(To read Part I of my adventures on this scenic little island, whose name is pronounced “shauw lee oh cho”, click here.)

It’s 6:00 a.m., and I’m sitting by a little pavilion on the island’s east coast to watch the sunrise. There are clouds over the horizon, but a golden glow is flaming between them. A dozen or so other people have shown up in the last twenty minutes to this site advertised as the best spot for watching the sunrise, but I was here first.

My persnickety camera did manage to take this
sorta-decent sunrise picture before it decided not to
cooperate any longer.

The sun itself has finally shown its face between the strips of cloud. Everyone else is standing there taking pictures, but since my camera isn’t cooperating this morning, I’m limited to the pictures I can produce with words. (Thank goodness I bought this notebook yesterday!) The sun is spilling golden light over the lower layer of cloud, turning its overly-hardboiled-egg-yolk-gray (wouldn’t that be a great name for a crayon color?!) to a translucent pearly gleam. I can just make out the mountains of Taiwan below it, only their crisp upper edge visible through the cloud. The blue-gray ocean below glitters silver-yellow in wriggling wrinkles as diagonal shafts of sunlight stretch down toward it. 

The rhythmic pulse of the surf and the twitter and squawk of birds mostly cover the voices of the tourists not far away and the ticking of the newest-arrived scooter that a couple parked right by my bench. Now that the sun has fully ascended, most of the others have left. But this pair, munching their breakfast on the next bench, apparently didn’t look up the time of the sunrise last night.

Speaking of last night, Janice and Kenny and I went out to dinner at a restaurant advertising mahi-mahi cheeseburgers. I’m not usually a big burger fan, but it was good! Afterward, we stopped at a tea shop, and I tried a “mango cheese tea”. It came in three layers, with fruit and crushed ice on the bottom, sweet milky juice in the middle, and a foamy, salty froth of some sort of whipped cream cheese mixture on the top. It was strange but delicious, with the best results (in my opinion) coming when I mixed the top two layers.

We had signed up for a night-time scooter tour, so at 7:15, our hostess at our bed and breakfast took us to a place in town where a big group of people on scooters were waiting to meet the tour guide. He led us all first to a place where we all dismounted and looked at a tree with big, beautiful blossoms that apparently only bloom at night and for four hours at a time. He said a lot about these flowers in Chinese while we took pictures, and then we all got back on our scooters to go to the next tour stop.

Aren’t all these flowers pretty?
Actually, they’re all the same flower,
seen in our tour guide’s different flashlight settings.
The top one is its original color.

Unfortunately, I had trouble getting my scooter started. Janice and Kenny were nice enough to wait for me, and by the time I realized to my embarrassment that I simply hadn’t turned the key far enough in the dark, the rest of the group had gone. We took off after them as fast as we could, but when we came to a fork in the road, we had no way to tell which direction they’d taken. We picked one at random and hoped we’d catch up, but sadly, we never did. So the three of us ended up doing our own night-time scooter tour in the form of another circuit of the island (always fun) before returning to our B&B for the night.

As we got back, Kenny joked about getting up early to watch the sunrise, which inspired me. So here I am, still sitting by the coast, squinting while the now fully risen sun peers down intently to see what I’m writing about it.

Now I’m off to take the coastal road around the island again. I should just have time to make it back before our breakfast arrives at the B&B.

My writing spot in the Wild Boar Trench.

It’s almost 9:30 a.m., and I’m sitting on a bench partway along the Wild Boar Ecological Trail in the Wild Boar Trench (“ravine” would be a more accurate word). It’s the only one of Xiao Liu Qiu’s three main scenic spots that I didn’t get to yesterday. For some reason, I couldn’t find it, although I realize now that I drove right by the trailhead at least twice.

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to announce that a family of Taiwanese tourists just walked past me, the oldest son carrying their pet bird on a leash. Might as well bring the whole household when you go on vacation, right?!

