I spent a few hours this afternoon at Georg Peck, the tea shop where I usually go to write on weekends.  (For more on this tea shop and why I like it so much, see my other blog post here.)  You can see my laptop and half finished passion fruit green tea at the little outdoor table in the picture above.

Usually I get quite a bit of writing accomplished at Georg Peck.  There were some interesting distractions this time, though!

A family of swallows has a nest attached to the wall two doors down from Georg Peck.  I kept watching the parents (yes, I’m pretty sure there were two of them) bringing snacks to these cute little chicks.   Sometimes the chicks would stand on the edge of the nest and flap their wings.  I’m pretty sure they’re almost ready to leave home!
Just when the birds finally settled down and I got my focus back, what should I see but a couple arriving to take engagement pictures across the street… at the local fire station!

It amused me that the lady was all dressed up but the man’s clothes were casual.  Apparently that’s fairly common in engagement photo shoots here in Taiwan.

My photo isn’t crooked – the fire engine was parked on an incline!

It seemed odd that the couple would choose a fire station as the setting for their pictures, let alone that they would actually be allowed to do so.  Then I heard one of the ladies in the tea shop say that the young man is actually one of the fire fighters!  Okay, now it makes sense.

Somehow I don’t think this would be allowed in the States, firefighter or no.

The man’s fire fighter buddies were very enthusiastic, suggesting poses and helping to set up props (and taking pictures of each other with the bride and groom teddy bears in the first picture).  Passersby kept stopping to watch, and one of the tea shop ladies crossed the street to stand there taking her own pictures with her phone right by the professional photographers!  Is it any wonder I was distracted?!

As if I needed any more distractions, a few minutes later a parade went by on its way to one of the local temples.  Parades in Taiwan are very noisy events, full of strident music and firecrackers, and this one was no exception!  I tried and failed to upload my brief video of the parade, but you can watch it by clicking here.
Well, I didn’t get very much writing done this afternoon, but at least I saw a few sights you don’t see every day!  Hopefully next time I can get that chapter finished….

I didn’t make these up, and not all of them apply to Floyd and me, but I think they’re pretty good!  After nearly six years in Taiwan, I can definitely relate to a lot of them (and most of the rest at least make enough sense now to be worth a chuckle)!

