8 Plays is published, I have copies here so I know that… but I’m not sure what happens next. Do I take it round to bookshops myself? Do I organise a book launch myself? I’ll do what needs to be done except I don’t know what that is! I wanted to give copies to the libraries I’ve been reading/writing/working in as a ‘thank you’ but the publishers said not to. Does anyone else have any suggestions?
The publishing/distributing/business side of things is definitely much much harder than the writing. Fortunately the writing is still fun… I need something to take my mind off the rest of the business!
I’m still on word count target with The Lizard’s Tail and I’ve started my first Orchid Chan novella! This is the beginning of Orchid Chan and the Chinese New Year Murder!
1 The Eve of Chinese New Year
Orchid Chan had been warned not to expect too much of Chinese New Year in Singapore. But she would never forget her first Chinese New Year in the island city. Her first murder investigation started on the eve of her first Chinese New Year and changed her life forever. It all began when a man was murdered in the house next door…
Mrs Orchid Chan was sitting on one of the stone benches in the small square park in front of the Chan house along Jalan Mas Puteh. It was a very private area and cars could enter only through Jalan Mas Puteh, a feeder road that led to the park and ran around it. There were rows of terraced houses on all four sides of the park. Like most of the other houses there the Chan house was a two storey house with large long rooms but a narrow front and a driveway only big enough for one car. Because the Chan house was at the end of that row terraced houses they had a slightly larger garden and on the other side was the power station that served the housing estate. The Chan house shared a common wall with the Pang house, where all the terrible things happened but you will hear about all that later. For now let Orchid explain an important detail about the geography of the place. Behind their row of houses was a narrow granite ledge and then a drain. Even though all the houses had gates in their back fences or doors in their back walls these were seldom used because there wasn’t anywhere to go. Across the drain there was a steep grassy slope and at the top of that was the hedged fence that surrounded the Clementi Stadium. Husband Chan did not like the stadium because before it was built the hill had been full of trees and when he was a boy he used to go exploring there with Arnie Pang from next door. Orchid liked the stadium. She liked walking around it with BaoBao (when she got a chance to walk with her own son!) and it was not the fault of the Clementi Stadium that Arnold Pang was no longer friends with Husband Chan. Arnold Pang did not even visit his own father next door. Orchid knew this but she did not find out why until later.
To get to the stadium from their houses you had to walk to the end of the row. There was a gap there between them and the row of houses that stood perpendicular to theirs and a narrow flight of stone steps cut into the slope and led up to the carpark of the Clementi Stadium.
All the houses faced the small park. Two rows of houses were back to back with the houses that opened onto West Coast Walk and West Coast Road and behind the final row of houses (at right angles to the Chan House) was a row of shophouses. There was a playground in the park, a square patch of sand with a swing standing in it. Normally Orchid Chan liked this park. She liked playing with BaoBao there, either sitting on the swing with him in her lap or playing football with his big foam ball. But today BaoBao was with Mum Chan (Husband Chan’s Mother) in the house and Orchid was feeling homesick. She had been married to Husband Chan for over three years now, BaoBao was almost two years old. They had all moved to Singapore when Husband Chan’s Shanghai posting was over. Of course Orchid Chan had known when she married a Singapore man that she would one day be moving to Singapore. She had even liked the idea—Orchid was always up to trying something new—but now after almost a year in Singapore, Orchid Chan was sitting alone outside the house and wondering whether she had made a mistake.
Orchid Chan had lived in Shanghai all her life. Her mother had also been born in Shanghai. Her father came to Shanghai to study, met and married her mother and as a consequence never left. Shanghai had that effect on some people. But then Orchid’s parents were of the romantic generation.
Orchid Chan was of the 80’s generation. But though a Balinghou, thanks to her romantic, artistic (and therefore not very wealthy) parents she was not a fuerdai that grew up with rich parents and a silver spoon in her mouth. From the time she was in her teens she had been far more practical than her parents. And by the time she was thirty years old Orchid Health Blooms which she had started with support from her parents was a successful business in Shanghai. It is not easy to make a success of a start up business. That was something she was very proud of doing. She was proud not only of the financial success but the hard work she put in and the discovery that she could succeed at something she had no way to prepare for—except to stand firmly on each step as she achieved it, look around and decide where she should start to carve out the next step. Then why did she throw it all away? Orchid Health Blooms was the first shop in Super Brand Mall, perhaps even in Pudong and possibly even in Shanghai to offer a combination of Traditional and Western herbal cures and teas incorporated into artistic floral arrangements. These were works of art you could take apart to use. It had been Orchid’s bright idea—she had always had bright ideas, perhaps too many, which made it difficult for her to focus on studying the right answers to school exams. But in this case Orchid Health Blooms had paid off and had enough regularly subscribers to go on turning a growing profit. When Orchid Chan (who at that time was still Orchid Wu) had sold the business she had made enough profit to pay her parents back double what they had loaned her.
Orchid had been very pleased with herself when she gave the cheque to her parents. She had not been so happy when her mother told her, “We have enough to keep going so we will keep the money for you, in case you ever need it,” and her father said, “Remember you can always come back to Shanghai.”