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New website! Also, fiction: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (Part 1 of 20)

20 Jun

Edited on 29/11/13 to add: Obviously I wrote this first blog post a while ago, but if you notice oddities in the actual dates of the Jade Yeo entries, don’t worry about it — it’s because I didn’t want people clicking on the tag to spoiler themselves inadvertently (since if I’d left the posts in original date order, the last post would have appeared first). Also, the ebook is no longer US$0.99 — it is the princely price of US$2.99. If you would still like to buy it, here it is on Smashwords, Amazon and Amazon UK. Otherwise, just scroll down and read it for free!

I’ve got a new website! It’s got all my stories lined up like ducks in a row and a fancy contact form and everything. \o/ Do let me know if there’s anything you think I ought to change.

There’s no better way to inaugurate a new website than with free stories, so here is one. It’s not really super new — I wrote it a couple of years ago and it’s been rejected by a couple of romance e-publishers since then. I’m going to post a section every other day, but you can also or alternatively download an ebook for US$0.99 at Smashwords: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo. (If you can’t use Smashwords for whatever reason but want to buy an ebook, let me know.)

I wrote a couple of absurd romance novel-y synopses for the ebook distributors, but if you want to know what it’s about: it’s a novella written in diary entries about books and smooches. It has an Adult Content rating for a single explicit sex scene, but if that’s the sort of thing you’re looking for, I’m gonna be straight with you — you’d have better luck flipping through the Bible.

Thanks to those of you who helped me choose a title! If you previously knew the story as Bloomsbury Girl, you should tune out, but come back in a few days because I added a couple of new entries. One of them has smooching! \o/

 

East Asian girl holding a mirror

Photograph by Panorama Media/PanoramaStock/Getty Images

The ebook at Smashwords

Saturday, 7th August 1920

I had tea with the intolerable aunt today. Aunt Iris, the one who is so rich she has a new fur every year, and so mean she has installed a tip box by the door of every WC in her house, so you have to pay a charge every time you need to go. And so sinfully vainglorious I remember she came to visit us at home once and wore a wonderful glossy black mink fur. She sat on the sofa with a fixed grin on her face, sweating gallons in the heat. Ma had to send Koko out to get the doctor. It was just before New Year and Ma was terrified Aunt Iris would go into an apoplexy in our drawing room–which would have been such bad luck.

I had my angle of attack all planned out today, though. On Wednesday I’d found out how much a piece of chocolate cake cost at the restaurant, and I went in with the exact change in my purse. When the waiter asked me what I wanted, I said: “Chocolate cake, please”, and I counted out my coins and paid him right then and there.

“I haven’t got any more money than that,” I explained.

Aunt Iris was furious: she looked like an aunt and she was wearing her furs, of course. Even the English must have thought it peculiar. [...]

Fiction: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (Part 2 of 20)

19 Jun

I’m posting a section a day of my epistolary romance novella The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo. You can read it online for free here (click on the “Perilous Life of Jade Yeo” category to access the other posts), or you can buy the ebook at Smashwords or Amazon. The ebook contains the complete 23,000-word novella.

 

Monday, 16th August 1920

I did the stupidest thing today! My ears still burst into flames every time I think of it. Why is it that embarrassment afflicts me so much more than any other emotion? It must be an indication of a very unenlightened nature. I have forgotten all the passions of my youth, but I still remember the time at school when I absent-mindedly called Sister Mary “Mother” and the whole class laughed. Those were girls who had not absorbed the Christian lessons of loving kindness.

It was setting up to be such a good day as well. Ravi asked me to see him about my review of the terrible Mimnaugh book, so I went to Bloomsbury in trembling and fear.

I like Ravi’s office: it’s so small and box-like and like a room in a dollhouse. It’s infernally hot in the summer and antarctic-cold in the winter. And Ravi in it, with his ink-stained hands and perpetually unfocused eyes, looks like the high-minded scholar he is. It is the twentieth-century equivalent of the poet’s garret.

I was worried he would give me helpful critique, which I would have to listen to because Ravi’s judgment is unerring. Instead, after shaking hands, he leant over the table and said to me,

“I’d like to publish your essay. We could do with another review in the next issue, and it’s very sharp. But I want to be sure that you’re prepared for what might follow.”

Perhaps my parents were wrong in thinking I was clever. I hadn’t the least idea what he was talking about. [...]

