The following is an excerpt from my recently completed novel, Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside. The first chapter was awarded 1st Place in’s 2012 Fiction Writing Contest. At the moment, I’m trying to find a home for it. If you like what you read here, please pass it on!

In this excerpt, Daniel, a young idealist stationed in rural Hunan, visits his friend, Neil, in Changsha. Thanks for reading!


He woke up early the next morning and packed his toiletries in the dark, brushing his teeth in the cold of the bathroom, feeding the chickens, clearing the sink. The streets were empty save for a noodle cart, and, but for a grayness above the hills, there was little to be seen as he trudged across town. He bought some baozi from a man with one good eye on Jiuyi Lu and responded to all of the vendor’s questions regarding life in the West. The cost of goods. The balance of power. The habits of black people. The weather. The food. The vendor’s eyelid was folded shut, in the manner of a boxer who had just lost a fight, and this gave him a strange look of misgiving as he counted Daniel’s change. He listened to what the boy said, nodding at times, and, when Daniel left, he wished him safe travels, inviting him to visit once he was back.

The lot in front of the station was freezing and smelled like gasoline, and the bus was surrounded by those yet to board. He waited and ate beneath the overhang, shifting back and forth on his heels to stay warm. He had bought his ticket the night before, but there were still plenty of seats left, and, as he chewed, his jaw clicked, like a pair of loose stones.

Life had been dull since Thanksgiving, and Daniel was ready to see his friend. Although he and Neil had hardly spoken in over a year, he felt just as close to him as they had been during his first month in Hunan. That seemed like long ago, now. Classroom training, drinking in hotel rooms, counting down the weeks, then days, till Ningyuan. It had been a confusing, exciting time. The mood of the program was much like college, and, as Daniel had been – and, in all honesty, still was – searching for something else, he had distanced himself from the others, exploring the city on his own. He wanted an authentic view of China, but what exactly did that mean? He pondered this and frowned. Sometimes, he felt like a fraud.

He had met Neil on Hualongchi, a cobblestone alley that was full of bars, and the Brit had been so drunk that he had thrown one arm over Daniel’s shoulders, regaling him with song. He had not been with any others, but everyone else seemed to know him, and, as they walked, the locals came over and sang with him, smiling, crowding about. From the moment they first met, it had been clear there was something about him – a certain mischievousness mixed with wits – and this was hard to not like. They had spent the rest of the night in a bar, smoking a hookah, shooting dice, and, on their way home, they had stopped by the river, feasting on shaokao, miserable, drunk.

God, Daniel thought. Would that this weekend be like that.

He boarded the bus and turned on some music. Toward the front, an old woman was running the count. When she was finished, she turned to the driver, then told him the number and got off. The driver frowned. Apparently, they were short. They sat in the station, with the engine off, and waited in silence, trying to sleep, until, five minutes later, the driver grew restless and, standing up, proceeded to honk. Exactly what this was meant to accomplish Daniel had no idea, but, somehow, it worked, for, after a couple of tries, he paused, straining his ears at the sound of a response.

The cab sped into the station like a race car, swerving around potholes, kicking up dust, and, when it was the Canadians who emerged from the back, Daniel could see that they were fighting. Christopher, heavy with sleep, got both of their bags from the trunk, then carried them on, apologizing to the driver, immediately passing out. From where he sat, Daniel watched Imogen – her eyes obscured behind huge glasses – pay the driver, then come down the aisle and sit a few rows back. As far as he could tell, she had not seen him. Discarding his cigarette, the driver started the engine, then closed the door and announced to the passengers that they were not going to stop. Daniel remained in his seat until they made it to the freeway, then got up and went over to say hi, grasping the seat tops like a sailor, his head cowled beneath his hood.

Imogen was reading as he approached. She did not look up. The two of them sat and stood there for a moment, then Daniel leaned in, smiling over her shoulder.

Meinü, he said, playfully. Ni zai kan shenme ne?

Defiantly, she glared up at him, but, when she saw who it was, her face softened. She closed her book and sighed in relief.

Daniel, she said. Sorry. I thought that you were Chinese.

He smiled and seated himself across the aisle. They were somewhere outside of Yongzhou, but it had started raining again, and, through the window, all you could see were the mountains, the lambent clouds veiling their slopes. Imogen turned and took off her glasses. Her eyes were swollen, most likely from lack of sleep. What did you ask me? she said.

What are you reading. Leaning across the aisle, he pointed at her lap.

