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.’
‘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.’
‘No?’
‘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.’
‘Melissa?’
‘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.

 

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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.

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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.’
‘We?’
‘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.’
‘Poets?’
‘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.’
‘Us?’
‘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.

Abbey

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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Cold Fire

cover mediumThis week is all about Cold Fire – my new fantasy novel for young adults and above, which is now available in paperback.  I am holding a launch at Leominster Library from 2 – 6:30 on Thursday 19th October and there will be some sort of launch at Novacon in November.

Cold Fire features September Weekes, the heroine of my trilogy, Evil Above the Stars. It follows on from the final paragraph of vol.1 Unity of Seven but is a free-standing novel, which I think can be read on its own.

The story takes place mainly in 1680 in the Wales and London  of a parallel universe to our own. Aeddon is a young man in the service of an alchemist. The alchemist learns about the discovery of “phosphorus” and desires to make it himself to see and make use of the cold fire it produces.  Aeddon describes the quest to find the ingredients to make the cold fire and witnesses the awful results that bring September into the story.

There are appearances by famous scientists of the period, Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke; there are dragons and unicorns and mermaids; there are Welsh legends and heroic action. Can September find the magic that will enable her to overcome the Malevolence in this world?

Copies can be obtained from any bookseller or the publisher Elsewhen Press.  Or you can order copies from me for £9.99 including post and packing.  Send your order with a postal address to this email address  . I will post your copy/ies and give you options of how to pay. Cold Fire is also available as an e-book in all formats.

Copies purchased from me will include a postcard of one of the water colours by Katie Ellis of scenes from the story.

Here is a short excerpt from Cold Fire

Cold Fire

Chapter 1
I am given a task by my Master

“Boy! Boy! Where are you? I have need of you!” My Master’s voice came to me from below. He was in the crypt where he performed his manipulations. I was in the kitchen, searching through the sorry remains of our larder for something my Master would find acceptable for his table. There remained just a few parsnips, some herbs and a piece of mutton that the flies had settled on. My Master rarely troubled himself about the source of his food but relied on me to set it before him, unless of course he was too deeply involved in his work to think of food at all. How we would obtain new food supplies, I knew not.
I answered his call immediately as I did not wish to feel a stroke of the birch rod that he kept to punish my many misdemeanours, real or imagined. I hastened down the stone steps into the dimly illuminated crypt of the old abbey. The pale March sun slanted through the small windows at the top of the vaulted walls revealing a space cluttered with urns, jars, chests, furnaces and shelves filled with the Master’s precious glass apparatus and other contrivances. The floor, which I had swept only the previous evening, was already covered in detritus from the Master’s experimentation as well as the droppings of the mice and doves that he kept for testing his nostrums.
My Master, Ezekiel Soulbury, was sitting at his table which was covered in papers, vellum rolls and books but he held in his hand a letter, which I presumed to be that which he had received with great excitement earlier in the day. It had been sent by his cousin from the city of London and such epistles invariably stirred my Master into some kind of activity, although usually of the ‘grumbling and muttered oaths variety’.
“Ah, there you are boy,” he said at the sound of my feet on the flagstones, “stoke the furnaces. We have much work to do. Stir the putti and set them tasks. Where are those mischievous cherubs? Come on, come on, don’t be idle. I need heat.”
This torrent of words poured out of my Master as he shook his head and beard of long grey hair. He waved his hand bearing the letter which stirred the dust floating in the air. It seemed that the letter had brought news of something that had inspired him to a new venture. I wondered what my part would be in it and how much more pain and suffering would be inflicted on me. My search for edible food was inevitably to be set aside as the Master embarked on this new enthusiasm.
I was unsure whether to follow the Master’s first instruction and collect wood for the furnace or his second which was to find his other assistants, the putti. They at least could take some of the effort from the first task if they could be so persuaded, but where were they?
“Yes, milord,” I replied, “I will set to immediately.”
“That you must, while I assemble the necessary apparatus.” The Master got up from his stool, momentarily catching his foot in the torn and threadbare robe which he wore over his rough woollen garb. Once he had had fine clothes of silk and satin but these had been scorched by fire, burned by acids or sold to raise funds for his endeavours.
The putti were obviously not down here in the cellar so I returned to the ground floor, whistling and calling for them. They had not come into the kitchen while I had left it nor were they in the cold dark hall. I climbed the wooden stairs to the upper floor and entered the Master’s little used but grand bedroom. There they were, dancing in the sunlight that shone through the unshuttered, glazed window. Three small, naked, plump boys with feathered wings fluttering a few hands-widths above the floor, circling and weaving as if engaged in some galliard or other.
“Quickly. Come with me,” I said, “The Master has tasks for you and me.”

