Here are some more Chinglish pics, previously seen on Instagram. Among others we have various signs, a lonely road, fries, a funny hat, and at the end a mythical guy I have always searched for and finally found: A Chinese gentleman with a cheesy English tattoo. The irony, get it?


The thing about Shenzhen city bike cards…

wpid-20151110_183611.jpgFunny story the other day. But a long story…

I happen to enjoy using my Shenzhen city bike card to get around (especially after my old bike was stolen, a story for another day). In very green fashion, the city has some bike rental stations set up around parks and tourists spots and some metro stations etc. It wasn’t easy going through the language barrier to set up my card and account in the first place, but for the past year I happily get around with the green bicycles.

Sometimes I am absent-minded however, and this happens.

Several weeks ago I parked the bike at a building at which I had business to attend. In a rush on the way out, I then took the bus home as I often did. Something didn’t stick in the back of my head.

One day, about two weeks later, my card didn’t work. How annoying. And when I went to the office in Nanshan District to inquire on my problem, they said I never returned a bike!

OH CRAP. The wheels in my head turned. I realized I really had ‘stolen’ a bike! What now? Could I actually get it back? Most likely I would lose the deposit. Would they even let me redo a new bike card? It was a disaster.

My girlfriend let me borrow her card to get around when I needed to, which helped ease my mind. Eventually, in replacing my steps within my memory, I passed by that building and decided to check.

Whoa, there was the bike. With a lock on it. Someone in the area had the gall to steal the bike, and just put their own lock on it, and then park it in the same place.

Well, what could I do? I picked up the bike and ran, that’s what I did! I carried it — couldn’t ride it because of the lock although the front wheel could roll — and took it like two blocks away to park it in the bike station and scan my card to show I had returned it. It was a real workout for my arms, especially in the sweaty South China sun.

The card worked. I felt a little bad though in taking someone’s bike, although they did steal it first. Wonder what happened when the guy found it missing. And from now on that bike will be parked at a station with a lock on the back wheel and nobody can even use it.

My card still doesn’t work. I imagine all the money is used up and I’ll need to recharge it. It will be embarrassing to return to the office, but beats losing the deposit.

And that’s the story.

SZ Daily: Eat, Pray, Love: local expat authors share their books



THREE local expat authors recently shared their books with readers in Shenzhen at an event sponsored by the Shenzhen Women’s International Club (SWIC) and the SWIC Book Club. Amanda Roberts, author of “Crazy Dumplings Cookbook,” Lom Harshni Chauhan, author of “Visa, Stickers and Other Matters of the Soul,” and Ray Hecht, author of “South China Morning Blues,” shared their experiences in China and the stories behind their books.

All of the books are available on Amazon.


Eat — ‘The Crazy Dumplings Cookbook’

Roberts moved to China from the United States in 2010 and ended up in northern rural Hunan. “Life there was so much different than life here in Shenzhen,” she explained. “I had to completely relearn how to cook.” Her book “Crazy Dumplings” is a food fusion cookbook, one that uses a traditional Chinese dumpling wrapper on the outside, but the filling recipes mimic cuisines from all over the world.

“You can make any food you love and miss by using local ingredients, you just have to be flexible and adaptable and not afraid of trying new things,” Roberts said.

About the book

Dumplings. Wontons. Jiaozi. This remarkably simple food is found throughout Asia and in Chinese restaurants and kitchens around the world, but have you ever filled a dumpling wrapper with chicken? Lobster? North American Plains Bison? Hardly anyone has! “The Crazy Dumplings Cookbook” features over 100 recipes with some of the craziest and most delicious dumpling filling recipes you will ever see. From Chicken Taquito Dumplings to Timey-Wimey Dumplings to a dumpling for your dog, “Crazy Dumplings” will show you all the crazy things you can stuff into a dumpling wrapper for an easy meal or snack.


Pray — ‘Visa, Stickers and Other Matters of the Soul’

Chauhan moved to China from northern India in 2002. In 2005, her daughter was born, and Chauhan was faced with the question all parents abroad face — how do you parent your child with a connection to their homeland and encourage them to embrace their adoptive country?

Chauhan explained that she grew up in a proud Rajput family and often remembered her life growing up in the Himalayas. However, her daughter does not have the luxury of knowing her place in the world. “I wondered, how much reinforcement of her cultural identity is adequate for a child who is growing up far from any of those concepts?” Chauhan explained.

