Featured Articles

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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. ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

…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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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... ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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, ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

***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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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, ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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, ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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. ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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, ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

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 ...

Read More

A new, FREE short story to make you go awwww....

There's nothing like a freebie, so I wrote a little quickie (ahem) to melt your hearts. It's set in Alaska and it's only 6000 words, ...

Read More

My Son, an eskimo and a rabid monkey in Vietnam… (day tripping from Hoi An)

“Remember this is Yellow. Bus. Number. 9” bellowed Dung from the front of the stuffy bouncing vehicle as we trundled, honked and swerved our way down the road from Hoi An to My Son.

IMG_6632Dung (pronounced Yung) has been a guide for two years and is pretty much the most enthusiastic human I’ve ever encountered. He probably speaks the best English I’ve heard anyone speak here in Vietnam too, although I got the distinct feeling he learnt it by watching Sylvester Stallone on TV, as every word was belted like a defining line in an action movie. In fact, only this caged (possibly rabid) monkey was more animated this morning, seeing as we got up at 6.30am to take Dung’s tour.

IMG_6606

Scary.

Being “in charge” of our experience, Dong was determined to tell us everything he knows about this UNESCO World Heritage site , an hour from Hoi An in Vietnam, which was once a sacred place for the Cham people to hold religious ceremonies. He didn’t know why the monkey was in the cage at the entrance but he did know how the doors in My Son always faced east to receive the sunrise, which was nice… even if these days they mostly receive sweaty tourists all trying to get a photo without any sweaty tourists in it.

IMG_6631

“It is 38. Degrees. In. My. Son”, Dung informed us, as a growing sweat patch  under the arm of his neatly ironed shirt confirmed his statement. The stifling heat around the ruins had most of us chugging back water and wiping our faces on our own clothes, with the exception of one lady who seemed to be on some sort of arctic exploration in her own head:

IMG_6634

Each to their own.

The French stumbled across the site of My Son in the late 19th century and decided to restore it, bless their stripy cotton socks. They weren’t all niceties and “please have some soft baguettes while you work,” though. Not by a long shot. Dung told us how the Vietnamese have had to replace all the heads on the human statues in My Son because the French nicked them and put them in the Louvre in Paris. I thought this was particularly sad as I’ve been to the Louvre in Paris and the “boring collection of boring heads in the boring wing just right of the Mona Lisa” wasn’t getting much attention out of context. Shame. Here’s one of the new heads on an old body:

IMG_6618

Bit rubbish really. I sort of want to go back to the Louvre with this photo and see if I can guess which head used to be on it. 🙁

Anyway, none of that head thievery mattered much in the end anyway because along came the Americans, who bombed the crap back out of My Son, leaving just 20 out of what was once 68 beautiful temples. The derelict earthen colours in the ancient bricks and moss looked like the perfect backdrop for a photo shoot to me… especially when these girls with umbrellas got involved:

IMG_6629

We walked around some giant craters now covered in grass, caused by the bombs and Dung showed us a couple that were dug up later in the ruins of one temple. I couldn’t help but think they’d make lovely urns these days. In fact, if Dung hadn’t told me they were bombs, I probably would have thought that’s what they were. (Remind me never to join a weapon recovery team).

IMG_6622

A few years ago U.S $250,000 (400 billion dong) was put into reconstruction of My Son, which Noah says is what some clients in New York will pay for one rooftop garden. Puts things into perspective a bit. It’s not hard to see why it should all be restored though.

IMG_6630

Overlooked by Hon Quap, (Cat’s Tooth Mountain) My Son in its heyday was the most important religious and intellectual centre of the kingdom of Champa. Hinduism and Buddhism were mixed together here, as they were in Angor Wat in Cambodia.  It’s pretty enough today for all of its rubbly abandonment, surrounded as it is by babbling streams and jungle. It’s all the more intriguing for its dedication to divinities, such as Shiva – someone I talked a lot with in Bali last year. Shiva was seen as both the founder and protector of the Champa dynasty and watched over My Son from its initial occupation in the late 4th century. There’s a linga on site, for good luck. Good luck in what I’m not exactly sure but I touched it anyway, (ahem).

IMG_6628

It’s a shame that My Son was stripped of its gold-plated glory after it tumbled into decline, as its towers must have once shimmered and shone like the top of the Chrysler Building. Imagine that in this jungle setting, against the mountains; a glimmering Vietnamese legend in the making.

We declined Dong’s offer of a hot and sweaty boat ride back to Hoi An, even though he made the inclusive “Soft. Lunch” sound tempting. Turns out a “soft lunch” is vegetarian, as opposed to a hard lunch which I assume features mountains of meat, as usual. Instead we fell asleep on the death-bus back to the city and dreamed of headless statues, rabid monkeys and a strange Arctic explorer in the 38 degree jungle.

**We booked our tickets to My Son with the guy at the front desk of our hotel in Hoi An, who put us on our fully sized shuttle bus for $5 each. Still we got there ok, if a little sweaty and then paid the 100,000 dong each to enter the site. Not too bad at all.

 

Other posts you may like: