Jasmine in preparation

It’s been one of those weeks; a little bit of this a little bit of that, but I have made progress. The editing of the collection of Jasmine Frame stories is almost complete although I am still unsure about the title, Jasmine Frame: Training for Murder.  All the stories are from the period at the start of James/Jasmine’s police career. I am still thinking about better ideas.

20170930_130307I did have a bit of a down at one point with news that sales of my books are pretty slow. That could be my fault – I’m not doing enough to promote them – but I’m not sure what more there is to do on a limited budget. On the other hand I get an email asking for news of the next Jasmine Frame novel.  So I press on.

I note that the media obsession  with trans matters continues with a new series on ITV called Transformations.  It follows people undergoing transition.  I haven’t seen it yet but will comment more when I have. I’m about to do a few talks myself about being trans including the legal and medical aspects. The problem, or perhaps it isn’t a problem, is that everyone is different and that there are so many forms of transgenderism or gender fluidity.  It will be an interesting experience.

So with one thing and another I haven’t yet started the new Jasmine story. Next week?  As a substitute, here again is something I wrote earlier. It is also a piece I wrote for one of the writing groups I attend. I think the task was to write a letter of complaint. In fact I have added the reply too. It was an attempt at satire, not perfect which is why I have not bothered to find a home for it or sent it to any competitions but you can enjoy it or otherwise tear it to pieces.

The Devil’s Redundancy

Dear Lord and Master of All,
I am writing to complain about the redundancy notice I have been sent by your office. I would like to remind you of the contract I received when I accepted this posting outside Paradise. I draw your attention to the term ‘eternity’. Yes, I am appointed to run the underworld for eternity. Further my job description says I am to punish sinners for time without end. You can’t just rip up a contract like that just because you’re omnipotent, after what I’ve done for, what is it now, six thousand years.
You say the reason for my getting fired – that’s a good word isn’t it for the one who has been stoking the fires with a little help from my demons – is because I have been failing in my duty of tempting the good souls to whom you have given the Earth and all the living things within it. Well, I have some reasons for that.
First of all it is a question of numbers. Heaven may be infinite in size but the Earth isn’t, so there is only so much room in the underworld to accommodate all the sinners, allowing space for the punishments you insisted that I provide. The problem is that you let these humans proliferate so that I now have over seven billion of them to deal with at once, and that’s just the living. If you hadn’t made fornication so pleasurable for them I’m sure they wouldn’t breed so fast. So, with so many people to tempt it’s as much as I can do to get round each of them during their lifetimes as well as the time spent preparing new chambers of hell.
The second problem has been an energy crisis. When there are potentially so many candidates for burning there is a need to provide fuel. Now you designed the laws of thermodynamics so you know that when you use energy some always gets lost and heats up the surroundings. I’m afraid that’s been happening and the Earth has been warming up a bit. Well, with increasing numbers the temperature has been rising faster. I can’t keep hiding global warming behind their use of fossil fuels, which you kindly provided, for much longer.
Finally, the place has been filling up at a faster rate than I can manage without me tempting them to excess. I know you’ll say that is why I’m redundant. I’m not needed anymore to trick these folks into vices as they do it for themselves, but do you really expect this place to run by itself or are you expecting volunteers to step in and run your Big Purgatory.
You see you really shouldn’t have given them free will. It’s because of that they’ve found ways to sin that you, for all your omniscience, never thought of. For a start, why did you give them seven deadly sins to work at, when they’d have done well enough with two or three. The trouble started when you made gold not only a pretty metal but rare too. In the early days it was only a few of them who fell for the envy and greed thing as they built up their stocks of the stuff and then added the lust, gluttony and pride for good measure – people like old King Midas; he sends his regards by the way. Now they don’t need to actually own the metal to get into the vices. For a while they collected bits of paper but now figures in their fancy computers do the job very nicely. And then you went and gave a few of them ingenuity so that the rest can satisfy their basic desires while slumped in front of the TV, building up their sloth coefficient. They’ve even found new ways of encouraging vices with inventions such as internet porn, fast food and reality TV shows – which make me pretty wrathful, I can tell you.
I think that instead of putting me out to grass you should be getting round to that Armageddon thing you’ve been talking about for eons. Let’s give the whole place a re-boot and re-think the human race.

Yours faithfully,
P.S. Give my love to the kids.


My dear Lucifer,
Thank you for your letter. I do think it quaint that you still use such outmoded forms of communication. I find email so much more in keeping with my status of omniscience because, of course, it is never lost but always stored in the perambulations of electrons. I can access it anywhere in my universe thanks to the free dongle that came with my package.
I knew that being made redundant would upset you and I want you to know that I empathise with your feelings. I do want to thank you for all the efforts you have made to punish those creatures that I allowed to stray from the paths of righteousness. The truth is that I have decided on a little reorganisation up here.
When I created this place I decided on a multi-faceted presence which allowed my people to interpret my existence in a number of different ways. This produced effects that were not quite as predicted. Not of course that I am giving up my claim on infallibility, it is just that these people have followed a path that was not one of high probability. That was one of the results of allowing them a semblance of free-will. The problem is that instead of uniting in praise of me they have divided up into more and more denominations, each at each other’s throats, so that they have called into question my forgiving and all-embracing love. It has got so bad that a sizeable proportion have even given up believing in me. I am sure that you appreciate that that is not a good state of affairs for an all-powerful being.
Anyway to cut to the chase, as some of them say, I have decided on a universe-wide reorganisation programme. I am going to amalgamate the various divisions of paradise and terminate the various brand-names by which I have been known. It is time for a re-launch with a brand new face of God. So there will be, as you suggest, an Armageddon of sorts. However, it is such a fag having to re-build a whole universe and come up with all those little clues that suggest that everything has been around a lot longer than it actually has – do you know how long it took for me to come up with all the dinosaurs last time? Yes, I know time means nothing to me but someone has to think of these things. Anyway I’ve decided on a species-selective form of the final curtain and these humans I created gave me the idea themselves, isn’t that smart. They’ve already had a few goes themselves but this is going to be the grand-daddy of all economic collapses. I’ve hardly had to do anything at all really, just a few nudges of this corporation or that, a few insider dealings here or there. At the appointed moment their whole financial system will collapse and they’ll be back where they started, a bunch of stone wielding, hunters and gatherers ready to look around them and see me in everything.
I know what you are going to say – where does hell fit into all this? Well actually it doesn’t. I’ve decided on a rationalisation process that means that you and your dominion are surplus to requirements. It’s quite clever really in that I’m bringing punishments for sins back in house. They’ve brought it on themselves really. Once civilisation has gone there’ll be enough radioactive waste, nerve gases, incurable diseases to say nothing of environmental degradation brought on by their profligate use of all the resources I gave them, that there will be plenty of ways to make their existence miserable. And the good thing is that I won’t even have to provide for the pure and faultless souls because there aren’t any. Every last one of them has fallen for at least one of those seven vices you mention, plus a few extra ones that they invented for themselves.
So there we are Lucifer, old fellow. I’m sure you will get over your disappointment and will enjoy your retirement – for eternity, of course. I’ll make sure your needs are provided for, perhaps a little heritage-hell for old times’ sake and I am sure the new arrangements will keep you amused even as a spectator.

Yours truly,
The Almighty One



Jasmine plans

We’ve survived a week of 2018. Actually, it was more of the same and I’m trying my best not to get worked up at the foolish things said and done by people who are supposed to be leaders or despondent at the state of the world. So, let’s be more personal shall we.

I’m not one for making new year resolutions.  I have done it and some times kept some of them for a while but I think having goals, as some other writers have suggested, is a good idea.  So I’ve made a to-do list. It’s not complete and I’m not going to divulge it here and now. I will say though that there are quite a few writing objectives on it – plenty of ideas to be realised!


Tea in Debenhams

Jasmine Frame, of course, features amongst them but I’m not starting a new story this week. I have now written three novels with the fourth nearly finished (the first, draft anyway), and thirteen novella/short story prequels. Two of the prequels have already been made available as e-books and I am putting together an anthology containing four of the stories. The prequels cover the period from 2000 to 2012 when James/Jasmine went from a 17 -year old, unsure about his/her gender and future, to a 29 year-old transitioning transwoman working as a private detective. Not surprisingly, during many of the intervening years, James was a policeman. I’ve ended up doing something I never intended doing which is writing stories where the protagonist is a police officer. I don’t want to write police-procedurals, but I will have to continue doing this. I do have some ideas for the next story but it needs a bit of work – hence the delay.

Another aspect of my to-do list is promoting my writing, September as well as Jasmine. I’ve been to a number of marketing workshops and read plenty of guides but I haven’t found the magic formula necessary for getting noticed. Perhaps I’m not trying hard enough (particularly at the social media interaction – but I hate it) or maybe there are opportunities out there I’ve missed. Anyway, let it be known that I am available for talks/workshops with groups, festivals, bookfairs, indeed, any event where I can present my writings with or without a talk about them and/or me and my experiences.

In lieu of a Jasmine story here is a short piece I wrote a while ago for one of my writing groups. I think it was an exercise but I have no idea of what. Perhaps a character study.

