Jasmine begins a search

This week I read a book suggested by Lou, my wife. It’s called “The Circle” by Dave Eggers. It was an unusual choice for her as it can be classed as science-fiction; not space-opera, it is an extrapolation of present day trends.  In some respects it resembles some of J G Ballard’s later work, High Rise, Cocaine Nights etc where a situation that starts out somewhat utopic ends up anything but. In The Circle the decision about whether it is a utopia or dystopia is the readers’ own although I am sure the author tends to the latter opinion.


The selfie generation

It concerns a business that is an all powerful combination of Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook etc. Its declared aim is to link everybody and everywhere providing on-line services that look after their personal contacts, entertainment, employment, health, welfare, safety, and ultimately their taxes and voting intentions. For the participants, including the protagonist, a new employee of the Circle, the aim is to increase the number of friends, followers, smiles (likes), comments, etc. by responding and commenting on other people’s posts and everything else and so boosting their rating and ranking.  People choose to become “transparent” i.e. continuously broadcasting video and audio of their lives while new Circle initiatives  remove the possibility of secrets and privacy, revealing not only everyone’s whereabouts but also their past (criminal records) likes and dislikes and even standardising actions in order to prevent crime or violence. Remind you of anything?

The Circle does extrapolate the present preoccupation with social media – frequent comment and messages, photos, blogs, vlogs, followers and “likes” – to an horrific, dystopic level (here I am encouraging it!). But I wonder. Some people reading the book (if they can concentrate long enough and don’t go flitting off to snatch a glimpse at some other bit of “news”) may think it’s a world they aspire to. Nevertheless, I don’t think the novel is an accurate prediction of  our future. It makes only passing  reference to the monetarisation of social media through endless advertisements, competition and algorithms that tell you what you should like. There is  no mention of cybercrime, cyberterrorism and cyberwarfare.  I think these three modern horses of the apocalypse, together with good old-fashioned greed, are what will eventually undermine what trust is left in the social media and internet behemoths. Where that leaves us I have no idea.

One specific aspect of the novel that attracted my interest was the need to achieve a top rating for everything we do. Only 5 stars or 100% will do. I rarely award the top grade or mark for any subjective judgement. I work on the principle that in the future I might find something that is even better so I must have something in reserve. If that disappoints people or causes them to lose kudos then tough.


And so to my writing.  First of all – newsflash. I have a cover for Trained by Murder: A Jasmine Frame Collection – an anthology of four longish short stories which will be available on Kindle in March.  All will be revealed soon. For now, here is the fourth episode of the latest Jasmine Frame story, Pose.


