Travel: Hong Kong

In January, I went to Hong Kong with my husband, Craig. It was our first holiday outside of North America & Europe. I also had tentative plans to set a book there, so it was also a chance to see if the setting would work. Plus, eat all the food and see all the things.

The first night, we arrived quite late, so only took the coach in from the airport (and were wide-eyed at all the skyscrapers) and found somewhere near the hotel to eat. It was a chain and the servers spoke no English, so we very much felt like Ultimate Tourists as we pointed at the menu, glad of the pictures and the English subtitles. I really liked the century egg in spicy sauce.

The next day we woke up super early thanks to jetlag, and went out exploring. We were staying in Fortress Hill and journeyed on the crowded MTR to nearby Causeway Bay, which has a lot of shopping. We wandered around, had some food (the Muji stores there have cafes in them!), bought some clothes, and gawped at everything being so tall. We then went to Din Tai Fung, one of the cheapest Michelin starred restaurants in the world, for some dim sum. It was unsurprisingly delicious. For dessert I tried ice cream frozen with liquid nitrogen for the first time. So smooth! Then we went to Sheung Wan to visit PMQ, which stands for Police Married Headquarters. That’s what the buildings were, lodgings for cops, but now they’ve been converted into shops for local artists and designers. We hung out there and the surrounding area for hours, and then went for dinner at a golf club in the hills thanks to two people Craig knew from the internet. We got to drive around and see the city at night, and then had a drink in the top floor of our hotel, overlooking Victoria Harbour. An excellent first day.

The next day we went south to Aberdeen Harbour because how could we not, living in the original Aberdeen? There wasn’t as many touristy things to do there as we weren’t interested in going to the floating seafood restaurant, but it was interesting to explore the area. We went to the local Tin Hau Temple. There are over 100 Tin Hau Temples in Hong Kong, for worshipping the goddess of the sea. In the late afternoon, jet lag hit us hard so we went back to the hotel to nap and then stayed near the hotel, buying local snacks we couldn’t get back home and watching TV in the hotel room.

On the third day we ventured across the harbour to Kowloon. First we went to the Museum of Hong Kong. Craig and I have been to a few of these “history of the city museums” in our travels, but this one was the best. Very well organised and interesting, and I felt we learned a lot about the history, the different cultures, and festivals and traditions. When we left the museum, the weather was glorious and so we meandered along the Avenue of Stars, dodging the other tourists and looking for names we knew on the sidewalk. We wandered around the area before hopping in a cab and going north to Kowloon Walled City Park. Here’s some history of the walled city. Basically it was a military outpost and after WWII a lot of Japanese refugees went there. Its population swelled and it didn’t really have a justice system. The police stayed out of it and it was basically its own teeny tiny little country. Crime grew rampant as it was run by the Triads, and illegal construction made it a hive of people. In the 90s it was demolished and now it’s a pretty park.

After wandering around the park, we explored the surrounding area a bit. We found a bakery with a familiar looking cat on it, as two days before we found a brochure at the PMQ advertising Cream Bro, HK’s celebrity cat. We weren’t sure how famous he actually was, but there he was on the bakery. Cute! We had some sugary treats at a nearby cafe and then headed back to the waterfront. We stayed until night time and watched the light show that’s on every night, the skyscrapers flashing lights in time to cheesy music. While we waited, we saw a youth band play to a crowd, a small child on his father’s shoulders gleefully bouncing along to the rock music, and also saw a dance group perform by the water.

The next day, we went to another dim sum place, Tim Ho Wan, but had to wait about an hour to be seated. It was worth it though. The food was so delicious, and it was another Michelin star despite it only being about £20 for us to be totally stuffed. We then went back to Sheung Wan, to an area called the Mid-Levels with has the longest outdoor escalator in the world. We took that (which featured in a film we watched not long before we went to HK, Chungking Express). We wandered around, looking at the street art and visiting another temple. Then we went back to Causeway Bay and had some delicious waffles, and as a second dinner we had a picnic back in our hotel room.

