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View from Dubrovnik city wall

Croatia: Getting around in Dubrovnik, Split and Hvar

So, if you're here, you're probably looking for information on travelling to and around Croatia? You're in luck' because I just got back. I can only ...

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Remembering Yemen...

I never did make it to Syria unfortunately, but I did visit Yemen in 2008, which I'm thinking about now in the midst of this ...

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Christmas in Prague...

I just got back from Prague - another new city for me. I love nothing more than heading off to a new place and just ...

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Tinder Diaries: Getting my Groupon...

Shamus's profile shots scrolled like some kind of Action Man calendar. In one photo the 39-year-old Irish-Canadian was hugging a goat on what looked like ...

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Tinder Diaries: Tempur-Pedic promises...

And another Tinder Diary for you, this one's also from last year in Vancouver.  Tempur-Pedic promises... 'I got you a drink!!!' the text message yelled at me. ...

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Tinder Diaries: The Burner In The Park

In trawling through folders on my laptop for some old work I've just come across some diaries I wrote about Tinder dating last year in ...

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I go to the gym a lot. And other things I never thought I'd say...

Once in Sydney I joined a yoga studio for $350 a year and went once. In New York I spent close to $600 and went to ...

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Things you should probably know before going to Burning Man

So, Burning Man. Hmm. How was it, you ask? Honestly. I can't even really tell you yet, and it's been three weeks. But I'll try. As a ...

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11 things you only ever say on WhatsApp when you're going to Burning Man...

I LEAVE TOMORROW!! Am I ready? Probably not.  I'm what's known as a Virgin, (this will be my first time at Burning Man) and in ...

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Thoughts about rainbows...

I cycled home tonight right under a rainbow - the kind of rainbow that smiles across the sky in every colour, and then more colours ...

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How to tell when you travel too much (and when you should stop)

Yup. That's how. That's a screenshot my friend just sent me, when I told her to add my new phone number in Amsterdam. "Another one?!" "Yeah, but I'm ...

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…Best Of...

It started with a boy called Matt: why I'm going to Burning Man (in 2 weeks!!!)

Going to Burning Man has been pretty high on the bucket list for years... ever since I started chatting to an American guy online back in 2003, who ...

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The Royal's idea of 'Indian street kids' is not quite right

I know I shouldn't read the Daily Mail because it always annoys me... but today THIS was ridiculous. Honestly. Been to India? Yeah, so have I. Met ...

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How to write a novel: 25 rules

This post is so inspiring, just had to share! Thanks to Matt Haig, who posted it originally. Sometimes us writers really need to read cool stuff ...

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Amsterdam, I love you! See you again soon.

I've decided to move to Amsterdam. Maybe not forever but definitely for a little bit, because, well.... this. And this: And this:  OK maybe not the last one... ...

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Free tsunami romance for Valentine's Day...

Winner of the TBC (The Book Club) award for best non-fiction, 2016.  Hey guys, I'm giving away The Day Of The Wave over Valentine's weekend in ...

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How to Create Titles to Hook Your Readers

This post is written BY JUDITH BRILES posted on February 10, 2016 on The Book Designer Are you sometimes stuck when it comes to adding a title to ...

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Yay, I won an award!

It's a super duper awesome start to the new year, because after a long hiatus during which I've been working reeeeeeally hard and not blogging ...

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Who's the Mills and Boon Man Of The Year 2016? Get your face on a book cover!

Here ye, all you amazing men - and women who know amazing men! Thought I'd spread the word about this. Mills & Boon are launching ...

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Pills that make you poop glitter...

Oh my! We should give these to ALL the pigeons in London until the whole city is a sparkly rainbow! Granted we'd be covered in shit, ...

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Know your strengths...

I'm sitting in the cafe. It's just me, two loud ladies who sound like they're from Essex, and a blonde with her boyfriend. An Essex ...

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Humans of Iceland...

This is Sverrir and the replica of his great grandfather, who was once the pastor of the pretty and remote herring fishing town, Siglufjörður. He was ...