Chauhan focuses a lot on the spiritual rearing of her daughter, something that is not easy to do in a place with such a small Hindu population. All parents of “third culture kids” can relate to Chauhan’s book.

About the book

One of the major concerns of Indian parents is how best to pass on to their children the time-honored traditions of Indian culture and spirituality, even as they try to raise global citizens.

“Visa, Stickers and Other Matters of the Soul” is a delightful and endearing account of a young mother’s experiments with raising her daughter in the Indian spiritual way while living in atheist China. As she begins to educate her daughter, she is surprised by her daughter’s sense of understanding and realizes that parenting is her biggest life lesson, with her daughter as her teacher.


Love – ‘South China Morning Blues’

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More Updates: HK Literary Fest, SZ, GZ, Instagram…

Been busy lately.

Firstly, thanks to everyone who came to the excellent panel at the Hong Kong International Literary Festival! I was honored to be a part of the event, and add to the conversation on ‘Cross-Cultural Love’.

Anyway, I dare say I think it went well. The audience seemed to enjoy hearing what we had to say, and I actually think it was a success. It was an interesting talk, most of all due to all those other excellent writers to meet.

As well as the moderator David Nunan, it was great to meet the very intelligent Marshall Moore. Nice to see Shannon Young and Susan Blumberg-Kason once again.

The event was at the intriguing building known as the Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences, and I shall share via Shannon’s Instagram account here:


While at it, here’s Susan’s Instagram. Feel free to like and follow!



There I am. And now, back to my new pic-sharing blogging strategy of just sharing previous uploads from the app. Readers rest assured you are enjoying the best of these…



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Interview with Ray Hecht on His New Novel “South China Morning Blues”

(Originally posted on:


People have called China endlessly fascinating. But you could say the same about the expat scene here. In the seven-plus years that I’ve lived in this country, I’ve come across some real characters here – people I could have sworn were straight out of a novel.

I’m reminded of many of them after reading Ray Hecht’s new book South China Morning Blues, which features a motley cast of young expats and Chinese locals living across Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Hong Kong, including:

…Marco, a crooked businessman with a penchant for call girls; Danny, a culture-shocked young traveler; Sheila, a local club girl caught up in family politics; Amber, a drug-fueled aspiring model; Terry, an alcoholic journalist; and Ting Ting, a lovable artist with a chip on her shoulder.



Through 12 distinct viewpoints, South China Morning Blues takes readers on a tour of the dark underside of the expat scene in China, culminating in a dramatic life-and-death situation that brings everyone together. It’s a fresh take on life in 21st century China and definitely worth a read.

I’m happy to once again feature Ray Hecht on the blog and introduce South China Morning Blues to you through this interview.


wpid-20151014_092815 SQ

Here’s Ray’s bio from his website:

Long story short, raised in America from the Midwest to the West Coast on a starchy diet of movies and comics and science fiction paperbacks. There’s a Mid-East connection in there too. I like to write fiction about such states as California and Ohio, and such provinces as Guangdong. Japan being an interesting topic as well. Lived in Shenzhen, China since 2008 (has it really been that long?), a lovely Special Economic Zone Hong Kong-bordering chaotic city that has given me so much. I occasionally partake of some freelance journalism for various local publications.

You can learn more about Ray Hecht and South China Morning Blues at his websiteand buy a copy at, where your purchase helps support this blog.



What inspired you to write this novel?

Good question to start out with. A few things come to mind: After living in China in those earlier years, I found the country to be absolutely fascinating, and I wanted to share the experience of the land by telling stories.

Also, I’d long been a fan of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting and had a lot of respect for his system of multiple narrators that all have distinctive versions of experiences,and being more interlocking short stories than one big narrative. I think one of the philosophies that fiction can teach us is the subjective nature of reality. The way some people, say, move to Guangzhou and complain how they hate it while other people see it totally differently and love it.

Another inspiration, I must say at the risk of sounding pretentious, was James Joyce’s Ulysses. Not that I’m smart enough to write something like that — or even smart enough to truly understand the famously-dense book. But the way the novel utilized mythological metaphors, as per the Odyssey resonating in early 20th Century Dublin. I wanted to try something like that. The ancient mythologies of the world will forever be able to inspire modern stories.

Well, for me, characters are most important. A character needs unique personality traits, archetypes that make them stand out, something interesting about their histories and personas. After that’s established, a plot begins to form… And so the idea evolved to use the Chinese Zodiac to structure the characters of a novel…


Your novel is told through the perspective of 12 main characters as they live in or visit three major cities in South China — Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. How did you decide to structure your novel like this?