Oh. Just this book about India. I bought it before I knew I was coming to China. She lifted the cover for him to see. On it, an elephant stood with its trunk on its forehead, holding a giant, pink lotus. Ahead of them, a tractor appeared, going back in the direction they had come. When the driver saw it, he honked, causing both of them to jump.

Looks like we got our vacation after all, Daniel said, smiling cautiously. You two cut it pretty close, though.

Imogen frowned at him, then looked out the window. It wasn’t my fault, she said. We had to go back.


Passport. I must have told him about a dozen times.

Well. You made it. That’s all that matters. Why did you need it? Are you going to stay in a hotel?

She nodded. You?

I’m gonna crash with Neil. He lives downtown, right across from Walking Street. Pretty sweet location. Leaning back, Daniel let down his hood. His hair was greasy and tangled in knots, a nylon band to hold it in place. What are your plans for the weekend? he asked.

Imogen shrugged. Oh, the usual, I guess. Groceries, maybe a movie. Dinner with some friends. A group of volunteers from our year is throwing a party tonight at Lushan. That’s pretty close to Walking Street, isn’t it? Imogen caught his eye, and, when she did, she smiled. You should come.

I don’t know. I don’t really know any of this year’s volunteers. Plus, I’d have to bet Neil’s already made plans.

So? Bring him. There’s gonna be a ton of people there. A lot of cute girls…

Daniel blushed. We’ll see.

OK, she said, laughing. I’m not gonna push. Seriously, though, I think you should come. I mean it! It would be nice to hang out – just the three of us – for once.

Can’t argue with you, there.

Imogen frowned and crossed her legs, then dog-eared the page she was on and set down the book. That’s another reason we were late this morning. Thomas buttonholed me on the stairs. I’m pretty sure he was drunk. Eight o’clock in the morning, and he’s already sauced…

Daniel sat there, shaking his head. What did he want?

He wanted me to go out and buy him cigarettes. Can you believe that? Seems like, ever since he hit Bella, the entire town has turned against him. And rightfully so. He’s so scared he won’t even leave campus. He told me that, the last time he did, someone spit on him. Anyway, the whole time, I’m just standing there, trying to escape, till, finally, Chris comes back up and – get this – tells him to FUCK OFF. I almost burst out laughing. You should have seen the look on his face.

Chris said that?

Right hand to God.

Jesus. Your boyfriend is my hero.

Imogen smiled. He’s definitely not a morning person. I’ll give you that.

Daniel gazed out the window. The bus was climbing in low gear up the side of a gorge, where stands of bamboo hung out over the pavement, like enormous, hard-bodied ferns. Owing to the fog, it was impossible to see into the distance, and, for a moment, he forgot the beauty of the land. Turning back to Imogen, he studied her face.

How did Thomas react?

Well, he just stood there, staring at us. Then he went back inside. Chris says he’s one of those people who doesn’t understand how he comes off – needs to be put in his place every now and then. Me? I’m not so sympathetic. To be honest, he creeps me out.

How so?

I don’t know. Something about his laugh. That and the fact that he always seems to be staring at – she stopped herself. Well, not at my eyes.

He’s hard to get along with, Daniel conceded. That’s for sure. Every time I try to reach out, he finds some way to make me regret it. Like when we were playing pool the other night. I believe him that it was an accident, but, still, there’s no excuse. I swear, I’m on the verge of giving up.

What happened, exactly?

We’d just finished a game, and Bella came up behind him. There’d been a group of boys next to us, giving him shit, and I guess he thought she was one of them.

Poor Bella.

Yea. I think it goes without saying that he was drunk. Anyway, the crowd turned on him pretty fast. We had to fight our way out of the room, and a bunch of the Chinese followed us back to Yi Zhong. Fortunately, Yang was still up. He wouldn’t let them past.

Who’s Yang?

The guard at the front gate.

Oh. Baldy or squints?

Daniel smiled. The bald one, he laughed.

It’s scary. Chris and I were coming out of the supermarket yesterday, and a crowd gathered at the sight of us. I guess that doesn’t sound too out of the ordinary, but a few of them were shouting. They seemed upset. At the time, we didn’t know what was going on. It was only later, once we got back to our apartment, that we figured it out.

Yea, I’ve been noticing that, too. The Chinese have a long history with foreigners. It’s complicated. They either hate us or admire us. There’s no middle ground.

Do you think we’ll be safe here the rest of the year?

Oh, absolutely, Daniel said, shooting her a bemused look. I’m sure that all of this will have blown over by the time we get back.

