Current Works in Progress

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I don't know why you say "Goodbye", I say "Hello"

I was chastised (gently, yes, but chastised nonetheless) on Twitter the other day for not posting to the blog recently. I was a bit surprised, actually.

First, I was surprised because I hadn't realised it had been two months since my last post. We've been scrambling lately, trying to find a way to save a failing business, and it's been taking up a fair bit of my time and attention. We had to lay off 100% of our staff (we found her another job, though) and are moving into a much cheaper space in an effort to cut costs. We are also trying to find a way to expand into different markets, because theh best way to cut costs is to increase revenue. Or have some revenue. Things aren't going well on the business front, but I'm optimistic that we'll be able to stem the tide and reverse the fortunes and all that.

I've also started taking freelance writing work ( SEO articles and web copy mostly) from a couple of content mill sites. In a couple of months I've managed to nab 6 regular clients who pay reasonably well, and have managed to make a decent amount of money from writing. How cool is that? This has taken up the rest of my discretionary time, and I guess the blog has suffered.

I was also surprised because I always assumed that those who read my blog regularly did so out of some sense of obligation - the whole friends and family thing. To be told that someone actually misses my rambling, mumbled musings (sorry, I never could resist alliteration) took me aback somewhat. It was both heart warming and a bit of an ego trip, actually.

Here's the thing. I can't write this blog any more. I'm busy enough with important. life-related things (like trying to feed my family) that I can't really justify the time spent here. More importantly I don't have anything else to write about that fits with this blog.

I've been moving more and more towards the China related posts, because that's what people seem to enjoy reading the most, but I'm finding it harder and harder to maintain a sense of humour about a lot of the absurd and hurtful things I see here. Reading back over past posts it is clear to me that they are becoming more and more bitter and less and less amusing. I think it's better to stop now before I turn into one of those depressed, slightly insane foreigners you tend to meet in expat bars at 8:30 on a Tuesday night.

So. This will likely be the last post at the Lived-in Life. I'm not going to say I'll never pick it up again, but for the foreseeable future the last note has been played, the last encore performed, and Elvis is halfway to the airport. I need to focus on the things that move me closer to my goals, and this blog no longer does that.

Don't get me wrong, it has done quite a bit for me in that regard. One of my biggest and longest held goals is to make my living as a novelist. Starting this blog was a very important first step down that road. I learned a lot of the things a writer needs to know in order to market himself effectively, to develop a fanbase, and to build what they call "a platform". It is time, though, to move on.

And I am. Moving on, that is. This blog is done, its scaly carcass sinking into the tarry depths of the Internet. Perhaps it will rise again, like the Phoenix, to mix its metaphors and poke fun at stupid people. Perhaps it will fossilize and remain unchanged so that future generations can gaze in awe at the way the world used to be. Perhaps, and this one is more likely, it will rot away until nothing remains but a slightly metallic after-taste and a vague sense of shame.

Regardless of what happens to this blog, you might want to come with me to my new blog, which can be found at I know, I know. I didn't realise until after I'd registered the domain that my initials without punctuation can be read as Ms. Manz. You can call me Susan.

My new blog will focus more on short fiction and what I'm doing in my writing career. I plan to post regular pieces of short fiction, as well as doing podcasts and... well, there's going to be quite a bit going on over there. The difference between here and there is that here was all about Mike the sarcastic guy, and there is all about Mike the story-teller. What I realised, quite recently as it happens, was that as much as I like writing and playing with words, what I am really, truly driven to do is tell stories. I hope you'll join me at my new home for the next chapter in this one.

***I will be re-directing the RSS feed from this blog to the new one in the next day or two, so if you are using the feedburner link to follow this blog, you'll automatically start getting the posts from the other one. I may eventually be deactivating the current feedburner link, so if you want to continue following through RSS I'd recommend you add the link at the new site to your reader and remove the old one. Or, if you'd prefer, you can follow the new site via email. I spent 3 hours figuring out how to enable that, just to make Eva Rieder happy. You're welcome, Eva.***

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Traffic accidents in China

I may have implied in previous posts that the stereotype about Chinese people being terrible drivers might, in fact, have a fairly firm grounding in reality. It does. That isn't to say that all Chinese people are terrible drivers. My wife, for example, is an excellent driver as are many of our friends. It is incontrovertibly true, however, that the general level of driving ability here is well below what would be acceptable in any western country. But that is a post for another day.