1. You can order the entire McDonald’s menu in Chinese.
2. You decide it makes more sense to drive a motorcycle instead of a car.
3. More than one garment has been ruined by betel-nut spit.
4. Someone doesn’t stare at you and you wonder why.
5. You look both ways before crossing the sidewalk.
6. Hsiaohsing Wine tastes good.
7. You turn left from the right lane.
8. 70 degrees Fahrenheit feels cold.
9. You see three people on a motorcycle and figure there’s room for two more.
10. “Squid” sounds better than “steak”.
11. You don’t notice the smell.
12. There are more things strapped to your motorcycle than you ever put in a car.
13. Looking at a dog makes you hungry.
14. You stop conjugating verbs.
15. You drive on the shoulder to pass traffic.
16. The main reason you stop at a 7-11 is to buy tea eggs.
17. You expect a Chinese New Year’s bonus.
18. Firecrackers don’t wake you up.
19. You spend two hours and US$75 to go get potato skins and buffalo wings.
20. You can distinguish the Taiwanese language from Hakka.
21. Your family stops asking you when you’ll be coming back.
22. Taxi drivers are considered “good drivers”.
23. You withdraw your money from the bank during Chinese missile tests.
24. Beer really isn’t so expensive.
25. You stop and look both ways before driving through a red light.
26. “A”, “an” and “the” aren’t necessary parts of speech.
27. You know when the next “big bai-bai” is.
28. Smoking is one of the dinner courses.
29. You don’t mind when your date picks her/his nose in public.
30. You wear out your horn before your brakes.
31. The police call you to get information about other foreigners.
32. You know which place has the best noodles and duck meat at 3:00 a.m.
33. a) You (male) wear white socks with suits and black socks with tennis shorts. b) You (female) wear socks with pantyhose in summer.
34. People who knew you when you first arrived don’t recognize you.
35. You speak Chinese to your foreign friends.
36. You own a karaoke machine.
37. None of your shoes have laces.
38. Chinese stop you on the street to ask for directions.
39. You leave the plastic on new furniture.
40. Forks feel strange.
41. You can spot the differences between the China News and the China Post.
42. The shortest distance between two points involves going through an alley.
43. You wear blue rubber flip-flops at work.
44. People don’t see you for months, and when they do, they don’t ask you where you’ve been.
45. Your deodorant stick has cobwebs on it.
46. You check that the karaoke machine is working before boarding a wild chicken bus.
47. Chinese remakes of Western songs sound better than the originals.
48. You stare at other foreigners.
49. Over half of your clothes were bought at night markets.
50. You become an expert on bug zappers: the best brands and where to get them.
51. The majority of foreigners who have been in Taiwan longer than you are buried here.
52. You find yourself saying, “Oh geez, not ANOTHER Year of the Rat.”
53. You know which turn signal should be on when driving the wrong way down a one-way street.
54. You get homesick for Chinese food while away from Taiwan.
55. Praying at a temple for a winning lottery number becomes a regular thing to do.
56. It becomes a tradition that at least a part of Christmas dinner is stir-fried.
57. Other foreigners give you a funny look when you tell them how long you’ve been here.
58. You can’t think of any good reason to leave.
59. The Statute of Limitations has expired and you still don’t go home.
60. You understand that smiling and nodding is Chinese body language for “Stop speaking bad Mandarin and leave me alone.”
61. Passing a construction site, you realize metal scaffolding is much more dangerous than bamboo.
62. You’ve spent more time on the island since 1990 than any of the Taiwanese you know.
63. The last few vacations you’ve had have been around Taiwan on company outings.
64. You’ve used up more than one phone card on local calls.
65. Locals are surprised to find out you can’t vote in the upcoming election.
66. Your pets are bilingual.
67. Pizza just doesn’t taste right unless there’s corn on it.
68. Your preferred parking spot is on a sidewalk (and you get upset when someone else parks there).
69. Most meaningful conversations take place in doorways or on slow-moving motorcycles.
70. You can de-bone a piece of chicken in your mouth within seconds.
71. Your job title has more than three words.
72. You think the service in the restaurants isn’t THAT bad.
73. You serve Shaoshing wine at home.
74. You’re constantly the first on the elevator to hit the “door close” button.
75. You start cutting off the gravel trucks.
76. You prefer squat toilets.
77. You think having a scooter would be fun.
78. You eat squid on a stick.
79. You no longer find those strange and humorous articles in the paper to send home.
80. Your most commonly used Mandarin phrase is no longer “wo ting bu dong”.
81. Your answer to an “either/or” question is “yes”.
82. The fashions in the stores look really hip.
83. You’re into Sumo on NHK.
84. Chou tofu is no longer stinky.
85. You go to a nice restaurant and look for the rice bowl to put your food in.
86. You wish they had Lazy Susans in the middle of the tables at TGI Fridays.
87. You spend more time driving ON the lines than in between them.
88. You read books from back to front.
89. You start to like Kaoliang brandy more than XO.
90. You think packs of dogs are cute.
91. You are on home leave and you say “hsie hsie” instead of “thank you”.
92. You call it home.
93. You’re ready to name the betel nut as a nutritional supplement.
94. You think that $3,000,000 NT for a golf club membership is a steal.
95. You drive like this all the time.
96. You think the Taipei-Tamsui ferry is world class cruising.
97. You think that Taiwan is really trying to protect endangered species.
98. Your pinkie nail is over one inch long.
99. You stop using spell check on your word processor.
100. You buy round trip air tickets from Taipei.
101. You are worried when you DON’T see the soldiers on a bridge.
102. You think that ICRT is quality radio.
103. You tell the taxi drivers to hurry up.
104. You think your nose IS kind of big.
105. You hum along to the tunes in the taxi.
106.You’ve left umbrellas in more than 3 resturants.
107. You understand ICRT traffic reports.
108. You keep stuffed animals in your car.
109. You think walking up Yangmingshan looks like fun.
110. US $4.00 seems just about right for a cup of coffee.
111. You can tell the difference between Spring rain, the Plum rain, and the rainy season.
112. The last time you visited your mother you presented her with your business card.
113. The latest you can stay out is 11:30 pm, even on a weekend.
114. You can tell, just by looking, which moon cake has the egg in it.
115. You’re getting allergic to fresh air.
116. You get used to being woken up by the “trash-truck tune” instead of a clock.
117. Cable TV reminds you of boring commercials and stock market advisories.
118. Everything you own is pirated.
119. You start to treat your scooter like a spouse.
120. You get used to not paying any tips while traveling.
121. Your first reaction in buying things is to ask for discounts.
122. Your first reaction in hearing the national anthem is to think of the Chinese elementary school.
123. You get addicted to MSG.
124. You get dogdoophobia — the fear of stepping on dog doo when walking around.
125. You say “Wei?” instead of “Hello?” when you pick up the phone.
126. The red light is merely a suggestion to you.
127. You talk on your cellular phone, play Tetris, smoke, and chew betel nut, all at the same time.
128. You always ask your best friend back home when he’s going to get a motorcycle.
129. You greet people by inspecting whatever they’re carrying or telling them how fat they’ve gotten.
130. You can no longer tell the difference between a burp and the hiccups, a cracker and a cookie, or toast and bread.
131. You’re on a first name basis with the staff at the local KTV.
132. The perfect date ends at a KTV.