Pose: Part 4

They headed south and then Samantha directed Jasmine onto what was once a council estate. There were rows after rows of 1960s terraced houses and low-rise blocks of flats. They turned left and right more than once, until they were well into the estate.
‘There,’ Samantha said pointing to the end of a terrace. Jasmine pulled up, not directly outside, and they got out. There was no gate on the path leading to the front door and the garden was largely a bare patch of mud with a few tufts of grass, littered with household rubbish. Samantha strode up to the door and tapped with her fist. There was a delay before the door was opened. Jasmine saw a young woman with dark hair tied in a pony tail. She was thin and dark-eyed. The look she gave the two of them was a mixture of bemusement and uncertainty.
‘Yes?’ She said. The word was drawn out as if to stand in for several other words.
‘We’re here to see Terry,’ Samantha said, her voice obviously masculine.
‘Terry?’ the woman repeated as if the word was strange to her.
‘He lives here. He’s English,’ Samantha explained.
The woman’s face brightened. ‘Ah, the Inglis man.’ She shrugged. ‘I have not seen him. He is not here.’
Samantha nodded. ‘I was here earlier today. That’s what I was told then.’
‘It was not me you speak to,’ the woman said.
‘I know. I spoke to one of the men. He said there had been some trouble.’
The woman frowned, ‘Trouble, yes. Men throw stones and shout.’
Jasmine spoke, striving for her feminine voice, ‘Were they shouting at you and your friends?’ She wanted to check on what Samantha had told her earlier.
The woman looked at her as if she was cast into doubt. ‘We think that first. Inglis people not like Romanians. But they call Terry’s name and shout other words.’
‘What other words?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Rude words and words I not understand. Pee-do.’
‘Paedo?’ Jasmine was puzzled. ‘Where did they get that from? Not “tranny” or “pervert”?’
The woman shrugged, ‘”Pee-do” they shout again and again. Then they throw stone and break window.’
‘When was that?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Yesterday. Evening.’
‘When Tina was supposed to be meeting me,’ Samantha said.
‘When did she, er, he, Terry, leave?’ Jasmine asked.
The woman shook her head and raised her hands.
‘Can we see Terry’s room please?’ Jasmine asked. The woman looked uncertain.
‘We’re friends,’ Samantha said, ‘We’re worried about him.’
‘He is a travestie, like you,’ she said pointing at Samantha.
‘Travesty?’ Samantha looked blank.
‘She means are we transvestites like Terry?’ Jasmine said, then to the woman. ‘Yes, that’s how we know him. Did you see him dressed as a woman?’
She frowned. ‘Not as woman. As girl. He have no….’ she raised her hands to her chest cupping her breasts.’
Samantha chuckled. ‘That’s right. Tina never wore breastforms or a bra.’
‘It was her pose,’ Jasmine said, ‘A young girl. Can we come in.’
The woman shrugged and stood back to let them in. They entered a small square hallway. There was a closed door on each side. A stairway was in front of them beside a narrow corridor to a kitchen. A couple of men peered at them from the kitchen from where sounds of cooking emerged. The woman led them up the stairs. There were five doors on the landing. She pushed one door. It opened on what should have been one of the front bedrooms. Jasmine saw that it was divided in two by a partition made of thin board. The partition didn’t reach the ceiling. She pointed to the left. Samantha and Jasmine squeezed into a space that was filled by a single bed, a chest of drawers and a wardrobe rail. The window was covered in cardboard from a supermarket box. The bed was unmade and covered with a grey sheet and grubby duvet.
‘Did she sleep here last night?’ Jasmine wondered aloud.
‘Difficult to tell,’ Samantha said.
Jasmine took a step towards the wardrobe rail and fingered through the clothes. There was a pair of jeans on a thin metal hanger and three dresses in various shades of pink. She moved to the chest and pulled out drawers. There were items of clothing in each, some male some female. An electric razor and cosmetics on the top of the chest. She looked for personal belongings – phone, wallet, anything that might identify the occupant of the room as Terry/Tina.
‘Well, he hasn’t packed and left,’ Jasmine said.
‘If he doesn’t come back tonight, one of the men will move in here,’ the woman said.
‘The house is overcrowded,’ Jasmine said.
The woman screwed her face up, ‘Yes, but we can only pay if there are many of us.’
‘Why did Tina come here?’ Jasmine said looking around at the squalor.
Samantha shrugged, ‘Finding accommodation in Reading is difficult and this is close to where she lived with her wife and daughter.’
‘Where do they live?’ Jasmine said.
Samantha pointed out of the blocked window. ‘A couple of streets away.’
‘Let’s go and have a look.’ Jasmine backed out of the room. They returned downstairs and were leaving the building when Jasmine paused and turned to the woman.
‘Thanks for your help. Can you tell me your name?’
She shook her head and kept her lips clamped closed.
‘It’s alright, we won’t tell anyone. Just, if we find Terry we can tell him that you helped us.’
The woman managed a half smile. ‘OK. It is Cristina Antonescu. My brother Dumitru is here too.’
Jasmine took the last as a warning not to take advantage of her. Nevertheless, she smiled and thanked the woman. They returned to the Fiesta.
‘What do you think has happened to Tina?’ Samantha said.
‘I’ve no idea,’ Jasmine replied, ‘but it looks like she went out expecting to come back. She didn’t hide her femme side did she.’
‘I don’t think she saw any reason to; not now she didn’t have her wife and kid to tell her what to do.’
‘She wasn’t afraid of transphobes?’
‘Doesn’t look like it. Perhaps she thought that if the Romans accepted her then she was safe.’
‘Except that she wasn’t. Not if that gang were after her. And they didn’t think she was just a tranny.’
‘Yeah,’ Samantha looked mystified, ‘Where did they get that paedophile thing from? Tina dressed like a girl, she didn’t go after them.’
‘Are you sure?’
Samantha turned white. ‘I never got any idea of that when we were out together. Tina just liked the princess look. Like that Grayson Perry.’
‘I don’t think there’s much similarity,’ Jasmine said. ‘Perry’s style is juvenile, but his outfits are sculptured affairs, costumes. Tina’s look was pre-pubertal girl.’
‘I don’t know,’ Samantha said. ‘I thought we were having fun.’
‘You and Tina perhaps,’ Jasmine said, ‘Tina’s wife didn’t see it as simple fun or she wouldn’t have chucked her out. I think we need to have a chat with her.’
A scared look came over Samantha. ‘Are you sure?’
‘She’s the only other person we know who might be able to tell us where Tina is.’
‘OK, but I’m not going near her.’
‘Just take me to their house.’ Jasmine started the engine.

……………………….to be continued



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?”


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 decides

As I said last time, I spent last weekend at the Nine Worlds convention (or “geek fest” the organisers call it) in Hammersmith, London.  I enjoyed myself chairing a Q&A session 9Worldswith John Gribbin and Zoe Sutra who were launching their books, published by Elsewhen.  I attended a number of other sessions, some better than others, the highlight being a talk on how to build a spaceship that generated quite a few ideas (and arguments). There were lots of people in costume, most of whom meant nothing to me but they impressed me with their dedication and handiwork. Perhaps most noticeably, both in the convention programme and simply looking around was the emphasis on diversity.  This showed up in a variety of ways – there were as many women as men of all ages, there were a variety of ethnicities represented, there were people with disabilities, and most important for me, there were a good number of non-binary people.  It was an opportunity for everyone to be whoever they wanted to be, whether it was Princess Leia, a fairy, or someone proud to be neither overtly male or female.  I’m looking forward to next year.

Next up is the UK Indy Lit Fest in Bradford on 26th August.  There will be over forty authors like me there, with books to sell either self-published or published by small independent publishers. I really do hope that there will also be plenty of people looking around, browsing and buying books. If you are going, you can pre-order my books by completing this form.

UK Indie fest banner

My latest Elsewhen book, Cold Fire, is now available as an e-book on all platforms.  The paperback will be available soon – watch this space as they say.

Layout 1

And so to Jasmine Frame’s latest adventure in Viewpoint. Here is episode 9.

