An Evening at Ruifeng Night Market

Ruifeng Night Market
After a long day of studying and writing, one of my favorite ways to relax is by paying a visit to one of the many night markets of Taiwan. Today I’d like to give you a glimpse of this special part of Taiwanese culture.

If you ever visit Taiwan, you’ll stumble upon night markets around nearly every corner. Kaohsiung alone has dozens of night markets, some large, others small. I think one reason that night markets are so popular in Taiwan because it’s very hot and humid here during the day, especially during the summer, and so people are only willing to go out for stroll well after dark.

Despite having to compete against other kinds of night entertainment, like movies, television, clubs, and bars, night markets remain a central part of Taiwanese night life thanks to their delicious food, fun games, and affordable clothing.

A few days ago, Carol and I paid a visit to Ruifeng (pronounced ray-fungus) Night Market, located in the heart of Kaohsiung. While it would be impossible to try every kind of food in one trip, we did manage to sample a few dishes.

Food

Below is a Korean pancake, known in Korean as “pajeon.” Filled with kimchi, its bursting with spicy and salty flavors.

Korean pancake

You may be wondering why we bought a Korean pancake in Taiwan. The simple answer is because it looked delicious! Having lived in Korea for a few years, I can say that this was a fair approximation of the real thing.

Our other main dish was “da-chang bao xiao-chang” (大腸包小腸); literally “small sausage in big sausage.” Usually the larger sausage is made of rice, while the smaller sausage is full of meat. This is one of my favorite night market foods, and I buy one nearly every trip.

Sausage in Sausage

Generally, the vendor will cut the large sausage open and stuff the smaller one inside. However, because we were sharing, we decided it’d be easier to eat if the sausages were cut into small chunks, which we then skewered with long toothpicks.

After finishing our food, we bought a drink to wash everything down. Here’s Carol, holding a hearty glass of fresh mango milk.

mango milk

One great thing about Taiwan is that it’s home to a wide variety of fresh fruit, with different fruits available in every seasons. We got to watch as the vendor put mangoes, milk, and a little sugar into a blender and spun them together. I can attest to you that the result was both delicious and nutritious.

Games

Once we finished our food and drink, it was time to move along to the night market games. Most of the games are simple, skill-based challenges that require you to hit an object.

Basketball

Above is a picture of night market basketball. Put enough balls into the hoops, and you can win a prize! Or, if you’re more of a marksman, you can give target shooting a try.

Fake Guns

Yes, those are pellet guns. In the United States I might worry that someone could mistake them for real pistols, but because real guns are so rare here in Taiwan, it’s immediately obvious that they’re fake.

Of course, if sports and sharpshooting aren’t for you, there are still other games you can try. One is Mahjong.

mahjong

I’m not much of a mahjong player yet, but it’s pretty popular here. Lots of times when I pass a park in the afternoon, I’ll see retired guys sitting around tables and playing together.

And a special contest!

pangge After touring the games, we made one final pass through the clothing section. Most of the clothes at the night market are really cheap, and quality varies. Still, if you look around for a while you might be able to find some cool t-shirts that you like.

I didn’t buy any clothes on this particular night, but I did make sure to get my photo taken near a clothes vendor.

What does this sign say? I’ll give an Amazon Kindle copy of Ramses’ Thunder to the first person who can tell me. To participate all you need is an Amazon account and a good eye for Chinese! An approximate translation (or guess) will be fine. Leave your answer in the comments!

 

Aristotle’s Poetics: 1st Draft Complete

Today I finished keying the first draft of “Aristotle’s Poetics” into my computer.

Although initially conceived as a 10,000 word short story, in the end Aristotle’s Poetics blossomed into a full-fledged, 67,370 word novel. Soon after I started writing, I realized that it would take a lot more than 10,000 words to tell the story as I envisioned it and sufficiently develop the characters, so I kept at it. The result was my longest work to date.

Aristotle's Poetics 1st Draft

As its working title suggests, Aristotle’s Poetics is a Northland Adventure that focuses on Aristotle. You may recall her giving Captain Griswold, the Police Chief of Toronto, a piece of her mind in the prologue of Spear Hunter. Aristotle’s Poetics shows exactly why the relationship between these two is so rocky, and in full Technicolor, no less!

(Breaking Update: Aristotle’s Poetics will not be told in Technicolor, and the assistant who suggested I write a story in Technicolor has been sacked.)

