Friday, May 31, 2013

The Hospital: To Go or not To Go?


While I am still out on the sidelines when it comes to physical activity, writing is very much within reach again! I do have this to share about my hospital experience:

We've been conditioned to go to work no matter what. Everything depends upon us being there. To call in at the last minute and say "I can't come in," means someone else has to rearrange their schedule to cover for you, the business will suffer, and a volcano might explode. Maybe two. 

Your coworkers will find a way to survive. You, however, shouldn't overlook what your body is trying to tell you. I am so guilty of this. In South Korea, I tried to convince myself I wasn't coming down sick, even when I could barely speak without coughing, and I ended up in a small hole-in-the-wall clinic strapped up to an IV-bed in a coat closet. Hey, it was a private room. And now recently, when I had sharp lower abdomen pain that kept me up all night, I managed to tell myself that it was indigestion. Maybe I would call in sick. When I started throwing up, okay, maybe it was time to go to urgent care. I could drive myself. Thankfully I called my boyfriend's mother, who told me I was being stupid. 

Ask for help. I had this debate with myself about whether or not to go to the emergency room—the emergency room means steep bills, and lots of them, and really, aren't there people who need the ER's attention more than me? It's good to have such supportive family and friends who dropped everything, because they sensed I probably wouldn't make the smart decision for myself. Especially my boyfriend, who, although starting a brand-new job that day, dashed out of there with barely a word on where he was going. All of that can be straightened out later. Know what can wait and what can't. Struggle against the conditioning. Take a couple weeks off, because even with all the medicine and the incredibly cool new surgical technologies that make recovery time faster than every before, your body is a far cry from Iron Man's.

That brings to me to the second part: Man, do I ever put my characters through the ringer. Here I am, cowed by one medical emergency, while in the Changeling Sisters books, I put my characters through fist fights, stabbings, and worse. I truly am a horrible author to my characters. This will make me re-evaluate how I write fighting sequences in the future. Definitely a reminder to keep the "miraculous recoveries" under wraps. 
So here's to getting better and treating our bodies well! Cheers.  


Hi Everyone,

Unfortunately I'm currently recovering from an unexpected surgery, so I'll be out for a bit. It was successful, so as long as I stick to my mochi-juk-jello diet, I should be fine :) Thanks for the well wishes. 



Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Boryeong Mud Festival: Who says playing in the mud is just for kids?

ALONG THE GOLDEN COAST of the Yellow Sea lies the sleepy town of Boryeong*, a small city with one main street running past hotels, restaurants, museums, and a sole night club. Waves lap gently at the sandy shores, and the sun hangs lazily in the sky.

However, sometime around mid-July, huge red-and-white tents begin to pop up. A giant stage is constructed. And a vast theme park takes shape right on Daecheon Beach that is filled with, well, mud.

Unfortunately I have no pictures of my own—there was no way I was going to bring a camera into the fray.

Immediately upon entering the festival arena, you may have random strangers remedy your clean bathing suit situation with a generous handful of mud. From there, you can only get dirtier. Giant mud slides tower above the crowds, slippery obstacle courses pit you against rubber hurdles reminiscent of ABC's Wipeout!, and while waiting in line for some of the more popular attractions, like the mud slides, why not splash yourself with more mud found in the giant, oil rig barrels? Smooth and hygienic, the mud proves most soothing to the skin, and seems to be a nice sunblock to boot.

My friends and I went the last weekend of the festival, when it was obviously the most packed, but there was still plenty of mud to go around. We signed up with Seoul Hiking Group early on for a discounted rate (this year it looks around 70,000 won), which included transportation, food, and the hotel (several roll-out cots, heated floor, bathroom, and minimal kitchen areareally, you're not going to be spending your time in here). Also worth checking out is Shity Hiking Group, which will also arrange trips. Don't wait, since hotel prices will skyrocket over 100,000 won toward July. Admission into the Festival itself was rather cheap; around 9,000 won, depending on what kind of experience you wished to have. Off towards a quieter end of the festival, for example, there are relaxing mud massages available, as well as all-natural mud cosmetics for purchase. Also on this end are booths where you can paint your face with colored mud: pretty pastel colors of blue, yellow, and red. 

We started off enjoying savory barbequed clams in one of the many dining tents surrounding the festival grounds. One must be entirely showered off to enter, and then you get set up with your own barbeque and a delightful assortment of side dishes. Ordering a round of rice wine meokgeolli is also highly encouraged. I would need that liquid courage in order to enter the ferocious mud wrestling pits, slip-and-slides, and one very brutal tug-of-war, in which I was slammed repeatedly against a plastic bouncy toy wall until I slipped in the mud, and my formidable opponent dashed to go hit her bell for the win. Eventually, we stumbled onto the beach, exhausted and caked in mud from our toes to the roots of our hair. From there, it was just a simple jump into the ocean to get entirely rinsed off. With our stomachs growling at us, we immediately marched over to the local Chicken Town to eat a ton of amazing fried chicken.

You might have heard that the Boryeong Mud Festival is just an excuse for foreigners to get drunk, and it's true: the only thing that might make playing in the mud even better is beer. However, it's good for all of us waygook to remember: don't ruin the festival for others, and don't go overboard. For many who are foreign English teachers: remember that you have students who look up to you, and it's hard to respect someone who needs to be pitched into the ocean and then frog-marched back to their hotel room. Keep it as classy as one possibly can when looking like a cave man. 