Today I want to write about an inevitable consequence of the large number of unskilled drivers on the roads in China - traffic accidents.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I am still alive

Just a quick one today to let everyone know that I'm still alive, and still writing, and still blogging.

We spent three weeks in Canada, visiting friends and family, and the past two weeks since we got back have been a whirlwind (or vortex - thanks @jtvancouver) of activity. This is why I've been absent for over a month. Bad blogger, I know.

I've been pretty tied up with finishing up the semester of classes which were put on hiatus by the trip. I've also been getting plans and materials and resources ready for the upcoming Summer English Camps which (hopefully) will take up a great deal of my time this summer.

I've been researching and applying for some freelance writing gigs - alternate sources of income are always welcome - and setting up the framework I need to do that successfully. This has been more awkward for me than it would be for most because of the whole "living in China" thing. I'll probably do a post about that once I'm further along in the process (short version: Paypal makes me very stabby).

Actually, there are a number of potentially interesting posts coming up.

  • I've got some stuff about the school I want to write about
  • I have a couple of rather large life-direction changes to share
  • I have a bunch of China posts in the near future 
  • I also have a not-insignificant number of Canada posts to write
I'm sure there's more in the pipeline that I'm forgetting, but the first thing on my to-do list currently is organize all the things on my plate, so I'll have to get back to you on what the "more" actually consists of. And whether it is a plate, or a pipe, or a pipe shaped plate, or some other combination of plumbing and porcelain.

At any rate, keep your eyes peeled, watch this space and cetera.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Dongyang Photowalk Part Trois (that's three)

Welcome back for the third installment of my Dongyang photowalk. If you are just joining us, the first and second parts can be found here.

If you haven't been following along I'll fill you in quick. I went out with my camera into the wild, concrete jungle that is Dongyang, Zhejiang, China. I took pictures of things that interested me. I had to be extra-super-ninja-sneaky when taking candid shots of people because I'm pretty much the only white guy for 50km in any direction. Also... no wait, that's about it, I guess.

I include here another set of pictures that I like with even more of the snarky commentary you've come to expect. All of that after the break, just click through to see.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

More photowalk highlights from Dongyang (东阳)

This post continues from where I left off in this post the other day. As I mentioned there, I went on a photowalk (photoride/photosit/photodrinking coffee) in this tiny little flyspeck village of a million people where I live, and I took some pictures of things that interested me. I share some of them in the hopes that they will also interest you.

To save bandwidth for those on mobile devices or who use readers and don't want to wait for pictures to load (or who don't want to see them at all) I'll include a break in this post. Click through to see some Dongyang pictures with some sarcastic commentary from yours truly. I'll try not to be too snarky this time.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Two blog award thingies

Two unexpected things happened over the past week or so. First someone tagged me in the "Lucky 7 meme", and then someone else nominated me for the "Kreativ Blogger Award". Both of them involve me writing things about myself (which I love to do anyway) and both involve me tagging other people to do the same.

For reasons which will become clear momentarily, I decided to write both of them up in one post.

First of all, because it happened first, the Lucky 7 meme.

Part 1 - the Lucky 7 Meme

The Brewed Bohemian tagged me and a few other people who were participating in the Once Upon a Time contest (Contest here, my entry here) with this "Lucky 7 meme". Apparently this means I am required to :

  1. Cut and paste into my blog the seven lines starting on the seventh line of either page 7 or page 77 of my current work in progress.
  2. Tag 7 other people.
This raises an interesting dilemma. My current work in progress is a 4 page short story. It doesn't have a page 7.

What I will do instead is copy in my opening 'scene' from said work in progress. The working title is "Dragon".