Fiction: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (Part 3 of 20)

18 Jun

I’m posting a section a day of my epistolary romance novella The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo. You can read it online for free here (click on the “Perilous Life of Jade Yeo” category to access the other posts), or you can buy the ebook at Smashwords or Amazon. The ebook contains the complete 23,000-word novella.

 

Friday, 17th September 1920

I bought a cabbage at the market and had it in the broth I made from the bones of the roast chicken I lived on last week. Cabbage is a most unexciting vegetable, but I derive an unfailing pleasure from it. What I really want now, though, is winter melon soup, with pork bones. (Q: why is it called winter melon? It can’t only be grown in winter, since we had them back home in the most tropical of climes. Is it a joke?)

It was a beautiful autumn day–the city glowed in the sunlight and the skies were that truly cloudless blue you never see back home. Sunshine is so precious here, though England is sunnier than I thought it would be, having been told so often about its greyness. I think it is because the greyness is so depressing that it makes the sunshine all the more spectacular.

But it is certainly autumn. I folded my batik and plaid sarongs and put them away for the next summer, when it shall be warm enough for me to wear them again when I’m pottering or writing or sleeping. [...]

Fiction: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (Part 4 of 20)

17 Jun

I’m posting a section a day of my epistolary romance novella The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo. You can read it online for free here (click on the “Perilous Life of Jade Yeo” category to access the other posts), or you can buy the ebook at Smashwords or Amazon. The ebook contains the complete 23,000-word novella.

 

Friday, 8th October 1920

There’s too much to say about the party. I hardly even know where to start.

I started to regret accepting the invitation the minute a butler the approximate size of a mountain opened the door. He looked at me as if he were wondering why I hadn’t gone to the traders’ entrance. When I had managed to persuade him that I had been invited and was led to the drawing room, it was like being plunged into a jungle full of hornbills and parrots. It was bright and noisy and close and warm, and so horribly crowded with dashing people all of whom knew each other, and none of whom I knew.

A nice Indian servant gave me a drink (I wish I could have spoken to him). I skulked in a corner clutching it and trying as hard as I could to look inscrutable and aloof, but feeling scrutable and loof as anything.

It was one of those London townhouses that have long narrow faces on the outside but turn out to have unexpected dimensions on the inside–they go up and out forever. The rooms were large, and the furnishings were beautiful, but almost pointedly worn, just in case you thought they had been bought new. I expect Hardie’s great-grandfathers themselves obtained them in a looting on some colonial excursion. There were some very bad examples of Chinese porcelain on the mantelpiece.

The people were the sort of people whose grandparents could have had chicken every day if they had wanted it. The men were beautiful and the women looked intelligent. They were a pleasure to gaze at, pretty as a picture and as real, but the whole thing made me wish I read the papers more. At parties it is as it is with gossip: it’s not half as good if you don’t know who the players are.

One of the guests passed me her empty glass, thinking I suppose that I was a servant, and I was just wondering whether I should take it as an opportunity to make a break for the kitchen and thence outside when someone tapped me on the shoulder. [...]

Fiction: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (Part 5 of 20)

16 Jun

I’m posting a section a day of my epistolary romance novella The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo. You can read it online for free here (click on the “Perilous Life of Jade Yeo” category to access the other posts), or you can buy the ebook at Smashwords or Amazon. The ebook contains the complete 23,000-word novella.

 

Tuesday, 19th October 1920

I shouldn’t have gone. Why did I go? Curse this restless thirst for excitement! You would think living on one’s own miles from home in the most thrilling city in the world ought to be enough, but no. I’ve got to rush off to see married authors in clandestine circumstances.

Sebastian Hardie is married! I suppose I ought to have known that, but he isn’t quite posh enough to be in Debrett’s, and he certainly didn’t mention it in his letter. What a lot of nonsense he spouted about it in person–but I am getting ahead of myself.

It was a whole week before he wrote. I’d almost persuaded myself that he wouldn’t when I received the letter. It was rather warm in its sentiments, considering we’d only met the once. But I must confess something shocking: I wasn’t shocked.

The problem is that I have never had the chance to be naughty. When I was little I was too busy reading books for it to occur to me. When I was older there was never any opportunity–everybody I knew was so well-behaved, and it’s no fun being bad on your own. Now I am living on my own in London and ignoring pleas to return home, which I suppose is badness enough.