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Adventures in Iceland (in brief because I'm VERY remote right now and WIFI is scarce)...

It started when we flew Fokker. Yes, Fokker. Oh come on, tell me I'm not the only child who finds this funny? It wasn't long before ...

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NOW FREE ON AMAZON: The Day Of The Wave

A moving, emotional romance based on real-life events. NOW FREE ON AMAZON! The Day Of The Wave follows Isla and Ben in the wake of surviving ...

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***FREELANCE PHOTO - POSTMEDIA NETWORK USE ONLY*** VANCOUVER, BC.:JUNE 24, 2014-- Pedestrian traffic in front of Canna Clinic on Commercial Drive, in Vancouver, BC, June 24, 2014.  Canna Clinic at 2223 Commercial Drive, has a doctor from 5 to 8 p.m. every day. Locals can get certified by an in-house  naturopath, and pick up some pot.  (PHOTOS by Don MacKinnon)

Comedy night at the Canna Clinic...

Today I learnt two things. The first is that penguins have knees inside their bodies. Yes. Knees. Inside. I'm not even kidding. The second is that ...

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Spalding School Reunion is Imminent...

I got a message today about a school reunion for the class of 96. My first thought was JEEEEESUS, did I really leave school 19 ...

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Best things to see on Commercial Drive in Vancouver. OK, maybe not the best...

I was just eating my sushi on a restaurant patio last night when a man seemingly dressed as a Mario Brother climbed a nearby tree ...

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Oh Canada, how I LOVE being in you...

And I think these photos prove why! I'm so inspired the more time I spend here, which is Vancouver right now, in case you were ...

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Fun on the Natchez Trace - recreating scenes from a novel in real life!

Yesterday a friend and I drove from Nashville, out past the famous Loveless Cafe (where we stopped to pick up some Peach Preserve) and onto ...

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Read and review 'Before He Was Gone' and get a FREE copy!

The New Adult Book Club on Goodreads are reading Before He Was Gone to review. Sign up if you want your free copy to review! "Sometimes, ...

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RIP Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran (an excerpt featuring their great work, from Balilicious)

How fuggin AWFUL to hear about the executions of these two men, and the others who were wiped out needlessly today in Indonesia. Don't people ...

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Boxing Day Tsunami book trailer (The Day of the Wave)

I made this today! One day I will give up trying to be a filmmaker (maybe), but it's SO satisfying when it uploads and I'm ...

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The Day of the Wave - Playlist

This is probably the most fun I’ve ever had putting a playlist together for a book. There were just so many great artists who inspired ...

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Aliens in the White House...

Just got a newsflash on my phone: 'Small one-person helicopter lands at White House West Lawn. Pilot in custody.' I know I should click on it ...

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Boxing Day Tsunami romance excerpt: (The Day of The Wave)

This is an excerpt from my latest new adult romance, coming May 2015. In brief... "Isla and Ben were just sixteen when the Boxing Day ...

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Uber in Nashville is interesting...

Me: 'So, what's the craziest thing that's happened to you since you started driving for Uber?' Him: 'Are you a shy girl?' Me: 'Er, I don't think ...

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Have I mentioned the Family Dollar Store yet?

Have I mentioned the Family Dollar store yet? It's my new favorite place here in Nashville. Contrary to the name, not everything inside costs a dollar, ...

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Lavenders, motorcycles and a feeling of deep uncool at Nashville's Barista Parlor...

There are some places in this world that will just serve to make you feel deeply uncool, no matter how young and awesome you previously ...

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Why Craigslist in Nashville is killing me...

Here's what this guy just wrote in reply to my post about looking for a room to rent in Nashville: "We are seeking a FEMALE caring nanny/care giver. ...

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Observation of the day...

Ubud cafes were full of middle aged women writing books on macs. Nashville cafes are full of cute young guys making music on macs. I know where ...

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Before He Was A Secret (Starstruck #3) Playlist...

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLmhXXflqDQPAxUHvBiWosmLHWTd6sBM4Z I can't write a word without being inspired by every sound in the air around me, and I turned to music more than ever with ...