As said, I had the idea to base characters off the Chinese Zodiac in order to tell stories about modern China. Seemed to make sense at the time.

I’d already ended up living in Shenzhen, which is a major city most people around the world have never heard of. The city is next to Hong Kong, and I spend a lot of time there. For the sake of literary research (also because I wanted to research a historical novel about Canton circa revolutionary 1911) I moved to Guangzhou for an off year in 2011. I find all these cities fascinating in their own unique ways. I mean, Beijing and Shanghai are great, but I ended up in the southern Pearl River Delta region and I am glad I did. No place on Earth has more stories.

It seemed obvious that my novel about the soul of present China would have to incorporate those three cities.


Like your memoir, South China Morning Blues features quite a bit of sex and recreational drug use. How much did your personal experiences influence your writing in this book?

Ah, an embarrassing question. Hmm, how can I put this…?

First of all, my biographical writings may have some sex but I don’t think there’s much to brag about. Outside of a handful of tell-all dramatic episodes, by far it mostly concerned online dating and several serious relationships. Not too crazy, right?

The sex scenes in SCMB are, shall we say, meant to be more literary. At least more literary in the sense of literature I like to read. Being more extreme than real life in most cases. Many of those scenes were inspired by way of hearsay of other people I know, my own imagination, and a bit of research online. Not really based off my own personal experiences very much.

(Hey, I did say that Trainspotting was an inspiration.)

As for recreational drugs, I experimented a bit in my youth — and by youth I mean my mid-to-late twenties, I was very boring as a teen — and I think I was always responsible about it. To be honest, I’m often shocked when I observe how extreme drugs and alcohol are in the China party scene. It is something that needs to be depicted, whether glamorized or not. No outright spoilers here, but if you read to the end there are consequences for the characters who abuse themselves and I think it’s important to showcase that side.

All in all though, I want to show all sides of real life. Using illegal substances, having irresponsible sex, pushing the boundaries, and making mistakes; these are all things that human beings actually do. And they are interesting things. I believe they are things worth writing about. Worth portraying, without too much judgment. More or less, presented as is. That’s writing.


Tell us about one of your favorite characters from the novel and why you like him or her. Continue reading

Book Review: Tiger Tail Soup


Tiger Tail Soup by Nicki Chen is a historical novel of the Pacific War, from the point of view of a Chinese woman. Author Nicki Chen is an American who gained a Chinese surname by way of marriage, and any reader will fully sense her fascination with China. She has done the proper research for such a novel. She takes the voice of An Lee, a strong-willed woman who gets left behind to raise children and live with her mother-in-law when her husband goes off to war.

The novel opens in 1946, then jumps back to 1938 and slowly goes through the war years until the epilogue rounds out back to the original year. Full of fanciful language and observations on gender roles in traditional societies – from the Qing Dynasty to the Republic era – and conflicts start off with simple things like getting a perm to look modern and soon grow to horrifying proportions.

Basically, the narrative takes place within the mind of the introspective narrator. Early on, darkness looms from afar. She carries a son in the Year of the Tiger, and is given fortunes of greatness. Then her engineer husband Yu-ming is conscripted as an officer, and most of the novel is about what happens to the war-weary women who are left behind.

At times, the narrator gets too lost in her own thoughts, endlessly reflecting and repeating herself as she dwells on her family and lot in life. The flow suffers for it, but that is the nature of this kind of story.

When the bombs begin to drop, the tone changes dramatically. The violence becomes very real, and that is of course the nature of war.

The chapters of the book are divided into seasons and year, and tales of pregnancy and childbirths and contrasted against the distant war. Themes of life and death. A son is born, a father seldom seen. There are attempts to let life go on, as schools remain open. An Lee’s husband’s letters are very important, describing being in the midst of the war. Yet overall it’s still a tale of women. And the emotions always outweigh any action. Time moves on and children age, with snippets of tragedy throughout. Some of the most powerful imagery in the novel concerns simply going to the beach and seeing Japanese battleships. And the suffering grows.

Tiger Tail Soup is not an objective overview of the war, but simply one deep character’s perspective. The hatred against the Japanese even seems one-sided, although in this context it is certainly well-deserved. The reader must remember that it is first-person narrated novel, not a textbook.

