Jasmine in waiting

I suppose I have to return to the subject; it is the mammoth (bigger than an elephant and woolly round the edges) in the room. It’s not that nobody can see it and not that they don’t talk about it – the news is incessant – but most of the conversation is pointless or dishonest.  I refer of course to the imminent departure of the UK from the EU.  In recent weeks we have had May and her supporters (more accurately, the people who want to stay in jobs) defending the indefensible which are the “Chequers proposals” – they appear to be nonsense what I have heard or read about them. Then we have had the Brexiteers ganging up and giving us their considered opinions and declarations. Considered is in italics because their ideas are wishful-thinking pipedreams with not a single sensible sentence amongst them. However, while leaving the EU was once upon a time (yes, it was fiction) going to mean immediate riches and responsibility-free independence, now we have to look forward to decades of painful recovery from this nightmare. The leavers seem to believe that the EU owes the UK something. It doesn’t. We are leaving and causing huge disruption to the EU so why should the other 27 countries smooth the path and give the UK better terms than anyone else. Meanwhile countries and economies a lot larger than us are waging a trade war which will have consequences for everyone. An easy life ahead? I don’t think so. That mammoth is rotting and creating a big stink.

In the last week or two we have been establishing a “normal” routine in our new home; joining groups to pursue former interests and finding new ones. Being in a writers’ group has been something I have enjoyed and found rewarding for a long time. This week I attended a group that holds great promise. I was made very welcome, they showed an interest in my writings, many of the members who I spoke to are actively engaged in their own projects and, most important, they were prepared to offer constructive comment on each other’s offerings and not just pointless platitudes. They meet weekly (for morning coffee) which is another plus as it offers more opportunities for discussion and sharing of ideas.

WP_20180913_14_42_23_ProOf course, some of the new groups are meeting me in my more feminine guise. As I am increasingly mixing and matching genders rather than being simply transgender I am aware that this can cause confusion. In fact everyone I have met so far as been wonderfully welcoming and accepting, but names and pronouns are a difficulty. Now, I insist, and it is the truth, that I don’t mind what name I am called or which set of pronouns are applied. I wish that our language would move forward to provide a set of widely known non-gendered pronouns (I don’t particularly like being referred to as “it”) but I think that is a long way off when most people have so far had no cause to consider a society without gender. It’s a work in progress.

Last week I revealed the cover of Molly’s Boudoir, the 4th Jasmine Frame novel. Here is the back cover burb. Let me know what you think. Does it make you want to read the novel?

Jasmine Frame is recuperating from surgery and bored. Her daily exercises and residual soreness are holding her back from the life of a private investigator. The lack of a functional car is another problem. Nevertheless, when DI Tom Shepherd requests her help with the arson and murder at Molly’s in the quiet town of Thirsbury, she is eager to get on the case.

With help from her partner, Viv, she gets mobile and is soon delving into the weird sexual practises of the owners of Molly’s, finding that some men will go to any lengths to fulfil their urges. Jasmine knows all about urges but finds that one of hers, the need to investigate, gets her into trouble that could threaten her new womanhood.

Molly’s Boudoir is now with the lovely people who will point out the errors and omissions and transform my word-processing into a publishable form. Not long to wait now!

………………………………

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Jasmine prepares

NAWG CassAs mentioned in the last blog, I spent last weekend at the NAWG Festival of Writing at Warwick University.  Despite not winning anything, not even a raffle prize, I had a great time. The break-the-ice workshop sessions on Friday afternoon with Steve Bowkett were great and I attended excellent workshops with Simon Hill, Morgen Bailey and Ken Macleod. There were lots of other events, including the Open Mic (I did a bit on moving house), Readings (I read a bit from Cold Fire) and of course the Gala Dinner where I had the pleasure of sitting next to Ken Macleod. I haven’t read much of his work but he is a fine writer. He was a friend of Iain Banks from childhood so I enjoyed talking about one of my favourite authors.  As usual I came away on the one hand feeling that my writing needs to improve but on the other, re-invigorated and keen to move on. As always the atmosphere was inclusive and I felt no problem about being a trans (or rather genderfluid) person amongst cis-people. Actually this year I was not the only trans person (welcome Karly).

NAWG provides a great deal for both writers’ groups and individual writers. If you are in a writers’ group make sure they know about NAWG. You can view the website here

This week I joined a new writers’ group, not unfortunately one that seems to have any contact with NAWG, but an interesting group of authors nevertheless.  I look forward to hearing more of their own writing and telling them all about mine. . .

The latest Jasmine Frame short story, Negative, ended last week (you can go back and read it if you haven’t done so already) so this week I promised a bit more news about the next Jasmine novel – Molly’s Boudoir. Those of you who know about the history of gay and trans people will recognise the significance of the title. This novel is set some ten months after the 3rd novel (The Brides’ Club Murder) and actually takes place in 2013, the year that Painted Ladies was published.  Jasmine’s relationship with Viv has moved on and she is about to have her Gender Reassignment (or Confirmation) Surgery which means a lot to her. Meanwhile there is an incident at Molly’s, a shop owned by Evelyn Bunting in Thirsbury, a town a short distance from Kintbridge, Berkshire. Tom Shepherd is the investigating officer who decides that Jasmine’s help is required. Jasmine of course gets thoroughly involved in the case which takes her into areas of gender and sexuality that she is unfamiliar with.

That’s all I can say without giving too much of the plot away. Let’s say that it is a tale of mystery and action with some sexual content.

I am at the final draft stage so soon Molly’s will be going off for copyediting and preparation for publication – hopefully not long.  Here however, is the cover, once again magnificently prepared by Scott.

Layout 1
Start saving your pennies to buy the e-book or paperback version later in autumn

There will be a new story here, soon.

………………………..

Jasmine takes a leap

WP_20180803_14_21_17_Pro (2)This weekend I am at the annual NAWGfest – that is the National Association of Writers’ Groups Writing Festival at Warwick University.  It is a great opportunity to join in several workshops which are always stimulating and thought-provoking as well as meeting and socialising with people that I have got to know over the last few years. NAWG however has something of a split personality. Is it, as its title suggests, a sort of umbrella organisation for writing groups or is it an association for authors published or not.  If the latter then it overlaps somewhat with the Society of Authors, but that organisation is only for published writers. I have been a member of a number of writers’ groups but to my knowledge only one has been a member of NAWG and that one didn’t really participate in the association’s activities.  That was why I became an individual or “associate” member. There are possibly millions of people across the country who are writing, many thousands taking part in on-line or face to face writing groups but not many who take advantage of what NAWG offers, perhaps because of the cost. I find the encouragement I get from meeting other authors, engaging in activities which might not be directly related to my particular writing tasks but nevertheless develop my skills, and just talking about writing, very rewarding. I hope NAWG and its annual festival goes from strength to strength.