A thousand times and more have we hunted together, reveling in the chase, the snap, the feel of flesh on teeth.  A thousand times and more have we frolicked and flew, glorying in the feel of wind on scales and wings. A thousand times and more have we tended our crystal gardens on the rooftops of the world, watching patiently as they grew, layer by painstaking layer.
Always together we rose up, to the highest reaches where the air thins, to throw ourselves ecstatically at the ground; both seed and sower. It was always together that we grew, drinking of the sun and the soil and the water, our roots intertwined and our leaves whispering secrets to each other in the breeze. It was always together that we went still, transmuting cellulose and capillary to crystal, freeing our minds to wander the gardens we'd so carefully tended in the age before. A thousand thousand years we've spent together, and now I am alone and it feels as though half of me is missing.
Imagine you wake up one day and half of your legs are gone, or maybe a wing. But you don't notice at first because there is no pain, no wound, just the absence of something that has always before been there. You have the feeling that something is odd, but you don't dwell overmuch on it because it is a new day and there are exciting things on the breeze. And then you try to walk, and you fall. Or you leap from the side of the mountain into the bright clean air. And you fall.
So it was for me when I awoke. The jeweled shards of my shattered trunk had not yet reached the ground when I realized that something was different. I had yet to open the eyes of my new body, yet to unfurl my wings, when I knew that something was horribly, horribly wrong. When I realized what had happened, I believe it broke my mind.
So there you go. The first four paragraphs of my current WIP. As Chuck Wendig says, "Please to enjoy."

Part 2 - The Kreativ Blogger Thingamajigger

So the other thing that happened was that Eva Rieder nailed me with a Kreativ Blogger award. She is a math teacher by day and a keyboard ninja by night. She writes fantasy and mainstream fiction, and has wavy hair.

This one is a bit more involved. I have to tell you seven (why is it always seven?) surprising things about myself, thank the person who's making me do this (thanks a lot, Eva) (:)), link back to their blog, and nominate 7 other people. I'm detecting a trend here.

So first of all, thank you to Eva. Not so much for tagging me with this, although I actually do feel a bit flattered, but for reading my blog in the first place. I'm always surprised when people come back more  than once, and find it suspicious when they claim to like what I'm writing. I should probably get over that if I want to be a professional author, no?

I don't know if there are 7 surprising things about me. I'm pretty open and like to talk about myself, so anyone who's known me more than an hour (or a pint, whichever comes first) probably knows most of what there is to know. I'll write seven things people who don't know me might be surprised to know, though. That is doable.

Thing number 1: Mandarin Chinese was my fifth language

I speak English natively. I learned French in high school and lived in Quebec for three months on an exchange program, becoming more or less fluent. I studied both German and Japanese in university becoming functional but by no means fluent, and then I moved to China 8 years ago and gradually learned to speak with the locals. 

Thing number 2: By the time I finished high school I had read an estimated 3000 novels.

I averaged about 4-5 novels a week, every week, through most of my schooling. I mostly read fantasy and science fiction, but I also read all the classic young adult series - Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew, The Black Stallion, Judy Blume, et. al. - by the age of 7 or 8. I had epic battles with the school librarian who didn't believe that I could read actual books and wouldn't let me borrow anything with a polysyllabic word in it.

Thing number 3: I am terrified of spiders, needles and, by extension, dentists.

I once left a cavity so long that the nerve died on its own. When the pain suddenly stopped I got so worried I made an appointment.

Thing number 4: When watching a movie or reading a book I cry at the drop of a hat.

More often for the old "underdog comes from behind to win" maneuver than for the obviously sappy or sad, but I'm not kidding about this. I even teared up at the end of "The Incredibles" and any scene with Iñigo Montoya gets me every time.

Thing number 5: I dream lucidly, and have since I was four or five years old.

Lucid dreaming is basically where you are aware you are dreaming. For some people (including me) this usually involves being in more or less total control of my dreams, but not always. This resulted in my sometimes having a fair bit of difficulty differentiating between reality and dreams for much of my childhood.