Can you think of anything else that should be on this list?  Feel free to add it in the comments!

Welcome to Christian Author Interviews. Enjoy our interview with Richard Blackaby in this episode. Listen in via the video or audio and share your thoughts in the comments. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway below and share this interview with your friends!
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OeTVGRLSQmw?version=3&hl=en_US&w=450&h=253]
Listen to the audio here:

MP3 File

About Richard Blackaby
Dr. Richard Blackaby is the president of Blackaby Ministries International where he works with his father Henry and brother Tom. He is an author and a popular international speaker. Richard is married to Lisa and they have three amazing children: Mike, Daniel, and Carrie. Richard has a Ph.D. in history. He loves reading biographies and hockey. He works with leaders in the home, church, and business community, helping them develop their leadership to higher levels. Richard also co-authored the revision of “Experiencing God” and speaks often in churches and to Christian organizations.
Follow Richard BlackabyWebsite | Facebook | Twitter

Enter to Win An Autographed Copy of “Unlimiting God” by Richard Blackaby!

Enter below to enter the giveaway below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway Christian Author Interviews is hosted by Shelley Hitz of Crossreads and Body and Soul Publishing. We would like to send out a special THANK YOU to all of the CrossReads bloggers!

Won’t you come with me this Saturday
To the Shui Nan Market down the way?
It’s full of interesting things to see
So grab a bag and follow me.

We‘ll see colorful T-shirts for ladies and gents
With slogans in English that don’t all make sense.
Flat slabs of tofu are spread on a table
Beside packaged snacks with a Chinese label.
There are piles of bumpy-skinned chicken parts:
Drumsticks, livers, wings, and hearts!
Or how ’bout a net full of squirming frogs?
You can even find cute little outfits for dogs.

There’s the squeaky honk of the guy on his bike
With the cooler of ice cream – buy some if you like!
Mounds of tomatoes, swirled bright red and green,
More types of mangoes than you’ve ever seen,

Shiny long eggplants like purple snakes,
Stacks of sticky red bean suncakes.
We can munch free samples of salty fried fish,
Or slivers of squid from a shallow dish.

Corn on the cob’s being boiled in vats;
Fresh garlic sits piled in heaps on big mats.
There are earrings in black velvet cases displayed
Beside smooth round bangles of brown and green jade

Cartoon-shaped pancakes are sold on a stick –
Which Spongebob character will you pick?
There are so many choices and so much to see
So when are you coming to Shui Nan with me? 