If you were to read Aristotle’s Poetics in its current form, you would probably find it enjoyable, but you would also stumble upon a few dangling story threads and unpatched plot holes. Fortunately, I’m aware of most of these issues (I made note of them as I was writing), and fully intend to go back and fix them up. There are important scenes yet to write, as well as dull scenes that I still need to cut. I also want to sprinkle a few more atmospheric details into scenes I’ve already completed.

Anyhow, I want to give this manuscript a few weeks to breathe before I take another look at it again. In the meantime, there are plenty of other projects to work on. The biggest one, of course, is The Northland Chronicles 3. Also on the backburner is World’s End, a Northland Adventure that I want to release before TNC3 because their plots tie together. Finally, I have one more Northland Adventure in mind that I’d like to write before too long. All I’ll say for now is that it’ll feature John Osborne himself.

What will I work on first? I’ll make a decision soon. As always, you can keep track of how I’m coming along by looking at the colorful progress bars.

 

What happens in the bookstore …

book haul

Sometimes, I go book shopping.

Although I’m actually a big fan of ebooks, I gave my Nook ereader to my sister and the Google Nexus tablet I replaced it with refuses to charge, leaving me without a functional device for reading. I plan to resolve the problem soon, either by repairing the Nexus or buying a new ereader, but in the meantime I’m stuck with only paper.

Fortunately, even in Taiwan, it’s possible to find cheap English books. Together, the four paperbacks above cost only 100NTD, or a little over three U.S. dollars.

The English selection at Taiwanese bookstores is often limited, but this hindrance is not without a silver lining. Notably, it makes me more likely to take a chance on books I otherwise wouldn’t have paid any mind to. In fact, each of these four books caught my eye for different reasons:

2001: A Space Odyssey (Arthur C. Clarke): This was the most obvious pick of the bunch. It’s a sci-fi classic that I have yet to read. I snatched it up as soon as I saw it on the shelf.

The Indian in the Cupboard (Lynne Reid Banks): I think I read this when I was younger. Either that, or I remember having heard about it when I was younger. Either way, it looked like a fun and breezy read. I took it.

Timeline (Michael Crichton): I read and enjoyed Jurassic Park just a few short months ago, so I figured I’d take another chance with Crichton. This book isn’t as well known, and the reviews aren’t as strong, but it still looked entertaining. I figured, “Hey, why not?”

Wheel of the Infinite (Martha Wells): This was the wildcard. I had never heard of Wheel of the Infinite or Martha Wells, but the cover was attractive and the back cover blurb sounded interesting enough. I’m open to trying new things. I added it to the pile.

Will these books fulfill the promises of their covers? Only time will tell, but I have a feeling I’m in for a treat (or four). Wheel of the Infinite is up first. I welcome you to read along with me and discuss the books on Goodreads.

Review Roundup (2014-10-01)

Good reviews are the lifeblood of any author, but for unestablished authors (such as myself) they serve even greater importance. It’s no exaggeration to say that one negative Amazon review can send a book’s sales on a downward spiral from which recovery is nigh impossible. Likewise, having a few 5-star reviews on Amazon can sell more books than any author-led marketing campaign.

Yes, reviews are that powerful.

With this in mind, I’d like to take the time to highlight a few of the recent bright spots in my collection of reviews.

First, I’d like to thank Kay at Confessions of a Word Addict for her very kind assessment of Spear Hunter. She took a chance and read the second of The Northland Chronicles without having read the first. She came away from the book pleasantly surprised. Visit her blog to read her full thoughts about the experience.

Spear Hunter also recently received its first Amazon review. I haven’t been as aggressive about seeking reviews this time around, so I was very glad to see one appear on Spear Hunter‘s Amazon page. You can check it out here.

GoodreadsLast of all, speaking both as a reader and an author, my favorite place for book reviews is definitely Goodreads. Spear Hunter and Ramses’ Thunder have both been starting to collect Goodreads reviews. Go take a look and be sure to add your own while you’re at it.

So again, a big thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read my books and post reviews. May you have many more good reads in October!

Places I Write: Donutes

Outside DonutesAnother day, another installment of Places I Write! Today we’ll take a look at Donutes.

Donutes is a chain of Taiwanese coffee shops. The first branch opened in 1998 in Kaohsiung City (where I live). Now you can find Donutes all across the island, albeit the majority are still concentrated in southern Taiwan.

