When I was much younger, I always thought I’d move to Japan – instead, stuck in Oregon and frustrated with living at my parents house (after spending years in Malta and Italy studying philosophy and fine art) I got a job offer to teach English in Taiwan and took it. It was rough at first; I’m terrible at teaching English, especially kids, but did it for years anyway, until I got into a MA then PHD program and got a government scholarship to read all day.
But I also met my wife, which means – even though we no longer have a home base in Taiwan, we go back once a year, usually for Chinese New Year. Last year, we went home for Christmas and I returned with two boxes of my favorite cereal, Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I was also horribly depressed – we stayed in a small apartment in Taipei, I slept all day and never saw the sun. It wasn’t until that summer, when I was back in Oregon and bought another box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, that I realized it was (for some weird reason!) making me depressed.
And not like, a little sad – as in, there is no purpose to living.
Things were much better when we returned this year, sans cereal.
We stayed in Taipei again but splurged for a cozy rooftop apartment near National Taiwan University. And it was fine. I don’t love Taiwan, because there aren’t many digital nomads or fiction writers, and I don’t have much to talk about with all the English teachers or expats. Plus Taipei is BIG so we never see anyone anyway.
We did go down to Tainan for a while, Tainan has much better weather and more art and culture, plus I have some friends down there still (we’ll probably skip Taipei altogether in the future.)
While I was there, I had a bit of an identity crisis… so I made this video about “Joyful Author Branding” and bought some useless crap on ebay. I also bought a new sapphire at the Jade Market to replace the one I lost (I have kind of an obsession with vintage gold gemstone rings… I usually wear a Freemason’s ring from my great great uncle but it’s a pink sapphire, and I really want a big blue one.)
I also got a bag for my new “Razer Stealth Blade” laptop – which kicked off this whole lifestyle rebranding thing, and decided to throw away all my printed Tshirts and just wear simple black Tshirts, jean jackets and fingerless gloves all the time – kind of “Dieselpunk”.
During Chinese New Year, we also went to the temple. I’m a fan of the local religion, which (I think) is a blend of Buddhism, Confucianism and Shinto. I like it because, there are multiple gods to petition and you need to pay for favors.
I found the “god of money” and bought snacks and incense for him; he blessed my wallet (three times around the incense) and I got basically a prayer card to put in my wallet as a receipt of the transaction. I do believe physical anchors can be potent reminders to practice positive intention and thinking (filling yourself with a state of hopeful expectation, rather than worry, because you went to the temple and paid your dues). I should use practical magic more often than I do.
When I was younger, I read all the big heavy magic books from 18th century alchemists about summoning demons, etc. I’ve since learned they were mostly quacks, but I do think witchcraft/magic can have a practical use – the ritual, repetition and action is kind of a mindful meditation. You aren’t changing the world, you are changing yourself, and then you act, perceive and receive in a way that brings you the results you seek. As such it can be very powerful.
Even if all it’s doing is giving you the illusion of control, which in turn makes you happier and more confident – those are real benefits!
We spent over two months in Chiang Mai Thailand at the end of 2018. I spent most of that time at cat cafes, eating mermaid donuts, and working on books. I edited a huge 19th century treatise on the Genius of Solitude I’ve been obsessed with since finishing my PhD thesis. We celebrated both Halloween and New Year’s… and also the local Lantern Festival (which took place around the same time as Thanksgiving. It’s about letting go of misfortune, turning hopeful thoughts towards next year.
Epicurus wrote, “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”
And this is true: we should always be grateful for being where we are. But that doesn’t mean we should not ask for more, because to imagine, to dream of what is not, is the central gift of human genius.
(I also spend some time working on a nonfiction book on creative confidence… which I will write eventually).
Here’s a video I made during Lantern Festival and some pictures… we also spent a weekend in Pai, which is up near the Burmese border. Lots of happy shakes and fire dancing and jungle vibes.
The other really interesting I did was a jungle survival trek: our guides caught and cooked our food. We slept on the ground in a homemade shelter. The others at bamboo worms (yuck) and when we packed up our sleeping bags we saw several large tarantulas under the leaves, probably using our body warmth (AAAH! – I hate spiders, but actually proximity to them made me slightly less terrified.