Various evening events take place throughout the week; we were lucky enough to land on the night of the "Mud Rock" concert, featuring many singers, most notably Korean rock sensation Maya (마야). The concert drew large crowds, adults and children alike, and went on until midnight, after which fireworks streaked through the air and exploded over the moonlit bay. 

One night club and several bars stay open later. Also, although the festival grounds are closed, there is the full stretch of moonlit Daecheon Beach upon which to relax and meet other festival-goers.

If for some reason, you get tired of playing in the mud all weekend, there is the town to explore—my friends and I stumbled upon a really neat "optical illusion" exhibit at the local museum, where you could photograph yourself into paintings of King Kong, dinosaurs, and the like, which come to full, 3-D life. However, it's hard to stay clean for very long. Eventually, we just wanted to play in the mud again. 

I crawl up from the depths.

Why am I featuring the Boryeong Mud Festival so early? Because hotel rooms and great group deals sell out early, so start planning your mud adventure tout de suite

*Boryeong City is in the South Chungcheong Province

Event Information:

Dates: 07/19/20137/28/2013
Transportation: Go to Seoul Central City Bus Terminal and catch the express bus (red) to Boryeong (보령)
English Information Hotline: (010)-5438-4865
(Other Language Information Hotlines, including Chinese and Japanese, found on Website)
Last Year's Schedule:

Disclaimer: The above is depicted as fiction, not fact. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Read and Review Opportunity

Hi Everyone,

The wonderful Goodreads Group, "Paranormal, Fantasy, Dystopia and Romance Writers and Reviewers," is hosting a Read and Review thread for YEAR OF THE WOLF, in which 47 free copies remain to be given out in exchange for honest reviews. Multiple formats available. Feel free to sign up here.

Monday, May 13, 2013

May 2013 Book Review of the Month: Vessel


By Sarah Beth Durst
~Book Review~

I'M USED to reading books fast. Might have something to do with the library I'm expected to read for grad school. In days past, I may have had more time, but now I read with one eye on the clock, conscious that in another hour, I will have to go to work, school, cook, clean, whatever. 

Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst stops that clock. It forces you to read slowly. The world unfolds from the small patch of sand upon which Liyana’s Goat Tribe lives to reveal a lavishly-imagined desert where glass serpents ripple across the sky, and an empire is slowly but surely encroaching upon the border.

The mythology at work is a pleasant surprise—an original pantheon of gods, one for each tribe of the desert, who bring rain and blessings to the people by entering a mortal body. The one problem—the person of that chosen "body" dies. It is a sacrifice for the greater good of the people, in a communal-based society where emphasis is less on “self” and more on “helping others,” and heroine Liyana feels fully ready to become her goddess’s vessel.

But then her goddess doesn’t show. When it quickly becomes apparent that her goddess isn’t the only one missing, Liyana sets out to sacrifice for her people in a different way than originally intended—not by easily giving up the reins to some supreme higher being, but by making the tough choices, passing judgment, and living with the consequences of her decisions.

And such decisions she makes! I truly appreciated that Liyana wasn’t a passive, but an “active” heroine, who takes on a leadership role among the group of other vessels searching for their gods. Her companions sounded fascinating and all received strong introductions—blind Pia has a beautiful singing voice and is unshakable in her faith, while stubborn Raan questions why she should have to die for her goddess without a choice, without protest. Korbyn, a trickster god, entertains with tales of his past misdeeds, and Jidali, Liyana’s younger brother, is an adorable scene-stealer.

However, the storyline felt unevenly divided into two separate parts; the first one is powerful and engaging, but the second one introduces a main character too late in order to feel sympathetic for him. More time is spent focusing on a love triangle that feels out of placewhat with the story’s main focus being finding the godsand it almost seems as if Durst felt “required” to have the mandatory two love interests because of YA trends these days. As such, our earlier well-developed companions slip out of the story too soon, and a villain is introduced too late, with motivations that feel a tad cartoonish. Durst tries to bridge the two parts by having POVs from the empire early on, but they simply aren’t as compelling as Liyana and her companions’ journey through the desert.

All in all, these qualms are easily shrugged off in light of the fascinating world-building and fierce fortitude of Liyana. I enjoyed picturing the jeweled sky serpents circling her above and the huge sand worms tunneling down below. It was a welcome stretch of the legs outside of typical feudal Western Europe: values are different, and Liyana challenges the empire’s assumptions that the rooted life is vastly better than the nomadic one. I look forward to more from this author.

Recommended for fans of Tamora Pierce and Maggie Stiefvater. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Year of the Tiger free all Mother's Day Weekend on Amazon

Wishing a thousand blessings to mothers everywhere: thank you! for your hard work and sacrifices. I can't thank my own mother enough for being wonderful, beautiful, inspiring :)

Now through Sunday, Book II of the Changeling Sisters Series, YEAR OF THE TIGER, will be free for Kindle download on Amazon. Have a great weekend! 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

May Read of the Month

This month, I'm looking forward to sinking my teeth into:

by Sarah Beth Durst

Why It Caught My Attention:
  • A heroine who isn't perfect. Liyana was expected to be the vessel for her tribe's rain goddess...but the goddess never shows. Angry, her people abandon her to the desert, where she will learn how wrong they were...
  • Not your typical Western European-influenced culture. Don't get me wrong: I still love Game of Thrones, but it's nice to see more fantasy books breaking out of the stately Tolkein mold.
  • Features a trickster god. I love tricksters, and any characters who talk in riddles and generally confuse the protagonist.
Eon by Alison Goodman

Two-part fantasy series set in feudal China, which features the Chinese Zodiac as elemental dragons who can renew or destroy the earth.

The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa 

Wildefire by Karsten Knight