You may have noticed I haven’t commented on this week’s news. I am trying to blank it from my consciousness as if I think about it too much I could become very agitated and worried. I really do wonder where we will be in one year, five years, time.

So, let’s get back to fiction. We’ve reached the final episode of Negative. I hope you like the conclusion of this short story.  It fits in the small temporal gap between Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design and I doubt I will be able fit another plot into this period of Jasmine’s life. Next week I’ll say a bit more about Molly’s Boudoir, the fourth novel, and where I’m going with this blog. In the meantime, enjoy.

Negative: Part 11

Alun took a few faltering steps towards his mother who beckoned him with her hands and warm, encouraging words. Jasmine crawled along the cliff edge keeping her head down. The sirens grew louder and then blue lights appeared over the crest of the moorland. Alun froze, took a step back, then another.
Jasmine rose into a crouch, sprang. She intended a low rugby tackle but her shoulders hit Alun’s legs above his knees. He staggered. She closed her arms around his thighs as she toppled to the ground. He flexed his leg. His heel struck Jasmine’s breast. She held on. He slumped.
And rolled. Her arms were trapped under him. Her feet and ankles swung free. She could feel that there was nothing beneath them but air. Now she was holding onto Alun to save herself not to pull him down.
Hands grabbed her clothes, tugged on her, dragged her away from the edge. She spat tough grass from her mouth and looked up. Ceri’s mother was looking down at her and Alun, a uniformed police officer beside her.
‘I thought you both were going over for a moment there,’ the PC said. He dragged the passive Alun off Jasmine and helped him to his feet. Jasmine panted and pushed herself into a sitting position. To her side, inches away, was the drop, the road below out of sight, and the sea. The PC pulled Alun further from danger.
Another police officer offered a hand. Jasmine used it to pull herself up. Alun was already being taken away with his mother tagging along, crying and asking nonsense questions.
‘You okay?’ the officer that had helped Jasmine said.
‘Yeah, I think so.’ Jasmine rubbed her chest. Her false boobs had taken the brunt of Alun’s involuntary kick; her knees were a little sore from being dragged through the tough grass and bare rock; her heart was still thumping from the exertion and the terror.
‘Let me help get you back to the car,’ the officer said. Jasmine nodded and he took her arm allowing her to put some of her weight on him as they walked away from the cliff.

A few minutes later Jasmine found herself sitting on a hard, plastic seat in an interview room at the town police station. She had barely noticed where the police car was taking her when she had been shown into the rear seat and they had set off down the hill. Her thoughts had been going over those last few moments; her fear that Alun was about to throw himself off the cliff, her own narrow escape from falling; she wondered if the police understood what had happened, the reason for Alun’s flight; did they realise that Ceri had nothing to do with Tegan’s death.
The door opened and a detective walked in, a short, thin woman with lank hair. She carried a mug which she put down on the table in front of Jasmine.
‘This is for you. Sweet tea. I believe you’ve had a bit of a shock. What’s your name?’
‘Jasmine Frame.’ She looked at the pale beige liquid in the mug. A coffee perhaps was desirable but not this sugared water. ‘Thanks,’ she said, nevertheless.
The detective sat down opposite her. ‘I’m DS Huws, Glynys Huws. Sorry to put you in here. It’s not very comfy, but we need to ask you some questions. Like what was going on up there on the cliff?’
‘I thought Alun might jump,’ Jasmine said.
‘You know him then?’
‘No. I know his sister, Ceri.’
‘Ah, yes, Ceri Powell. Mrs Powell says she found you alone at her house.’
Jasmine took a deep breath and began her story. ‘I’d gone to see her, find out what was happening to Ceri. Only Alun was at home. We had a talk but he became agitated. I got knocked over as he ran out.’
‘Knocked over?’
‘Well, knocked out I think. He didn’t mean it. I cracked my head against the door. That’s how his mother, Mrs Powell found me.’
DS Huws showed concern. ‘How’s your head now?’
Jasmine felt her skull. The headache had dulled; she was hardly conscious of it amongst the other scrapes and bruises of her contribution to saving or arresting Alun.
‘OK,’ she said, ‘I don’t feel concussed.’
The detective smiled. ‘Why did Mr Powell become, er, agitated?’
‘I had got him to tell me what he did with Tegan Jones.’
‘What he did?’ The detective’s eyes widened.
‘Ceri had nothing to do with Tegan’s death.’ Jasmine explained about Tegan’s transphobic treatment of Ceri and Alun’s brotherly response. The detective listened.
‘So, Alun Powell confessed to you that he abducted Miss Jones, knocked her unconscious, took her to the top of the headland and dropped her off the cliff.’
‘No, not the last,’ Jasmine shook her head vigorously. ‘He left her on the edge. Her fall was an accident.’
‘I’m not sure the death of Tegan Jones can be called an accident.’
Jasmine shrugged. She reluctantly had to agree with the detective on that point. ‘No, not an accident, but not a deliberate act.’
‘If we corroborate your story then perhaps it will be manslaughter not murder. But how did you get involved. You’re not a local. Is it because you and Ceri Powell are both . . .’
‘Transsexual women. That’s not why I came here,’ Jasmine explained, reluctant to talk about herself. ‘We recognised what we are and became friends, but I’ve only known Ceri a few days since I met her at the hotel where she works. I came for a rest.’
‘A rest? A holiday? On your own?’
‘Yes, on my own. It was more recuperation than holiday.’
The detective examined her. ‘What do you do, Miss Frame?’
‘I’m a detective.’