Viewpoint: Part 9

The pale autumn sun hung over the canal, glinting off the murky water. Jasmine’s feet pounded the towpath. It had stopped raining and the air had a freshness to it. She was running to dispel the frustration and anger and also to overcome the feelings left by yesterday’s jog with its macabre conclusion. Another unexpected wade through the cold water was not on her list of desirables. She was approaching the bypass bridge and there, underneath the roadway, was Harold’s old boat and Harold himself stroking a paintbrush along its multi-coloured wooden superstructure. His wiry haired dog of no identifiable breed sat patiently beside him watching as he worked.
Jasmine slowed to a stop when she drew level with the old boatman. The dog approached her and lowered its head to sniff her running shoes. Harold turned and spoke to her in his Yorkshire accent.
‘Hello again lassy. Don’t often see tha at this time of day.’
Although Jasmine had occasionally stopped to chat she was surprised that Harold was familiar with her routine of early morning or evening runs.
‘I needed to get out. I finished early today,’ she said.
‘Ah well, no doubt you think it does tha some good.’
‘Running lets me think,’ Jasmine said.
‘Well now, a gentle walk with Robbie here before closing up for t’night does that for me,’ Harold said.
‘Which way do you usually go?’
Harold nodded to the setting sun, ‘Away from the town, lass.’
‘As far as Renham lock?’
Harold looked into her eyes. ‘That I do. Give Robbie a chance to do his business and nose around after rabbits. You’ve a ken for what I saw a couple of nights ago.’
Jasmine’s stomach churned. What had he seen? ‘Tuesday night, yes. Did you see anything, er, unusual?’
‘Now what does tha mean by unusual? I saw three fellas up at the lock dropping stuff in the water. Tha’s not so unusual. Plenty of them fly-tippers thinking that the canal makes a useful rubbish dump.’
‘Did you see what it was?’
‘No, but it was quite a weight. Took two of them to heave it off the bank. I reckoned it was a dead sheep or summat.’
‘You know a body was found there yesterday morning.’
He nodded. ‘Aye, and it was thou what found it, weren’t it? I saw you run past, earlyish, and didna see you come back. Then there wus all them sirens. I wandered up to have a look but when I saw the coppers I turned back. Some other dog walkers said what was happening and I put two and two together.’
Jasmine shivered at the memory of the cold water. ‘I saw the body in the water. It had come back to the surface. I went in and dragged it out. Did the police officers come to speak to you?’
‘Na. Why would they trouble themselves to walk all the way down here to hear what I had to say?’
It should have been Terry and Derek who’d been asking questions but they had focussed on the possibility of eyewitnesses on the track from the road. Unless you knew the canal, like she did, you wouldn’t know that there were people like Harold on it at all times of the year.
‘Could you describe the men, Harold?’
Harold sniffed. ‘It was nigh on dark. They wuz shadows more than anything, but definitely three fellas, one of them small and he had a limp.’
Jasmine was excited. Riley? With Taylor and someone else perhaps?
‘What about their vehicle, Harold? Did you see that?’
‘Like I say, it was dark. I couldn’t get a number.’
‘No, I understand. But the type of vehicle?’
‘Oh, it was one of them old Land Rovers, short wheelbase, pick-up.’ He had described Taylor’s Land Rover. Of course, there were plenty of them around, but it confirmed her suspicions well enough for her. Harold’s observations could be vital evidence.
She asked him a question. ‘You’ve moored here a while, haven’t you?’
Harold nodded, ‘For as long as the Board will leave me be. No doubt they’ll be along in a day or two to move me along a bit.’
‘You’ll still be on the canal though?’
‘Oh, aye. I only move as far as I have to. Perhaps a couple of miles the other side of Kintbridge or back towards Thirsbury.’
‘I’ll be able to find you again, then.’
‘Tha might have to run a bit further lass.’
‘No problem.’ She turned to face back into the town.
‘Not going on this time then?’ Harold asked.
‘No, there’s work to do,’ Jasmine said, taking her first stride.