Anyway, I feel as though I’m barely in Taiwan anymore. There’s actually an option to step off the walkways with their pavement and handrails and onto – gasp! – DIRT trails!! Craggy cliffs loom all around, plastered with climbing plants. Spindly trees perch precariously at the top, their snake-like roots weaving their way clear to the bottom, clinging to the vertical rock face. Some don’t even try to find a footing in the rock, but stretch through the air and plunge directly into the soil like freestanding pillars. Vines of several varieties twist their way down the cliff, decorating its surface like intertwining ribbons. Some dangle in midair like tangles of braided rope. Coral boulders lie tumbled here and there, surfaces dusted with bits of dead leaves, live vegetation peeking out their pores, hinting at long-ago earthquakes and landslides. (How did chunks of coral get hundreds of meters from the beach and dozens of meters above sea level, anyway?)

Some trees straddle the ravine, trunks and roots and stiff projecting vines splayed across the open space, clutching the rock on either side. Stringly vines dangle like lifelines, swaying in the faint breeze.

Shards of sunlit sky are visible between the tangle of trinks and branches and leaves directly overhead, but it’s fairly dim here on the floor of the ravine. Insects peep and rattle around me, leaves rustle, and birds shrill from above. But it’s peaceful here, though more humid than the surrounding rea. I feels as though I’m sitting in another world.

For now, I’m going to leave this one to the mosquitoes who are trying so valiantly to defend it, and move on.

I didn’t see any wild boar (or any indication that they actually
live on Xiao Liu Qiu), but there were a lot of these little
cave mouths that probably lead to ideal homes for them.

10:40 a.m. I’m back in the B&B, waiting for the others to be ready to check out.

There are definitely more people visiting Xiao Liu Qiu today. (The island’s name gets easier to write every time – just in time for us to leave. 🙁 ) Many of the roads are narrow, obviously designed only for 2-way scooter traffic. But you round a bend and suddenly a colorful, hulking bus is trundling toward you, stopping at every scenic spot to disgorge throngs of distracted tourists who stand around in the street as though it was made for that purpose. Or you see herds of matching scooters go zooming down the little highways, most with passengers calling to each other or pointing at things or holding Go-Pros. With tomorrow being a holiday (Ten Ten), I’m glad we’re leaving today. It will only get more crowded.

Written from home later:

The line outside the restaurant after we left.

We fought with the crowds for the next few hours before our boat left. Janice, Kenny, and I decided to go out for an early lunch before the restaurants filled up, so we found a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that someone had recommended. We got the last empty table and enjoyed our lunch there, but as we were leaving, we saw that the line to get in now stretched out of the door and down the street! 

Janice, Kenny, and me with our bings.

We wanted to get bings (tasty frozen desserts – Xiao Liu Qiu has a LOT of places that sell them) from another little restaurant that someone else recommended. Once again, we got the last available table. We ordered a mango bing and a caramel-cashew bing to share. (Both were delicious, though I liked the caramel-cashew one better.) Once again, there was a line out the door by the time we left. It seems the tourists were following us!

Yum, yum!

Behind the bing restaurant, we took a nature walk through a bamboo garden that had ponds full of turtles and fish (and a particularly pretty butterfly). Then it was time to catch our boat back to Taiwan. (It sounds odd to say that, since Xiao Liu Qiu does belong to Taiwan … but I can’t say “back to the mainland” either, since Taiwan is also an island, and the mainland is China.) 

A butterfly (or moth?) in the bamboo garden

This time I stood outside for the 20-minute voyage. The sea wasn’t too rough, and it was windy and a really fun ride. Then we got on a shared taxi-van like the one we’d come out there on, followed by a train to Taichung, after which I took a taxi back to home sweet home. It was a great trip! I hope to go back to Xiao Liu Qiu again sometime with Floyd.

Welcome to Realm Explorers!  In this weekly series, we visit a variety of unique worlds created by talented science fiction and fantasy authors.  Enjoy your travels!  And don’t forget to read to the bottom of the post to find out more about each author and see how to purchase the featured book. 

Author’s name: Juli D. Revezzo

Title of book and/or series:  Bitter Thorn Tribe (Stewards War, book 2)

Brief summary of the story:

Destined to be a bride, if only the gods will let her…

Stacy Macken tries to acclimate herself to her training under Tuatha dé Danaan druids—as if she doesn’t have enough work in planning her wedding to her beloved guardian and fiancé Aaron.

When Fomorii loyalists violate their treaty and seek revenge for their recent defeat, even Stacy’s druids are at a loss to explain the mayhem that ensues. Can Aaron and his brothers-in-arms stop it before Stacy and her family are caught in the crossfire?