Jasmine sat on the slightly more comfortable seat in the waiting area, a mug of cooling black coffee resting on her knee. Mrs Powell sat a metre from her, but they weren’t conversing. She was deep in her thoughts no doubt contemplating the future with Alun in custody, facing an appearance in court and perhaps, probably was more likely, a sentence in prison. The DI in charge of the case had allowed her to sit in while Alun was interviewed, his “learning difficulties” recognised.
Jasmine was waiting to hear that she was not required for any more questioning, but she was reluctant to leave the older woman alone, even if they weren’t talking.
A door opened and a sergeant in shirt sleeves emerged followed by Ceri. Mrs Powell leapt to her feet and embraced her daughter. Jasmine stood up and waited for an opportunity to greet her friend.
‘The DI says you can all go now,’ the sergeant said, ‘We’ll keep Mr Powell in the cells over night and give you a call in the morning when he is going to be interviewed again. Do you need a taxi?’
Ceri parted from her mother and spoke first. ‘No, I want to walk in the fresh air. It’s not far.’
The custody officer said good bye and retreated through the locked door.
Ceri stepped towards Jasmine. ‘Thank you for what you did.’
‘What did I do?’
‘Saving my brother.’
Jasmine frowned. ‘I’m afraid I haven’t saved him from the responsibility for Tegan’s death.’
‘I know, but you saved him from falling from the cliff, and he didn’t mean for Tegan to die. You said that.’
‘That’s true. I knew it wasn’t you, but I didn’t know what had happened until Alun told me.’
‘He didn’t know what he was doing,’ Ceri said.
‘He’s a child really,’ Mrs Powell added. ‘They won’t put him in prison with criminals, will they?’
‘The police will treat him as kindly as they can,’ Jasmine explained, ‘but there is the matter of justice for Tegan.’
Ceri bowed her head and looked at the floor. ‘I know. I hated the things she said to me. When they were questioning me, accusing me of killing her, I felt at first that she deserved it, but then it came to me that she was just mixed up. No one deserves to die. I wish I hadn’t complained so much about her to Alun.’ She sniffed and her mother put an arm around her.
Jasmine revealed her thoughts. ‘I don’t know why Tegan was transphobic and I don’t think her partner, Bob, understands either.’
Ceri looked at her. ‘You spoke to her? Bob?’
‘Yes, she and Tegan were obviously very much in love.’
‘She’ll want Alun put away for life,’ Ceri snivelled.
Jasmine shrugged. ‘That’s why we have courts and judges. A jury will probably conclude that Alun is guilty of manslaughter, but the judge will decide how responsible he was and what a fitting punishment really is. It’s not up to the victim’s family or supporters. Alun will be protected.’ Jasmine hoped that what she said was true.
‘Let’s go home,’ Mrs Powell said, taking Ceri in her arms. The three of them walked out of the entrance of the Police Station and commenced the short walk back to their house. The streets were empty now and the sky was dark. Jasmine looked at her watch surprised at how late it was. It was gone midnight. She said farewell to Ceri and her mother and continued towards the hotel. She got her mobile out of her bag relieved that it hadn’t been lost on the hillside and also that it was still working. There was a text she hadn’t read earlier. The Benefits Agency wanted her to start an investigation. She had a job to go home to. Her holiday was over.

THE END

Jasmine has a headache

No, I’m not going to comment on the government’s No-Deal-Brexit plans, or the guilty pleas by Trump’s former henchmen, or other news from around the world – it’s all too awful to contemplate.  Nor am I going to comment on the A level or GCSE results other than to say I am glad I no longer have to explain that the miniscule rises and falls in “pass” rates is of no significance when the goal-posts of exam systems and standards are altered at the whim of the Secretary of Education. I’d prefer to reflect on what was perhaps the first week of our new normal life in our new home.

I swung a tennis racquet for the first time in many years, didn’t feel utterly knackered afterwards and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Lou joined a gym and did some exercise classes, and I did some writing and some group talks/discussions about transgendered people. All good. So life can go on while the world seems to be in turmoil.

Oh and it’s rained a bit.

WP_20180516_13_29_08_ProSo let’s get on with Jasmine’s latest adventure. Actually, first I’ll comment that the next novel, Molly’s Boudoir, is getting close to going to press. I now have a cover (thanks Scott), which I will reveal shortly, and some favourable and helpful comments (thanks Barbara). Now I have to dig into my pocket and purse to find the coppers to pay for copyediting, formatting and the print setup. Ideas about how to market this fourth Jasmine Frame novel would be much appreciated.

We’ve reached episode 10 of Negative. The mystery has been revealed but the jeopardy isn’t over.