Good. Sounds like this vacation came at just the right time, then. A couple of days without Thomas – what more could we ask?

Daniel smiled. The two of them spoke a while longer, discussing their classes and Christmases past, until Christopher woke up and came over, still groggy from sleep. If he was surprised at all to see Daniel, he did not show it. The skin above his eyelids was red and deeply furrowed from the way in which he had been sleeping, and one glance was all it took to see that he was ready to make up. Daniel took his cue and went back to his seat, leaning his head against the glass. The man beside him let him in, then removed his shoes and dozed back off, the cabin quiet now, aside from the engine, each traveler riding alone with his thoughts.

The rain had quit by the time they reached Changsha, but Neil, as usual, was not answering his phone. Daniel had called him the night before to let him know that he was coming, and Neil had told him to call once they were close – they would decide where to meet from there. Since Zhuzhou, Daniel had been dialing, but the line just kept ringing – a gaudy pop song in his ear – until, at last, it began to go straight to a recording saying the phone had been switched off. Most likely, Neil was in a meeting – since they had met, he had always had at least half a dozen jobs – and, upon exiting the freeway, Daniel gave up, pocketing his phone.

The streets were broad on the outskirts of the city, and they were empty, thanks to the rain. The bus trundled into the station, and, as it did, a group of drivers surrounded the door. Accosting the riders one by one, they asked after their destinations, quoting prices they claimed to be fair, and, upon seeing the foreigners, their eyes grew large, like sharks at the smell of blood. Together, Daniel and the Canadians shouldered their way across the lot, to where the cabs were all registered, and, along the way, Imogen shouted at those who tried to help her with her bags and, at one point, Christopher for trying to bargain.

Daniel followed their cab until they turned at the river – the Xiangjiang browner than he remembered – and, under an overpass, his driver stopped to get out and light a cigarette and urinate in the weeds. He was a quiet man, and, since Daniel was too, they passed the rest of the ride in silence, speaking only to give directions. Daniel tried calling Neil again, but, again, there was no answer, so he went to Walking Street, the only place he knew, and bought McDonald’s while he waited for news.

It was crowded, since it was the weekend, and the construction made it worse. The area had been excavated to make way for a subway, and there was nowhere to walk. He found a spot with excellent vantage atop the footbridge spanning the road, its railings lined with women sporting umbrellas, their lashes false, the size of dimes. Next to him, a girl was hawking vegetable peelers, like many others on the bridge, and their faces were covered over with slices of cucumber, like adherents of some cult. Daniel waited and ate his hamburger, tracking the look of the clouds above, anxious to get inside and out of his clothing and on with the night that lay ahead.

At last, Neil sent him a message saying that he was sorry and where to meet and that he would be at the statue in fifteen minutes – half an hour, at most. Daniel sighed, moving down to the plaza, and waited with his hands in the pouch of his sweatshirt at the head of the street, where the likeness of one of the province’s most decorated heroes had been cast in pure bronze. The square was a popular place to meet, and, of those with overdue friends, he was not the only one. The Chinese stared at him as they passed through the area, but, compared to Ningyuan, this was nothing.

In fact, he was not the only foreigner. Across the plaza, there was a man wearing headphones, standing in front of the escalator that led to McDonald’s, and he appeared to be looking directly in Daniel’s direction, although it was hard to be sure. In spite of the weather, he had on sunglasses, which, together with his headphones, obscured the bulk of his features, giving off the impression that he was there but also absent, somehow removed from the scene. Daniel nodded, then checked himself, feeling naive, averting his eyes as if to look for someone, trying to play it cool. Simply because they came from different countries did not mean they owed each other a hello. He had a feeling that the man was watching him, but, still, he did not turn around.

About twenty minutes later, he heard someone call him from above, as well as a group of students laughing and shouting at the arrival of his friend. When he looked up, he had to do a double take, for the man he saw there was not familiar: a veritable dandy with no beard, dressed in a handsome, three-piece suit.

Oi, Neil shouted, as he tramped down the stairs. If it ain’t Mr. Ningyuan himself. Haojiubujian, mate. Sorry to keep you waiting.

Daniel looked him over, studying his clothes, and tried to fight back a smile. This was not the old drinking buddy he had known. Neil was tall and pushing thirty, and the years were apparent in his eyes, and, as they stood there, the Chinese stopped to point and stare at him, for he was also pushing three hundred pounds. Previously, Daniel was used to seeing him in tracksuits – Puma, Adidas, Lacoste, Li Ning – and, when Neil saw the way he was looking at him, he smiled and punched him on the arm.