The historical aspect stays interesting as the book goes on, with references that range from the Gone With the Wind film to the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Halfway through the plot does thicken, and An Lee joins a resistance league which engages in street theater performances. There are arguments, politics, more conflict. When she does finally meet her husband again, and one son meets for the first time, war has changed and hardened the man. Hardened everyone.

Bringing another child into this war-torn world proves to be the greatest tragedy of all in the end. When the worst most possible violence happens near the end of the novel, it is very jarring.

The theme above all is survival, and is best summed up this quote: “It was my fate to live in a time of war, and I bloody well was going to be one of the survivors.”

Tiger Tail Soup comes recommended for readers interested in this period of China, and for anyone who might wish to learn about the human cost of war. Available on Amazon.

South China Morning Blues: Promotional Update(s)

Hello readers and prospective readers, time for an update.

(Because it went so well in my last Chinglish post, I have decided to just link to my Instagram instead of reuploading pictures. Feel free to heart!)

I have been through a lot since my book was finally published for reals. It’s been quite the busy time, organizing event after event, hoping that people will be interested in said events, and generally promoting myself. Self-promotion often being as shameless as possible.

The first weekend after the book I had a launch party and signing here in Shenzhen, and the Book Exchange group in which expats meet up to exchange hard-to-find English language books.

I think the flyer turned out very well, if I do say so myself 🙂


I had a reading, and even sold a few.


Let me state, that my book is officially published in Hong Kong and future Western outlets to come. You know all the Hong Kong bookstores that carry it.

The mainland, however, is a different story. Legit publishers tend not to deal with undeveloped countries like so. Therefore, if I want distribution in cities like Shenzhen and Guangzhou, I need to do it myself. Treat it as an import, if your wondering about censors, and it is doable. Obviously, this is not an English-speaking country — unlike Hong Kong — but I think it’s worth doing.

Hence, I arranged a meeting with the bosses at Old Heaven Books in the hip OCT neighborhood of Shenzhen and they bought a good number of copies. My first for sale in China. More to come.

Felt good to see it on a bookshelf.



Then came the big time.

This very week begins the Hong Kong International Literary Festival, and on Sunday @ 3:30 yours truly will be in a panel on the topic of cross-cultural love with several other great writers…

Over the last decade, there has been an explosion of expat memoirs set in China, however many of these fail to depict romantic relationships.

But when foreigners arrive in China and Hong Kong, these amorous connections are often a central part of setting down new roots– and they are becoming more and more common. Susan Blumberg-Kason, Ray HechtShannon Young and Marshall Moore address writing about cross-cultural relationships from all angles.


Last Friday I was invited to an opening party for writers affiliated with the festival, and had an excellent time! Although a bit intimidating to be around such well-regarded authors, I made the best of it and hopefully left a good impression. I met Shannon Young in person, author of Year of the Fire Dragons. Susan Blumberg-Kason, of Good Chinese Wife fame, wasn’t in town yet but I look forward to seeing her at the panel next week. Please check out the link above and I hope you can make it.

And it was great to see my humble book stacked up against these great works in such an official capacity:

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Interview with Ray Hecht on writing and his new book, “South China Morning Blues”



Interview with Ray Hecht on writing and his new book, “South China Morning Blues”

For author Ray Hecht, the answer is a psychedelic experience at Burning Man.

Author of Loser Parade411, The Ghost of the Lotus Mountain Brothel (which I reviewed here), and Pearl River Drama, his most recent book is South China Morning Blues. available now at the publisher’s website and for pre-order on Amazon.

I asked Ray his thoughts on writing, his inspiration for South China Morning Blues and much more:


Can you recall a single instance that inspired you to be a writer or is it something that you’ve always had an attraction to?

I can’t recall a specific incident, it’s something that developed slowly. I originally wanted to be an artist before I wanted to be a writer. I felt like writing would be a good thing superfluously in my teens, and tried some stories. It was in college – late years in college in my twenties – I decided to study film screenwriting. I remember at 23 for some reason I vowed to write a novel a year. I didn’t follow up on that particular pace, but I have been writing seriously ever since.


Do you work on a specific schedule, where you write every day?

I mainly like to write in the middle of the night, but life doesn’t always let me. Usually I do first drafts after midnight. Then, next day at noon to the afternoon I might slowly do rewrites. It would probably be a good idea to get a consistent schedule, wouldn’t it!


Do you have a preferred writing program? (Word, text editor, etc.?)

Microsoft Word of course. I’ve even been studying some of the more intricate ways to edit and use the software to the best of my ability. Got a lot of typing shortcuts memorized. If it’s not too obvious to say, isn’t Word basically a must in this day and age?