On her return to her flat, Jasmine undressed. She replaced the brightly coloured vest, shorts and shoes with black tights, a short black skirt, black polo neck and black ankle boots. She glanced out of the window. The sky was darkening but it wasn’t yet fully night-time. Not time yet. She toasted some bread and spread it with peanut butter. As she munched on it she felt excitement. Denise Palmerston would be furious if she knew what she planned, but that, sort of, made Jasmine more determined to follow through with her plan.
Harold’s information confirmed for her that Taylor and Riley were responsible for Alfie’s death. She was sure they had held him before he had died, either at the farm or at the park home site. She was going to look at the latter first. Tom had said that Riley’s hut was small but there were plenty of others on the site. Embarking on a search alone was against her instructions and contrary to police protocol, but she felt she was on her own now. If Palmerston wasn’t going to take Alfie’s death seriously then it was up to her.
It was dark now and the evening rush hour would have died down. After putting on her dark puffer jacket and black leather gloves she left the flat, checked that she had a torch, with batteries, in the glove compartment of the Fiesta and set off. Retracing her journey the previous evening, she drove to the edge of town and turned along the lane past the park homes. She drove on a couple of hundred yards and pulled off the road on to a suitable verge. She locked the car, dropped the keys into the pocket of her jacket and set off back up the road gripping her torch.
Before she reached the entrance to the park she climbed over a gate into a ploughed field and walked alongside the hedge that bordered the site. At the corner, there was a wooden gate. It was locked but Jasmine quickly clambered over it and dropped into knee-high grass. The shadows of the huts loomed against the night sky with the glow of the town beyond.
She crept to the nearest cabin. The grass was trimmed neatly around it and there were pots of shrubs either side of the front door. Jasmine moved onto the second. This too looked cared for and occupied. She continued along the well-spaced row until she came to the hut closest to the far hedge. This one was smaller than the others and the long grass grew up above the columns of breeze blocks that supported the floor of the hut. Jasmine crawled around the hut not daring to use her torch but feeling the ground. The grass was beaten down in front of the doorway and in two narrow strips. A vehicle had parked here not many days ago.
Jasmine approached the hut, raising her head to peer through the dirty windows. There was nothing to see as curtains covered the windows. She pressed her ear to the window and listened. No sounds from inside. Surely the hut was unoccupied. She moved to the front door, tested the handle. It was locked. That wasn’t surprising but perhaps she would have some luck round the back of the hut. Her reward was finding a small window open an inch or two. She inserted her hand through the gap and was able to lift the latch. The window swung open. It was a small gap but with her slim figure she could wriggle through. She entered head first, groping with her hands for the floor to support herself before she tumbled in.
She folded herself into a crouch and waited. There was no sound. The hut was empty. As she suspected, she was in a bathroom; a none too clean bathroom. There was the stink of mould, urine and faeces. She took her torch from her pocket and turned it on. The light revealed a grubby wash basin, loo and bath. Were the stains merely dirt or blood? They looked suspiciously like the latter to Jasmine.
She pushed on the door and it swung open. A scan with the torch showed a small bedsitting room with an old, iron-framed single bed against one wall with a bare mattress. There was a threadbare rug covering part of the rough wood floor, a small dining table and chairs and no other furniture at all. In one corner was a sink unit and old gas cooker. Jasmine could hardly imagine living here and she wondered whether in fact anyone did, voluntarily. She crossed to the bed and shone the torch on the head and foot. There were cords looped around the rails at the four corners, with loose, cut ends. Someone had been tied down, hand and foot, spread-eagled. Had it been Alfie? She was looking closely at the stains on the mattress when the front door creaked open.
Jasmine spun around, her heart thudding, her legs ready to run. But there was no escape. Two figures filled the doorway: a short man and one that was taller. The light bulb hanging from the centre of the ceiling flicked on giving out a dim, yellow light.
‘What the ‘ell?’ The shorter man said in a distinct Irish accent.

……………………….to be continued.





Jasmine office-bound

This weekend I am at Nine Worlds in Hammersmith, London.  It’s a big SF/Fantasy convention. As well as, I hope, enjoying some of the sessions, my main reason for attending is that my publishers, Elsewhen Press are a sponsor and exhibitor and I have been asked to compere a Q&A session with the authors of two books being launched. Artwork: David A. Hardy

The first is a well known name – John Gribbin.  He is famous for his popular science books (written with Mary, his wife) but he is also a long-time SF fan and writer.  His anthology Don’t Look Back collects stories written throughout his life.  They are mainly hard SF tales exploring a law of physics.

Zoe Sumra is an exciting young author. TheCover: Alex Storer Wages of Sin is her second novel in a universe of gangsters, interstellar corporations and spellweavers.  I’m hoping that by fielding the questions and prompting answers I may get a chance to do just a little promotion of my own books – but they will be for sale on the Elsewhen stand, along with my Jasmine Frame novels.

So, as I won’t be around on Saturday morning, here is the next episode of Viewpoint, the thirteenth (yes, 13!) Jasmine Frame prequel story.