………………………..

20170930_130251 (2)Last week was spent in the wonderful countryside of Scotland’s Loch Tay. I took the opportunity to test the inclusiveness of the local community, especially the town of Aberfeldy and was not disappointed. Also for the first time I attended a family event, a wedding, in a dress. It was a wonderful occasion, I felt great and I don’t think I stood out that much, especially as most of the men were in kilts. My thanks are due to my step-niece and her new husband for showing wonderful understanding.

There will be more opportunities for purchasing Cold Fire and my other novels, starting with a Meet the Authors day in the library Wellington, Shropshire on 14th October. Following my launch on 19th October I will also be in The Castle Bookshop, Ludlow on 2nd Dec.

 

 

Jasmine in her own words

As you read this, assuming it is just after it published, I am hopefully selling books at the Sandbach book-signing event. This is the second of these bookfairs that I’ve attended and there are more happening over the next year. I am hoping that there will be hordes of eager readers willing  to dip hands in pockets to buy books from me and the dozens of other authors.  If there aren’t then it will have been a waste of writing time.

51cn5-pvU3LGender remains up there in news and comment consciousness. I note that next week’s Horizon is concerned with transitioning and being transsexual.  Gender is also the subject of this year’s Royal Society science book of the year.  The prestigious award has been won by Testosterone Rex by Cordelia Fine (published by Icon Books).  Apparently Fine challenges the pre-eminent position of testosterone in driving male psychology and the fundamental role of biological sex in the development of gender identity and culture.  I haven’t read it yet but I am looking forward to doing so and seeing the responses. It has already received many reviews.

Gender fluidity is even a theme of  W1A the BBC spoof of, yes, the BBC. For those of you who don’t watch the sit-com it is concerned with the knots the BBC management ties itself in to try to appear balanced, inclusive, on message, and popular. The theme involves a retired footballer who has come out as trans, who wants to be a football pundit (on Match of the Day) but who is actually quite rubbish at it. If he is booted off the programme the management don’t want it to appear because he wears a dress, and so the farce builds. I love W1A and all its characters and I am hoping they have got this right. I hope it never slides into treating a bloke in a dress as being funny in itself.

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cover mediumLast week I completed the latest Jasmine Frame prequel, Viewpoint.  There will be a rest now for a few weeks while other things take precedence.  The main event coming up is the launch of the paperback version of Cold Fire – watch this space.  To fill the gap here is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while –  Jasmine speaking for herself. In fact it was suggested that this whole blog should be “written by” Jasmine.  Here is her autobiography.

Jasmine Frame – in her own words

While I was waiting for the date of my gender confirmation surgery, my doctors suggested I might like to write about myself, my journey, my life. So I have. In some ways, it is a final farewell to James Frame, in others it is a search for an explanation of who I am.

I was born in 1983 in Hastings on the south coast of England. Nothing special in that and nothing at all special in my early years. My father was an engineer on some big civil projects so was away quite often. My mother stayed home until I went to school and then went back to work for the county records office. She had a history degree and was an amateur archaeologist. Apart from me there was my sister, Holly who is four years older.

My earliest memories are of playing in a park with Holly and Mum. I have no early recollections of being gender confused or of denying I was a boy. I don’t think I was even conscious of gender until I was quite a bit older. However, I do recall playing with Holly and her friends. They never seemed to mind me being around when they were trying to get on with their own play but I do remember them using me as a sort of large and animated doll. I suppose lots of girls make use of their younger brothers in the same way and I am sure that we don’t all end up trans. Holly dressed me in her old dresses which for some reason Mum kept even when they no longer fitted. I seem to think I was quite happy to go along with the play and actually enjoyed the feel of the smooth and shiny satin and the swish of the dress on my legs. Holly went off to high school and more grown up interests while I got on with my own growing. I had girl and boy friends at primary school, played with Lego and cars as well as enjoying arty pastimes. I do realise now that I was a little bit of a loner, always content with my own company and not much of a team player. In fact, I didn’t get into team sports at all.

