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A single girl's guide to Amsterdam's NEMO Science Museum

Check it out - a building that looks just like my love life. A giant, sinking ship. (Sigh). Yes, yes, the dating game's a drag ...

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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...

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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...

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

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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...

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

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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.

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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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It’s been a year since candles, muggings, Crepes & Waffles and machetes in Colombia: Día de las Velitas, a Latinalicious extract…

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Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception! It’s been a whole year since the attempted mugging in Cartagena, when I was having an otherwise amaaaaazing time in my favourite part of Colombia. To celebrate survival, here’s an extract from Latinalicious on the topic. If you’re liking these extracts by the way, don’t forget to get your copy on Amazon.com for the incredibly random but bargainous price of just $3.63.

Candles, muggings and machetes…

I have fallen in love with Cartagena in a way I never expected to. I feel like I’ve embarked on a beautiful relationship, one of colour and music and romance… just minus the man. I decided to extend my stay at Casa Nativa because I know everyone there now and even though it’s a bit more expensive than some other hostels (AU $15 a night) I’m loving the privacy curtain (around the bed) and you always need to pay more for air-con anyway. And also, ponytailed Carlos and Juan Carlos, the manager (you can never meet too many Carlos’s in South America) were both really nice to me after ‘the incident’.

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It’s kind of hard to talk about ‘the incident’. I guess I should start by telling you that a few days ago, on December 7th it was Día de las Velitas, or Candle Lighting Day. It’s one of the most observed traditional holidays of Colombia and is celebrated every year on the same date on the eve of the Immaculate Conception.

Día de las Velitas is a country-wide public holiday and the unofficial start of the Christmas season. It’s the time when people place candles and paper lanterns on their porches, on the pavements, on their windows, balconies, parks, streets and squares late at night and let them burn for twenty four hours.

Looking forward to the event, me, Naomi and another girl we met at the hostel called Jen went out to see the sunset, as I’ve done every day since I’ve been here. This time we watched it from a table at the famous Cafe del Mar, which is an overpriced tourist trap on the wall overlooking the sea and the Bocagrande skyline. When we arrived, the serving staff seemed to be having a competition amongst themselves called ‘Who can look the most uninterested in customers?’

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A group of corpses would have done a better job. These people looked so pissed off with having to interact with anyone that they should re-name the place Cafe del Mardy, but anyway, after this we drank some more beers on the streets, chatted to a million more people and discovered that contrary to what we’d been told, they weren’t really going to celebrate Día de las Velitas in the historic centre, and if we wanted to see people lighting up thousands of candles between three and four am, we would have to go out of the city in a cab. Feeling a bit deflated we started walking back to the hostel. It was after all, after midnight at this point. And then we met Jonny.

Jonny told us all about his nightclub and how he would love it if we went inside so he could get his commission (not in those words exactly). A lot of the guys in the historic centre are employed to be nice to tourists on the streets, in order that they visit their various shops and restaurants. When we told Jonny that we really just wanted to experience the Día de las Velitas celebrations, he beamed and said, ‘Well, I’m finishing up now, why don’t you come to my neighborhood? We’re having a party and we’re all gonna be lighting candles!’

Of course, the last thing you should do as a trio of slightly drunk girls is get into a cab with a guy to a distant neighbourhood, in Colombia, at midnight, but like I said, we were a trio of slightly drunk girls and… well… Jonny seemed nice, and we really wanted to see the candles! So we hailed a cab and drove roughly fifteen minutes out of the city, with Jonny in the front seat telling us how his girlfriend’s mum was going to be so glad we could come.

At one point the driver stopped and put some black, mesh screens up over our windows, which I thought was a little odd because it meant we couldn’t see out, but pretty soon we pulled up outside a house, where we were promptly thrown into a scene from the movie Step Up. People were dancing on every balcony and front porch, music was blaring from a host of different speakers and groups of people were sitting, drinking from bottles and plastic cups around what looked like open sewers, running like concrete-walled rivers through the streets. It smelled a bit iffy. A few small fires were burning on the sidelines but Jonny ushered us forward (after making sure we had paid for the taxi) to a little shop, where he made sure we paid for the bottles of rum he said were essential.

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Then, gradually gathering more and more people behind us as we all walked through the streets, Jonny led us to his girlfriend’s house. A large lady called Mama Maria (her mum, we assumed) welcomed us in, took one bottle of rum, which we never saw again, and started pouring shots with the other. We started dancing. We spoke to everybody, although no one spoke any English. We were clearly the stars; the only white people for miles.

I was dancing with a guy on the porch, with my back to the railings and a giant pillar when suddenly the side of my head was yanked into the pillar at full force at least three times. It took me a second to realise that someone was grabbing the strap of my bag from behind the railings, and seeing as it was around both shoulders, he couldn’t get it over my head and just kept pulling me instead. Naomi tried to get the bag over my head so whoever it was could just take it and stop whacking my head against concrete, but after a couple more attempts he ran off and I never even saw who did it. I reached up and felt the giant golf ball sized lump forming on my head and realised I had gashes on my arm and neck from the strap, too.

All hell broke loose in the neighbourhood. It was Step Up mixed with City of God all of a sudden. Mama Maria ushered me into the house, followed by Naomi and Jen and we were instructed to climb a ladder up to the attic. We crouched on the floor while a man in a towel… I’m assuming Papa Ange… ran outside with a machete. People were shouting. Jonny’s girlfriend, who I’d been dancing with too, was trying to touch my head, sobbing hysterically like she thought I was going to die in her house, while I just thanked my lucky stars it wasn’t my actual face he’d smashed against the pillar. He could have broken my nose!

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He was also a shit mugger because he didn’t actually get my bag. After all that, he didn’t even break it and it was only a cheap, shitty thing from H&M. You’d think, among all those people, he would have been a bit smarter and brought some scissors to at least cut the strap, but as it was he completely failed in his mission and got chased with a machete. I dread to think what happened to him, but I’ll never underestimate H&M again.

Just as we were wondering how to make our escape, one of Jonny’s mates pulled up in yet another car with blacked out windows (which now made sense) and sped us off through the streets like we’d robbed a bank or something. On the way back to Cartagena we saw a lot of candles being lit along the streets, which is what we went out in search of anyway, so it wasn’t a total disaster. Mind you, it could have just been that I was seeing stars.

We thanked Jonny as he made sure we got back to our hostel safely. He also made sure we paid his mate 25,000 COP for driving us ‘the scenic candlelit route’, and him 10,000 COP extra for escorting us home. He also kept our rum. Thanks Jonny.

So, hmm, it wasn’t a very nice ending to the night, but it hasn’t stopped me falling in love with Cartagena. We shouldn’t have been in that neighbourhood but you can’t just sit in air-conditioned tour buses and Cafe del Mardy when you’re trying to explore a new city, can you? Besides, everyone else, apart from the shit mugger, was really nice.

I just emailed my friend Charlotte (the girl I met on the dreaded Colca Canyon trip back in Peru) and she’s decided to travel up this way to spend a ‘British’ Christmas with me, purely because I’ve been going on about how awesome it is since I got here. We can’t let one guy ruin things, now can we? I was having one of the most exciting and fun nights of my entire trip so far, before that happened. It’s not every day you get to be in a street scene from Step Up.

If he’d managed to nick my iPhone and credit card however, well, that would have been different.

To read more from amazing (but slightly scary Colombia) and everywhere else in South America, get your bargain-tastic ebook version of Latinalicious today!

 

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