Negative: Part 10

‘Who are you? How did you get in here?’
The female voice penetrated Jasmine’s stupor. A hammer was banging at the inside of her skull and there was an ache in her shoulder. She shifted her position and found she was wedged against a wall. She opened her eyes. The light made her blink and squint at the woman standing over her.
She moaned. ‘Er, you must be Ceri’s mother.’
‘That’s who I am. I asked who you were.’
Jasmine shuffled so that she was sitting on the tiled floor looking up at the woman, who was dark haired and appeared to be in her forties.
‘I’m Jasmine Frame. I’m a friend of Ceri’s.’
Ceri’s mother straightened up. ‘Oh, I know. Ceri mentioned you. You’re staying at the hotel.’
Jasmine nodded but wished she hadn’t. She felt her head. There didn’t seem to be any blood or noticeable lumps.
‘That’s right. I heard that the police had taken her in and came round to see if I could help.’
‘What happened to you?’
‘It was Alun.’ Jasmine got on to her knees and using the door jamb hauled herself to her feet.
‘Alun!’ the woman raised a hand to her mouth. ‘He didn’t attack you, did he? Alun wouldn’t do that.’
Jasmine wasn’t as certain as the young man’s mother, but she wasn’t going to accuse him.
‘No, I don’t think he meant to hurt me. He was rushing out and knocked me over. I banged my head.’
The woman’s mood changed. ‘Oh, I’m sorry. Look. Do want to sit down. I’ll get you a glass of water.’ She took Jasmine’s arm and guided her into the lounge and into the chair. She went away and came back moments later with a glass of water.
‘Alun doesn’t know his own strength, and when he gets something into his head he doesn’t think.’
Jasmine took the glass from her and had a sip. The ache in her head and shoulder was subsiding now that she was sitting comfortably.
‘Why did he leave you in a hurry? Where’s he gone?’
That question was on Jasmine’s mind. She sipped the water.
‘We’d been talking about Tegan Jones.’
The mother drew in a breath. ‘The police are questioning Ceri about her. They think she had something to do with how she died.’
‘Not Ceri,’ Jasmine said, ‘But Alun did.’
‘What!’ The woman rocked on her feet as if she was going to faint. She sat down heavily on the sofa. ‘Alun wouldn’t hurt anyone. He can’t have killed that woman.’
‘Perhaps not deliberately, but as you said, he doesn’t think things through.’ Jasmine was sure that Alun’s mother was correct and not just protecting him as any mother would do. ‘He did know that Tegan had been persecuting Ceri for being transsexual and he decided to do something for his sister.’
‘What?’ she whispered.
‘He met Tegan at the hotel last night when she finished work and took her onto the headland.’
‘Took her?’
‘Well, abducted her. Knocked her out when she struggled, I think, and carried her to the cliff.’
‘No! He didn’t throw her off. Don’t say he did that.’
Jasmine stretched a hand across to the upset woman. ‘No, I don’t think he did that but he did leave her on the edge, unconscious, in the dark.’
The mother cupped her mouth and let out an anguished sob. ‘He doesn’t understand.’ She stared at Jasmine. ‘But where is he? Where did he dash off to?’
‘I don’t know. We’d been talking. He told me what he had done. I probably said that he might have caused Tegan’s death. He rushed out and knocked me over.’
‘You put the responsibility on Alun.’
‘Well, yes. I was trying to make him understand what he had done, even if he hadn’t actually killed her.’
‘You blamed him. He can’t take that. He gets worked up if he’s told off – for anything. He runs away. He can’t help it. In the past we would have said he was simple. Now they say Alun has learning difficulties. He’s just a child in many ways.’
‘I realise that,’ Jasmine felt she was being accused of driving Alun into some kind of fit.
‘He always goes up the headland when he runs out.’
‘He mentioned Tud’s Leap.’
The woman stood up. ‘That’s where he’s gone then. Oh, I do hope he’s safe.’ She rushed from the room. Jasmine followed, hurrying to keep up though the ache in her head was like a cricket ball rattling around an iron bucket.
Alun’s mother dashed through the front doorway and opened the door to the car parked at the kerb. Jasmine ran around the car and tugged at the passenger door.
‘What are you doing?’ the woman cried.
‘I’m coming too,’ Jasmine answered falling into the passenger seat. The engine started and they lurched forward. Jasmine reached for the seat belt and struggled to fit it into its slot as the car swayed around bends. The engine screamed as they started to climb the steep hill.
Jasmine dug into her bag which, miraculously, had remained around her neck. She pulled out her phone and dialled three nines.
‘What are you doing?’ the steering-wheel gripping woman asked.
‘The police. We may need them to help find Alun and they need to know that Ceri didn’t kill Tegan.’ The control centre replied and Jasmine recited the situation in as few words as she could manage.
The car turned abruptly, leaving the metalled road and joining a stony track that headed across moorland towards the open sky. Jasmine’s head hit the headlining as the car bounced and the phone flew out of her hand. The suspension complained. They came to a sudden halt and the woman dived out of the driver’s seat leaving the door open.
Jasmine unclipped herself, scrabbled around on the floor for her phone, found it and got out of the car. She staggered across the rough ground trying to catch up with the woman. Her feet caught in rabbit holes and struck outcrops of rock. She could only glance up every few paces to see where the woman was going. She paused for breath, lifted her head and saw anther figure illuminated by the setting sun behind them. It was easy to identify the figure as Alun. He as facing the sea. His mother rushed towards him.
‘Stop,’ Jasmine called, ‘don’t surprise him.’
The woman took a few more steps and stopped. She turned around as Jasmine caught her up.
‘Look, I know you know him better than I do,’ Jasmine said, ‘but if he’s upset and unsettled at realising what he might have done to Tegan he could do anything. Approach him calmly as if this is normal evening walk on the clifftops.’
The woman looked at her, considered, then turned back and slowly walked towards the standing figure.
‘Alun,’ she called in a light and jolly voice, ‘It’s getting a bit late for being up here isn’t it? Time for supper.’
Jasmine hung back. Her presence may spook the young man into another ill-considered action. She didn’t want to feel responsible for him falling to his death as Tegan had presumably done.
Alun turned to face his mother. Jasmine was close enough to see that he was standing on the very edge of the cliff. She moved sideways intending to circle around the young man and get to the clifftop herself.
‘I didn’t mean to hurt her, Mummy,’ Alun said, in the voice of a small, contrite child but with the pitch of an adult male. ‘She’d been horrid to Ceri but I didn’t want to hurt her.’
His mother stepped towards the cliff on the other side of the young man. ‘I know, love. You couldn’t help it. You thought you were helping Ceri. There’s no point being here now. Let’s go home.’
‘I put her down here,’ Alun said, facing his mother but looking down at the ground. ‘She was sleeping. I went home.’
‘Yes, love. . .’
Sirens pierced the still, evening air. Jasmine saw Alun jerk. She was alongside him now, both within a metre of the sheer drop, twenty metres between them. Jasmine dropped to her hands and knees and crept towards Alun.

………………………….to be continued.

 

Jasmine hears a tale

WP_20180803_14_21_17_Pro (2)Last weekend was spent, as I said last week, at the 9 Worlds convention at a large London hotel. It was a wonderful three days and I had a great time. I gave two talks, “Images of Trans in Fiction” and “Cavorite to Coaxium: Alchemy and Chemistry in SF&F” (unfortunately no photographs to show for it). I needn’t have been worried about having an audience. Despite the timings of my talks, the first late in the afternoon when everyone was ready for some relaxation, and the second early in the morning when most sensible people were still waking up, I had a good attendance at both. I felt the talks went well.  The first encouraged a good discussion and people laughed at the correct points in the second. The only problem was that I had misunderstood the timings of the 9 a.m. sessions and had to finish inside the hour.

For the rest of the convention my time was my own, except when I did a stint on the independent authors’ bookstall on Sunday when I actually sold a few of my books. Apart from being a celebration of SF&F in all its forms (cosplay is popular!), 9 Worlds is a paragon of diversity. People of all backgrounds – ethnicity, sexuality, gender, disability (or should I say alternative ability) – are not just welcome, they are celebrated. There were numerous other attendees who were at various points in the middle of the gender spectrum (of course it is almost impossible to be certain if someone is a fully transitioned transman or woman). The hotel staff also, were fully into the spirit of the proceedings.

