I had a lovely time last weekend at NAWGfest16. Warwick University was, as usual, a building site (will it ever stop growing?) but the bedrooms, the food and the conference venues were all pretty satisfactory. That is, except for the Rootes building where the meals, including the conference dinner, were held. It has just about the worst acoustics of any building I know. The noise from conversations builds up until you can barely hear the person next to you speaking. But enough of grumbles. The best thing was winning a trophy – yes, me; for writing. My entry in the Minitale competition was judeged “Best Tale”! Now, I know the other awards are for longer, more developed pieces and the winners probably deserve more congratulation, but the Minitale is a bit special as it is judged on the day of the awards and entries can be made up till 2:30 on the Saturday afternoon. Oh, and entries are made under a pseudonym (I won’t tell you mine in case I want to use it again, not that it was particularly original). Writing a minitale is not a complete doddle as it has to be exactly 100 words long and needs to be a complete story, not just a scene. I don’t know how many were entered but it’s usually 30 or so and there were 4 in the shortlist. Here is my winning piece.
The children pressed around him. “Tell us about when the aliens came, Grandad.”
He sighed and settled in his old chair. Few were left that recalled the event.
“Listen,” he said. “Their great spaceships landed across the world. The aliens spoke to every one of us. ‘Let us give you solutions to your problems,’ they said, ‘Food, energy, medicines, repair the climate; a better future for everyone.’ But the people replied, ‘We don’t want orange strangers among us. We want independence.’ The aliens departed not wanting to impose their assistance.”
A small girl whispered. “Is that when the dying began?”
There, you may not think much of it but I’m proud of my win. I also won a prize in the draw as well so it was a profitable weekend. The workshops and the talks were enlightening and the company very accepting and pleasant.
For those of you who might want to join us next year, NAWG is the National Association of Writers’ Groups to which you can belong as a member of a participating writers’ group or as an individual, “associate”, member (which I am). You can find out more at http://www.nawg.co.uk/
One thing I didn’t do at NAWGfest was resolve what to do with the 3rd Jasmine Frame novel. Trawling agents was one suggestion but many of the writers are into self-publishing (often with more marketing success than me) so that remains a popular and likely option. Anyway, for now, here is the next part of the prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design.
Perspective: Part 6
The look the barman gave Jasmine made her wonder if she’d aroused his suspicions. ‘How do you know you’d recognise your mates when they’re done up in drag?’
‘Well. . .’ she began trying to think of an explanation. At the edge of her vision she saw the entrance door open and a familiar figure enter. The woman strode to the bar brandishing a card holder.
‘I’d like to see the proprietor or the manager, please,’ DS Denise Palmerston said in a voice that demanded obedience.
The barman turned from Jasmine. ‘That’ll be me. Can I finish serving this customer first?’
Jasmine saw Palmerston glance at her, then take a long, second look.
‘Frame! What are you doing here?’
Jasmine pointed to the two glasses sitting on the bar as yet unpaid for. ‘Having a drink with Angela,’ she said.
The DS’s eyes narrowed and her complexion appeared pink even in the dim light in front of the bar.
‘I said, what are you doing here?
‘It’s an LGBT friendly establishment. I feel safe here.’ Jasmine tried the explanation knowing that she wasn’t going to fool Palmerston.
‘You know these premises are implicated in a serious crime. You are suspended, therefore you have no business in going near this or any other place connected to the incident.’
‘I was just . . .’
‘Get out now or I will arrest you for interfering in a police investigation.’ Palmerston ended on a high pitched shriek.
Angela appeared at Jasmine’s side.
‘What’s happening, Jas?’
‘DS Palmerston is insisting that we leave, Ange. I think we should be allowed to enjoy our drink together.’
‘I won’t give you another warning, DC Frame,’ Palmerston said, ‘If you ever want to work as a police officer again, you’d better do as I say, now.’
‘Come on, Jas,’ Angela took Jasmine’s arm and dragged her towards the door, ‘You don’t want any trouble.’
‘Hey, what about paying for these drinks,’ the barman called.
‘Speak to her,’ Jasmine nodded towards the Detective Sergeant as Angela pushed her through the swing door.