Viewpoint: Part 8

Jasmine was expecting a telling off from DS Palmerston but she wasn’t prepared for the stream of invective that poured from the detective’s mouth. There were F words and B words and more, including the T word, “tranny”, that merely confirmed for her that Palmerston was transphobic. She tried to let the torrent of abuse wash over her, after all words couldn’t harm her, but Palmerston’s final threat did hit home.
‘If you think that because you’re resigning from the force you can get away with anything, think again. I can get your pension stopped and have you on a charge of improper behaviour in no time.’
Jasmine tried to sound penitent but wasn’t sure she succeeded.  Denise Palmerston stood panting, recovering her breath. At last she spoke quietly and relatively calmly.
‘Tell us what happened.’
Jasmine described as briefly as possible her encounter with Mr Taylor and his shotgun and then her tailing of him to the park homes. She left out the fact that Taylor had rumbled her gender change.
‘You didn’t tell him that his daughter was dead,’ the DS stated.
‘Why not?’
‘I wanted to see his reaction, but he didn’t seem interested in knowing what had happened to Alfie.’
‘Perhaps being told that she was dead would have got a reaction,’ Palmerston said in a voice that insinuated that Jasmine hadn’t pushed the farmer sufficiently.
‘He was pointing a gun at me. I didn’t feel like testing his emotional reaction.’
Palmerston scratched her cheek. ‘Hmm. We need to speak to him. He can at least formally identify his daughter for us.’
‘Why do you think he visited this caravan, Jas?’ Tom asked. Like the others he had retreated into silence when Jasmine was receiving her roasting.
‘It’s a park home not a caravan site, permanent homes. I think the speed with which he went there after speaking to me means there must be a connection with what happened to Alfie.’
‘OK,’ said Palmerston, grabbing the initiative. ‘Kingston. You and I are going to pay Mr Taylor a visit and take him to view his daughter’s body. Shepherd and Hopkins, take a look at this park home. Find out who Taylor visited and why.’
‘Shouldn’t I go,’ Jasmine said, ‘I know which one he was parked at.’
Palmerston glared at her. ‘If you think you are stepping outside this office again during this investigation, Frame, you are in dreamland. You can direct Tom and Terry to the correct cabin and then you can write up your report on your joy ride yesterday.’
The senior detective urged DC Kingston to accompany her and they left. Jasmine was left with Tom Shepherd and Terry Hopkins.
‘Where was this park then?’ Tom asked.
‘I’ll show you on Google,’ Jasmine said. She went to her desk, called up the map and went to the satellite photo. It showed the cabins laid out in a grid with the driveway down the middle. She pointed out where she had seen Taylor’s Land Rover parked.
Tom peered closely at the screen. ‘There are quite a few homes on the site.’
‘I couldn’t tell how many are occupied,’ Jasmine said, ‘Most of them were dark.’
Tom pulled his waterproof from the back of his chair, ‘Well, come on Terry. Let’s go and have a look.’ He moved towards the door with Hopkins following.
‘Enjoy writing your report,’ Terry said over his shoulder as he left.
Jasmine grumbled under her breath as she sat down to do as she was told. It didn’t take her long to type out a bare account of her visit to Exeter and the stop-offs on the way back. Just the bald facts were recorded with no speculation or comments of what she was really thinking about Alfie Benson. When she had finished she read through the medical reports on Alfie that the clinic had sent through. It upset her reading what Alfie had gone through. There was the double-edged emotion of his mastectomy; the joy as a transman of losing his breasts versus the sadness at the death of his mother and fear of following her in contracting cancer. He had gone through the surgery and recovery all alone in Weymouth. After that, there was the long wait for further treatment which never materialised because of his drift into depression, no doubt exacerbated by the lack of progress in his transition and loneliness. Jasmine empathised with Alfie. She knew she was in for a long process to achieve the state of femininity that she desired and she knew there was no guarantee that she would ever get all the treatment that she wanted and needed free on the NHS. At least she had the support of Angela, soon to be ex-wife but still a friend, and her family (sister, Holly, was supportive). Her resignation from the Police Force was perhaps a backward step but she was resolute that she would not suffer the prejudice from Palmerston and others like her for any longer.
Little more than an hour had passed when Tom and Terry returned. Jasmine greeted them cheerfully. Terry grunted and went to the coffee machine. He poured two cups but didn’t ask Jasmine if she wanted one. Tom shucked off his coat and sat in his chair.
‘Well?’ Jasmine asked, ‘You weren’t long. Did you find anything?’
Tom nodded and shrugged at the same time. ‘Yes, there was a guy at the hut. Name’s Patrick Riley. Little Irish bloke, walks with a limp. Used to work on Taylor’s farm until he got injured.’
Jasmine was eager for more. ‘So, he knows Alfie’s father. Did he admit to seeing him last night?’
‘Yes. He said Kevin, that’s Taylor’s first name, often calls in for a beer on a Wednesday evening. Despite having his accident while working for Taylor, Riley says they are still mates.’
‘So he’s prepared to cover for Taylor then,’ Jasmine grumbled, ‘Did you tell him about Alfie?’
‘We asked him if he knew Taylor’s daughter,’ Tom replied, saying the last word quietly as if expecting a rebuke.
‘What did he say?’
‘He said he knew Taylor had a daughter but he hadn’t met her and didn’t know where she was living.’
‘Where he was living. Didn’t you say that Alfie was a man?’
‘No, Jas. DS Palmerston says we’re investigating the death of Lucy Taylor, not Alfie Benson. We did ask if she had been mentioned in conversation last night but Riley said she hadn’t come up.’
‘He would say that wouldn’t he. Did he ask why you were asking questions about Alfie?’ Jasmine saw Tom’s sigh. ‘OK, Lucy.’
‘No, he didn’t Jas, and yes, I realise that is suspicious. We’d expect him to have been interested in why we were asking the questions. It didn’t look as if Lucy could have been held there against her wishes.’
‘No? Are you sure?’ Jasmine wasn’t convinced.
Terry Hopkins put his mug of coffee down. ‘The place was tiny, Frame. I had a look round while Tom was asking the questions. A single bed room, barely room for a bed, and a kitchen-living room. It was grubby but all in order; no sign of anyone being kept there or done in.’
‘Hmm.’ Jasmine wasn’t convinced by Terry’s powers of observation or deduction.
‘I think, Terry’s right, Jas,’ Tom said, ‘If Riley is involved in Lucy’s death, and there’s every chance he was, I don’t think she was kept in that hut.’
‘So, what now?’ Jasmine asked feeling frustrated at the lack of progress or indeed effort to make progress.
‘We see what DS Palmerston gets out of Kevin Taylor and suggests as the next move.’
Tom and Terry settled down to write up their report and Jasmine went back to staring at the satellite photo of the park home site. She counted almost two dozen rooftops of huts of varying sizes.

