is part of the breed's characteristics.

These boats were quite common as well. Most were in the streams, but quite a few were beached and sitting out in the jungle. Not sure why...

And finally, this beautiful field scene. The locals clear everything under the big palms and then have their cattle graze there. It is quite a beautiful pastoral scene, just not one I'm used to.

Well, there you have it. Part Two of my writing trip. But when am I doing the writing? Check back on Monday and find out!!!!

Hugs to all,
CJ England
Follow Your Dreams