We’ve been in Bali for two months – I begged my wife to come back so I could speak at a conference even though we were here last year and she didn’t have a good time. I loved it, the first time: it’s basically paradise. It’s an exotic adventure. Bali is very spiritual and artistic; there’s tons of temples, beaches, waterfalls and art.
I never did go swimming in the sea or learn surfing, but I did get to spend time with my digital nomad friends (building a community when you travel full-time is difficult, so when you actually have friends to hang out with, it’s a big deal). This trip, however, has been more challenging. It’s been a shitshow since we got here, with a string of crazy AirBNBs, bug bites, ATMs eating credit cards, and also days and days of rain. I wrote up a full article on my other blog called “Bali: paradise or purgatory.”
Most of that was written BEFORE we crashed our scooter and my wife had to get stitches on her knee; also before she got sick and had a really bad cold (she’s still coughing now). Me personally, despite all the bad luck and some scrapes and bruises, and despite itching from bites all the time and even rubbing myself off with a towel that was covered in red ants and getting bit all over, I STILL like it here. The sunrises and sunsets are amazing, they do a mean brunch, there are lots of fresh juice places and beachside resorts.
Here’s the email I sent out when we got here:
We arrived just in time for Nyepi, Bali’s “day of silence” – a 24 hour total shut down. We’re not supposed to turn any lights on or even use the stove. It’s kind of like a purge: Around sunset the “Pengrupukan” ceremony begins in the house compounds with the noisy banging of pots and pans and bamboo tubes along with burning of dried coconut leaf torches to drive out the demons.
Most Hindu Balinese villages make ogoh-ogoh, demonic statues made of richly painted bamboo, cloth, tinsel, and styrofoam symbolizing negative elements or malevolent spirits or even characters from Hindu mythology. After the ogoh-ogoh have been paraded around the village, they are burned in the cemeteries.
We are surviving on toast and instant noodles, watching the rain fall, and hanging out with the beagle and obnoxious cross-eyed black cat that came with the AirBnB. It’s a day of quiet and self-reflection. I’m contemplating the final scene of my novel “Selfie” so I can share it with you, then I’ll work on finishing book 2 of the Taste series.
I did manage to finish The Emerald Tablet and also Selfie, and made some progress on the sequel to Taste, but for weeks I’ve been feeling strung out, anxious and completely overwhelmed… I am making progress on my website and mid-edit with 5 new cowritten novels. I need to make covers for them and I’m the bottleneck before we can launch; and I have a novel up on preorder that needs to get written.
So it’s possible I just have too much going on, but it’s also probable Bali, while seeming like paradise on earth, is actually anxiety-inducing. (Hard to believe, looking at the pictures, right?) We loved Gili island, where some of these were taken, but between terrible traffic, unreliable and slow internet, and a compromised immune system (it’s dirty here…) it’s no longer one of our favorite places.
Mantra: “Everything is working out perfectly.”
I’m overwhelmed because I’m doing new things and stepping into my discomfort zone; starting to figure out retargeting FB ads, still need to finish several site redesigns and autoresponder sequences I know aren’t working… started all this over a year ago, but feel like I’m growing forward.
In a few days we’ll move to JAPAN – somewhere I’ve dreamed about living since I was young and for some reason never made it. I’m excited to be in Osaka, near several cat cafes, for a month or two before heading to Europe.
You may not know this about me, but my MA thesis was about esoteric symbolism in Harry Potter. So I’m thrilled to be travelling through Portugal this month, seeking out JK Rowling’s favorite writing spots for inspiration. Rowling started planning Harry Potter in Porto, and it’s easy to see the connection. The university students wear black capes, and Porto is home to the “most beautiful bookstore in the world” – Livraria Lello.
I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like, but I have been reading a lot. Here’s a short list of the books I’ve read and loved recently:
Secondborn, Amy Bartol
Qualify, Vera Nazarian
The Girl Who Dared to Think, Bella Forrest
A Court of Wings and Ruin, Sarah J. Mass
Each has similarities to some of the projects I’m working on, so if you enjoyed those I hope you’ll like my books too. My background is in ancient mythology (I hope to visit the ruins of Delphi this year), but I love dystopian stories of futuristic societies and revolution.Next month we’re moving into a 12th century fortress in northern Spain… and after that we’re renting an even bigger castle in Austria for Nanowrimo. I still hope to get several more books finished this year, but I’m not entirely sure which books it will be (The Scarlet Thread just got invited to Amazon’s prime reading program, so it would make sense to finish that series this year).