The door opened and Jasmine looked up to see Palmerston striding in with Kingston behind her. She gave an impatient wave of her hand to gather the team around her at the white board.
‘Mr Taylor has confirmed the identity of his daughter,’ Palmerston said, glaring at Jasmine as she spoke the last word. Jasmine did not fall for her senior officer’s ruse. ‘He says he has not seen her for six years and was not aware that she had had a mastectomy but he confirmed that his wife died of breast cancer.’
‘He had no idea where she’s been during that time?’ Tom asked.
‘He denied any knowledge of her whereabouts or lifestyle,’ Palmerston insisted.
Jasmine couldn’t keep silent. ‘Did you ask him why he threatened me with his shotgun?’
Palmerston glared at her, her nostrils flaring. ‘There has been a spate of farm thefts in the area so he has been patrolling with his gun. He thought you may have been nosing around his property looking for things to steal. Oh, and he says his gun wasn’t loaded.’
Jasmine huffed her disbelief.
‘What about you two?’ Palmerston looked at Tom and Terry. Tom gave a swift report on their conversation with Riley.
‘So,’ the DS drew breath, ‘Taylor and Riley are possible suspects in the murder of Lucy Taylor but we have no evidence to incriminate them as yet. Do we have any sightings of the people who dumped the body in the canal or the vehicle they used? Terry, you and Derek were down there yesterday. No witnesses?’
Terry Hopkins shook his head. ‘There are people living in the houses where the lane meets the road. A few of them said that people sometimes use the track to go fishing but no one saw anything on Tuesday evening.’
‘We need to know where the victim was living after she left Weymouth,’ Denise Palmerston said with a note of frustration in her voice. ‘Hopkins and Kingston, I want you find out all you can about Lucy and her father, relatives, family friends, anyone who Lucy may have been in touch with. Shepherd get on to our oppos in Weymouth. See if they can find anyone at all that knew her.’
‘Him,’ Jasmine said. ‘He was Alfie Benson in Weymouth. He was a man, living, working, socialising, not that he did much of any of that from what I can tell from his conversations with the GIC.’
‘Thank you, DC Frame,’ the DS said, not sounding particularly grateful. ‘I think we know how to do our jobs.’
‘What do you want me to do?’ Jasmine asked as politely as she could manage. She expected to be given another routine IT task.
‘You can get out of here,’ DS Palmerston said, ‘I’ve spoken to DCI Sloane and he agrees that your insubordination yesterday shows that you are temperamentally unsuited to being part of this team. You can go and stew in your little flat until you’ve served your notice.’

………………………..to be continued.

Layout 1


Jasmine finds a lead

This weekend I’m off to Llanidloes in mid-Wales for their Tattoofest. Apparently it’s not all about tattoos and there will be a number of us offering our books to visitors to browse, and buy. I’m not interested in having a tattoo myself although I think some of the designs people have done are quite stunning. I think it is the permanence that is off-putting.  We like to change our hairstyle and clothes fashion from time to time, as well as our surroundings, so being stuck with the same skin decoration for ever strikes me as being a bit limiting. Nevertheless, everyone has the right to adorn their own bodies in any way that they like.

WP_20170704_10_16_10_ProThis is my first chance for a long time to market my books and offer my talks.  I don’t really count the Leominster Festival Bookfair because I spent so much time looking after everyone else I didn’t get to do much with my own publications. This will be the first outing for my new pop-up banner. It is quite an expense and of course will soon be out of date when Cold Fire is published, but nevertheless it should serve for a couple of years.  I think it looks pretty striking as well as informative.

I am on the lookout for other opportunities to promote my work – both the Jasmine Frame books and my fantasy novels. I’m willing to put up a stand or join discussions or give talks. My main talk will be “Murder – with frocks: transgender in life and fiction” but I am also very keen to talk about SF/Fantasy and the inspirations for my September Weekes novels, and about the business of writing and publishing (I’ve self-published in a number of ways, worked with large educational publishers and been published by a couple of small independents. so I think I have some experiences to relate).

I was hoping for a slot to participate (rather than just attend) the big Nine Worlds SF/Fantasy convention in London in August. I was told, however, that they could not match me to any of the 250 or so events! That’s despite there being sessions on mythology, monsters, writing, etc., etc.  I wish the organisers could have been honest in saying they wanted “names” instead of giving me the brush off.

Anyway, back to the business of writing. Here’s the next episode in the Jasmine Frame novella, Viewpoint.  We’re up to part 4 already and I think I know where the story is going now – yes, really!