It was during my last year at junior school that I discovered that I could run a bit. My parents took up my teachers’ suggestions and enrolled me at the local athletics club. Throughout my secondary school career, I practiced regularly and often with boys and girls. I was county age-group champion at 400 and 800 metres at various times. The fact that I was competing in boys’ events was barely an issue.

It was only when puberty slugged me with a right hook that I became conscious of gender. It sounds silly but I don’t think I had thought about what growing up as a man or woman meant. Holly had her education and career mapped out, certainly not planning on getting married early and having children soon. With Mum taking on more hours of work as I got older I never saw men and women as being different with respect to employment. But growing facial hair, my voice breaking and getting erections made me realise that I was a boy – at least physically.

I was about fourteen when I began to have the thoughts. Perhaps they were a throwback to Holly’s dressing games but I realised that I didn’t want to turn into a hulking, macho, testosterone fuelled bloke. That’s when the urge to find another persona for myself started to take hold; and a different character meant different clothes. Although Holly was about to go off to university, she was still living at home and some of her clothes were left in her bedroom even when she was away. I began to experiment. Holly and I were a similar size then, in fact, I’m only slightly taller than her now.

The feel of a skirt, of a tight top, of tights and yes, finally, a bra, became familiar. At first it was exciting and arousing. I worried myself sick when once or twice I nearly spurted cum over Holly’s skirt. Soon though, becoming Jasmine ceased to have any masturbatory effect and simply became me in girl mode. It was the late 90s by now and I had access to a computer at home and the internet. I found out words for what I was – transvestite, transsexual I wasn’t sure which – but I did realise that being found out could make life difficult.

Fear of discovery did not stop me experimenting with Holly’s and Mum’s make-up. During holidays, when both were out of the house, I ventured out into town. I avoided the cafes and parks where my friends and school colleagues hung out, and instead went shopping. I used my pocket money to buy a few items of my own. With my blonde hair, quite long at that time, and fair complexion, I found I passed easily as a girl. Shop assistants, even if they sussed me, were eager to make a sale so I had few difficulties.

I became a little complacent I suppose and took to adopting my persona as Jasmine whenever I had the house to myself. That was why when I was 17, Holly discovered my secret. I’ve got to hand it to her, she was pretty calm and was soon advising me on styles of dress and cosmetics. She helped me keep my secret from Mum and Dad.

Going to Bristol to study for a history degree was a big move. I was free to be myself, or was I? Surrounded by other students I could have been drawn into a male world I suppose. As it happened the first guy I met turned out to be gay and he introduced me to other gays and lesbians. I was persuaded to let on that I was trans. And then I met Angela. She wasn’t a lesbian, no way, but she had friends who were and was very open. We hit it off straight away and for some reason she was as keen on Jasmine as James. For a time, I attended lectures and seminars as James but spent a lot of my social life, largely with Angela, as Jasmine, but gradually they all blurred together. Life was so busy and fun that I didn’t really consider where I stood on the gender spectrum or what would happen when university life came to an end. All I was sure of was that I wanted to be with Angela and she felt the same about me.

Of course, we were having sex, eagerly and often, from early in our relationship. She was the woman and I was the man – I had the penis. Making love was very pleasurable but I noticed that when we were having intercourse I could imagine that it was me being penetrated not Angela. It didn’t bother me – we were both feeling satisfied and I enjoyed being Jasmine.

Finishing university was a bit of a shock. We joined the real world embarking on careers, finding somewhere to live and fitting into society. I had settled on the police as a career. Why? Well I suppose my brief adventures with the law had sparked my interest and history seemed to have elements of crimes investigation. I was lucky to be recruited and to get on a training course. I had no real idea what the police reaction would be to my gender flipping although the Gender Recognition Act was just coming into force, but I thought it wise to keep Jasmine hidden from my superiors and colleagues. Angela was getting into her career in commercial accountancy and we decided to make our relationship official by getting married.