You’ve mentioned that your love for ‘Trainspotting’ and ‘Snow Crash’. Could you tell us more about why you like these novels?

I love the danger and the outlaw attitude and the intelligence and the punk rock aesthetics and just how damn sexy it is. The novels are quite different, although they are both written in present-tense first-person narration. They are also both novels that exploded their respective writers on the scene.

‘Trainspotting’ by Irvine Welsh is magnificent literary achievement. The phonetic dialectic in writing, the grittiness of the drug culture, the power of each separate narrator’s unique voice. And yet, it is a free-flowing art work that explores all over without sticking to the rigidity of a narrow plot. Plus, it can even be darkly funny.

‘Snow Crash’ by Neal Stephenson is incredibly smart, a complex cyberpunk postmodern science fiction epic, and yet it doesn’t take itself too seriously and is often hilarious. I wish I was smart enough to write science fiction, but I’m not. I do highly admire Stephenson’s ability to be brilliant and at the same time be that cool.


What do your friends and family back in America think of you being a writer? Are they supportive? Do you ever find that some people just don’t understand what being a writer actually is?

I’ve been very surprised how supportive most of my old friends have been. Although, due to the nature of my writing topics I tend to keep family at arm’s length. Hopefully though, I impress everyone back home and most are proud of me.

However, I tend to think most people don’t understand what being a writer is at all. Rather, they imagine that being a writer is this thing to be. Especially people who want to be writers. Nobody seems to imagine what it is to write. Writing is a thing to do. Lots of people want to be writers; most people do not at all want to do any of the writing. That’s the part people always get so particularly wrong.


What was the impetus for writing South China Morning Blues?

To put it bluntly, I feel compelled to spend endless lonely hours writing. I needed subject matter to write about. I ended up in China, studied a bit, observed here and there, and the stories had to be told. That’s the short version.


While reading your book I saw a lot of familiar people and situations. Was it much the same for you, in that you were drawing from personal experience?

Some of it was personal. Much of it was hearsay. A whole lot never happened to anyone I know (that I know of) but things I only learned of online.

I’ll go ahead and reveal this right now: The drug stuff was based on personal experience. The sex stuff was not.


Were there any big scenes / characters cut at the editing stage?

Not too much. Perhaps there should have been. I rewrote and rewrote and polished, and perhaps this is bad writing advice, but I don’t like to cut out too much.


The presence of Chinese zodiacs. Did you know about that when you started or did it happen naturally?

I knew the basics of the Chinese animals, even when in America – though never a believer – I knew I was dog year and so on. When I set out to write this novel, I further researched. The acknowledgments gives a shout out to the book I mainly used.

Can’t say it happened naturally; it was a conscious choice from the beginning to structure the characters that way in the foundation and then see which way their stories would go…


In the book we see people struggle with identity and ambition. Danny says, “Back home, my old college classmates are surpassing me”, a feeling I can relate to. Do you think the ambition that many foreigners in China have — opening the business, becoming the great writer, etc. — is a way for them to keep up with their contemporaries?

Sure. But not only for expats, many people often feel anxious that the people from their past are surpassing them. With expats in particular, the contrast between one’s own weird life and those left in the home country can be stark. It’s a positive thing to healthily compete and start a business or forge a craft. At least expats in China tend to be interesting people (even if weird) and that can make for good goals. Being motivated by old cohorts surpassing, whatever works.


Going with the previous question, do you think there is something about China that attracts these kinds of people?

Good question. There is something about the expat phenomenon that attracts odd people. Odd in good ways and bad. Adventurous, or the dreaded loser stereotype, I don’t know. But there’s something there.

And why China of all places? I suppose it’s a big place, and it’s blowing up right now in world history. I’ve always liked that the economic growth puts it in this sort of limbo between undeveloped and developed, full of cheap outdoor restaurants and expensive shopping malls, and somehow that can suit certain people.


To close it out, do you have any advice for new writers who are reading this?

Going back to perceptions of the writer versus writing, I can only say to write. You’d think it would be obvious. Don’t fantasize about being this mythical creature called the writer. Be a person who writes. Then, when the writing gets good, whatever your niche may be, go out there and network and best of luck to you in getting published.

That is all.



Big thanks to Ray Hecht for doing this interview. To learn more about Ray, visit his website. You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

South China Morning Blues is available now on the Blacksmith Books website and for pre-order on Amazon.

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