The convention has strict protocols to ensure that everyone is treated as they wish. Some people don’t like to be spoken to unexpectedly and obviously one’s language must be appropriate for the diverse nature of the attendees. This has got me thinking about freedom of speech, following on from Johnson’s ruckus last week.  I hear that Rowan Atkinson has made a speech supporting “freedom of speech” and suggesting that there was nothing wrong with what Johnson said about Muslim women. I haven’t heard the speech but I have a few thoughts. Freedom of speech is a right, but it is also a responsibility. One should be able to espouse whatever views one has even if it causes offence, but that should not extend to promoting violence against any person nor to wilfully insult a person or group of people. By that measure I feel that Johnson’s piece was insulting and so irresponsible. On the other hand, to pick up the other great rumpus of the moment, I think the Israeli government’s attitude to Palestinians has for many years been racist and harmful but that doesn’t mean that I have anything other than sympathy for most Jews.  That view may offend some right-wing, anti-Palestinian Jews, but I think I am justified in holding it.

………………………….

Let’s get to the story. There’s a climax, if not a denouement, coming up in Negative, the latest Jasmine Frame prequel/sequel. Here’s part 9.

Negative: Part 9

‘Huh.’ It was a sort of response.
‘I’m a friend of Ceri’s,’ Jasmine said realising from the big youth’s dull eyes that she wasn’t going to get much chat from him.
‘She’s gone.’
‘I know.’
‘The cops took her.’
‘So I heard.’
‘She didn’t do it.’ He shook his head vigorously.
‘Didn’t do what?’ Jasmine asked to be sure they were in the same conversation.
‘Hurt Tegan, even though she was nasty to Ceri.’
‘You’re sure Ceri didn’t harm Tegan?’
‘Yeah. Ceri did nuffin.’ He said it with a firmness that suggested that he considered that Ceri could do nothing wrong.
‘That’s right.’ Jasmine was sure it was true but had no idea who else could be responsible for Tegan’s death. ‘I’d like to speak to your mother.’
He shook his head. ‘Mam’s out.’
Jasmine felt stymied. ‘Is anyone in?’
‘I am.’
‘Can I come in please?’
‘Er, I suppose so. Ceri’s friends can come in.’ He stepped back from the door allowing Jasmine to enter. She followed him into a small but tidy lounge. There was a large TV, a sofa and a couple of old but comfortable easy chairs. Alun slumped on the sofa. Jasmine sat on the edge of one of the single seats.
‘You know about Ceri’s troubles with Tegan?’ she asked as gently as possible.
The boy glowered. ‘Tegan said things to Ceri.’
‘What sort of things?’
‘She said Ceri wasn’t a girl.’
‘But you know she is.’
Alun lowered his head and spoke secretively. ‘Ceri used to be my brother but he’s a girl now. He wears boobs.’
Jasmine smiled. Like her, Ceri apparently had to boost her cleavage by wearing breast enhancers. Being Ceri’s brother didn’t stop him confusing the pronouns though. Despite Alun’s apparent support for Ceri he was obviously still confused by her transition.
‘Did Ceri tell you other things that Tegan said?’ Jasmine guessed that Tegan had not stopped at a simple denial of Ceri’s femininity.
‘Ceri said Tegan used rude words about her.’
‘You didn’t like that?’
‘Ceri was unhappy. Mam said I must look after Ceri.’
‘When did your Mam tell you that?’
‘When Ceri became a girl.’
A few years ago then. Alun, the older but simpler, brother had become Ceri’s bodyguard. Jasmine began to have fears about how far Alun’s protection had gone. The rotund but solid young man seemed placid now but what was he capable of if roused or if he felt he had to defend his sister? Jasmine stood and backed towards the door.
‘Um. Did you feel you had to defend Ceri against Tegan’s abuse?’
Alun looked up at her blankly. ‘Er?’ he said.
‘I mean, did you punish Tegan for what she said about Ceri.’
Alun nodded. ‘Tegan made Ceri unhappy. Mam said that no-one should do that.’
Alun obviously did as he was told, especially if his mother had something to say about it.
‘What did you do to Tegan, Alun?’
‘I met her when she finished work.’
Jasmine felt her skin grow cold. She was almost afraid to take her questions further.
‘At the hotel.’
‘Yeah’
‘This was last night, when Ceri was on her day off.’
Alun nodded.
It would still have been light when Tegan left the hotel. The hotel was in a quiet side road so there was a good chance that there was no-one about to witness the conversation between Alun and Tegan.
‘Did you meet her at the main entrance of the hotel?’
Alun shook his head. ‘I waited by the kitchen door like when I meet Ceri.’ Jasmine hadn’t explored the hotel fully but knew there was a driveway up the side of the hotel for deliveries and she could visualise where the kitchen was. Alun had met Tegan meeting out of sight of the road, or the hotel guests.
‘That must have been a surprise for Tegan. What did she say to you? I guess she knew who you were.’
‘She used a rude word.’
Jasmine could imagine the shock of being confronted by the large figure of Alun as Tegan left the hotel after a busy shift.
‘Did you speak to her, Alun?’
‘Yeah. I told her she had to say sorry to Ceri.’
‘Did you threaten her?
‘Threaten?’
‘Did you say you’d hurt her?’
Alun looked blank. Either he didn’t understand or couldn’t remember exactly what he’d said.
‘Tegan said some rude words about Ceri.’
‘Was that all?’
‘She said, “Go jump off a cliff.”’
Ah, Jasmine thought. Perhaps that wasn’t the most sensible thing to say to Alun.
‘What did you do, Alun?’
‘I took Tegan up to the cliffs.’
Jasmine couldn’t imagine Tegan accompanying Alun for an evening stroll.
‘Did Tegan want to go with you?’
He shook his head. ‘She punched me when I picked her up. I had to stop her doing that.’
Jasmine bit her lip. She hardly dared ask the next question.
‘How did you do that, Alun.’
He shrugged. ‘I slapped her bit.’
Jasmine looked at the large, knobbly hands that rested in Alun’s lap. Those hands could do a lot of damage.
‘That made Tegan quiet, did it?’
Alun nodded. ‘She stopped whining.’
‘So you carried her up on to the headland, did you?’
‘Yeah.’
‘Along the road?’
Alun shook his head. ‘No, the path.’
Jasmine had noticed that there were numerous footpaths climbing the steep hill. She wouldn’t have wanted to try doing it carrying the dead weight of a woman’s body, but Alun was at least twice her size. Tegan wasn’t very big. She’d be an easy load for the young man.
‘What did you do?’ she pressed.
‘We went to the Tud’s Leap.’
Jasmine shivered. She almost didn’t want to know the answer to her next question.
‘Is that overlooking the cliff, Alun?’
‘Yeah. That’s where she said to go.’
If you were really going to take a jump off a cliff, no doubt. Jasmine took a deep breath and asked, ‘What did you do with Tegan, Alun?’
He looked sad. ‘I put her down. She wouldn’t speak to me; so I went home.’
‘You left her there on the cliff top.’
Alun nodded. Jasmine’s heart beat faster
‘You said, she wouldn’t speak to you, Alun. Why was that?’
The young man shrugged. ‘She wouldn’t wake up.’
Tegan was unconscious, but perhaps not dead. Jasmine took a step towards Alun. She was eager for the answer to the important question. Perhaps too eager.
‘You said you left her on the edge of the cliff. Are you sure you didn’t kill Tegan, Alun?’
His expression darkened and he hauled himself to his feet.
‘Mam says it’s bad to kill things. Mam smacked me when I killed a bird.’
‘Yes, Alun, killing is wrong. But what about Tegan? Was she alive when you left her?’
‘She was sleeping.’
‘Sleeping or unconscious. Which was it, Alun? Was Tegan breathing when you left her.’
His body shook, the fat and muscle rippling under his loose T-shirt and jeans. Alun took a step forward. Jasmine backed into the hall.
‘I didn’t hurt Tegan.’
‘But you hit her, Alun. You carried her up the headland unconscious.’
‘Mam said look after Ceri.’
‘Yes, Alun, but your Mam told you not to kill.’
The man-boy’s lips wobbled. ‘I . . . I do what Mam says.’
‘Yes, Alun, but you may be responsible for Tegan’s death.’ Jasmine imagined what might have happened. Alun had left Tegan unconscious on the cliff edge in the twilight. The woman may have come around later, when it was dark, and confused and concussed, fallen from the cliff. She saw the image of the woman tumbling to the road below.
The blow caught her on her shoulder, slamming her head on to the doorjamb. She felt the bulk of the young man press her against the wall as she slipped into the black.