Garden Party

“Canapè, sir?”
“What? Is it going to rain?” Billy looked up at the clear blue sky mystified.
There was a drawn out sigh, “I said, canapé, sir.”
Billy noticed the bow-tie wearing waiter was holding a tray of doll’s house sized burgers in buns.
“Oh, you mean, these. I thought you meant….” Billy nodded towards the marquee occupying the centre of the immaculately trimmed lawn.
“Yes, sir, I know sir. I was referring to these bite sized organic rare steaks of Aberdeen Angus beef in an organic whole-meal sesame seed bun.”
“Sounds more than they look,” Billy said reaching for a handful.
“One normally eats one at a time, sir.” Billy released the three that were in his left hand but retained the two he was raising to his mouth with his right.
“Oh, of course, got to make them go round, I see.”
The waiter sighed again and slid off to a quartet of which the two middle-aged men looked as though they were dressed for a day’s sailing and the two mature women wore brightly coloured cocktail dresses.
Billy looked around. Across the lawn between the marquee, swimming pool and the large ivy-clad house were clusters of people similarly dressed. Billy didn’t notice them, his eyes had located the waitress carrying a tray of tall glasses emerging from the very large tent. Billy hurried to intercept her.
He skidded to a halt, causing the glasses to rattle as she also stopped suddenly in order to prevent a collision.
“That’s lucky,” Billy said.
“What’s that, sir?” the girl said staring at him.
“I can help you with that heavy tray.”
“It’s alright sir, I was taking it around the guests.”
“Oh, in that case, I’ll just take a couple.” Billy lifted two glasses of the pale bubbly liquid from the tray. The girl wrinkled her nose and looked sideways at him then marched off to a group of twenty-somethings in chinos and striped shirts or frilly mini-dresses depending on their gender.
Billy took a sip of the drink. Champagne? It could have been Babycham for all he knew, but it tasted as though it had alcohol in it so he was happy. He was about to go in search of more of the mini-foods when a voice in his left ear assaulted him.
“Who are you then?”
Billy turned to see a large, moustache wielding, ancient in a school tie and striped blazer leaning on a shooting stick.
“Oh, hi, uh, I’m with, um,” Billy searched for a name, “Fiona.”
“Fiona? Fiona?” the florid face looked blank, “Oh, Algernon’s lass. There she is now,” He raised the stick and pointed it to a pair of young women not ten metres away.
“That’s right, I’d better get this drink to her.”
“But she’s already got one,”
“Oh, that’ll soon be gone. You know Fiona.”
“What, oh, yes. Got to keep the filly lubricated, what.” The old duffer chortled and Billy made his escape, straight towards the pair of girls.
“Hi, Fiona,” Billy said over the girl’s shoulder. The girl turned to face him. He fell in love. Her round pale face, large blue eyes, and shiny black hair tied in a pig tail, enraptured him.
“Who are you?”
“I brought you a drink.”
“I’ve got one.”
“I thought you might like another.”
Fiona looked at the dregs in her glass, and smiled. To Billy it was as if the day had been dull and the Sun had just come out.
“Well thank you. Who did you say you were?”
“Billy? I don’t think I know a Billy. Do you, Hettie?” She turned to her companion, a tall blonde with a wide face.
“No. There aren’t any cousins called Billy, are there?”
“No, you must be a friend of the family.” The girls nodded, convinced they had solved the mystery.
“Yeh, that’s right.” Billy agreed. Fiona took the glass from his left hand and sipped the champagne. She examined him closely.
“Oh, I do like your jeans and T-shirt. Those rips are so in, aren’t they and those streaks of colour. Well, they look almost as if you really had been painting the house.” They giggled at the joke.
“Everyone else looks so boring,” Fiona continued, “look at them all.”
“Your uncle and aunt’s invitation did say it was a Garden Party,” Hettie sniffed and smoothed the pleats in her crimson silk dress.
“Well I think it’s great that someone has decided to be different and rebel a little.” Fiona grasped Billy’s arm, “Why haven’t I met you before since you’re a friend of the family?”
“Oh, I’ve been, um, away for a while.”
“Yeh, there was a bit in between…”
“I’m going to South America on mine. Hettie’s coming too.” Hettie nodded.
“Let’s go and find some more finger-food,” Fiona went on.
After a shot glass of gaspacho, a minute triangle of bread with a spot of patè de frois gras, and a biscuit with a single prawn, Billy was feeling in need of something more substantial.
“When will they serve the real food?” he asked.
“Real food?” Fiona giggled
“Yeh, proper sized portions.”
“Oh, you won’t get any of that this afternoon. As Hettie said; it’s a garden party.”
“Really, I think I need something more. It takes more energy chasing around trying to catch the waiters than you get from these mini-bites.”
“Oh, you are funny. Look there’s Aunt Deborah. I’m sure she’d like to say hello.”
A horsy woman in a tweed skirt was striding across the lawn from the house.
“No, she looks busy,” Billy tried to tug Fiona in a direction perpendicular to Aunt Deborah’s determinedly straight path.
“She’s coming straight towards us. Hello Aunt Deborah,”
“What’s he doing here?” Aunt Deborah pointed a finger at Billy.
“That’s Billy, a friend of the family,” Fiona said innocently.
“Friend of the family, my foot,“ Aunt Deborah roared, “He’s painting the downstairs loo, Christmas hyacinth blue. I’m not paying you to drink my champagne, Shoo.”



Jasmine at rest


Feb. 2017

It’s the end of one year and the start of a new one so I suppose it is the time to look back, and forward.

2017 was a pretty ghastly year politically and environmentally, but putting worries about the future of humankind to one side for now, I’ll just consider my own selfish interests.  We had memorable holidays in Munich, the Isles of Scilly, Loch Tay in Scotland, Manorbier in Pembrokeshire and some shorter, bookselling jaunts to Bradford, Sandbach and Wellington (Shropshire). Two of my novels have appeared – Cold Fire published by Elsewhen, and The Brides’ Club Murder by ellifont.  I was runner-up in the NAWG minitale (100 word story) competition. I’ve had a number of science anniversary pieces published online by Collins Freedomtoteach, and articles in the Beaumont Magazine.  I even did some science education writing but the less said about that the better – I didn’t enjoy it.  Listed like that it looks like quite a busy year.


Dec. 2017

Looking ahead, I hope to finished Molly’s Boudoir: the 4th Jasmine Frame novel, very soon and then put it away for a short time while I look to getting the collection of Jasmine Frame short stories published as an e-book. Then I will turn my attention to my next SF/Fantasy novel. The problem is I have a number of undeveloped ideas and I’m not sure which to pick up and run with. Decisions! I also intend writing more short stories and contributing them to competitions and magazines.  Together with attending more bookfairs and literary festivals it promises to be a busy and exciting year.

I hope all you readers out there have a successful and happy 2018.

I haven’t got a Jasmine story this week having finished Reflex last week.  For a change I am giving you a seasonal i.e. Christmas, (well, we’re still in the 12 days) story which I wrote some years ago.  I can’t recall whether I’ve put it on the blog before although I did include it my little booklet of Christmas Tales.