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Musings on a Nashville snow day...

No one told me flying south for the winter would take me somewhere colder than England. Then again, there's something so peaceful about walking alone down ...

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Fight your way through! A message to writers like me…

Fight your way through! A message to writers like me...

...and other creative souls no doubt! Someone sent me this video today by the amazingly inspiring Ira Glass, which I found very interesting. I can relate ...

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The difference a motorised bike makes...

I miss my bike in Bali so much that today I actually hovered outside someone's house in South Harrow contemplating whether I could justify spending ...

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Proving my roots: The nonsense that is taking the IELTS test in London...

"PUT YOUR PENCILS DOWN! PENCILS DOWN, NOW!!!" Dumbledore boomed. I almost jumped out of my plastic chair, nerves shot to sh*t. I have a problem ...

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There's nothing more sexist than The Sun pulling Page 3 Girls...

Yes... SEXIST. If only for what's being said around the decision to drop this whole thing! "Instead of bare breasts, the pictures will now show scantily-clad ...

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I SURVIVED: The Freak British Tornado (and the suspect still running loose)

A mini-tornado hit north west London this afternoon - causing damage to homes and cars. I think I summoned it. I was thinking very dark ...

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It's cover reveal day for Before He Was A Secret. Exclusive excerpt here...

Today's the day, whoo hoooooo! I can finally reveal another amazing cover by designer Jeanine Henning, for the third standalone romance in my Starstruck Series, ...

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The night Emma Watson stole my toothbrush...

WARNING!!! I feel like I should say something. I've been quiet for way too long... almost an hour actually, but about an hour ago I ...

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Vaginal smoking and the benefits of yoni egg insertions (note: there are many)...

I have recently become quite fascinated with vaginal treatments. The fascination began when I saw this tempting advertisement on a board outside a spa in ...

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The truth about 'Ecstatic Dancing' at The Yoga Barn in Ubud, Bali... (warning, this post may smell)

Everyone in Ubud knows the Yoga Barn. It's a sort of second home for eager expats, all of whom are quite happy to spend an ...

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Go to Bali for less than a quid! Balilicious is 99p, starting today.

Becky Wicks lifted the burqa on Dubai In BURQALICIOUS. Now she turns her attention to Bali as she hilariously navigates life as an adopted Balinese ...

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How do you handle negative reviews for your book on Amazon and Goodreads? And are readers actively LOOKING for bad books?

What didn't make me smile throughout my recent and ultimately successful free book campaign on Amazon KDP (and I'll tell you this, seeing as we're ...

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Before He Was A Secret Blog tour sign ups are live. I'm looking for bloggers to join in (and get a free copy!)

Once again I'm having a blog tour with the amazing Xpresso Reads for the third in my Starstruck Series, which is coming out in March ...

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A river of bliss and the wicked witches of San Cipriano…

As Juan Manuel shot around another corner with the velocity of an astronaut attempting to launch us horizontally into the side of an alien planet, the three of us grabbed what we could in the back… namely each other… and said a small prayer that we’d make it to San Cipriano alive. Me, David and Noah only wanted to go tubing, for God’s sake, but it was looking highly likely we’d end up nose-first in the back of a cattle truck, or speared ‘Final Destination’ style on perilous wooden poles being transported at the speed of light along the motorway.

Almost three hours later, having made it in one piece, we rearranged ourselves and boarded our bruja (‘witch’ in Spanish), named so because a series of these nifty motorbikes attached to boards with wheels run magically fast along the old train tracks, making you feel a bit like a kid on a fairground ride… or a wicked witch on a broomstick. Here’s David modelling one, and looking entirely unruffled by the previous torment. An admirable accomplishment: With the wind in our hair, me, the guys and a German girl called Rebecca soon put the car ride from hell behind us and were promptly deposited in a tiny village, whereupon we were led to wash away the last of our worries in a crystal clear river; “One of the top five clearest rivers in the world,” Juan Manuel told us proudly. He gestured to its iridescent greatness, already playing host to numerous local families, most of whom had set up tents on the pebbles close by.