Wuyanyidui ma? Cat got your tongue?

Sorry, said Daniel. I think you’ve got the wrong guy. I’m looking for a friend of mine. Goes by the name of Neil. Dresses like a student. Drinks like one, too. Glowering, Neil held up his fists, then broke out into a smile, and Daniel retreated, raising his arms. Seriously, though. What’s with the getup? I almost didn’t recognize you.

You like? Neil straightened his back and adjusted his tie, tugging at the bottom of his lapels. Behind him, a few girls tittered shyly, and, at the sound of them, he turned and smiled, waving ni hao.

Looking sharp. You work for the government now or something?

No. You’d be surprised how much differently people treat you, though. I’m telling you, it’s all about image. Especially here in China.

Still, nice suit like that? You’d think at least it’d include a watch.

Oh, fuck off. I apologized already, didn’t I? Overhead, the sky had begun to mist. They were both without umbrellas. Stooping down, he picked up Daniel’s bag and started to walk in the direction of the river. We can’t all pull off your look. How was the ride?

Same as always. Long. Uncomfortable. Some lady threw up in the aisle. Noodles. It smelled of something awful.

Well, you made it.

Yea. What about you? Meetings all day?

Yup. I’ve been working on this joint venture with a couple of Italians that I met in Guangzhou. Just one of many things I’m got going on at the moment. A lot of irons in the fire, you know? It’s been crazy busy, of late.

Busy’s good. What’s the project?

Well, it’s still in the introductory stages. Import/export kind of deal. We’ve yet to sort out all of the details.

They turned down an alley where mindless Pomeranians lay in the gutter, dressed in clothes, and continued walking to Neil’s apartment, a third-story walk-up near the rear. The alley was sided by vacant mahjong halls and hair salons packed with beautiful girls, and, on one wall, its name had been written in soft, white limestone, by the hand of some child.

You still teaching?

Only part-time. I left Yali last semester, but I’ve been subbing at this great private training school since June. It’s directly opposite my apartment, and they do all of the prep work for you. When it comes down to it, I must be making triple what I was previously, in terms of hourly wage. Plus, the students are all college-age girls, he said, winking. And the receptionist? Whoo! Don’t even get me started. The job is any man’s dream. Kills me that I have to leave.


Another opportunity’s come up, and I want to focus more time on that business I was telling you about. Only so many hours in each day.

That sucks. Sounds like the perfect gig.

You think? They proceeded up the stairs, Neil stomping on the lights, the interior cluttered with more graffiti, marks from a basketball, spent butts. On the first floor, the word PIG had been scribbled in English, and, on the second, there was an inscription that called rather unequivocally for the fall of Little Japan. Actually, he said, I have one more meeting today at six. I’m scheduled to teach, though. Any chance you’d be interested in making a few extra yuan?

Daniel stopped on the stairs, eyeing Neil suspiciously. Any man’s dream, huh?

I’m telling you – all you have to do is show up. It’s a cakewalk from there.

Fine, Daniel said, but you’re buying the first round.

The training school was located on the eleventh floor of a high-rise, its classrooms set behind walls of glass, and, when Daniel stepped off the elevator, two or three students turned to look. What Neil had told him was correct – for the most part, they were female, and, on the whole, they were hot – but he tried his best not to gawk too openly as he went across the foyer, approaching the desk. The receptionist was on a phone call, so he waited patiently, filling out a form, trying to think up ways in which he might greet the girl once she finally got off. She was slender and soft-spoken, with lensless frames and an open blouse, and, when she hung up, he knew exactly what to say to her. Gesturing toward her glasses, he handed her the form.

Are you near or farsighted? he asked.

She studied him briefly. Again, the phone began to ring. Before she could answer, Daniel heard someone come up behind him. The sound of a clipboard being tapped.

You are Daniel, Neil’s friend? Thank you so much for your come!

He turned around to the sight of a woman with hair so unkempt that it looked like a nest. She had on lipstick, but it was smudged, as though applied in great haste.

My God, she said. Neil has not told me. Your hairstyle. So terrifying!

Daniel held out his hand and laughed. Hong yanse bu shi daibiao xingyun ma?

Yes. Good luck! Tucking the clipboard under one arm, she stared at him, smiling. Your Chinese is excellent! Almost as great as Neil’s. Her palm was clammy to the touch. My name is Angela. I am the scheduler here at HOPE. Thank you very much for arriving early. Most of our substitutes, they are always late.