Same Day Delivery

Father Christmas stepped down wearily from the driving seat of his sleigh and pulled the air purification mask from his face. The long white filaments irritated his skin so he rubbed his chin with some relief. He appreciated the mask when he was travelling because of all the pollutants he met landing on roofs across the world – carbon monoxide from gas fires in the UK, wood smoke in North America, sulphurous fumes from dirty coal in China and goodness knows what from the dung in India. The emissions were constantly jingling the warning bell in his cab. On this last trip it had jingled all the way. He glanced into the cargo bay. Yes, no presents left, he’d finished his deliveries for the year, at last. Already the elves were scurrying around the sleigh. They were opening up the Rapid Displacement and Lift Facility, or RDLF affectionately called the Rudolf, that pulled the sleigh. Its spiky, branched, cooling fins were producing a mist in the cold arctic air. The elves also had the Temporal Transporter and SACK (Superfast Article Conveyancing Kit) to service so Father Christmas decided he would leave them to it.
He trudged to his office and began to strip off his boots, insulating trousers and jacket. They were thickly padded not so much for Arctic temperatures as for the absolute cold of the time shift. The longer the interval the more the cold penetrated to the core of his body. Over two hundred years old but looking less than seventy, Father Christmas was upset that the clothes made him look fat. And why did they have to be so red? Why couldn’t he wear a modern white or silver outfit like astronauts? But he knew that the red suit was part of the image. Who would want a silver Father Christmas? More comfortable in T-shirt and jeans, Father Christmas poured himself a cup of coffee and sank into his high backed, swivel chair and rested his feet on the desk. There was a deep pile of documents in the in-tray but they would have to wait. He was on leave now or would be very soon. He was itching to get away for a few days’ vacation.
The door opened and the Senior Elf entered and stood with his grey hair and wrinkled brow just above the level of the desk.
“Welcome back Father Christmas,” he said cheerfully,
“Less of the FC stuff when I’m on holiday. It’s Dave now.” Father Christmas replied gruffly.
“Oh, you’ve finished the run then.”
“Yes, and about time too. Look at the date,” Father Christmas gestured to the wall clock and calendar. It read 17th December. “I’ve been back to the 25th December three hundred and fifty-seven times and I really wish it wasn’t Christmas every day.” The Senior Elf nodded in agreement.
Father Christmas went on “You know if things get any busier I won’t be able to finish one delivery before the next one starts.”
“You’re a victim of your own success,” the elf said, his pointed ears dipping in sympathy.
“Yes, I know. When we took over the franchise from old Saint Nicholas, a hundred years ago, we only had to deliver to a couple of hundred million children in Europe and North America. Now, regardless of their religion, or even if they’ve got none at all, everyone, all over the globe wants a delivery from Father Christmas. We’ve updated the sleigh, replacing the reindeer with the Rudolf, and installed the instant parcel delivery system so that I don’t have to get stuck in chimneys, but this time travelling just isn’t working anymore. And I’m exhausted.”
“We’re working on it,” The Senior Elf said reassuringly.
“I hope so too. Any more problems to deal with?”
“Well. There has been some disturbance amongst the elves.”
“Really. What sort of disturbance?”
“It’s the BNP.”
Father Christmas looked confused, “Who are they?”
“The Better North Pole group. They’ve not been very nice to the goblins. You know we’ve got quite a few of them working here now.”
“Since we changed the employment rules they’ve been pouring in haven’t they. They do a good job.”
“Exactly Fa…Dave, but the BNP say the goblins are taking jobs from elves.”
“But aren’t the goblins doing jobs the elves don’t want, like parcel wrapping.”
“Well tell this BNP lot to behave then. You know, I always hoped we could automate parcel wrapping.”
“That was an idea, but times change. The days when it was all train sets for boys and doll’s houses for girls have gone. Now they want Playstations and Wiis and Barbies and Manchester United kits and all sorts of things. They all need different wrapping techniques.”
“In that case good luck to the goblins,” Father Christmas sighed, “what else have you got for me to worry about?”
“You may not have noticed but back in the summer it got quite warm. The Arctic ice almost melted away; it’s this global warming. If it gets any worse there won’t be enough ice left for our mega-shed warehouse.” Father Christmas looked worried.
“Are you suggesting that we’ll have to re-locate; move the Father Christmas HQ from the North Pole?”
“I fear that is the situation, uh, Dave.”
“Hmm. What about the South Pole? No too busy.” Father Christmas scratched his head. “I really can’t think of anywhere on Earth that is so remote that it has not been visited by Michael Palin, Sue Perkins or some other comedian.”
“It is a problem, sir.” There was silence for a few moments.
“I know,” Father Christmas said excitedly, “the Moon. No-one has been there for decades. Lots of unused space.”
The Senior Elf shook his head, “the elves won’t like it; it’s a long way from their homes and there aren’t any good shops.”
“Look if there’s a recession in Elfland they’ll move to keep their jobs. Look into it.”
“If you insist.”
“I do. Now I’m going on holiday.”

After a few days in the Maldives, Father Christmas felt refreshed. He had soaked up some uv, swum in the warm ocean, eaten good food and chatted up some pretty girls. On the 23rd December he was back at his North Pole desk.
“Well, what news do you have for me,” he demanded of Senior Elf who peered over the edge of the desk. The Senior Elf grinned.
“I think we have solved the delivery problem, Father Christmas.” Father Christmas leaned forward excitedly,
“You have! Tell me about it.”
“I’ll leave that to the Chief Boffin sir.” He retreated to the door and called out. The boffins are sub-species of elf distinguished by unruly hair and an undeveloped dress sense. The Chief Boffin waddled into the office and stood behind the desk staring up at Father Christmas in awe. The Senior Elf nudged him.
“Tell him about it then.”
“Oh yes, well, hmm, we call it the Multiple Manifestations Machine.”
“What does that mean?” Father Christmas sighed, already regretting the addition of another weirdly named gadget to his sleigh.
“The problem is that we’ve been thinking serially; There’s been just one of you visiting each household in turn,” the Chief Boffin warmed to his subject.
“Well there is just one. Real one anyway; me,” Father Christmas said indignantly.
“In this universe.”
“What do you mean?”
“Our universe is just one of many. There is an almost infinite number of universes and billions more are created every minute.”
“How?” Father Christmas asked.
“Every decision that is made whether it is a radioactive atom choosing to decay or Justin Bieber deciding whether or not to perform, causes a split in the continuum and one universe becomes two. Many of those universes are very similar to our own with stars, planets, people and TV reality programmes. The Multiple Manifestation Machine simply pulls Father Christmas from a billion or so universes so that each household can have its very own Father Christmas.” Father Christmas shook his head.
“Well I don’t understand it but if it means that I can get all the deliveries done on Christmas morning then I’m happy. Let’s do it.”