If I had thought that getting down to work as a police officer, with all the training that involved, and putting a home together, would make me a man I was wrong. Being Jasmine was a way of relaxing but I also found that increasingly my feelings about being a woman were growing. The urge to be female became more intense and I didn’t want to stop it. Angela was very understanding. Perhaps she had realised all along that that was the path we were on.

Becoming a detective and member of the Violent and Serious Crime Unit was the peak of my ambition, but it also brought increased stress. Now being Jasmine permanently became my greatest desire. I resisted it for a time because I knew, we both knew, that it would mean Angela and I splitting up. Then it was still necessary for married couples to divorce if one of them wanted to transition and obtain a GRC. Finally, though, the decision had to be made. Angela was supportive, so was Holly, but my mother wasn’t. Dad had died from cancer, a few years earlier and now she thought she was losing the other man in her life.

I started transitioning in the summer of 2010. I knew Angela and I would part. The sex in our relationship had always been important to her and she had always been straight. Whatever my fantasies had been she had always taken delight in having good old-fashioned heterosexual sex. I didn’t want to take that away from her but also didn’t want to be piggy in the middle of an “open” marriage. So we split, and I moved out. Angela was by now earning far more than my police officer’s salary and the financial separation was relatively straightforward. What I had not bargained for was my career falling apart. The police service management was helpful and supportive but that couldn’t be said for one or two of my colleagues. Perhaps I could have and should have stuck it out but I didn’t and so Frame Investigations was born.

Then Viv appeared on the scene. I’m dearly looking forward to having the body I’ve imagined myself to have for years. The future is a bit misty but I am looking forward to entering it as Jasmine Frame.

……………………………

 

 

 

Jasmine in the earth

WP_20170826_14_01_13_ProWe had a lovely day at the UKIndieLitFest in Bradford last weekend. There were lots of writers competing for the book buyers which were always going to be scarce.  Nevertheless we gave away a few copies of Painted Ladies, sold a few others and did lots of good promotional stuff.

Now it’s NAWGFest weekend; two full days at Warwick Uni.  I hoping  to see some familiar faces and make some new friends, and even sell a few more books.  I’m also looking  forward to going to Sandbach on 23rd Sept for their Author-Book-Signing Day – more opportunities.  Soon after that we will be into the launch of Cold Fire in paperback (it’s already available as an e-book).  I’ll have some interesting things to show you when the time is a bit closer.cover medium

Back to our brief visit to Bradford.  We had a evening in the city centre looking for somewhere to eat. Bradford is of course a very diverse community and I felt it very welcoming. Just before we went we watched one of the BBC Gay season programmes about the abuse of and vicious attacks on LGBT people, some very recent. It is dreadful what harm a very small number of people can do and knowing that these things can happen can make people fearful of stepping outside their door. The fear of terrorist attacks has a similar effect. But I am sure (I hope) the number of serious hate-crimes against gay and trans people is relatively low.  I don’t want to feel threatened every time I go out but I am wary, and fairly selective of where I go.

Talking of attacks, Jasmine is in the hands of a vicious trio in Viewpoint. Does she survive?  Of course she does.  It’s a prequel to Painted Ladies and the other novels.  But you can find out what happens by reading part 12 below.