PS – we have at least one extra bed in the castle and I’m thinking of sponsoring a writer to join us, if you can make it to Austria in November and want to join us for Nanowrimo, hit reply to this email and let me know why you want to come.So many books giveaways!I’m getting close to finishing Orpheum, so I set up a quick giveaway for music-themed books. You can win these three and $50 in Amazon credit… click here to enter.
I’ve also been sharing a lot of book giveaways on my Facebook page, so make sure you checkout the UrbanEpics group and scroll down to see all the prizes and books you can enter to win. I also have some BIG events and giveaways planned for later this year, so make sure to follow the Facebook page to stay in the loop.
PS… we got to visit some amazing libraries and bookstores in Portugal, I’m attaching a few more pics below. If you’re interested in what a life of full-time travel and writing looks like, you can follow me on Instagram.
It was actually a chateau in France, but still… pretty amazing. We drank port and explored medieval cities and basked in the inspiration that emits from story-rich historical buildings. We wrote a lot, and even had some fun.
So this year I’m going to do it again.
I’m a bit torn between these two castles.
One’s in Spain, one is in Austria… I’ll probably rent them both sometime, but will probably choose Spain for this November.
It sounds incredible, almost luxuriant – but no, I’m not making millions with my fiction. Castles are usually out in the middle of nowhere and hard to maintain, and they don’t attract their own tourism. So there are actually a bunch of them on AirBNB and they’re very reasonable.
Right now I’m trying to find an apartment in Lisbon, I can’t find anything good for under $3000. These two castles cost twice that (about $7,000) but they have space for more people. Split 5 ways and living in a castle for a month usually costs less than living in a major city.
What will I be working on?
I’m trying to finish Orpheum this August and possibly finish Selfie and/or Taste in September. After that, in the castle, I *hope* to finish book three of Scarlet Thread, and book two of Shearwater. Since I’m running the retreat, I may actually not get as much writing done as I’d like. But I’ll be happy if I can finish three or four new books in the next six months (that’s actually a LOT!).
National novel writing month is a time when writers come together and write together – the social goal of reaching 50K is inspiring and motivating, and I try to participate. I even wrote a Defense of Nanowrimo and got a tattoo about it.
I love writing, but the struggle of motivating yourself to sit down and do the work is a constant challenge; doing events and activities with other writers and committing to a Grand Gesture can really boost productivity.
For more details about the castle (and an opportunity to join) check out my main site, www.creativindie.com.
I’ve remade the cover for Shearwater many times, but I’m pretty happy with this version.
Most people still prefer the original cover, which I will continue using for Part One.
But I wanted something dark and moody. I’ve also revised the blurb, and focused less on mermaids, and a little more on one part of the book that I know is particularly strong. Some people may say this looks too much like a thriller/murder mystery, and not enough like a mermaid fantasy romance… but it doesn’t really matter. Plus, I think the first cover would attract young teen mermaid fans, and most mermaid books in that category are pretty different from mine, which is a lot darker. And all that really matters is how well the new cover and blurb are converting new readers. So far, this is working better than what I had before, which is why I changed it.
Here’s the new sales copy…
They found the dead girl on my birthday.
And I’m not entirely sure that her killer isn’t the boy I just tried to kiss.
The longer I spend in Ireland, the deeper my life seems to unravel. Whisperings of a dark secret that caused my mother to flee from her homeland. Run-ins with a pair of undeniably handsome and strangely mysterious guys. A sleep-walking adventure that nearly got me killed. The nearness of the moon and the ocean would be almost romantic, if I wasn’t being hunted for powers I didn’t know I possessed.
Not everything in mythology is just a story.
Not every fairy-tale is harmless.
Magic is very, very real… but so are the monsters from your worst nightmares.
Now I’m being chased by immortals, hunted by wizards, and forced to pick sides in a supernatural war I want no part of.
I might be the only one who can stop it.
But it will mean giving up the one thing my heart can’t bear to lose.