Thing number 6 (but related to number 5): I am still a smoker when I sleep

I quit smoking a year and a half ago, but I often have dreams where I still smoke. They aren't dreams about smoking, just dreams in which I am a smoker. This means that quite often I spend an entire morning going through withdrawal from an addiction I beat more than a year ago.

Thing number 7: I am the poster boy for INTJ personalities

This probably isn't a surprise to anybody but myself. I was mostly surprised that there was a known personality type that fit me. I was even more surprised that there are a whole bunch of us. I found an INTJ circle on google+ and I have to say, I love those people. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, the dry version and the funny (and more useful) version.

As a side note, when I asked my wife what was surprising about me she mentioned that she was surprised by how filthy my mind is and at how loud I can pass gas, so umm... be happy I didn't listen to her and include those.

Now, for the harassment of seven people whose blogs I read. Rather than choosing 14 people in total or forcing 7 people to do both of these I will name seven personal blogs I read and let them decide if they want to do one, the other, both or none. I can't in good conscience name the two ladies who singled me out (although it occurred to me to give the one to the other and the other to the one, if you follow), so 7 new people (in no particular order other than this is the order I put them in):

  1. Nicole Feldringer at
  2. Voss Foster at
  3. Kia at
  4. Gnetch at
  5. Stephen Hayes at (I know you just got one of these recently so I'll understand if you skip it. No really)
  6. Meg McNulty at
  7. Susan Lewis at
None of these people write about the same thing, but they all write with personality, and honesty, and from their hearts, and with fewer clauses than I do. I don't actually follow very many blogs, I'm extremely picky, and these seven are the blogs I get the most excited about when they pop up in my reader - well, these 7 and "Text From Dog", that guy is hilarious. 

To all 7 of you, pick your poison. Would you like to do the lucky 7 meme or the Kreativ Blogger Award, or both? I leave the decision in your hands as I think you're all worthy of both.

For my readers, please take a look at all 7 of them and vote for your favorite in the comments below. The most favoritest blog will get a special prize just as soon as I think of one.

Monday, May 14, 2012

On the road again. I can't wait to get...

It is Monday evening as this goes out on the interwebs. In the morning we will pack up the car, strap the munchkin into his seat, and head off for Hangzhou. Thursday morning we will hop on the shuttle bus that takes us from downtown Hangzhou to Shanghai's Pudong airport where, around 3pm our flight will leave for Canada.

It's an interesting function of the international dateline that we leave Shanghai at 3pm on Thursday May 17th and arrive in Vancouver just before 12 noon on Thursday May 17th; three hours before we leave. If that doesn't seem fair, don't worry. We lose a whole day on the way back.

Oh, by the way, we're going to Canada on Thursday. We will be spending three weekends, and the two intervening weeks, visiting my home and native land. It's my wife's and son's first trip to Canada and only my second trip back in the last eight years. This is my wife's first time meeting most of my family (my parents have been here to visit us) and my son's first time to see the country of which he is a citizen. I'm so excited that I haven't gotten anything useful done in weeks.

I'm looking forward to seeing people I haven't seen in years (Facebook doesn't count). I'm looking forward to eating a number of things that I haven't eaten for years. People will be hugged and meals demolished. Dee. Mall. Isht.

I am also looking forward to something that few people ever have a chance to do. I'm looking forward to seeing the place where I grew up and the culture I grew up in through the eyes of a stranger. I'm partly referring to my wife's reactions to things, of course, but mostly I mean my own.

I've been living in China for eight years. That's a very long time. In those eight years I'm fairly certain I've become more acculturated than I think to the Chinese way of living, and less accustomed to good old Can-eh-dia, eh? I've also spent a lot of my time hanging out with Aussies, Brits, the French and other disreputable types (I'm looking at you, Germans). I think culturally I'm still more Canadian than Chinese, but I'm not sure by how much, and I'm interested to find out.

I will make an effort to keep this place updated. I have a couple of posts already written and scheduled, and I have the blogger app installed on my tablet, so I should be able to do some basic blogging "from the field" as it were, but if I don't post much for the rest of May it's probably because my mother taught me not to blog with my mouth full. Dee. Mall. Isht.