It was nearly midnight on Christmas Eve. The sleigh was loaded with presents and Father Christmas was dressed in his traditional outfit. He climbed into the driving seat.
“Now tell me again. What do I do?” The Chief Boffin sighed,
“Once you are in the air you can operate the Multiple Manifestation Machine.” Father Christmas looked at his controls, mystified.
“Where is it?” The Chief Boffin took a deep breath,
“It’s the box on the dashboard between the satnav and the hands-free mobile phone dock.”
“Oh, I see it.”
“When you’re ready, just press the button; everything is programmed in.”
“Right, got it.” Father Christmas looked at his watch. It was just midnight. “Well, here it is, Merry Christmas, everybody have some fun.” He waved cheerily to the assembled elves and engaged the Rudolf.
The Senior Elf watched as the sleigh lifted off in a sudden blur of movement. In less than a breath it was barely more than a dot hanging in the sky directly over the North Pole. Moonlight glinted off its gleaming paintwork. Then suddenly there were two sleighs, then four, eight, sixteen.
“It’s working,” murmured the Chief Boffin, and moments later the sky was filled from zenith to horizon with twinkling sleighs too numerous to count and banishing the stars from the night sky. If he squinted the Senior Elf could see that each sleigh was piloted by a red-robed clad Father Christmas.
Then they were gone.
The Senior Elf stared into the clear, violet sky pierced by thousands of bright stars. He turned to the Chief Boffin.
“I’ve been wondering. What has happened to the universes we’ve taken the Father Christmases from?”
The Chief Boffin stroked his bushy beard.
“I suppose it would be as if Father Christmas didn’t exist. People would have to deliver their own presents on Christmas Day.”
“No Father Christmas! How could anyone imagine a world without Father Christmas?”


Jasmine faces a dilemma

cover mediumToday, viz. Saturday 2nd December, I am spending two hours at the Castle Bookshop in the fine Shropshire town of Ludlow. The idea is to sign copies of Cold Fire that visitors to the shop purchase.  The difficult bit is persuading them to buy.  I like meeting potential readers but I am not the best salesman.  I could talk about September Weekes, Cold Fire, the settings and the plot for hours but making that vital sale, well, it doesn’t come naturally. Still, I’m looking forward to the session and it is very kind of the bookshop owner, Stanton, to allow a relatively unknown, if local, author the opportunity to take over (a little bit of) the shop for a couple of hours.

One boost is the delightful review published on the Rising Shadow website  (read it here).  It is very gratifying to find someone who has enjoyed my previous September Weekes books (Evil Above the Stars vol, 1, 2 & 3) and who appreciates the features I included in Cold Fire.  I do hope the review gets read widely and spurs many people, of all ages, to buy and read it.  Here is the “headline” quote.

“This is . . .a well-told fantasy story that will intrigue adult and young adults readers alike.”

Of course I will also have my other books with me – Evil Above the Stars and the three Jasmine Frame novels (Painted Ladies, Bodies By Design and The Brides’ Club Murder).  You don’t have to travel to Ludlow to buy them – just email your order (with the delivery address) to  paintedladiesnovel@btinternet.com.

They are £9.99 each except for Painted Ladies which is £8.99 (including postage).  In fact I am giving Painted Ladies away free with either (or both) of the other Jasmine novels.

Oh, and they are all on Kindle.

And so to the freebie – the next episode of Reflex, the Jasmine Frame prequel.

Reflex: Part 6

‘Are you sure about that Mrs Chapman?’ DS Sharma said, glaring at the woman. He pushed his chair back and stood up. ‘Come on Frame. We’re done here.’ He took the few steps to the door, turned and spoke to the sobbing woman. ‘You can go Mrs Chapman but we’ll have more questions for you.’
James followed him from the room. He wanted to comfort the woman, tell her he understood a little about how Melissa felt, how she felt. But he didn’t. In the corridor, Sharma faced him.
‘Any thoughts, Frame?’
‘She’s overwrought, Sir. She’s lost her husband and her child’s been taken away.’
‘You’re right. We’re not going to get much from her until she’s settled a bit. Perhaps if we let her see the boy, she’ll be less emotional. Thank you for your assistance, Frame.’
‘Is that all?’ James felt as though he was being cast off.
‘For now. I’ll call you in when we interview the boy again. You can go back to your duties.’
He walked away. James went in search of PC Ward, his partner, but she had gone out in the car. He sighed and settled at a desk to deal with paperwork until she returned.