No problem. Neil has told me a lot of wonderful things about your company. I’m excited to be here.

Really? She led him into an office. More girls at the desks. A foreigner stood near the door, running off copies, presumedly prior to a lesson, but Angela did not introduce them. Neil tells me that you are living in the countryside, she said. Upon hearing this, the man turned around to look at him. Is it true?

Yes. I live in a small town called Ningyuan. It’s just south of Yongzhou.

It must be very interesting! Opening a filing cabinet, she took out a folder labeled I-4. Here is your today’s lesson. All of the directions are in front. Please put it back once you have finished. I will pay you when leaving. She turned around, then stopped. Oh, and one more. We are asking all of the instructors to wear these today. Picking out a Santa hat from a pile of them on the table, she shook it out, then slapped it on his head. Remember, it is most important that you entertaining the students. Merry Christmas!

Daniel thanked her and found an empty cubicle and sat down and riffled through the sheets. Neil had not been exaggerating one bit: in terms of prep work, there was none. All he had to do was xerox the materials. Getting up, he made his way over to the copier, where the other foreigner was still working, and, when he got there, he had to wait. The man did not acknowledge him. Daniel stood there, eyeing the countdown on the monitor. 12, 11, 10…

Hey, he finally said. I’m Daniel.

The man glanced up, then looked him over, then lifted the platen and removed the original. He stood on the verge of seven feet. He did not look like he was from Australia, but Daniel could tell it when he spoke. There was a nervous, excitable energy about him, reminding Daniel of Thomas.

Dave, he mumbled. Collecting the sheets from the catch, he put them in order, and then he was off. Daniel stood there, holding the materials he was about to copy, watching him go.

The room they gave him was set in one corner – a small cube of glass overlooking the road – and, when he got there, two girls were already waiting for him, sitting in front of the whiteboard with their book bags still on. One was prettier than the other. Her name was Zenith, and she was a student at Hunan University, and, after introducing themselves in English, Daniel dove right in. First, he reviewed their homework – a letter to the editor of a magazine, whose name, for some reason, the girls found droll – making corrections and writing on the whiteboard to demonstrate the difference between would and will. The topic was How to Improve Our City, and fourteen new expressions had been asked of the girls, but all Daniel had to do was check them, writing down their scores at the top of the page. A book had been given to them by the company with inspirational quotes on the front, and there was a space for their teachers to write down feedback on the completion of every class. Most of the notes Daniel saw there were from Neil, but there were plenty of other handwritings, too. By the time they moved on to the bulk of the lesson, they were already well behind schedule.

Daniel read the directions aloud, handing out the sheets he had made earlier, then allowed Zenith and her classmate, whose name he had already forgotten, several minutes to work alone. They sat with their pens at the table, trying to think of what to write, and, after one or two false starts, they started scribbling away in their books. Daniel stood up and went to the window, observing the grayness that was Changsha, the people and cars on Wuyi Avenue like miniature replicas or so many ants. The activity was similar to one he had assigned to his students the year before, a declaration of their dreams that used for its model the most oft-quoted lines from that famous speech. Zenith was done after only a few minutes, but it seemed like her friend still needed more time, so Daniel sat down and reviewed what she had written, underlining the sentences he liked.

When he was finished, he handed the book back to her, then gave his approval in the form of a smile. She was a buxom, raven-haired girl, and her eyes were wide-set, like a Japanese. Her classmate was still working. Feeling somewhat pressed for time, Daniel looked down at his watch.

Zenith, he finally said. Why don’t you start?

She nodded. Shifting in place, she held up the paper in front of her and cleared her throat. Then, slowly, she began to read. The girl beside her did not look up.

I have a dream. I have a dream that, one day, I will be an airline stewardess. I will travel to many different countries, and I can receive a very high salary. For this reason, I want to study English, and I will not stop until I have mastered the language. In the words of Li Yang: Anything is possible! I know that, eventually, I will have a great result.

Nice, Daniel said. I want you to try it again, though – this time, dasheng yidian’er. Like you’re standing in front of a crowd.

