a quick hello + a cash giveaway

I've been up and down and around this island over the past few weeks, and I have to tell you I'm exhausted. having visitors in town is always fun, but leaves me feeling like I need a vacation. am I the only one? we roamed Hsinchu on foot, took the high speed down to Kaohsuing for my first visit south, wandered Taipei, hiked through Taroko, and rode gondolas in Maokong. I love that visitors are an excuse to play tourist and try new things [and for their photography skills, as evidenced above.]

I have so much to blog about that it's tough to know where to start... as you can see it is already wednesday and I have yet to post this week! I started working on something this afternoon, a post which might include some of my most favorite temple photos ever taken. [and not a single dragon, if you can believe it.] but for some reason I just can't bring myself to publish it yet. hopefully you all will find it worth the wait once it makes an appearance.

as consolation for you today, I want to tell you about an AMAZING paypal [aka cash!] giveaway that myself and the fantastic ladies hanging out at Living In Another Language are putting on. the best news for you: if you already follow me on twitter, instagram, or bloglovin then you qualify to make additional entries below. good luck!

as Amanda says: this giveaway is open internationally, but you must have a Paypal account set up to receive the prize. make sure you read the terms and conditions below, check out the lovely sponsors, and enter daily! the more you enter, the more entries you have in the pot, and the better chances you have of winning!


The first entry is (always) free, just by clicking 'enter!' Terms and Conditions listed below:
1. Giveaway is open internationally. 2. Be sure to actually do what the giveaway prompts say, because I check the winning entry thoroughly to be sure the entry is valid. 3. If the entry isn't valid I will pick a new winner. 4. Once the winner is validated and emailed, he/she has 48 hours to reply and accept the prize. If he/she does not reply within 48 hours a new winner will be selected. 5. The winner must have Paypal. Once the prize money has been transferred via Paypal, it is no longer Living in Another Language's responsibility. 6. Enter away! HAVE FUN!

  a Rafflecopter giveaway


Hong Kong // Victoria Peak

the view of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak is iconic. it's that image you picture when you think of the Hong Kong skyline, and it's one of the most popular photo-taking spots in the city. I visited Victoria Peak [also known as just "The Peak"] on my first visit to Hong Kong. I came away with some amazing images, but on my recent trip to HK I decided to go back to this spot and shoot while the sun was setting.

there are several options for viewing the skyline from the peak. on our last visit, we paid the extra fee for access to the SkyTerrace 428 viewing deck. this time around, I purchased a regular tram ticket [accidentally] so had to figure out another spot for shooting.

there is a free viewing deck across the plaza from the main peak building, which I settled on as my spot for the night. the main building that you walk into while exiting the tram [pictured above] boasts the highest viewing deck, but the free one offered no less of an amazing vantage point.

I set up shop next to a girl with a tripod and extremely professional-looking gear. and then I just waited for things to get dark, and had fun playing around with my various camera settings. since I was without a tripod I tried to keep my exposures less than 1/3 of a second and sort of balanced my arm on the railing.

if you find yourself in Hong Kong for any amount of time, I would absolutely recommend a trip to the peak to take in the view. though I had some unpleasant encounters on my trip to HK, this view [and the tasty tacos I had afterward] made up for it.


tips for writers: starting your book

as I've mentioned a few times, I'm currently in the process of writing my first book - which is just as exciting and terrifying as you might imagine. writing a book has been a dream of mine for years, but it took a lot of courage and motivation to actually put pen to paper [or really- fingers to keyboard.]

it was nearly one year ago that I finally sat myself down and wrote the first 3,000 words of my manuscript. to celebrate, today I want to give you some tips on how YOU can get started writing your own book.

Make a Plan.

if you want to write a book, you probably already have an idea what the book will be about. that's a good place to begin, but life will be much easier if your sit down and create an outline of your story. the book I am working on currently is a non-fiction travel memoir. I have a pretty good idea of how the plot goes [since I lived it!] but I still started out by defining a time frame the book would cover and a list of major events. this framework helps keep me on track and moving my plot forward.

Set Realistic Goals.

when I first started my manuscript, I thought I would be able to complete, edit, and publish it within six months. that was not a realistic goal for me. something that has worked better for me is to set a goal of writing X times per week, with my sessions being from 2-4 hours depending on how things go. I also like to set monthly word count goals based on my average output. you have to look at your available time and writing speed to figure out what will work for you.

Write What You Know.

or maybe a better way to say it is: know what you're going to write. use your existing knowledge and life experiences to help construct your story, or do the proper research. have you lived in or traveled to San Francisco? maybe that would be a good setting for your novel. always wanted to write a Victorian-era romance? better brush up on Victorian clothing styles, dialect, and architecture. this rule can apply to writing non-fiction as well. I have a pretty good memory, but both my journal and my blog have been indispensable resources.

Just Keep Writing!

a lot of people [myself included] get sidetracked by the end-details of writing a book. should I self-publish? do I need an agent? will anyone buy this thing? but all of those concerns will be irrelevant if you don't actually finish writing your book. other times, writers will get discouraged and quit partially through their draft. just remember that rough drafts are supposed to be rough. if you get stuck on a particular event or plot point, move on and come back to it later. you can always improve on a bad page, but you can't edit a blank one.

have you ever considered writing a book? hopefully these tips will motivate you to get started!

[this first appeared as a guest post on Hello, Neverland.]
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