But I want a chance to be properly bad. So far all I have done as an unaccompanied maiden in London is read and write and cook. This is hardly tasting the delights of debauchery in the immoral West.

[...]

Fiction: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (Part 6 of 20)

15 Jun

I’m posting a section a day of my epistolary romance novella The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo. You can read it online for free here (click on the “Perilous Life of Jade Yeo” category to access the other posts), or you can buy the ebook at Smashwords or Amazon. The ebook contains the complete 23,000-word novella.

 

Friday, 22nd October 1920

Succour from an unexpected source. I am to go to France with Aunt Iris. The beautiful Rose and the exquisite Clarissa are staying with friends; Uncle Gerald is tied down with business; and Aunt Iris must go to Paris to see a tailor about a dress. What strange exigencies drive the rich. But Aunt Iris cannot go anywhere alone, and so she has commandeered me.

I could not in any case have refused without awkwardness, but I will be glad to go. I must be out of London, even if it means days of uninterrupted Aunt Iris. And she has promised to pay my expenses, so that will mean at least a week’s outgoings I needn’t worry about.

I had a dreadful thought yesterday. Wouldn’t it be terribly good for my career to have an affair with Sebastian Hardie? This literary high life is in a fair way to turning me into a monster of depravity.

 

East Asian girl holding a mirror

Photograph by Panorama Media/PanoramaStock/Getty Images

Smashwords | Amazon

Fiction: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (Part 7 of 20)

14 Jun

I’m posting a section a day of my epistolary romance novella The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo. You can read it online for free here (click on the “Perilous Life of Jade Yeo” category to access the other posts), or you can buy the ebook at Smashwords or Amazon. The ebook contains the complete 23,000-word novella.

 

Wednesday, 3rd November 1920

I am in Paris, the city of romance! It is a most peculiar place. You walk along gazing at the wonderful pretty buildings and their graceful wire railings to the tune of your intolerable aunt going on at you for not dressing better and not being married and not having a respectable profession etc. etc. etc. Then suddenly the scene is interrupted by the pungent stink of manure and urine, which rises out of nowhere and envelopes you. It is difficult to have the correct sentiments about the sight of the Eiffel Tower lit up at night when the smell is that of a poorly kept public toilet.

But we have had wonderful food, despite Aunt Iris’s faces at the bills. I know I say a great deal that is unConfucian and unkind about Aunt Iris, but she has never forgotten herself so far as not to appreciate good food. Today we had a sultan’s spread of a brunch: gigantic cups of milky coffee, little flaky croissants and sugared crepes, perfectly spherical roast potatoes like tiny yellow suns, crispy bacon and fat sausages and a bowl of scrambled eggs like liquid gold. (I suppose not quite a sultan’s spread, then, given the bacon and sausages.) And for dessert, yoghurt with an elegant comma of raspberry coulis in it, and skinless pink segments of grapefruit that burst juice all over your fingers when you picked them up.

The grapefruit was a novelty. It is like pomelo, only smaller, bitterer and more pink. I must see if I can bring one for Ma to try the next time I go home–whenever that is.

I have written a letter to Ravi. I saw him last Tuesday and he said he would like to hear what I thought of Paris, so he shall. I have written the letter twice and have copied it out fair once. I expect he won’t answer it, though.

 

East Asian girl holding a mirror

Photograph by Panorama Media/PanoramaStock/Getty Images

Smashwords | Amazon

Fiction: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (Part 8 of 20)

13 Jun

I’m posting a section a day of my epistolary romance novella The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo. You can read it online for free here (click on the “Perilous Life of Jade Yeo” category to access the other posts), or you can buy the ebook at Smashwords or Amazon. The ebook contains the complete 23,000-word novella.

 

Monday, 8th November 1920

Disaster: Hardie is here. I opened the newspaper this morning, thinking of looking for a cartoon and seeing if I could make out its meaning, and there in the letters section was his face staring up at me.

Blast the man! What is he doing, turning up in every corner of the world one thinks of visiting? You would think following Aunt Iris to Paris to carry her bags and watch her try on an endless series of hideous dresses would be enough to propitiate the gods. And yet here Hardie is, to give some talk or other at a loathsome Institute. The next thing I know, when I think of doing so much as sitting down on a comfortable sofa, it will turn out to be Hardie on his hands and knees, with a figured cloth and some cushions laid on him.

It is ridiculous! [...]