Zenith considered him hesitantly – her eyes like almonds, tapered and sleek – then sat up and repeated what she had written, this time in a louder, more confident voice. Outside their classroom, other students and teachers turned to look, and Daniel could see Angela standing at one of the computer screens, admiring his work. Following the lesson plan’s guidance, Daniel helped the girls review where she had been off, then let the other girl tell them what she had been working on – something about founding an online shop. She had written much more than necessary, and, from the sound of it, she liked to hear herself talk, and, by the time they had finished correcting it, it was almost seven o’clock. Of what little time they had left, Daniel passed out their homework, then wiped down the board and wrote out the instructions, just so there would be no later doubts. Thanking the girls, he asked them if they had any more questions. They stared at him and started to get ready, but they did not put away their books. Zenith raised her hand.


You need to leave us feedback.

Oh, that’s right, he said. Sorry – I almost forgot!

It doesn’t matter.

Actually. I’ve never done this before. Would you mind showing me what to do?

Of course. She motioned him over to the table, and, along with her classmate, she led him through the process. To begin, there were four boxes to measure their effort, then a short-answer space to talk about where they could stand to improve. Near the bottom, a bank of clouds for words of encouragement. Daniel set to filling them in. The girls stood to either side of him, trying to see what he was writing.
Teacher Daniel, Zenith said. Can I ask you a question?

Sure. Just call me Daniel, though. I’m not much older than you.

Really? How old?


She turned to her classmate. Then, in Chinese, she asked her how old she thought he was. The girl said thirty-one. Daniel smiled. He continued to write in their notebooks while the two of them argued among themselves.

Thirty-three, she finally said.

Daniel feigned as if he was hurt. I’m only twenty-four!

The girls blushed. By way of recovery, Zenith told him that he looked mature.

That’s OK. Anyway. What was your question?

Oh, yes. I was only wondering: when did you discover your dream of becoming a teacher? We think you are an excellent one!

Here, it was Daniel’s turn to blush, both due to the compliment they had extended as well as the assumption they had made. Actually, he said, I’m still not sure I would call this my dream.

What? But you must!

Don’t get me wrong – I like it. It’s just that, sometimes, it feels like I’m meant for something else.

Such as?

That’s the million-dollar question.

The other girl did not understand the expression. Zenith turned and explained it to her, causing her to laugh. How long has he been working here at HOPE? she asked.

With a smile, Daniel answered her in Chinese.

Both girls were clearly taken aback. As if they were talking to a child, they began to coo, praising his Mandarin. It was patronizing, Daniel supposed, but, in a way, he kind of liked it.

So, you will not be teaching us next week?

No. That will be Neil, probably. Or someone else.


What’s the matter? You don’t like Neil?

The girls considered each other, obliquely. To be honest, Zenith said, he is not the best teacher. After a pause, her classmate nudged her. Besides, she went on, we think you are more handsome.


Zenith nodded. She was too embarrassed to say anything else. Closing her book, Daniel handed her his comments, and, as she read what he had written, her face went red. On a separate piece of paper, she wrote down her number. Hiding it from her classmate, she slid it across the desk.

Angela met him in the office and paid him his earnings in cash, asking him what his plans were for the holiday, accompanying him to the hall. When they got there, she handed him her business card. All the front said was HOPE. We really wish that you can come back, she said. The spring term will be bringing many new students.

I’d love to, he said, but, unfortunately, I’m headed back to Ningyuan on Monday.

Well, let me know if you’re ever in town. We often have openings in the summer. The elevator arrived, and they made their goodbyes. Just as the doors were about to close, she held up her clipboard and started to wave it above her head. Don’t forget to call! she shouted. Here at HOPE, we are always looking to hire native Americans!

Note from the author

Recently, I’ve set up a crowdfunding site on (kind of like a Kickstarter for books) and was hoping that those of you who liked what you read might consider helping me reach my goal. Last week, I started e-mailing family and friends, but it’s going to take the kindness of strangers to make this a reality, too.

InkShares works on the All-or-Nothing model, meaning that, if I reach my goal, they will fund an initial print run of 1,000 books, which would be available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but, if I don’t, all contributions will be returned through the site. If that first run is successful, the company will print subsequent ones at no cost to me (or my backers).

On the site, you can read a synopsis and two excerpts from the book, listen to a recording of a song that’s mentioned in the story, and view a short film I made about Ningyuan, the town in which it’s set. If you’re unable or unwilling to give, I certainly understand, but, if you could pass it along to anyone else who’s interested in China, that would be equally as helpful.

Help fund this novel on


  1. Thank you so much to everyone who has shared this on the web! Ryan just added a link to a crowdfunding project I’ve started to try to publish the complete manuscript above. Please check it out if you have time!

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