The cold air was a shock. Jasmine shivered and pulled on her jacket. A tall figure was standing by the entrance. He saw her at the same moment as she noticed him.
‘Jas! What are you doing here?’
‘Palmerston’s just asked me that, Tom.’
‘I could say that Angela and I came for a drink to cheer me up after my suspension.’
‘But that wouldn’t be the full story would it?’
Jasmine shrugged, ‘Well, I did think I might find out something about the two queens who allegedly attacked Wizzer.’
‘The two drag queens that CCTV picked up walking down Dock Lane at one-oh-ten, last night.’
‘You went through the footage then.’ That should have been her job not that it was one that she wanted. ‘Why is Palmerston dishing out orders inside then?’
‘The picture quality is so poor there’s no chance of getting an identification. Palmerston thinks that as they almost certainly came from here, there may be CCTV from inside which is better. We need to find out who those guys were.’
Jasmine frowned. ‘Hopkins and Kingston were here earlier. Didn’t they ask for the CCTV discs?’
‘No, but it wasn’t till your friend Nate mentioned the two drag queens that we knew who we were looking for.’
‘So you’re accepting his story about him and Wizzer being attacked by two guys in high heels?’
‘Why not? He and the dead boy are the victims. Palmerston believes his statement.’
Angela tugged on Jasmine’s arm. ‘We’d better go otherwise you’ll get Tom into trouble.’ Jasmine allowed herself to pulled away.
‘I won’t let that woman push me out,’ Jasmine cried into the November drizzle.
‘Don’t annoy her then, Jas,’ Tom replied.
Angela and Jasmine returned to the car.
‘Well!’ Angela said, gripping the steering wheel, ‘that was a pleasant chat, not. Where now, ace detective? Any other crime scenes to drop in on.’
Jasmine slumped. ‘If I can’t trace those queens, there’s nothing I can do. Mind you Palmerston is going to have fun even if there is footage of the two leaving the pub. With all the queens there last night, effectively in disguise, picking them out let alone identifying them will be difficult.’
‘Kintbridge is a small town, Jas. Surely most of the gay men know each other.’
‘Perhaps.’ Jasmine didn’t want Palmerston to succeed; she burned with hate at the woman who was denying her the right to do her job, but she knew that it was only a matter of time before the two queens would be sitting in an interview room.
Angela tried to soothe her. ‘Well, I’m still thirsty. Let’s go home and have a drink,’
‘Home? I haven’t got anything.’
‘Sorry, I meant my home.’
Jasmine was surprised by a tear forming in her eye. ‘Our home.’
‘I’m sorry, Jas. I didn’t mean to upset you.’
Jasmine wiped the tear away. ‘I shouldn’t be. It’s all yours now, or will be very soon. It’s not ours anymore.’
‘I shouldn’t have suggested it. Where else can we go? Another pub?’
‘No, your place will be fine,’ Jasmine said, making an attempt to smile, ‘I’ve got to get used to us not being a couple, your house not being my home. It was because of me that we split up.’
Angela started the engine and drove away from the car park. A few minutes later they pulled up in the familiar driveway. With its lights on the house looked cosy and inviting. Jasmine got out and stood by the front door for Angela to unlock the front door. Jasmine followed her into the hallway and stepped into the lounge. The warmth was like a comfortable cardigan. This had been home. Jasmine sat down in her accustomed place on the sofa.
‘White wine? I don’t think I have soda,’ Angela called from the kitchen.
Jasmine undid the zips of her boots and tugged them off. She tucked her legs up onto the sofa as Angela came into the room.
‘You’re not going to be able to drive me home after knocking that back,’ Jasmine said eyeing the two large glasses in Angela’s hands.
‘That’s OK. You could stay the night,’ Angela said, and added, ‘Don’t worry, it won’t jeopardise our quickie divorce if we sleep in separate rooms. The spare bed is made up.’
Jasmine didn’t want to offer any more arguments. She took the glass that Angela held out to her and swallowed a large mouthful of dry, white wine.
‘So the case,’ Angela said settling down beside Jasmine, ‘I get the feeling that you have doubts about the guilt of these two drag queens that Denise is chasing.’