Title: Love the Wounded By Lynn Dove

About the Book:

“Love the Wounded” by Lynn Dove is the final and dramatic conclusion to her brilliant Wounded Trilogy series that has followed the lives of teenagers Jake, Leigh, Mike, Dylan and Tim as they come to terms with a series of tragedies and events that have made each of them question why God allows “bad things to happen to good people”. Leigh does not know who to choose…her heart tells her she will always love Jake, but he has changed so much since the death of their friend, Ronnie, and with his mother going through breast cancer, he has totally closed himself off from her emotionally. Now she is dating Dylan and try as she might to accept him for who he is, she can’t stop thinking about Jake! Dylan has never gotten over the loss of his father and little sister, killed by a drunk driver when he was just a young boy. After a horrific accident that has put both Tim and his little brother, Evan in the hospital, everyone knows that not only is he being bullied at school; he cuts himself to cope with it all. But meeting Cassidy has given him the courage to stand up to the bullies and at the same time give her what she so desperately needs…a life-giving bone marrow transplant. Jake’s mother keeps telling him that “God works all things out for good” but with all the things going on in his life and with his friends, he’s just not sure anymore. It is only after Mike is paralyzed in a car accident that Jake was partially responsible for that all the families and friends will be brought back together, not by coincidence, but by God’s design and then Jake will finally believe that God truly does “Love the Wounded”. “A life of working with youth has inspired Lynn Dove, a Cochrane mother to turn her experiences into a book trilogy…(the Wounded Trilogy) series that parallels the struggles of students…(and) covers the angst of some of the real serious issues that teenagers face today, particularly with bullying and gossip. ” -Rocky View Weekly-

Kindle | Paperback

Lynn DoveImg011 - Copy - CopyLynn Dove calls herself a Christ-follower, a wife, a mom, a grandmother, a teacher and a writer (in that order). She is the author of award winning books: The Wounded Trilogy. Her blog, Journey Thoughts won a Canadian Christian Writing Award – 2011. She has also had essays published in “Mother of Pearl: Luminous Lessons and Iridescent Faith” and “Chicken Soup for the Soul – Parenthood” (March 2013). Readers may connect with Lynn on Facebook, Twitter and on her blogs: Journey Thoughts and Word Salt or on her website: www.shootthewounded.org Follow Lynn Dove Website | Facebook | Twitter

Enter to Win a $50 Amazon Gift Card!

Enter below to enter a $50 amazon gift card, sponsored by author Lynn Dove! a Rafflecopter giveaway This book blast is hosted by Crossreads. We would like to send out a special THANK YOU to all of the CrossReads book blast bloggers!


Several days ago I downloaded a little eBook that was free at the time: The Busy Writer’s Guide to Plot by Marg McAlister.  It’s a quick and easy read; I ended up finishing it in two sittings, and I think I must have highlighted about a quarter of the book.  I couldn’t believe how much useful information there was packed into such a short volume!
The author suggests a unique approach to planning out a book’s plot: set aside one hour, broken into several segments, and in each segment of time, jot down ideas about a specific aspect of the plot.  Her method is designed for people trying to come up with ideas for a story they’re about to write.  However, it would work just as well for someone who already has a plot in mind and wants to strengthen it, or even someone who’s already in the middle of a writing project.  Whether you’re a published professional or a ten-year-old writing stories for fun, I recommend this resource!
I sat down to outline the plot of the book I’m currently writing, Prince of Malorn (in the same series as Prince of Alasia and In the Enemy’s Service, which you can read more about by clicking on the book covers in the sidebar to the right).  Even though I’m over halfway through and already know where I want the plot to go, McAlister’s book helped me see several ways in which I could improve it and add tension.  I actually got interrupted a total of eight (EIGHT!) separate times while I was going through the suggested hour-long planning time, so it ended up taking more like three or four hours.  But in the end I was quite satisfied with the results!

Here’s the review I wrote for The Busy Writer’ One-Hour Plot on Amazon:


This is one of the most useful writing resources I’ve ever seen! I already have two published books and am working on two more, and when I first started reading, I thought, “Next time I start a new book, I’ll definitely have to try this method.” But by the time I got half way through, I had decided I needed to put my current writing projects on hold until I’ve outlined the plots using the One Hour method, even though I already have them planned out in my mind. I can see that using the techniques in The Busy Writer’s One Hour Plot will make them much better. I heartily recommend this resource for anyone interested in writing fiction, whether professionally or as a hobby. Now I’m going to buy the One-Hour Character book by the same author.