………………….to be continued.

Jasmine steps in

“If you haven’t got something kind to say, don’t say anything,” my mother used to say. At least, I think she did. It’s imprinted on me. That is why I find the statements of people like Boris Johnson offensive. There is nothing wrong with having an opinion about someone’s appearance but there is no need to make your point by making silly and rude allusions. I am of course referring to the burka scandal. Personally I have issues with all organised religions. Apart from peddling stories which are pure fiction they seem to be ways in which one group of people, usually men, can dominate and control another 20170930_130251 (2)group of people. That’s my opinion. If people want to submit to the rules and culture of a religion then it is up to them, so long as they don’t try to impose their views and rules on me. The same applies to dress. I don’t think anyone should be telling other people what they should wear.  One moment they are telling women they can’t wear the burka, next it will be that if you’re (legally)  a man, you can’t wear a dress.

I won’t use the string of comments about Mr B Johnson MP that spring readily to mind because I think that flinging insults at people just brings you down to their level. Satire is a powerful took against the likes of Trump, Johnson, Putin, Corbyn and the rest but swearing at them or calling them names is neither funny nor effective.  Anyway, the world situation is not funny, it’s deadly serious.

…………………………………

Photo from Nine Worlds 2016 by Tracy HowlThis weekend I’m at 9Worlds, the London geekfest, a wonderfully diverse and inclusive convention on science fiction, fantasy and related interests. I’m promoting my September Weekes books through the medium of a talk titled “Cavorite to Coaxium: Alchemy and Chemistry in SF&F“, and the Jasmine Frame detective novels through a talk called “Trans in Fiction“. I hope I get an audience, appreciative of course, and perhaps sell a few books. Otherwise I’m looking forward to meeting new people and having some fun.

Despite time being used to get our new home straight, and prepare my presentations, Jasmine moves on.  Here is the next (8th) episode of Negative. Jasmine’s seaside break is becoming more of a busman’s holiday.