James parked outside the secure unit for young offenders on the edge of Abingdon. He should have been heading home to Angela. She would be waiting for him as it was a Saturday afternoon. Having just completed a morning shift following his afternoon shift yesterday he was feeling quite tired. Nevertheless, he felt he had to make this call. He pulled his anorak around him and got out of the Fiesta. There was a cold, northerly wind blowing leaves into the drab vestibule of the building. James pushed the door open and entered a small foyer with a bored looking man in a uniform sitting at a reception desk.
‘I wonder if it is possible to see Matthew Chapman?’ he asked.
‘Are you family?’ the security guard/receptionist asked.
‘No, but I have an interest in his case. I’m a police officer, PC James Frame.’ James showed his warrant card.
‘A bit irregular,’ the man muttered but lifted a phone. He spoke into it, listened, then looked at James. ‘Someone will come out to see you.’
James thanked him and stepped away from the desk. A few minutes passed then the automatic security doors leading to the interior of the building swung open. A woman emerged. James recognised her as the person who had accompanied Matthew/Melissa at the interview the day before. He hadn’t looked at her much then but now he noticed that she was probably just a few years older than himself, was dressed in a casual pair of trousers and jumper and had a smiley, welcoming face.
She held out a hand. ‘PC Frame, we met yesterday. I’m Karen Finlay.’ James shook her hand. ‘Are you on duty?’ she added.
James looked down at his civilian clothes. ‘No, I’ve left my gear at the station. This is a personal call. I wanted to see how Melissa, er, Matthew is.’
Karen gazed at him, her head cocked to one side, as she considered. ‘Um, I’m not sure. . . but you said you knew someone who was transsexual?’ James nodded. She paused again. Finally, she spoke. ‘OK. It might do some good to see someone who understands. Come through.’ She lead James through the double set of doors into the building. They entered a communal area with brightly coloured chairs and a soft carpet.
‘Stay here,’ Karen said and left him. James examined the pictures of superheroes on the walls. A few minutes later Karen returned accompanied by a girl. James did a double-take before he recognised Melissa. She was wearing a short denim skirt with a sparkly top showing a hint of breasts, and her hair had been back combed into a mass of curls with tiny bows placed randomly. She wore eye liner and lipstick and her nails were painted bright purple.
‘Melissa!’ James cried. ‘How are you feeling?’
The girl stood in front of him, smiling, with Karen at her side.
‘They’ve let me be me,’ she said, grinning.
‘So I see. I like your hair.’
‘That was Jude.’
Karen answered. ‘One of the girls who is, um, resident here.’ James nodded understanding that Karen meant that she was one of the young offenders.
‘Yeah, she says she wants to be a hairdresser when she gets out,’ Melissa said.
‘I’m pleased for you,’ James said.
‘Do you really know someone who has transitioned?’ the girl asked.
James thought about the question. While at university he had met a few trans women at various stages in their transition, but Tamsin was supposed to be a reflection of himself and transitioning to live fulltime as a woman was a fantasy he toyed with.
‘Yes,’ he said.
‘Were they happy?’
There wasn’t a simple answer. ‘Transitioning is hard,’ he replied, ‘harder for some than others, but I think all transgender people want to be themselves, just like you do. You look as though you’re happy.’
The girl beamed at him, ‘I am. I will be if I can stay like this always.’
He addressed Karen, ‘Will the court let her be herself.’
‘We’re looking into that,’ Karen said. ‘Early days yet, but it was felt that Melissa needed the opportunity to express herself while she comes to terms with what has happened.’
‘She’s been charged,’ James stated.
‘Yes, manslaughter. Her defence lawyer will be hoping to change that. I don’t think we can discuss that here, PC Frame.’
‘Call me James. Yes, I understand.’ He looked at the girl, ‘You look fantastic, Melissa. I’m sorry you have to go to court.’
The girl’s face darkened. ‘I didn’t mean to hurt him.’
James shook his head. ‘I know. You were defending yourself. If that knife hadn’t been there. . .’
‘That’s what I don’t understand,’ Melissa said,
James was confused, ‘What do you mean?’
Melissa shrugged. ‘Why was the knife there? I’ve been thinking about it ever since that Asian guy asked me those questions about it.’
‘Wasn’t it just left on the worktop?’
‘Mum wouldn’t do that.’
‘She’s a bit OCD about keeping the kitchen tidy, and she was manic about knives.’
‘Well, I suppose just once. . .’
‘No really manic. She was always going on about how easy it is to cut yourself on a knife.’ ‘Oh.’ James wondered what it meant.
‘She was right, wasn’t she,’ Melissa went on, her smiles gone. ‘If it hadn’t been there just by my hand, I wouldn’t have picked it up and, and . . .’ She covered her face with her hands.
‘But god knows what might have happened to you and your mother, if you hadn’t stopped your father. Discovering your mother helping you, he could have killed her.’
Melissa shook her head. ‘But he shouldn’t have found us. Mum said he was doing overtime and wouldn’t be back till late.’
‘Maybe his plans changed. It’s a terrible tragedy, Melissa.’
The girl clung to Karen with tears running down her cheeks. James felt that he’d made things worse by stirring her feelings up again.
‘I’m sorry Melissa. I shouldn’t have come. There’s nothing you can do now, but we’ve got to make sure that the charges are dropped and it’s recognised that you were defending yourself, and your mother for that matter.’
Karen looked questioningly. ‘Do you think that’s likely?’
James shrugged. ‘I don’t know. DS Sharma was talking about a charge of murder. Look, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be talking about it.’
The woman wrapped her arms around the girl. ‘Of course. Look perhaps it wasn’t a good idea letting you see Melissa; not this soon. Perhaps when we know a bit more.’
‘Yes. I’d better go.’
‘I’ll let you out.’ Karen released Melissa and told her to return to her room, then she unlocked the doors and let James out. He hurried from the building, distraught at the upset his presence had caused. He got into the car and sat gripping the steering wheel. The things Melissa had said bounced around in his head. Why had that knife been lying around waiting to be picked up and why had Eric Chapman been able to surprise his wife and child?

James put his key in the lock and opened the door. Angela came running and flung her arms around him.
‘At last! I thought you were caught up in some incident or other.’
He kissed her on her lips, then paused for breath. ‘No, I stopped off to see Melissa at the centre. That’s why I’m late.’
‘The transgirl. Matthew. Killed her father when he attacked her. Remember?’
‘Yes, of course. Should you have done that? Gone to see her.’
‘Not really, but I wanted to see how she was. They’re letting her dress as a girl. She’s happy – when she forgets what has happened.’
‘Good, but you mustn’t get too involved.’ Angela showed her concern. ‘Unless you want them to find out about Jasmine.’
‘No, of course not. Now where’s that cup of tea?’
‘What cup of tea?’ Angela grinned.
‘The one you were going to offer me when I walked in.’
‘Of course, Sir.’ Angela walked into the kitchen while James slumped on to the sofa. ‘You have remembered, haven’t you?’ she called out.
‘Remembered what?’
‘That group, Butterflies, meets tonight. You do still want to try it out, don’t you?’
Things clicked into place in James’ mind. It was Saturday afternoon, which explained why Angela was at home, and she had discovered that a trans group met somewhere near on this Saturday evening. Jasmine was going to have an evening out.

…………………..to be continued.


Jasmine on patrol

The news has been depressing again lately – no, I’m not going to go over it all – and then something happened that gave me a lift.  It was an email out of the blue from an old school friend.  We haven’t met or been in contact for a long time (25 to 30 years I think). Like me he is retired now and doing what he enjoys doing which happens to be photography, and he has moved back closer to our childhood home. Hopefully we can now keep in touch and meet up.