Sure enough, I did buy The Busy Writer’s One-Hour Character the day after I finished the Plot book.  I read it in one sitting and immediately sat down to type up what I’d learned.  Korram, Thel, Ernth, and the other characters in Prince of Malorn will grow more through the course of the story and have clearer relationships with each other now! 
The author recommends using paper note cards, but for the activities in both books, I decided to make my own digital note cards; I just prefer to keep things on the computer.  Actually, I made blank templates as well so I can easily fill them in another time when I’m working on a new book.  If you’ve read one or both of McAlister’s books and would be interested in creating your character/plot note cards digitally too, I would be glad to share the templates I typed up.  Just email me at valiera (at) yahoo (dot) com and I’ll send them over!

Here’s the review I wrote for The Busy Writer’s One-Hour Character on Amazon:


I read one of Marg McAlister’s other books, The Busy Writer’s One Hour Plot, and immediately knew I had to get this one too. I seldom pay for eBooks anymore, with so many available for free all the time, but this would have been worth twice the price. I’m over half way through the book I’m writing at the moment, and even though I thought I already “knew” my characters pretty well, I now have lots of great ideas for how to develop them further and make them more vivid. I recommend this useful resource to any fiction writer!
I’m always looking for good writing resources.  If you have others you recommend, please feel free to mention them in the comments.  Thanks!

Also, I emailed Marg McAlister and she was kind enough to email back (very promptly!) with the links to two of her websites which writers might find useful:

http://www.writing4success.com/ (hundreds of articles on writing, ecourses to sign up for, and all sorts of other resources for writers)

http://writing4success.com/blog/ (her blog, also featuring writing-related articles: some her own, others by guest bloggers)

Title: My Treasures – Four Week Mini Bible Study (Becoming Press Mini Bible Studies) By Heather Bixler

About the Book:

There are plenty of Christian resources out there telling us how to manage our money. From budgeting, to couponing, to saving, to investing, (there are numerous) books, courses, and blogs available for all Christians to learn how to steward their money to better honor and glorify the Lord.

I think these resources are amazing and have often used them in my own life in order to become debt free and learn how to better manage my family’s finances. But one burning question always entered into my mind as I began to budget, coupon, and bring down my debt – what’s the point? my heart still struggled daily with greed and fear when it came to money.

In this four week mini Bible Study, we are not going to examine how to manage our money. Instead we are going to examine our heart towards money. One thing I have learned when it comes to money is this, it’s really not about HOW much money you have that will determine whether you are broke or rich, it’s WHERE your heart is towards God and towards money.

If we want to be good stewards of our money and honor God with the resources He has given us, then we need to look at our heart, not JUST our budget.
Download on KindleHeather Bixlerprofilepic62012Heather is a Christian stay at home homeschooling mom of three, married to a firefighter, and a writer. She is founder of www.CSAHM.com among other websites for Christian mothers, and women. Heather is passionate about sharing God’s word in a practical and loving way.
Follow Heather Bixler Website | Facebook | Twitter

Enter to Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Enter below to enter a $25 amazon gift card, sponsored by author Heather Bixler! a Rafflecopter giveaway This book blast is hosted by Crossreads. We would like to send out a special THANK YOU to all of the CrossReads book blast bloggers!

Yesterday, on our way home from a vacation in Hualien, Floyd and I drove through beautiful Taroko National Park.  Known as the Grand Canyon of Taiwan, Taroko Gorge is one of the top vacation spots in Taiwan.

We had been there before when my parents came to visit a couple years ago (you can see pictures of that in my other blog post here), but we didn’t really get to go hiking at that time, because there had been an earthquake a few days before and almost all the trails were closed off due to landslides.  

We didn’t have as much time on this trip, but we did park the car and walk around a little in an area that had been inaccessible the last time.  It was nice to see some scenery we hadn’t seen before, even though it was mostly just from the side of the road.

This area is called Swallow Grotto because of the many swallows that make their homes in the holes in the rock.  You can read an explanation of how the holes were formed in the sign below.

The day was overcast and the lighting wasn’t the best, so unfortunately a lot of my pictures didn’t turn out all that great.  The gorge was a lot more impressive in real life, but hopefully you can at least get an idea of how beautiful Taroko is!