Day 5: Went out for dim sum again with Craig’s friend from the internet, Abe. So good. Afterwards we wandered around, including through Chunking Mansions, another area that used to be pretty shady but isn’t really anymore. After some more wandering, we went to the Museum of Art. My favourite exhibit was of the wood sculptor Tong Sim-Kun. I preferred his realistic work to his more abstract and modern sculptures, but they were all beautiful. The weather was rainy, so in the evening we were soaked as we went back to our side of the city.

The next day, the weather was great, and so it was off to Ocean Park! It’s an amusement park to the south of the city. Since we went on a weekday, thankfully it wasn’t totally swamped. The views from the cable car were incredible, and they had lots of animals and shows. I was ridiculously excited by the red pandas and took about 200 photos of them. There was also a panda and some cute otters. We rode a few rides, but then it was getting rather crowded so we headed back to the city. We wanted to take the tram up to Victoria Peak to watch the sun set, but it looked like the wait would be an hour and a half so…no Peak. Back near the hotel, we had dinner at a tasty place called Campers, which served fresh, delicious Japanese food.

On day 7, our trip was winding down, so we had to prioritize what we were going to do with the time we had left. Initially, we were thinking of taking a ferry to Lantau Island, but instead we stayed in the city and went to Chi Lin Nunnery. It was a quiet, lovely haven right in the middle of the bustle of the city. It was so calming to stroll around, eat some vegetarian food, and see some greenery. Afterwards, it was back to exploring the city, and we ended up going to Mong Kok, one of the busiest areas of Hong Kong, which also has lots of markets.

And then it was our last day. We checked out of the hotel in the morning and stashed our bags before going back to Tim Ho Wan to have the delicious pork buns, getting there early enough we didn’t have to queue for an hour. Then we took the Star Ferry around the Harbour for a last look of the city. After some more wandering around and buying snack food to take back (and we’ve already eaten it all, darn it), we had a last meal at Campers. And then it was time for the airport and the 22 hour journey home, Cream Bro wished us farewell from an advert on a baggage trolley.


I’ve been back for over a week now, and finally over the jetlag. Hong Kong was definitely one of the best holidays I’ve ever been on. And it wasn’t only a holiday–I think I’ll be setting my next book there, or at least partly so. It’s the perfect setting for a near-future thriller.

For more photos, check out my Instagram.

The Isle of Arran Writing Retreat

Last week was my first proper week off in…a long time. Except it wasn’t really a week off–I went to the Isle of Arran with Elizabeth May and Emma Trevayne for a writing retreat. But it was the first week in so long where I wasn’t going to the day job, or going to a convention, or going to class or doing homework, or on holiday somewhere where you explore all day. I sat on my butt, didn’t move off of it much, and was a proper full time writer for one whole glorious week.

On the ferry to Arran


It did have a bit of drama: the day after we arrived the weather worsened, to the point where we were technically trapped on the island for two days as the ferries weren’t running. Due to the microclimates on the island, it’d be sunny one minute and furiously hailing the next. Wednesday night, lightning flashed and thunder shook the Retreat Cottage of Wonder (and Whisky). Because it was cold and we had the heating up high, a few wasps came out of hibernation. Only queen wasps hibernate. They were the size of small birds (slight exaggeration) and we had to vanquish them with a hoover.

The nearby town of Lamlash, where we went for supplies
In search of vittles
The view from our window. I know, right? That’s Holy Isle, which has a Tibetan monastery.


Aside from that, it was a lot of writing and eating a lot of cheese.

What I did:

– Finished re-reading Pantomime (to refresh myself for Masquerade‘s edits. And whoo man, it was really weird reading a book I wrote in 2010-2012. In general I still like it, but there’s also plenty I’d change, and I can tell my writing’s grown and matured)

– Re-read Shadowplay (because this was written in 2012-2013, it wasn’t as painful to read)

– Edit Masquerade into a readable draft, as that first draft was most definitely not. This was what took most of the week. It’s now out with the first round of betas.