Brief description of the world or location you created for this story: The city is a modern (fictional) town in Florida called Bitter Thorn Grove, named after its Medieval Irish counterpart. So its locale and weather is that of the Florida Gulf Coast, but, after the last battle, their druids did a little finagling and the environment is a tad cleaner than what you’d expect if you were to visit a modern town in the real world. It’s still hot as heck in the summer, but that odd winter Stacy experienced a few years ago where they were having snowstorms (you can see that in the previous novel Keeper of the Grove) has, blessedly, not returned.

If we were to visit Bitter Thorn Grove as tourists, what would you recommend that we see or do there?

Definitely go to Stacy’s Bitter Thorn Grove History Center. You’ll learn everything about the town there, and maybe, if you’re lucky, Stacy (the heroine of Bitter Thorn Tribe) will give you a personal tour. If you’re very lucky, she may tell you why Aaron and his harshad warrior buddies deem it their sacred ground.

What dangers should we avoid in Bitter Thorn Grove?

Aside from the usual dangers of any modern city, though normal crime is on the downswing since the end of what happened in volume one, Bitter Thorn Grove has to contend with Balor’s supernatural dragon-like beasts they call Harbingers. Nasty things that just won’t seem to leave Stacy alone.

Is there a distinct or unusual type of food or meal that we might be served in Bitter Thorn Tribe?

Stacy’s granny makes this awesome jam that Stacy and Aaron are, on the side, trying to find the recipe for.

What types of weaponry or fighting styles are common in Bitter Thorn Tribe?

Aaron teaches a form of martial arts called Irish Stick Fighting. He also has a magical weapon called a harshad given to him and the others in his special regiment (the harshad warriors) by the Tuatha dé Danaan god Goibniu. It can split into three blades and wrap around enemies to pull them in for the kill, if necessary. Or it can become a knife, or a baton, or anything Aaron needs with which to defend Stacy and the Bitter Thorn Grove History Center. The name “harshad” is an in-joke within the warriors’ group meaning it can turn into roughly 500 different items. (A harshad number is a number divisible by the sum of its digits…for instance, 500, and the warriors fight their battle with Balor for dominance of the earth—when things go right—every five hundred years).

What types of vehicles, animals, technology, etc. are used to travel in or to Bitter Thorn Tribe?

Average normal modern technology, but the harshad warriors can teleport, and their druids use higher than high-tech computer systems that can log and calculate just about anything you can think of.

What types of plants, animals, or sentient races might we encounter in Bitter Thorn Grove that we don’t see on Earth?

Aside from Balor’s minions that are a mix of reptilian beasts and quite dragon-like, right now, the “grove” for which the city is named is sentient and can respond a threat to Stacy and reach out to help the harshad warriors guard and protect her.

What role, if any, does magic or the supernatural play in the lives of people in Bitter Thorn Grove?  If there is magic, please give some examples of what it involves or how it’s used.

There is magic. Aside from the magic of Aaron’s weapon, he can teleport, and create a magical wall of undulating glass as a shield, he (and some of his fellow worries) have magical healing abilities. The druids can do just about anything written up in the ancient Celtic myths, like call magical fog, resurrect warriors in their gods’ Cauldron of Rebirth, make magical healing draughts, spell mundane weapons to make them more effective, put magical locks on things, and transform into animals. Stacy is learning all that magic now. The druids have even pulled her consciousness into tales before.  

Is there any advanced or unusual technology in Bitter Thorn Grove?  If you haven’t described it already, please give some examples.

The harshad warriors weapons and the Cauldron of Rebirth are the only unusual tech I can think of. The druids are thinking of upgrading the world’s computers, if they can help it. So we won’t have to worry about pesky things like viruses and hackers. 😉

Tell us about any sports, games, or activities that are available for entertainment in Bitter Thorn Grove.

The usual, but outside Aaron’s Bataireacht (Irish stick fighting) school, Stacy doesn’t like or pay attention to sports. But outside sports, there are also movies, streaming and otherwise, music, and books and such, just like we have.

Are the days of the week and months of the year the same in Bitter Thorn Grove as on Earth? What holidays or special events are celebrated regularly there?