It would have been fun to actually hike along one of the trails, but we were short on time and we would have had to buy a permit to do so anyway.  So we contented ourselves with walking along next to the road.  There were sharp drop-offs just to our left, with sheer cliffs stretching down to the canyon floor hundreds of feet below.

Warning signs were everywhere.  The national park service wasn’t leaving anything to chance!  We didn’t have safety helmets, which we would have had to borrow in another part of the national park (most of the tourists we saw did), but fortunately there weren’t any rockfalls while we were in the area.  🙂

It’s hard to get a clear idea of the scale just by looking at a picture, but some of those boulders in the river bed are the size of buildings!


In many places, the road passed through tunnels, often narrowing down to one lane to squeeze through.  This made our journey home much more exciting!  Many of the tunnels were too long or curved to see the other end when we went in.  We just had to pray there would be no cars coming from the other direction before we made it through!

Sometimes a roof had been built over the road (as you can see on the left) to protect it from rockfalls, which are extremely common in this earthquake-prone destination for typhoons.

The drive home to Taichung took about six hours, and much of the way we were surrounded by beautiful scenery like this.  Some of those mountain curves did get a little scary when the thick fog rolled in (especially when oncoming vehicles didn’t always keep to their side of the road), but God answered our prayers for safety and we made it back without incident.  

We even saw two monkeys, one crossing the road ahead of us in the gorge, one sitting by the side of the road further on, though unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to take any pictures of them.  

The gorge-ous drive was a fitting end to a fun Hualien vacation!

On the way back, we passed Cingjing Farm, a sheep ranch up in the mountains which I had visited years ago.  It was a rainy holiday weekend, complete with hordes of umbrella-toting tourists, just as it had been back then.  We didn’t stop this time, but you can click here to read my blog post about my first visit to the sheep farm.
For pictures and descriptions from earlier on in this vacation, take a look at my blog posts on Farglory Ocean Park here and Yehliu Geopark here.

Yesterday Floyd and I and our friends Mark and Michelle enjoyed a trip to a theme park not far from their home in Hualien on Taiwan’s east coast.

 The entrance fee was just 890 NT (less than $30).  It was definitely worth it, even though Farglory Ocean Park is the kind of place you can do thoroughly in about six hours.
It’s literally right by the ocean, and though it’s not a water park (i.e. no waterslides), the whole place has an ocean/watery theme.

It’s built on a hill, but there are escalators and elevators all over – not to mention the cable cars – so it’s easy to get around.

There were some great views from the cable car that we rode from the bottom to the top of the park (and back… several times…).

There were some fun-looking little rides in the children’s section of the park. Farglory is very family friendly!  
I loved that there were no lines to speak of anywhere in the park!  It was a Monday, and hardly anyone was there.
Floyd described the bumper boats as “a little cheesy”, but we had fun on them anyway.
There aren’t a lot of rides, but the ones they have are pretty good.

The log ride (above) was our favorite.  The log boats even went down one of the drops backward!

Can you tell it rained part of the time?  Fortunately, Farglory Ocean Park has roofs over a lot of sections, and many of the attractions are indoors (which also helped in the morning when it was warm and very sunny).  It’s the kind of place where you can have fun no matter the weather.
Rides aren’t the only attraction at Farglory.  They have a very nice little aquarium with an interesting variety of sea creatures.
Um… what kind of lobster did you say that was?
We enjoyed seeing some of the unusual creatures.  I don’t know if blue lobsters are really that rare, but it was our first encounter with one.
Lionfish always look exciting.
The shows, along with the aquarium, really made the park experience.  (The rides, though fun, were too few to be worth the entry fee on their own.)  We enjoyed the sea lion show first.
It was fun to watch the sea lions play volleyball and basketball!

Tell me that cute sea lion (below) doesn’t remind you of a bird in this position!

After watching the sea lions, we attended a dolphin show.
Their jumping skills were quite impressive!
My favorite show involved Russian dancers with some amazing skills and gorgeous costumes.  Unfortunately, photography wasn’t allowed in that one, but if you ever go to Farglory, make sure you don’t miss it!
Altogether we had a great day and made some fun memories.  If you’re looking for interesting activities for the whole family in Hualien, I highly recommend Farglory Ocean Park!