That contact gave me a burst of nostalgia. I have said that my mother suffered from nostalgia – the pain of missing the past. I inherited a bit of it, dwelling on old memories and hanging on to artefacts that jog remembrance of people, places and events. It is a constant trial to live in the present, to make the most of the time and companions and freedoms that we have now and not spend time recalling what was and what might have been. Nostalgia can be dangerous as it can give a golden glow to what happened a considerable time ago, making you forget the reasons why you made certain decisions and leading you to the edge of regret. So, anyone who suffers from it must look to the future, take advantage of the present and grasp new opportunities. I’m trying.


WP_20170923_10_43_20_ProWith Cold Fire now well and truly launched (there are other events happening like a signing at The Castle Bookshop, Ludlow on 2nd December and something at NovaCon in November) I am turning my attention back to Jasmine.  I am getting on with Molly’s Boudoir again (hooray) and wondering about bringing out one or two of the prequels as an e-book  (it would be great if I was overwhelmed with a resounding “yes, please”).  Here, I am starting another prequel, called Reflex. It takes place when James was a fairly new cop.  I don’t think it will be a long story but we’ll see where it takes Jasmine.  I hope you enjoy the first part.



Reflex – part 1

James buckled himself in as PC Sarah Ward started the engine and drove them out of the Police Station carpark. It was his first shift as a member of the response team and he was filled with a variety of emotions. There was excitement at meeting new experiences as a police officer and apprehension about what those experiences might be.
‘We’ll take a run through the town centre, first,’ PC Ward said. ‘We might see a character or two from the observation list.’
James nodded. He’d examined the list of names of people, mainly male drug dealers, who they were on the lookout for. He tried to recall features from the photos that had been supplied, mostly from previous arrests. They made slow progress.
‘Is it always this busy?’ James asked.
‘‘Fraid so, especially during rush hours like now,’ Sarah replied, ‘You don’t know the town?’
‘No. Never been here until I got my posting.’
‘Where do you live?’
‘Reading. That’s where we’ve been since before I joined the force.’
‘Me and my wife, Angela. We met at uni.’
‘That’s nice.’
They reached a junction in the inner ring road and Sarah turned off it. The queue of traffic moved a little quicker.
‘Let’s show you the river. There are some well used spots down there. It’ll be good to have a nose around while we’ve still got some light.’ They turned onto a road that ran parallel to the river. James gazed out at the trees on the opposite bank that were beginning to show their autumn colours in the sunset. Sarah slowed as they travelled along the wharf.
The squawk from the radio made James jerk alert.
“All cars. Incident at 18 Milton Drive, Abingdon. A male reported to be injured.”
The car surged forward. James looked at Sarah.
‘Tell them we’re on our way,’ She ordered.
James pressed the call button and did as he was told.
‘Do you know where it is?’ He asked.
‘Yes,’ Sarah replied as she flicked on the sirens and lights. ‘Not far. On the poets’ estate.’
‘All the roads are named after British poets.’ She overtook slow moving traffic that had pulled to the left.
James had looked at a map of the town but was still confused about its layout. ‘Where?’
‘On the west side. A 70s estate.’
‘Oh.’ They drove at speed along a main road, jinked around a roundabout and entered the narrower streets of the housing estate. James marvelled at the familiarity that Sarah showed with the layout of the town. How long would it be before he was as experienced?
They entered a straight road with bungalows on one side and semi-detached houses on the other. There was a dead end ahead. The car slowed.
‘I think we’re just about. . . here.’ Sarah said as she pulled up. ‘First, too.’ She pushed her door open and jumped out. James did the same and followed his partner up a short driveway. There were lights on inside number 18 but the front door was closed. Sarah knocked firmly.
‘Police. Hello. Is anybody in?’
James heard movement; someone running to the door. The door was flung open. A woman stood there.
‘Oh, please. It’s Eric. He’s hurt.’
Sarah stepped inside and urged the woman to lead them. James followed down a hallway and into a kitchen. The bright light and orderliness only highlighted the bloody handprints on the worktop and doorway and the body of a man sprawled on the floor. Blood spread from his chest onto the tiles.
PC Ward knelt to examine the man. The woman, whom James presumed to be his wife, stood sobbing by his side. He was unsure whether to comfort her. He looked around and noticed a knife with a bloodstained blade lying a few feet from the injured man. It was a typical kitchen knife. Who had wielded it? The woman had blood on her hands and on her clothes. Had she attacked the man, her partner, Eric? Should he move her away from the victim?
Another siren drew closer.
‘Go and see who that is, Jim,’ Sarah said twisting her neck to look for him.
‘How is he?’ James asked. Sarah grimaced. James took that as a “not good” and pushed past the woman to reach the front door. He got to the entrance to see a yellow and green 4-by-4 pull up. The paramedic got out and hurried with his bag to the house.
‘Is this it?’ he said.
James stood to one side holding the door wide. ‘Yes, in the kitchen. Man been knifed, it looks like.’
The paramedic bustled towards his subject. James remained, still not sure what to do next. The kitchen was obviously getting crowded. PC Ward appeared urging the woman towards the living room at the front of the house.
‘This is a crime scene, James,’ Sarah said, ‘It’s our job to secure it. There’ll be more of our lot but also members of the public. We have to keep them out. Go and get the tape and start setting up a barrier.’
James remembered his training for this sort of activity. It was his first time as first on the scene at a major crime. He hurried out to the police car, opening the boot to pull out tape and bollards. Yet another siren signalled the arrival of another response team. The road was getting quite cluttered.