Pretty much the same, except Stacy and Aaron celebrate the Celtic calendar holidays, Samhain, Lughnasadh, Beltaine, and Imbolc. Imbolc every five hundred years is when the main battles take place—unless of course, like now, Balor breaks the treaty. Samhain is also an auspicious date for them. It’s the time when all major events take place, in Celtic mythology, so…plays in as a spoiler in Bitter Thorn Tribe, so I can’t say how. 😉

Is there a particular religion practiced in Bitter Thorn Grove?  Please describe what it involves.

The general populace is a mix of Christian, Buddhist, et al, like us, but our main characters are ancient druids so they have their four main celebrations of the year. Usually with divining, revelry, prayers of assistance (if necessary), and new oaths given. They’ll also commune with their gods, who have a tendency to show up and advise or scold the main characters and their druids, as they see fit. Most people, outside Stacy’s family and small circle, don’t know about Aaron and the harshad warriors and druids; or, at least, they don’t realize they are different than you and me.

What is the political or government structure in Bitter Thorn Grove?  Who is in charge there at the moment, and what kind of leader is he/she?

A governor is in charge of Florida, and the mayor is in charge of Bitter Thorn Grove as a whole. Stacy is Queen of her own little tribe, though, and Aaron and the harshad warriors usually defer to her wishes—if her wishes don’t put her or the sacred ground in jeopardy of falling into Balor’s hands.

Are there any other unique cultural practices that we should be aware of if we visit Bitter Thorn Grove?

You may want to call Stacy before you visit. You never know if Aaron will have to put pants on, or if you may walk into a battle with Balor’s strange minions, these days. (Where are they still coming from??? That’s what Stacy would like to know!)

Has anything in your actual life inspired the locations, cultures, etc. in your book?

Stacy’s history center in based on a small museum I worked for in college, and the whole druidic set up and use of the Celtic myth of the Battle of Mag Tuired as the series basis is influenced by my nearly-lifelong love of Celtic mythology.

What, if any, “hot-button” or controversial topics do you touch on in your book?

I’d say feminism and in some cases, eminent domain, as well as environmentalism, to some extent.

Author Autobiography:

Juli D. Revezzo loves fantasy and Celtic mythology and writing stories with all kinds of fantastical elements. She is the author of the Antique Magic paranormal series and the Stewards Wars and Celtic Stewards Chronicles series, the historical romances, Camden Girls series, Vesta’s Clockwork Companions, House of Dark Envy, Watchmaker’s Heart, and Lady of the Tarot, and more. She is also a member of the Independent Author Network and the Magic Appreciation Tour.

Where, and in what formats, can we purchase your book(s)?  Please include links.

It’s available now in ebook and paperback at Amazon.

The book trailer, should you like to see it, is here:


Where can readers connect with you online?  

My links are as follows:

Website:  https://julidrevezzo.com/

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/signupforJulisnewsletter

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Juli-D.-Revezzo/e/B008AHVTLO

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/juli-d-revezzo

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/julidrevezzo

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5782712.Juli_D_Revezzo

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/julidrevezzo/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jewelsraven/

There’s also a board dedicated specifically to the Stewards War and Celtic Stewards Chronicles series: https://www.pinterest.com/jewelsraven/related-to-the-celtic-stewards-chronicles/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/julidrevezzo

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDP0TPb32YCWAEG6Q_Hiw7g

I hope you all enjoyed the trip to Bitter Thorn Grove.  Questions about the world or the book?  Ask them in the comments and the author will get back to you!  

Click here to read other posts in the Realm Explorers series.

Please join us again next Monday for a trip to another world in next week’s edition of Realm Explorers!
Are you an author of a sci-fi or fantasy novel that takes place in another world? Click here to find out about having it featured on Realm Explorers!
-Annie Douglass Lima

I’m sitting here in a scenic spot overlooking the ocean in Xiao Liu Qiu (pronounced “shauw lee oh cho”), a small island off the coast of Taiwan. It’s mid-afternoon and I’ve been having a lovely day driving around the island alone on my rented scooter.