Me and Rebecca swam in the shallows. Noah and David both jumped from roughly ten metres into the twinkly depths. Juan Manuel rewarded his questionable driving skills with a ginormous joint.

San Cipriano is tiny town of 500 inhabitants, predominantly of African descent – though there were just 92 people living in the part Juan Manuel took us to – close to Buenaventura in western Colombia. To live here you have to be born here apparently, but in spite of this, there was a disappointing lack of people with six toes and hunchbacks in the vicinity, proving that incest isn’t practiced quite as much as pumping iron appears to be, here. Most of the men were bare-chested hulks with bulging forearms, to be honest. Perhaps it’s because they’re pulling fish from the river all day?

After a lunch of fresh catch cooked on blazing coals we were led down a dirt track, along an ecological trail with a sign that read ‘refugio del amor’. As we approached the rapids with our giant tires we tried not to think about the fact that beyond the fluttering yellow tails of Mochilero birds making hanging basket-style nests from the trees, and the fleeting rainbow streaks of toucan’s beaks, lurked guerrillas and members of the FARC with machetes in one of the most dangerous rainforests in the world. We had no reason to fear. Juan Manuel is a well respected man after all.

Not only can he drive a car like Michael Schumacher on acid, he’s the second best BMX biker in Colombia and in his spare time, when he’s not tubing stoned and bleary-eyed down the river, he practices paragliding, kite surfing, kite boarding and was once even lettered in soccer. It’s all about who you know, in the rainforest.

On the river rapids we were swept along in a world of alternating swirls and calmer currents for at least two hours… maybe even longer. I kind of lost track of time (as well as my sunglasses – error) imagining a million unseen eyes training on me from the treetops… monkeys, parrots, snakes and terrifyingly MASSIVE spiders all looking out from their hidden homes. The jungle world unfolding around us as we spun in frothy circles was a kaleidoscope of emerald greens and once I’d successfully dodged a couple of spiders it was hard to think anything other than “wow!”

WOW. WOW. WOW! This is the real Colombia!

Upside down was the best. Tilted backwards with our foreheads in the water, a parallel universe let us float in the clouds and when it started to rain we fell silent in a land of sparkles and reflective stripes that should by all rights have been the opening scene in some sort of movie… maybe one about a boy called Mowgli who befriends a bear and sings songs about Bare Necessities. It’s revelling in the bare necessities like this, that makes travelling so exhilarating! You know when it’s just you and Pachamama and the distant squawk of birds… and the odd gun-toting FARC fiend in the bushes, if you’re unlucky.

These are the moments when I love this gypsy lifestyle… when a day and everything in it opens my eyes and shakes my foundations. And not just in a car seat death trap.

Fire. Water. Earth. Air.

In the end, that’s all there is.

There’s a trick to tubing on rapids. Struggling against the ass-pummeling rocks in the shallow parts, you kind of have to lift yourself on top of your tube, with as little of your body poking out the bottom as possible.  I still got a bruised ass but I’m taking my black and blue cheeks as a token of my albeit violent brush with nature – something that makes me more alive. And anyway, it was soon numbed by the peanutty potency of a local drink called bicho, which David liked to call “A Gypsy Moonshine.”

It’s made with nuts and sugarcane and we bought a bottle for the bruja ride back to the car. Yee-haaa!

Thankfully this moonshine also served to lull us into a false sense of security as Juan Manuel rocketed us all the way back to Cali, managing to get stuck in the comforting calm of a fucking-HUUUUUUGE traffic jam for at least an hour – in a tunnel. Hmm.

Getting to and from San Cipriano isn’t the most tranquil experience, really, but once you’re lazing in your private rubber boat, listening to the rain and the occasional shriek from a fellow tuber, you’ll be glad you swapped your salsa shoes for your swim gear and took the leap of faith.

**This is an extract from Latinalicious – The South American Diaries, which will probably be edited later as I’ve written this fresh off an overnight bus on two hours of sleep… ugh. Dragging myself out to explore Bogota… laters xxx

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