My main task
My main task

– Edit my short story, “The Lioness,” which will be released in the Cranky Ladies of History anthology from Fablecroft Press next year. It’s about a badass lady pirate who killed a lot of people (Jeanne de Clisson).

– Read 1 book for the Bisexual Book Award I’m helping judge (in the general fiction category).

– Finish my research book on corporate espionage for Brainfreeze Book (my option book for Tor).

– I also managed some fun reading: most of The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig and some of The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.

arran11 arran10

The morning we left, the rain cleared up a little, and a perfect, marvelous double rainbow bid us farewell.

This week I’ve been thrown back into day job stress, but as of next week that calms down and then there’s the Christmas break. I’ll either actually take the break off work entirely, or I’ll start drafting Brainfreeze Book again (which I’m currently 40k through).

It was a marvelous week, and I think I’m going to have to find a way to go on more writing retreats.


Ten Snaps: Glasgow

I did this a long time ago for my trip to Barcelona, then stopped. But Ten Snaps is where I share 10 photos from a trip.

I went to Glasgow last weekend as a wee break before things really rev up for finals for my university and work for an upcoming audit.

For more photos, follow me on Instagram, as that’s where I’m pic spamming these days.

The Robin Hobb Birthday Scavenger Hunt Clue – With Pictures

Last week, fantasy author Robin Hobb had a worldwide birthday scavenger hunt, and I was the hider in Aberdeen, Scotland. I came up with a poem for my clue, and while I hid it that morning, I took photos on my phone along the way, and thought that I’d share them now that all the presents have been found.

Before: Mowgli helped me wrap.


The present, a signed copy of Renegade’s Magic and Pantomime, were found by Louise Keating.

Location: Victoria Park, Rosemount, Aberdeen, Scotland, UK

I’m going to lead you down the rabbit hole.
The place you are meant to go is named after a queen.
She perhaps didn’t scream “Off with their heads!” but she
led an empire. That’s clear enough, isn’t it?
It’s a place of greenery and trees. Perhaps you played there as a child.
Got it? Start at the entrance.

20140305_075040On your right there will be a gatehouse, looking like something out of a fairy tale.
Perhaps smoke curls from the chimney. Perhaps you wonder who lives in it.

20140305_075121Continue down the promenade, under the trees, bare in the winter chill.
There may be people there, walking dogs, urging bundled children to run about.

20140305_075327 Stop at the fountain. It is made of fourteen different types of granite.
No water runs from it. It stands tall and imposing.

20140305_075353 Look to your left. There’s a little brick gate. Go through it.

A little further along, there will be the remnants of a chess board on the asphalt,
nearly erased by time, its pieces long missing.
Around you are slumbering rose bushes.
When they bloom, no one paints the white blooms red.
They’re already crimson.
You’re almost there.

20140305_075516 There are two pillars of greenery right in front of you.
Between them is a black flower box.
Dig carefully.

20140305_075859 The treasure is against the wall closest to you, just hidden beneath the new soil.
There it is.
Take it home. Unwrap it. Read the letters.
Open the cover, run your fingertips along the pages.
Fall down the rabbit hole.

Bonus picture: Spring


2013 Round-up: Writing & Non-Writing Life

2013 was, overall, a very good year. Busy, and at times stressful, but overall, good. There were no catastrophes. My health was sound. I was surrounded by friends and family, did not have to worry about finances, and was able to travel. I had my first book out and now, at the end of the year, my second book has arrived and evidently is already available in some shops. I have a lot of be thankful for.