A-Road B&B: the office is to the left,
rooms in the building to the right
(there are more behind it)

We left Taichung early yesterday morning: me, my coworker Janice, and her husband Kenny. We took the train to Kaohsiung, a 3-hour ride, then rode in a shared taxi-van for another 50 minutes to the harbor, then took a ferry across to Xiao Liu Qiu (about a 20-minute ride).

my room at A-Road

We rented scooters and found the place we’d arranged to stay, called A-Road Bed and Breakfast. Turns out it isn’t even officially open for business yet, but somehow we’d been able to get a reservation. I love my little room there — as far as I can remember, though I’ve been blessed with opportunities to travel a lot, this may be the first time I’ve ever had a hotel room all to myself anywhere. It has two beds with duvets, a place to hang up clothes, its own little bathroom, and the all-important air conditioning. And a TV that I have no intention of using. The door opens to the outside, and there are two little translucent windows that there’s no point in opening unless you want a view of a wall about eight inches away, or a water tank. The complimentary packets of drip coffee that awaited me on the mini-fridge when I arrived are labeled “Coffee n Fins”, which is the name of the coffee shop right next door. I especially appreciated that there were not only two little bottles of water for me, but a special faucet in the room for drinking water. (I’ve already used it to refill those two bottles plus my original one multiple times.)

After dropping our luggage off in our rooms, Janice, Kenny, and I went out walking to find lunch. It was fun to explore the neighborhood a little. The nearest major cross street is called Zhong Shan Road, because of course it is. (Anyone who’s traveled around Taiwan much will get that.) A-Road B&B isn’t located in one of the main touristy areas, so there aren’t a lot of dining choices right around it, but we eventually found a little restaurant not far away. I ordered curry chicken on rice, which was delicious and not spicy at all.

following the rest of the tour group

We had signed up for a tour of the “intertidal zone”, so we hurried back to A-Road to meet the representative who would lead us to where the tour guide was waiting. Since we were planning to go swimming after that, we put on swimsuits under our clothes and brought our snorkel gear.

sea cucumber

We joined a group of a couple dozen Taiwanese tourists down at the beach. The tour guide, who spoke only Chinese, led us around in the shallow water and picked up various sea creatures to tell us about. I was thankful to be wearing water shoes as they had recommended ahead of time but wished my shorts were shorter, since they were soon drenched. 

It was fun getting to see and hold sea cucumbers (which feel pleasantly squishy and squirt water like a bath toy when you squeeze them right — no, I don’t think it harms them), as well as a starfish, something my family always called a spider starfish back in Kenya but the guide was adamant was not actually a starfish, and a couple other creatures whose English names I never did find out.
apparently not a starfish

Eventually, Janice and Kenny left to go snorkeling, but I stuck with the tour, since we had paid for it. I understood very little of what the guide said without Janice there to translate, but that didn’t bother me. I enjoyed being part of the group, even as they only foreigner there.

no idea what this guy is

Afterward, I found a place up the beach to stash my things between a couple of boats that didn’t look as though anyone would be needing them any time soon and went to try out the snorkel and mask I’d bought for this trip. In retrospect, it may not have been the wisest move to leave my wallet there containing my ID, credit cards, and all the cash I’d brought, but since this is Taiwan, I wasn’t too worried. I just wrapped everything in my towel, left it in the shadows, and waded out to look for some turtles.

I left my things between the colorful boats on the right.

Xiao Liu Qiu is famous for its sea turtles, and I did see quite a few. It was a beautiful experience, just floating face down, feeling myself gently rise and fall with each wave, swimming just a little as I let myself drift. All around, the water was filled with the gentle crackling sound that I remember from snorkeling in Indonesia and that I’ve always assumed comes from the coral itself, but it turns out it’s made by the tiny shrimp living inside it. The coral was interesting and pretty, though nothing compares to the gorgeous underwater fantasy kingdoms I’d snorkeled over in Indonesia (but what could possibly compare to that?!). Still, I enjoyed watching interesting varieties of fish and avoiding hundreds (maybe thousands) of bristling sea urchins, some of which were the largest I’ve ever seen, about the size of soccer balls.