Viewpoint: Part 12

A shadow of a figure crouched down beside her.
‘God! You are alive, aren’t you?’
Jasmine fluttered her eyelids to show Tom that she was indeed living. It was about all that she could move.
‘Can you breathe?’ Tom inserted a finger to pull the cord from her mouth but only succeeded in making it dig into the back of her head even more and pushing the cloth down her throat. He pulled a penknife from his pocket and flicked it open.
‘Lie still. It’s going to be difficult to cut the string without nicking you.’
Lying still was okay. Tom slid the blade between her cheek and the binding and sawed at it. The cords broke and Jasmine felt release but the cloth was still wedged in her mouth. Tom tugged it out and she at last felt cold air enter her lungs. She breathed in deeply and closed her eyes in relief. Tom moved to her wrists and then her ankles, freeing her limbs. Excruciating pins and needles in her arms and legs were the result. She groaned.
‘Are you alright, Jas? They didn’t hurt you, did they?’
Jasmine managed a shake of her head but no words would come out of her mouth yet.
Tom bent down to her and scanned his torch over her body. The light dazzled her and she screwed up her eyes.
‘Are you sure you’re okay?’
Jasmine gasped and said in a hoarse whisper, ‘I’ll be fine. Now.’
Tom stood up. ‘Derek! Read them their rights then get them to a car. Keep them apart. Don’t let them talk to each other. There are questions they need to answer.’
Jasmine heard Derek Kingston reciting the arrest. Tom leant down to her with an arm outstretched.
‘You must be soaked. Can I help you up?’
Jasmine hadn’t given a thought to where she was lying. Now she noticed that the leaf litter was sodden and she was too. She lifted a leaden arm. Tom took hold and gently pulled her to her feet. Her knees buckled rather than take her weight and she started to slide down Tom’s body. He grabbed her with both arms and hauled her upright.
‘Sorry,’ she muttered, ‘My legs don’t seem to want to hold me.’
‘That’s okay, Jas. We’ll head back to the car.’
Tom half dragged, half carried her through the woodland to where the Land Rover was parked. Tom’s unmarked Mondeo was there too and three police cars. Jasmine rested against the roof of Tom’s vehicle while he opened the doors. The three men, handcuffed and lead by police officers followed and were taken to separate cars.
Tom, opened the rear door and helped Jasmine into the seat. DC Kingston joined them.
‘You stay here, Derek,’ Tom said, getting into his driving seat. ‘That Land Rover needs looking at and we’ll need photos of the digging they were doing. You should have assistance soon.’ As he finished a police four-by-four arrived and two more uniformed officers got out.
Tom turned the key in the ignition and closed his window. Jasmine felt the warm air from the heater and recalled that it was less than two days since she had experienced a similar welcoming blast.
They drove along the rough, dark track until they reached a road. Jasmine peered into the blackness. If Tom had not appeared when he had, she thought, it would have been a long time before her body was found, buried in the depths of the wood.
‘Thanks Tom. You saved my life.’
She caught Tom’s eyes in the car mirror.
He didn’t respond to her gratitude. ‘What were you doing there, Jas?’’
‘They brought me in the Land Rover.’
Tom sighed. ‘I know that. What I meant was, what were you doing at the cabin?’
And so it starts, Jasmine thought. My inquisition.
‘I was sure that Alfie had been held captive at that park,’ she began, ‘but Terry Hopkins had said that Riley’s hut was too small for him to have been kept there. I guessed that there would be an empty cabin that they had used. I didn’t think Palmerston was concerned so I thought I’d have a little look myself.’
‘You found it.’
‘Yes. It was obvious really. The hut appeared to have been unoccupied for some time but there were fresh tracks in the grass outside it. I managed to get in to have a look round. Then Riley and his mate turned up and I was stuck.’
‘You shouldn’t have gone on your own, Jas. You shouldn’t have gone at all. Denise took you off the case.’
‘I couldn’t let it be, Tom. She wasn’t going to do anything.’ Jasmine was annoyed at the whine that had crept into her voice.
Tom twisted his head round to glance at her briefly. ‘Actually, she did, Jas. She thought Taylor required watching. Derek and I drew the evening shift. We spent a couple of hours sitting outside his farm gate twiddling our thumbs until he left in the Land Rover. We tailed him to the park. He stopped off at Riley’s place but there was no one in. He got back in the car and headed further into the park.’
‘You followed him?’ Jasmine asked getting excited by Tom’s tale.
‘Well, I thought we’d be noticed if we drove in. Derek went on foot. He found Taylor’s car parked outside the hut. Riley and his friend were loading something onto the back; he didn’t know then what it was. Taylor set off and Derek had to run like Bolt to get back to me. We almost lost them then but luckily Taylor wasn’t driving fast. Perhaps his old crate can’t go at speed. We tailed him all the way to the wood and luckily none of them noticed. Derek followed them in and came back and reported what they were doing.’
‘Preparing to bury me.’
‘Well, we didn’t know it was you, but yes.’
‘So you called in back-up.’
‘That’s right, but told them to arrive without sirens and lights.’
‘Just in time.’
‘Yes. I’m not sure how much time we had left. That hole they dug was plenty big enough.’
Jasmine shivered. She could almost feel the cold wet earth around her but couldn’t imagine being dead. Tom drove on in silence. When they got in to the centre of Kintbridge Jasmine noted that Tom was not heading to the police station.
‘Hey, Tom. Where are we going?’ she cried.
‘I’m taking you home, Jas, unless you think you need the hospital.’
‘No, I’m fine.’ In fact, her arms and legs were still sore and she felt lousy but that wasn’t the point. ‘But we need to question Taylor, Riley and Gary; get their confessions to Alfie’s murder.’
‘You’ve forgotten something, Jas.’
‘What?’
‘You’re off the case. You’re not going to be doing any questioning.’
‘Aw, Tom.’
‘Don’t do that. DS Palmerston is in charge and she’d have my balls if she found I’d let you take part in the interrogation.’
‘But, they said things when they had me in the hut. I know they kept Alfie there and they killed him.’
‘And we’ll need to know what you heard, Jas. Do you really want to face Palmerston, or even Sloane now, in the state you’re in?’
Jasmine became conscious of her wet and mucky clothes and then remembered.
‘Er, Tom, we can’t go to my flat.’
‘Why not?’
‘I haven’t got my key.’
‘Where is it?’
‘In my bag, in my car.’
Tom braked and pulled into the side of the road. He turned around to face her.
‘And where’s that.’
Jasmine managed a thin smile. ‘Back at the cabin site, well, a few yards from it.’
Tom sighed, twisted back, glanced in his mirror and pulled the car round in a U-turn.
‘Okay, we’ll go and pick it up.’