Viewpoint: Part 4

Palmerston went on, ‘We also need to determine her last movements and how she got into the canal. Pathology will soon tell us whether she was dead or alive when she entered the water.’
Terry Hopkins spoke, ‘A road crosses the canal at Hambury, The body could have been dropped in the water there.’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘I doubt it. That’s a mile upstream from where I found the body and it would have had to pass through Renham lock. I doubt whether a boat has passed through the lock in the time that the body was in the water.’
Hopkins glared at her and moaned, ‘How come you know what goes on on the canal?’
‘Because I run along it most days,’ Jasmine replied. ‘The only boat on the stretch between Kintbridge to Hambury is old Harrold’s and he’s moored under the bypass. The flow has been too great on the river sections in the last few days for boats to be moving much and you may have noticed that it hasn’t been pleasant weather for boating.’
Hopkins grunted but had no further comment.
‘Could the body have been delivered to the north bank at Renham lock?’ Tom asked.
Jasmine gave another shake of her head. ‘There’s only a narrow towpath on the north bank and you’ve got the railway line and then the river alongside. The body must have been brought by a vehicle to the south bank up that track you used this morning, Tom.’
‘There are buildings where that track meets the road,’ Derek Kingston noted, ‘There must be people living there. Perhaps they noticed something.’
‘You’ve given yourself a job, Derek,’ Palmerston said, obviously glad to be issuing orders. ‘You and Terry get down there and start asking questions. Tom, you’re with me. Let’s see what pathology have found.’
Jasmine realised that she was the only one left without a task. Nothing changes, she thought. ‘What do want me to do?’ she asked knowing what the answer was going to be.
‘You can start going through missing persons, DC Frame.’ The DS tossed off her instruction, turned and started towards the door.
Tom saw Jasmine clenching her fists. ‘Sorry, Jas. You didn’t think that she’d change because you’ve resigned, did you?’
Jasmine let out the breath she’d been holding. ‘No, but I’ve been reminded why I did resign. Not that I needed to be.’
‘Shepherd! Come on,’ Palmerston called. Tom hurried to obey.
Jasmine sat at her old desk noting that no-one had laid claim to it yet. She booted up the computer and found that her log-ins were still valid. Well, there were still a couple of weeks before her employment was terminated. She quickly put in a request to receive missing persons data from her own and neighbouring police districts, then sat back and considered. She didn’t hold out much hope of finding a quick match among the dozens of persons reported as missing. She needed another angle. If her guess about the gender of the victim was correct then he appeared to be a good way through his transition. Many FtMs had breast removal before internal surgery to remove ovaries and sometimes the uterus. Phalloplasty, construction of a penis, was the last, most difficult and most expensive stage which many never reached. To be at any stage of that procedure meant that the victim was probably on the list of a Gender Identity Clinic. Jasmine started composing emails to the eight GICs across England. She attached the photo taken of the body when it was lying on the canal bank. It wasn’t pretty but it was all she had for now.
When the task was complete, she sat back and stretched her arms. She realised that although she was alone in the outer office, DCI Sloane had been shut away in his own annexe. She got up and walked to his door. It was open and she could see the man sat his desk, his head bent over a pile of paper files. He rarely used the computer that was pushed to the edge of his large desk. He must have sensed her presence because he looked up and saw her. Jasmine saw his lip curl.
‘Ah, Frame. Any progress?’
‘Not yet, sir. I’m waiting for replies.’
‘Hmm. I see.’ His eyes dropped back to the papers in front of him.
Jasmine wasn’t going to miss this opportunity. There might not be another chance to speak to the Boss when no other officers, particularly DS Palmerston, weren’t around.
‘You agreed with my thoughts about the victim, sir,’ she said.
He looked at her. ‘Agreed?’
‘That he was a man.’
Sloane puffed out his lips. ‘Ah, that. I agreed with your surmise that the victim was undergoing the process of, what do you call it, transition, and I understand that this person may therefore be claiming to be male.’
‘Claiming to be!’ Jasmine felt her face heat up and her heart hammered in her chest.
‘That’s what this transsexual nonsense is all about isn’t it, Frame? People choosing their own sex and expecting their family, employers, even the health service to go along with their fancies.’
‘It is not a fancy. It’s not even a choice. Do you think someone would go through a double mastectomy just because they fancied being a man for a change? Do you think I’m looking forward to having gender reassignment surgery to make me the woman I am?’
Sloane was forced back in his chair by Jasmine’s onslaught.
‘Now, Frame. I know your change causes you some anxiety. I’m sure it’s those female drugs you’re taking. . .’
‘That’s right. Blame it on the hormones that make me behave like a silly female. Is that it?’ Jasmine paused for breath. ‘They do give me mood swings and nausea, but it’s my body that suffers the changes, not my mind. I am a woman and I am sure our murder victim, whoever he was, was certain he was a man.’
‘I think you need to calm, down, DC Frame.’
Jasmine took a breath. ‘I am calm, but I can’t take much more of this. You know it’s why I resigned.’
Jasmine thought she noticed regret pass across Sloane’s face, but it disappeared quickly.
‘That was your choice, Frame. The Police Service was giving you every assistance in your decision to, er, transition.’
‘Officially, yes, but in practice, you know what was happening here and you let Palmerston sideline me in every investigation.’
‘That was your view of the situation. I see Palmerston dong her job to assign staff to tasks as necessary.’
‘So why did you call me back today?’
Sloane’s mouth opened but no sound came out for a moment. He closed it, swallowed then spoke. ‘DS Palmerston thought that as you were involved in the case through your discovery of the body, it would be better for the investigation if you were on the team and could be allocated tasks that suited your abilities and demeanour. You have a reputation for going off in your own direction, Frame, as you well know.’
‘I get results.’
Sloane sniffed. ‘Perhaps. Nevertheless, we felt it was wise to have you where we can see you rather than having you interfere as a free agent; or, what is it you intend being? A private eye. Hah!’
‘Well, you’ve only got to the end of the month to carry on telling me what to do.’
‘We’ll see,’ The DCI said quietly and glanced back at his paperwork, ‘I suggest you get back to your work, Detective Constable.’
Jasmine returned to her desk still feeling the anger filled blood pumping round her body. She looked at her screen. Some of the missing person data had arrived and she flicked through it not surprised to find nothing that had a connection to the victim. The monotonous task at least calmed her down. While she was doing so a ping indicated an email arriving in her inbox. She clicked on it and her heart thumped. It was from the south-west gender clinic in Exeter. She read the message eagerly. One of the staff had recognised the victim but medical confidentiality prevented them from releasing the patient’s details immediately. It didn’t matter – she’d got an i.d.