As with Sunny Day, I’ve been going to Donutes since the very earliest days after my arrival in Kaohsiung. Black coffee is very affordable at only 50NTD (~$1.70US) a cup. Better yet, for only 5NTD (15 cents) more you can upgrade that boring old Americano to a latte! Though I usually stick to those two options, Donutes also has a wide variety of other drinks. I think of it as a poor man’s Starbucks.

Inside Donutes

In terms of atmosphere, Donutes tends towards the louder side. The interior is always full of people chatting (of course, these people run and hid when I took the above photo), and the background music is usually an upbeat mix of Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and English pop tunes.

(Though most Taiwanese don’t speak or understand Japanese and Korean, these two countries still have a large influence over Taiwan’s pop culture. Personally, I find it refreshing that there is such a wide mix of music here.)

Fortunately, the loud environment doesn’t distract me — in fact, sometimes I think having noise in the background may even help me focus.

In addition to the space inside, Donutes also has plenty of outside seating for those who don’t mind the southern Taiwan heat. And those who like to burn the midnight oil are in luck, as Donutes just so happens to be open 24 hours a day.

Writing in Donutes

The only gripe I have with Donutes is that sometimes it’s hard to find an open electrical outlet to plug my computer into, although since I’ve started writing longhand this hasn’t been a problem.

All in all, Donutes has treated me quite well over the past year and a half. That said, just this past Monday I had a game-changing revelation. After trying to get a seat in Donutes, only to find it full, I discovered a new writing location that has served me very, very well — so well that I’ve written more words this week than ever before.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. You’ll have to wait little longer before I’m ready to share my new secret writing headquarters to share with you.

One parting thought: Why is it called “Donutes” and not “Donuts”?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Where do you write? Share on your blog or Twitter with the tag #PlacesIWrite.

A Simply September Update

It’s a big day here at Simply Unbound! Below are three pieces of news I’d like to share with you.

Ramses’ Thunder is out today!

Ramses' Thunder CoverMy newest short story is now available. You can get it from the following retailers:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Google Play
iBooks
Kobo
Smashwords

The above list isn’t complete by any means. As with all of my stories, my goal is to make Ramses’ Thunder as widely available as possible. If you can’t find it at your favorite ebookstore, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

A simply stupendous redesign

I gave Simply Unbound a fresh coat of paint over the weekend. I really like the new design, both aesthetically and functionally speaking, and I hope you will too!

Since you’re already here, why don’t you take a look around? And don’t be shy about letting me know what you think.

A new novel in the works

If you’ve been stopping by often, you may have noticed that the bar for the project called “Aristotle’s Poetics” has been steadily growing longer. Because I’ve been focused on promoting Ramses’ Thunder, I haven’t had much time to talk about this new project. That will soon change.

For today, I’ll tell you that Aristotle’s Poetics is:

  • a prequel to The Northland Chronicles, set about six months before A Stranger North
  • told from Aristotle’s point of view
  • about Aristotle’s last case with the Toronto PD
  • certain to be even longer than Spear Hunter

I’m not willing to forecast a release date yet, but I promise to keep you updated as I continue to make progress.

That’s all. Have a great day and enjoy Ramses’ Thunder!

Ramses’ Thunder Available for Pre-Order

Ramses' Thunder CoverThe release date is set! Ramses’ Thunder will come out on September 25th.

You can pre-order it from Amazon nowAs with all my books, I plan to make it available in as many online bookstores as possible. I’ll post the full list of retail links as the release date draws closer.

Ramses’ Thunder is the first of many Northland Adventures — stories closely related to The Northland Chronicles that fall outside the main crux of the story. Ramses’ Thunder takes place between TNC1 and TNC2; other Northland Adventures will tell stories that happen before (and perhaps after) the primary events of The Northland Chronicles.

Here’s a full description:

Ramses is on the run in a brand new Northland Adventure!

Fresh off his hair-raising encounter with John Osborne, Ramses Brushnell is rushing through the Minnesota wilderness toward Restoration Army HQ to deliver his report to the General. With only his feet to carry him, progress is painstakingly slow, until one day Ramses stumbles upon an isolated farmhouse belonging to a mysterious hermit known as Gerard.

Why has Gerard spurned his fellow man? And will Ramses find a faster way back to Restoration Army HQ? The answers may surprise you …

The story itself is about 15 pages. The e-book also includes a sample of A Stranger North. The final product comes to just over 30 digital pages.

In related news, I’m still hard at work on other TNC projects. As always, you can check the sidebar to see how things are progressing.

Thunder will be rumbling in soon. Be prepared!