So, writing round-up. In 2013 I:

– Launched Pantomime, out into the big, wide world.
Edited Shadowplay at least 3 times. No idea of word count, as 10k was cut overall but there were plenty of tweaked scenes and such.
– Wrote 15k of Project GSS before I started over and re-wrote the 30k I had from 3rd person to 1st person. Then I decided it still wasn’t working so I changed the setting and plot and started over again and wrote 40k. Feedback says the 40k is vastly improved but needs more development, historical research, and expansion before I move towards the rest of the story, which is what I expected to hear.
– Wrote Bonkers Book, which was originally 66k, and has now grown to 74k in the second draft. That’s out with betas.
– Wrote 18k of Project M, and will hopefully be writing more of that in the new year.
– Wrote a Drystan short story called “The Snake Charm,” which is 10k.
– I’m a bit into another Drystan short story called “The Card Sharp,” which I’ll maybe finish by the end of this year, but unsure. I’m still not entirely sure what I’ll do with these short stories.
– Planned a Cyan short story called “The Tarot Reader”, but haven’t started it yet.
– Wrote a very short story for Halloween called The Ghost of Gold and Grey, which ties into project GSS.
– Wrote a poem of linked haiku called “Bamboo Moon” which is a lesbian re-telling of a Japanese fairy tale.
– I wrote about 40 guest posts, plus kept this blog up to date
– Events: spoke at Napier University, Gordonstoun school, Keith Academy, and Dollar Academy, appeared on SCHMU Radio, had a Pantomime launch at Forbidden Planet in London and Waterstones in Aberdeen, had another signing at the other Waterstones branch (now sadly closed), went to WFC in Brighton, and was a guest at the Inverness Book Festival.

Non-writing-wise, I continued to work full-time at my job as a document controller and did half of a PgCert in Information Management, which I received in May 2013. I’ve been better about fitness and go to the gym around 2-3 times a week, mainly doing yoga and running. I was able to travel, and went to the Czech Republic and Germany at the end of last year/start of this year. I also went to London and Edinburgh a few times, to Brighton, Barcelona, Amsterdam, and soon I’m flying back to San Francisco.

Put together – goodness me, but I was busy. No wonder I’m always tired.

Here’s one photo from each month, which I think gives a good overall picture of the year:

2013januaryCesky Krumlov, Czech Republic.

February. I’m doing two photos for this month as in March I was a hermit and can’t find any photos of anything during that time:

2013februaryWaterstones Aberdeen launch.

London launch at Forbidden Planet.


Signing at Waterstones Langstane (now sadly closed).


Pantomime on the bestsellers paperback list at Gatwick airport in London.

The only photo I can find from that month is me showing off my spray tan. Yes, that is me with a spray tan. I am very pale.

My friend Erica and I outside the Dali Museum in Figures, Spain.

Heusden, Netherlands.

With James Smythe, Sam Copeland, my agent Juliet Mushens, at Kim Curran’s and Bryony Pearce’s joint launch for Control and The Weight of Souls in London.

A quiet evening with one of my cats, Mowgli.

The best photo ever taken with a langoustine & Tad Williams. WFC 2013 in Brighton.

Me with Pantomime & Shadowplay!

Ten Snaps: Barcelona

I love to travel and to share photos, but on the blog I figure I shouldn’t inundate you with all 300odd photos we took on our trip away. So here are ten shots I think best summarise my long weekend of sun in Spain.

Sagrada Familia
So much food
Interesting graffiti
Small streets
Many museums
Barcelona from the top of Park Güell
From our hotel balcony we could see and hear the live music being played on the roof of La Pedrera


Dali Museum in Figueres
Dali Museum



Random Research: Drum Castle

drumcastle5Drum Castle is another Aberdeenshire castle, based near Drumoak. Clan Irvine owned it. It has a tower house from the 13th century but was greatly expanded during the Victorian era, as with most castles.

It’s also said to be haunted, though it doesn’t have as many ghost stories as other castles. One ghost is a female figure who might be Anna Forbes, wife to one of the Lairds of the castle. The castle is well-preserved and has a gorgeous library. The grounds are lovely, with 17th century rose gardens and a wee chapel which is still often used for weddings. I couldn’t find as much information on it as Craigevar, but I have a fair few photos from the two visits I’ve taken to it.

2005 visit:

With Craig’s parents. I’m posing like a statue because it was windy
Teenage us. Hehe
Always too tall for the doorways
A hobbit house! And bad fashion sense

2010 visit:

My mom and me
My mom: also too tall for the doorways