And the sea turtles. Yes, I swam among sea turtles for the first time in my life. Sometimes they appeared seemingly out of nowhere, so close that I had to hurriedly back away, since there are laws about not getting within five meters of them. They were all sizes: some obviously youngsters, others almost as long from flipper to flipper as I am tall! I got to watch them grazing (is that the right word?) on the algae that cover the chunks of coral.

instructions at the BBQ restaurant

Eventually I returned to shore to find all my belongings waiting safely where I had left them. That evening, Janice and Kenny and I dined at an outdoor barbecue restaurant just down the street from our B&B, where it was all we could eat for 389 NT. We chose veggies, sweet potatoes, and various kinds of meat and seafood from the refrigerators that held the buffet items, and then grilled them at our own table. All the while, we were watched intently by several well-fed cats that wandered from table to table trying to convince people they were starving. It was a fun and delicious meal.

For the next morning, the proprietor of our B&B had given us pictures of four breakfast options to choose from, all of which she would pick up from local eateries. I can’t tell you what mine was, except that it involved a bowl of soft, starchy paste topped with ground pork and a few pieces of slightly-sweet Taiwanese sausage. (We had the option of soy milk, coffee, or milk tea along with breakfast, but I forewent them because I planned to try out Coffee n Fins later.) There was also a complimentary package of twisty fried snacks for each of us, and an extra drink that apparently is a local specialty. I’m not sure what the drink was called, but it was sweet and tasty and involved a syrupy base with grass jelly and some kind of little seeds (not basil seed or passion fruit) mixed in.

one of many little harbors in Xiao Liu Qiu

After breakfast, the other two went off to spend the day snorkeling in various places along the coast, but I wanted to see more of the island. I wasn’t sure if I’d end up wishing for company, but it has turned out to be a really fun day for me, even spent all on my own. I decided to do a circuit of the island, stopping to see the sights along the way, so my scooter and I set off along the coastal road. It was a lovely, quiet drive with almost no traffic except for the occasional scooter. And the views! It’s so pretty around here, with the ocean on one side and often hills or cliffs on the other, along a gently winding road that dips in and out of shade and sunshine, up and down gentle rises. I’ve been getting more confident in my driving, and it’s been really fun to just feel the wind in my face as I zip along. This little electric scooter can’t go terribly fast — my top speed down a hill was 44 KPH (about 27 MPH) — but everything feels faster and more exciting in the open air!

Beauty Cave had lots of warnings like this

My first stop was the “Beauty Cave”, which wasn’t really very beautiful, but involved a pleasant stroll in and out of a series of small caves, under overhangs, and along the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean. 

looking out of the Beauty Cave
To get in, I had to buy a ticket for 120 NT (about US$4), which I might have considered more than it was worth except that the same ticket can be used at three different scenic places around the island (as long as you go to all of them on the same day).

me with my popsicle

My next stop was the Black Devil Cave, also called the Black Dwarf Cave or Black Spirit Cave. I bought a Buddha-fruit popsicle from a stand near the entrance and spent a few minutes enjoying my snack along with the company of my trusty Kindle at a little table. 

some of the interesting sculptures

Then I looked through a nearby gallery of interesting wooden sculptures before exploring the cave itself. 

I assumed this was true at the time …

I was intrigued to learn the history of this cave, which you can read about on this sign. (Note from later: I looked it up when I got home, and it turns out that story is entirely fabricated! You can read the real history of the Black Devil Cave here.) 

an ocean view from the Black Devil Cave

Once again, the “cave” involved a hiking trail (read: paved walkway with stairs) through and near a series of small caves and overhangs, with plenty of gorgeous ocean views. Several times, I stopped to just watch the waves and talk to God for a while.

Back on the scooter, I succeeded in changing the battery when the original one finally ran out of juice, a task I had been a little nervous about, but which went fine. But I was thankful for the helpful stranger who showed me how to open the seat compartment where the battery lives when I couldn’t remember how. (No, I don’t ride scooters very often. Why do you ask?)
Coffee n Fins