Negative: Part 8

By the time she reached the seafront, the sun was shining and tourists were already relaxing in deck chairs. Jasmine felt uncomfortable in her damp clothes so walked back to her hotel. As she opened the door she was greeted by the proprietor. He held the door for her.
‘Ah, Miss Frame, I’m glad to have the chance to speak to you.’
Jasmine felt a little surprised at his eagerness. ‘Oh, what is it?’
‘I wanted to apologise for the business with the police this morning when you were having breakfast.’
‘That wasn’t a problem. The police officer had to do his job of investigating the circumstances of Tegan’s death, but I’m sure it was a shock for you.’
He blanched at the mention of the reason for the police visit. ‘Tegan dead, it’s incredible, and they think she was murdered!’
His rising voice told Jasmine that the hotel owner was severely affected by the revelation.
‘Did you think she might have killed herself?’ Jasmine asked calmly.
He shook his head violently. ‘Tegan commit suicide? No, I can’t imagine it. Usually she was cheerful and positive.’
‘Usually? Had she changed?’ Jasmine’s interest in the conversation increased.
He dropped his voice. ‘Well, she had been a bit sort of, off-colour recently?’
‘Off-colour? You mean she was ill?’
He shook his head and stepped closer to Jasmine. The top of his head was below Jasmine’s.
‘No, not ill. Her mood was, how should I say, morose. She was irritable at times.’
‘Do you know what caused it?’
‘Mmm, well, between you and me, I think you will understand. It was Ceri.’
Here we go, Jasmine thought, it all comes out. ‘You mean Tegan didn’t get on with Ceri.’
He nodded. ‘That’s just about it.’
‘Why?’ Jasmine pressed guessing the answer.
‘Well, um, I think it was because Ceri was transsexual.’ He blushed.
‘Tegan was a transphobe.’ There, she’d said it plainly.
The man shook as if unsure what to say. ‘Oh, I’m sure I wouldn’t go that far. Tegan must have felt uncomfortable with trans people, like Ceri and , er, . . .’
‘Me.’
‘Um, yes, perhaps, I’m sorry.’ He appeared scared that she might complain and make a fuss.
Jasmine ignored his emotion. ‘But Tegan was the head waitress. Didn’t she appoint Ceri?’
The proprietor looked nervous. ‘Ah, well, no. You see we were approaching the start of the high season and the previous waitress left suddenly. Tegan was taking a few days off before we got busy. Ceri came along looking for a job, so Wayne interviewed her and suggested I appoint her to start immediately.’
‘Wayne?’
‘My Chef.’
Jasmine had only had glimpses of the coloured man running the kitchen. He never appeared amongst the guests. Either he was modest or uninterested in their opinions
‘So Tegan returns from her break to find a trans girl working under her.’
He nodded.
‘I don’t suppose you knew she was transphobic.’
‘No, of course not. It never occurred to me before, after all . . .’
‘Tegan is a lesbian.’
‘Er, that’s right.’
‘But Tegan let her feelings affect her relationship with her junior colleague and her guests.’
He nodded reluctantly. ‘She complained about Ceri a few times; said she was rude and insubordinate, but the guests were completely happy with Ceri’s work. I couldn’t just sack Ceri because Tegan didn’t like her.’
‘No, of course not, especially as Ceri knows her rights. Discrimination against a transitioning transsexual person is illegal.’
His face turned even paler. ‘Er, yes. I suppose you know about these things.’
Jasmine nodded. ‘So, Tegan’s mood got worse.’
‘Yes, but what has it got to do with her death, if she was murdered?’
‘I don’t know,’ Jasmine replied truthfully, ‘but unless Tegan was a random target for an attack, it seems to be the only thing that has changed in her life recently.’
‘And it doesn’t explain what she was doing on the headland last night.’
‘That is true.’ Jasmine was a mystified as the proprietor. He seemed to accept that their intimate conversation had ended. He stepped away from her.
‘I hope this upset hasn’t affected your holiday, Miss Frame.’
‘Not at all. I’m enjoying it.’
Jasmine headed up the stairs to her room. She stripped off her damp clothes and having pulled on clean knickers and a bra, lay on the bed checking her phone. She was still unfamiliar with her new smart phone but had managed to get it to download her emails. She found she had just one, from the Benefits Agency. She read it eagerly. It informed her that she had been accepted as a freelance benefit-fraud investigator. She felt elated. At last, her future as a private investigator looked brighter. She didn’t expect the cases to be interesting but at least they would provide a steady income, more reliable than the irregular requests to follow errant husbands or wives. She dressed and decided to celebrate with an ice cream on the sea front.

Jasmine was feeling hungry by the start of the evening dinner service. Just a couple of other guests had beaten her to the dining room. Jasmine sat at her table for one and looked around. Myfanwy bustled out of the kitchen. She appeared hot and bothered as she approached Jasmine.
‘Hello Myfanwy. It’s lucky that the hotel was able to call on you to take Tegan’s place.’
A frown had replaced the woman’s usual jolly smile.
‘I was very happy to fill in for poor Tegan, but I wasn’t expecting to be on my own.’
‘On your own? Where’s Ceri?’
‘No idea. She hasn’t turned up. There’s almost a full house tonight and it looks like I’m on my own.’
‘Is she ill?’
Myfanwy shrugged. ‘I don’t know. No-one has told me anything. What would you like for dinner, love?’
Jasmine gave her order, keeping it to a simple main course. The woman hurried off. The room was beginning to fill with hungry holidaymakers.
Jasmine ate quickly but had no further conversation with the waitress as she rushed around trying to keep every table satisfied. She folded her napkin and left the dining room. In the entrance hall the proprietor was standing behind the reception desk.
‘Ceri hasn’t turned up for her shift,’ Jasmine said.
The man looked at her with eyes wide. ‘I know. I’ve just had a phone call from her mother. The police have taken Ceri in for questioning.’
‘She’s been arrested?’
‘That’s what her mother said. She’s been arrested on suspicion of the murder of Tegan.’
‘That’s ridiculous.’ Jasmine thoughts whirled. What evidence could the police have to link Ceri to Tegan’s death? Did they know about the feud between Ceri and Tegan?
‘I have to see Ceri’s mother. I am sure she needs someone to reassure her that it doesn’t mean that Ceri will be charged.’
‘You know about those things?’
‘I was a police officer,’ Jasmine said, surprising herself that she was able to say the words without emotion.
‘Oh, I suppose you would, then.’
‘Can you give me Ceri’s home address, please. I’ll call round there now.’
‘Yes, of course.’ He drew a slim notebook from under the desk and turned the pages. He showed the book to Jasmine. ‘Here you are.’
Jasmine noted the address on her phone, thanked the proprietor and returned to her room to grab a light jacket and the map of the town.

It was only a few hundred yards from the hotel and seafront to the rows of terraced houses where permanent inhabitants of the seaside town lived. Jasmine walked along the street looking at front doors till she matched one with the address on her phone. She pushed the gate open and stepped into the small but neat front garden. She pressed the door bell and waited.
The door was opened by a burly young man with short dark hair. He looked at Jasmine with unblinking eyes and a blank expression. He didn’t greet Jasmine. She decided she had to open the conversation.
‘Hello. Are you Alun?’

………………………..to be continued.

Jasmine asks questions

WP_20180803_14_21_17_Pro (2)For the last week we have been settling into our new home. There’s been a lot to do – unpacking, setting up new pieces of furniture, even some decorating (not my favourite job).  I was appalled by the amount of cardboard waste we generated but at least we have delivered it all to the recycling centre.  The polystyrene and polythene sheet was another matter – surely they can be recycled, the polythene especially, but apparently not.

We know no-one here although we have said hello to some of our neighbours but it has been pleasant just getting on with our own thing. Political issues have not been at the forefront of my mind although the pieces I have read have not eased my fears for the future. Nevertheless we are looking forward to getting familiar with our new home and meeting people.

Next weekend I will be at the 9Worlds convention in London otherwise known as the London Geekfest. It’s turned out I’m doing two talks, the first on creating positive trans figures in fiction, i.e. Jasmine, although I hope to widen out my talk into a discussion with the audience.  My second talk is about alchemy and chemistry in SF and fantasy or “Cavorite to Coaxium – super-materials in SF&F” which will, of course, include a plug for my September Weekes books. I seem to have drawn the short straw with the timings though – 5 p.m. on Friday for the former and 9 a.m. on Saturday for the latter. We’ll have to see if there is an audience.