It took a few more minutes to drive out of the town again and onto the lane that lead to the park-home site. Tom slowed as they approached the gates. There was a police car parked at the entrance with its lights on and there were lights showing at various parts of the grounds.
‘Can we. . .’ Jasmine began.
‘No, Jas, we’re not going in. SOCO will be going over both huts and Palmerston may even have got officers questioning the other inhabitants. Where’s your car?’
Jasmine pointed through the windscreen. ‘Another hundred metres or so.’
Tim drove on slowly until the dark outline of the Fiesta appeared, parked on the verge. Jasmine felt in the pocket of her jacket and was relieved to find her key was still there. The car stopped and Tom got out to open the rear door. Jasmine swung her legs round, put her feet on the tarmac and tried to stand up. She almost made it.
‘O..oh. Careful there, Jas.’ Tom caught her as she crumpled up. He lowered her back onto the back seat. ‘I’ll get your bag. Give me your keys. Where is it?’
Jasmine fumbled in her pocket feeling bemused by her weakness. She pulled out the car key and placed it in Tom’s waiting hand.
‘Um, thanks, Tom. It’s under the passenger seat.’
Tom moved away and Jasmine contemplated her fatigue. She felt sore all over and so lethargic that ever moving again seemed impossible.
Her bag dropped onto her lap.
‘There. Let’s get you home.’
‘What about my car key?’
‘I’ll keep it and get your Fiesta brought back into town. Is that OK?’
As Jasmine wasn’t in a mood to make plans herself she indicated her agreement.

Tom drew to a halt at the steps to her flat. He got out and opened her door.
‘Go and have a shower and get some sleep. I’m sure Denise will want to speak to you early in the morning. One of us will come and pick you up I expect.’
Jasmine slid across the seat noting that she was leaving a damp and grubby patch on the upholstery. This time, Tom helped her to her feet and escorted her to her door with an arm under her armpit. She inserted the key into the lock and pushed the door open. Tom’s arms guided her into a dining chair.
Jasmine looked up at him. ‘Okay, Tom. I’ll manage now. Thanks for looking after me, again.’
‘Don’t expect me to make a habit of it, but I’m glad we got to you before. . .’ He turned away and pulled the door closed behind him. Jasmine sighed and faced the challenge of getting to her feet.

……………………..to be continued.