Eventually, I ended up back at A-Road, where I stopped in my room to replenish my drinking water supply, and then stepped next door to try out Coffee n Fins, which hadn’t been open earlier. It turned out to be a tiny coffee shop less than half the size of my kitchen back home, with a little family-style table in the middle. I saw that others had taken off their shoes at the door, so I did the same. Inside, the proprietor sat eating a bowl of noodles, making conversation with his colleague and two customers who were drinking coffee. Since there was no English menu, I was thankful that the boss spoke English. He offered me various types of coffee from around the world and let me smell the beans. I didn’t tell him I’m not enough of a coffee connoisseur to detect any difference between them! Though they didn’t specialize in fancy ways to prepare coffee, I asked for and received a good iced latte (with one big spherical ice “cube”) that hit the spot on this warm day. When I inquired about sugar, he looked dubious and dug through a cupboard but eventually found some for me. He talked me into staying to drink my latte there instead of taking it to go, as I’d originally requested. His air conditioning argument won me over, along with the fact that I had no other good place nearby to drink it, unless I wanted to sit in my room, which I didn’t. We all made conversation over our coffee or noodles (the others spoke varying amounts of English), and I found out that the two guys who work there also give scuba diving lessons/tours. That explains the name of their business.

Latte downed, I drove off to look for somewhere to get lunch. I explored the main town and tried out some sidestreets before I eventually found a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant with exactly what I’d been hoping for: an English menu. I ordered a bowl of “mixed noodle soup” that contained clams, fish balls, ground pork, and green leafy veggies. Once again, I spent some quality time with my Kindle as I enjoyed the tasty meal.

As I drove around the town and waterfront afterward, stopping to take pictures here and there, I found myself wishing I could write about my day. I had purposely chosen not to bring my laptop on this trip, but the writer in me is embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even bring pen and paper! I knew I could always blog about it after I got back home, but the details wouldn’t be fresh in my mind by then, and the words wanted out in the meantime.

the place where what you’ve just read got written

Finding a stationery store, I went in and purchased a thin notebook and two pens. Then I rode around a little longer, back on the coastal road, sure I would find just the right place to stop and write. I ended up taking a narrow turn-off that led me to a scenic spot where there happens to be a little glass-topped table and a couple of fairly comfortable chairs. It’s the perfect place! I’ve been sitting here for almost two hours now, listening to the surf and recording my simple adventures so far. 

writing in my little notebook

My heart is full of gratitude for so many little blessings sprinkled through this lovely day. I have really enjoyed the solitude, and I feel as though my soul has been fed, though I hadn’t realized it was hungry. I’ve loved the natural beauty all around and the chance to explore where I wanted, how I wanted, staying in each spot exactly as long as I wanted. It will be nice to meet my friends again for dinner, but I wouldn’t trade this day of beautiful solitude for anything. And I’m thankful for the opportunity to paint it with words on paper, to (probably) be transferred to my blog later. 

(Note from later: obviously the transferring did happen. 🙂 )

I’ll sign off now and write some more tomorrow. Time to go rejoin the others and figure out where to eat.

(To read part II of my Xiao Liu Qiu adventures, click here.)

Cracked: An Anthology of Eggsellent Chicken Stories
Genre: Anthology, Multiple Genres of Short Stories

with stories by
J. F. Posthumus, Cedar Sanderson, J Trevor Robinson, Richard Paolinelli, Jane Lebak,
J. D. Beckwith, Grace Bridges, Denton Salle, Margo Bond Collins, J. A Campanile,
Amber Draeger, Karina Fabian, Abigail Falanga, Clair W. Kiernan, L. Jagi Lamplighter,
David Millican, John M. Olsen, Dawn Witzke,Joshua M. Young, Bokerah Brumley

Chickens Land on Mars…

But what happens when authors have too much free time on their hands?

A challenge.

Craft a story featuring our favorite feathered raptors: the CHICKEN.


Twenty authors deliver in some unexpected ways and live to crow about it.

From chickens in space to cozy murder mystery farm yards to schools of magickal thought…

Includes guardian angels, chicken shifters, aliens, and feathered matchmakers,

Maybe even a non-fiction adventure or two… and more!

These amazing chickens come from the minds of twenty cooped-up authors on the edge of cracking…

Read CRACKED: An Anthology of Eggsellent Chicken Stories

Buy Now.

Annie’s Review:
This is one of the most unusual anthologies I’ve ever read! I really enjoyed the journey through these pages, adventuring with chickens of all kinds (heroes, villains, and everything in between). It did frustrate me that a few of the “stories” were more like scenes or excerpts, without a complete plot or resolution. A few others contained profanity or sexual references (nothing explicit), so this definitely isn’t a book for kids. Others had not been carefully edited, and I cringed at the errors in grammar and punctuation. But most of the stories were fairly well written and fun. Why not take a look?
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