By the time he had erected a tape fence around the front of the house, another two police cars and an ambulance had arrived. There was also a growing crowd of estate dwellers, adults and children. James was occupied in keeping them back beyond the vehicles, helped by his new colleagues.
‘James? How are you doing?’ James turned to see Sarah striding along the pavement.
‘OK. How’s the man?’
The PC shook her head. ‘Gone I think. He wasn’t breathing when we arrived. The knife must have gone straight through his heart. There was enough blood.’ She looked at her hands. In the yellow streetlight James could see they were bloody. ‘I need to get cleaned up,’ Sarah added and went to their car. James followed her.
‘Did the woman do it?’ he asked.
Sarah dug in the boot and emerged wiping her hands on a cloth. ‘Mrs Chapman? No, she says it was their son.’
‘Son? Where is he?’
‘Gone. He ran off as soon as he had done it.’
‘What! Stuck a knife in his father and ran away. How old is he?’ James imagined a man in his late teens or twenties attacking the older man.
‘Fourteen, named Matthew.’
The picture in James’ head changed radically. Why? How? ‘Did the mother, Mrs Chapman, say what happened?’ he asked.
‘Not a lot. She’s talking to DS Sharma. He’s attached to the serious crime squad. We need to find the boy.’
‘Yes. He can’t have got far and we’re the local patrol. We’re supposed to know where he might have gone.’
James snorted. ‘I haven’t got a clue. Aren’t we supposed to be keeping the perimeter secure?’
‘The others can do that. Get in the car. I’ve got a few ideas.’
James jumped in beside Sarah. She manoeuvred the car out of the traffic jam that filled the narrow road.
‘It’s vital we find him soon,’ Sarah said as she spun the steering wheel and they mounted the kerb to get around an unmarked Ford Focus parked in the middle of the road. ‘Goodness knows what state he is in. He could be in danger himself or a danger to others.’
James nodded and thought about what his partner said. How would he have felt if in his early teens he had stuck a knife in someone, his own father even. He couldn’t imagine the situation with himself as the central actor, but it had happened here. There must have been some reason for it; some explanation for the death of the boy’s father.

…………….to be continued.


A bit of a rush

I am sorry to say that this week has been so hectic that I haven’t had time to sit at my desk and compose an informative and entertaining blog.  The main event has been the launch of my new “speculative”  (read that as fantasy)  YA novel, Cold Fire, the fourth novel to feature September Weekes. The event was in my local library and I was delighted to be joined by friends and especially my publishers, Peter and Alison, from Elsewhen Press. Cold Fire is available as e-book (Kindle etc.) and paperback (order from bookshops, Elsewhen or me ).

I’ll leave you with some images that relate to Cold Fire and hope that normal service will be revived next week.

Katie CF2 copy

Aeddon on the back of a dragon, by Katie Ellis

Katie CF1 copy

The unicorns at the oak in Cwm Dreigiau, by Katie Ellis.  Postcards of both Katie’s images are free with copies of Cold Fire.


The inspiration for Abaty Maesycymmer – Cymmer Abbey near Dolgellau

MHS C17 alchemy laboratory

The Alchemist in his laboratory with putti, in the collection of the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford.  The first inspiration for the story of Cold Fire.

Llyn y fan fach

Llyn y Fan Fach, home of the Lady of the Lake in Welsh myth, near Myddfai the home of the Physicians of Myddfai.


Jasmine and September

WP_20170826_14_01_13_ProAnother weekend, another Bookfair (or author-signing-event as they are sometimes called).  Today it is Wellington in Shropshire – almost local.  Let’s hope this event actually attracts keen readers who want to browse the books on offer and even buy some.  It will be my first opportunity to offer Cold Fire for sale, in advance of my official launch next week (Leominster Library 2.00 – 6.30 p.m. Thursday 19th Oct.).

Last Saturday I was in the position of reader at Crickhowell Literary Festival. A very pleasant event in venues scattered across the town. One talk, or rather discussion, featured two ex-policemen who had (or are) retiring having fallen to PTSD. They had turned to writing to express their feelings and ended up publishing books, one fiction (supposedly, although it reads more like an autobiography with added action) and the other an non-fiction account of his career and illness.  I don’t know how good the books are (I’m reading one and am not impressed) but both picked up publishing contracts with apparent ease. Why – because of their jobs (senior Met officers); because of their undoubtedly exciting life-stories; or, because they are good writers? I wonder.

I finally got round to watching the Horizon programme on transitioning by transsexual men and women. It followed half a dozen, mainly trans-women, as they embarked on the medical aspects of transitioning, not just gender-confirmation-surgery, but also vocal chord surgery, testosterone injections for transmen, et al. All the subjects made the point that social transitioning i.e. coming out to family, friends and colleagues, was the most difficult part however painful and difficult the surgery.  It was a good, straightforward account of what transsexuals have to go through to achieve the bodies they want (need?), with enough bloody detail to make you want to look away from time to time.  All the subjects seemed well-balanced and cheerful even if they had had difficult times earlier in their transition, but the programme did not attempt to make judgements or bang a drum for more gender clinics or increased availability of surgery.

20170930_130307I was interested, but not for myself.  It is Jasmine that is a transwoman seeking to achieve the body of a woman and prepared to accept the pain and discomfort that involves.  The fourth Jasmine Frame novel, Molly’s Boudoir, which I am writing in fits and starts at the moment, takes place as, and just after, Jasmine has her GCS, but even that won’t be the end of her transition.  Although in law a woman and now with a vagina she still seeks that alteration that makes her appear more feminine and thereby matches her self-image.  I am not the same.  For many years I have been uncertain of where I stood.  While I feel a degree of femininity, I have never wanted to go through everything that Jasmine wants. Now, I think I have found my place in the spectrum.  I’m gender-fluid; I am comfortable wearing feminine clothes, jewellery, make-up, but I oppose any sort of gender stereotyping, detest exceptional macho-male behaviour but do not see in  myself a girly or motherly woman.

As I mentioned, the 4th Jasmine novel is taking some time to write partly because of other things happening round here, and the time taken to promote Cold Fire along with my other novels. There is also a hint of a demand for another September Weekes novel (the fifth!) while I have ideas for other novels in different settings with different lead characters. Perhaps soon I’ll have more time to think and write. . . How many times has that been said.  Watch this space.

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