Thanks to getting our home somewhat straight, I have at last been able to get back to some writing and have written the next episode of Negative, the Jasmine Frame prequel/sequel that fits in the short period of time between Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design. We’ve reached episode 7 and Jasmine is, at last, starting to investigate. . .

Negative: Part 7

‘You were close to her,’ Jasmine said as empathically as she could manage, ‘I’m sorry.’
The woman looked at her. ‘Thank you.’ There was a hint of a sob in her voice.
‘Do you know what happened here?’ Jasmine persisted. ‘Was she in a car accident?’
The woman shook her head. ‘I don’t know. The police won’t say; not yet.’ She turned and glanced up at the mist-shrouded cliff. ‘They say she could have fallen instead of being hit by a car. They’re waiting for the pathologist to tell them how she died.’
‘Oh, that’s awful.’ Jasmine was trying to think of comforting things to say but struggling. The eagerness to find out the facts, whatever they were, overrode her feelings of sympathy. ‘It was last night wasn’t it? What was she doing out here then?’
The woman looked at her with a face filled with anguish. ‘I’ve no idea. There was no reason for her to be here. She should have been home with me after work.’
‘After work?’ Jasmine said innocently. Of course, she knew Tegan’s work, or presumed she did.
‘Tegan worked in a hotel. Head waiter. She should have come home when dinner was finished. She usually got in by nine-thirty. She didn’t last night.’
‘You must have been worried.’
Her face creased up. Jasmine was afraid she was going to burst into tears. ‘When it got past ten, I was worried. I waited another hour then rang the police.’
‘Oh, did they start looking for her?’ Jasmine thought she knew what the answer would be.
‘No. They said some things which were supposed to reassure me and told me to ring again later if she hadn’t turned up. As if Tegan would go off for a night without telling me!’
‘They might have started searching sooner if they thought that your partner was suicidal.’
‘Suicide!’ The woman looked horrified.
Jasmine shrugged. ‘She wasn’t then?’
‘No, no, not Tegan. Okay, she wasn’t really happy at work, but it wasn’t so bad that she wanted to end her life. I’m sure of it.’
The mention of work increased Jasmine’s interest. ‘What was wrong at work?’
‘A new waitress. Tegan didn’t get on with her.’
She must mean Ceri, Jasmine thought. Apart from the bubbly Myfanwy who only worked two days, there was only Ceri working with Tegan.
‘Did she tell you why they didn’t get on?’
There was a small shake of her head. ‘Tegan said she was rude to her and didn’t do what she was asked to do. It was strange because she usually got along with everyone.’
That wasn’t Jasmine’s impression, but perhaps Tegan’s issues with Ceri affected her manner with guests. Or perhaps it was simply that Tegan didn’t get on with trans women.
Jasmine backpedalled in the tale. ‘So, did the police find her here?’
The woman shook her head vigorously. ‘No, that was a jogger. I don’t know who it was but they called the police and ambulance. It was too late to save her though. She was already dead. Someone at the police station remembered my call and they got me to look at . . . her.’ This time there was a sob. Jasmine reached out a hand and touched the woman’s arm gently.
‘I really am sorry. I shouldn’t have disturbed you. It’s a very sad time for you.’
‘No, no, talking about her, Tegan, about what’s happened, helps. It seemed unreal, a dream but now I know it’s something I have to deal with.’ The woman looked into Jasmine’s face. ‘Who are you?’
‘My name’s Jasmine, Jasmine Frame.’
‘I haven’t seen you before. Do you live here?’
‘No, I’m a visitor. I was out for a walk. Fresh air with added water.’ Jasmine was lying; she was out in the rain because she was eager to find out what had happened to Tegan.
‘Ah, I see. Well, thank you for stopping to talk.’
‘What’s your name? You told me your partner was Tegan.’
‘I’m sorry, I should have said. You told me your name. I’m Bob, short for Roberta.’
The rain became harder. Both women shrank into their jackets.
‘Look, I’d better go,’ Bob said, ‘that policeman has been waiting patiently for me to finish.’
Jasmine looked at the police car. Through the rain-spattered windows she could see the police officer watching them.
‘He brought you here, did he?’ Jasmine asked.
‘I wanted to see where she’d been, er, found. He offered to drive me up here. It’s such a lonely spot. Thank you again.’ Bob crossed the road to the police car. The officer leaned over and pushed the passenger door open. Bob got in and they drove off towards the town.
Jasmine pulled her jacket tight around her, not that it was stopping her getting soaked. The police car was out of sight almost as soon as it set off. Jasmine crossed the road to the cordoned off area, stepped over the tape and crouched down to the look at the bouquet. There was a sodden card stapled to the clear plastic. The ink was running but the words were still just legible. They read, “For my love, Bob”.
Jasmine surveyed the tarmac and the narrow strip of gravel between the road and the cliff. There was nothing to draw her attention, but she didn’t expect to find anything. Forensics would have done a thorough investigation and taken away any objects of interest. What was missing was interesting though. Even though the rain had washed away blood and other water-soluble bodily fluids spilled onto the roadway, some marks might have been expected to remain since the time of Tegan’s death. Tyre marks for instance. Jasmine paced up and down the crime scene, then stepped over the tape and walked in both directions along the road. There were no traces of any skidmarks. It wasn’t conclusive. The water on the road could have washed away the greasy rubber if it had been there, but surely some would remain to be observed by a detective’s practised eye.
So, Tegan wasn’t hit by a vehicle slamming on its brakes. Either it was a hit-and-run where the driver didn’t pause or slow at all, or Tegan wasn’t killed by the impact with a vehicle. Perhaps she had fallen from the cliff above. Jasmine gazed upwards. The rain was easing and the cloud breaking up. Visibility was improving. She couldn’t see the clifftop, but it was a long way up. A fall from that height would most likely be fatal. Tegan’s injuries would confirm whether she was killed by a fall or collision.
She began to retrace her steps back into the town. Tegan’s death was a mystery. Why hadn’t she returned home to her partner, Bob, when her shift at dinner ended? What was she doing either here on the road or up above, if indeed she got here under her own volition? And why was her relationship with Ceri so fraught if Bob’s opinion of her being a warm, loving person was correct?
Jasmine pondered as she trudged along the road, the sun beginning to warm her and dry her sodden clothes.

……………………to be continued