…………………….to be continued.



Jasmine is considering

After a couple of weeks of idyllic holiday it is difficult to get back into routine, especially when there is so much to make one want to just curl up again – I won’t say what.  One thing did concern me. It was a report in the news over a week ago about the transwoman who committed suicide while in a male prison. I was concerned to read that she was only 19 and had been living as female since the age of 10.  But, and this is what got to me, she had little idea of what being transsexual means and had had no advice, medical or otherwise to help her transition. Despite all the publicity in recent years about various trans people, she still felt isolated and did not know where to go for help. She had not even begun to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate, probably because she had not started any authorised medical treatment.

My understanding is that you do not need to go through surgery or even drug treatment to get a GRC but you do have to have a medical opinion that you are gender dysphoric. I have also heard that your mental state is taken into consideration. You can get to a sort of Catch 22 situation where if you are mad i.e. have mental health issues, you can’t get a GRC while a lot of people consider wanting to change gender a sign of madness.

This woman obviously had issues as she was convicted of crimes and sent to prison. What is appalling is that she received no care from the authorities that were responsible for her welfare while in custody. It also shows that there is still a lack of information about being trans available to the general public, despite the heap of material on the internet. We may be just 1% of the population but that just makes it that much more difficult for people who need help to make contact with those that can provide it. It also shows that the majority of people have a poor grasp of gender issues and do not understand how to help someone who is struggling to come to terms with their gender identity.


IMGP5962I have a busy two or three weeks coming up so a new Jasmine novella will be on hold for a bit longer. In the meantime I’ll continue with other short stories I have stored away (there are lots).  This week I have a recent SF story I wrote (somewhat hurriedly) for a competition.  It didn’t get anywhere which I’m not surprised about.  I think it reads more like a synopsis than a short story.  It is also a familiar theme – colonisation of the Moon – but I hoped I had an original slant. Anyway, here it is.

Life on the Moon

The dark sky. That’s what surprised me most when I got here. I spent lots of time staring at the sky back home. There wasn’t much else to do lying in a cot. I watched the clouds move, that’s all. Then they gave me the neuro-interface. Here, on the Moon’s surface with my suit working at one hundred percent to keep me cool and my visor filter at maximum, the sun’s still too bright to look at directly and yet the sky is black. Yeah, that’s what tells me I’m on the Moon. It’s not the lower gravity, that’s just a pleasure. The weight on my chest is less and my useless muscles don’t have to work so hard.
The thing is they didn’t mention it during training. I suppose those career guys who’d been up to orbit lots of times didn’t think of it. Perhaps they weren’t allowed the time to just stare out of the windows of the space station. Me, well, when I’m turned away from the Sun and see all the stars on that black background it still takes my breath away. That’s probably not a good way of putting it. A break in my breathing would set off all sorts of warning alarms and have the monitor reprimand me for wasting time – time we haven’t got.
I’m outside for almost all my ten-hour shift, keeping an eye or more accurately a few brain cells, on the drills and the rock shifting kit, making small adjustments here and there, occasionally taking control of the waldos and really moving stuff. I love it. I feel useful for the first time in my life. Useful and important.  When I hand over to one of the others I feel as if I’m giving up a part of my body. In some ways, I am.
Yesterday, when I got back from my shift there was a celebration going on. Li told me all about it. We’re friends. She’s so like me; in abilities if not looks or personality. The fuss was over the completion of Cavern 1. Now they can start filling it with all the kit they’ve been hauling up from Earth. That gear will make this place self-sufficient in water, oxygen, metals, and lots of other stuff. The bosses were pleased because the hole was dug ahead of schedule and that was all down to our team.
Soon we’ll finish Cavern 2. It’ll be great to start filling it with the permanent living quarters. The temporary surface pods are cramped and there’s always the chance of a meteor puncturing the skin. The next bunch to come up from Earth will find their cosy apartments all ready for them.  By then the bio domes should be producing real food. I’m looking forward to having something to chew on instead of the concentrated, dried, pre-cooked mush we get from Earth. Once we’ve got our own food supply we can really start calling ourselves colonists.
Some of the guys talk about going home when we’ve finished the heavy work. Not me. Why should I go back to that gravity-well where I can’t move a muscle and I’m treated like a dependent waste of space? Here I’m free and a respected member of the gang. I’d happily see out my life working as a farmer or extending the caverns. Li feels the same. We may pair up and take a shared apartment in Cavern 2; maybe even have kids. I wonder if they would be like us?
Anyway, who really wants to go back to Earth now? It’s not exactly a pleasant place to be these days. The guys who want to go back have family down there so perhaps that gives them a reason. There’s no one down there who wants me back, not when getting food and staying alive is such a struggle, even for people who have the use of their own limbs.
I saw a meteor today. You don’t see them very often because there’s no atmosphere for them to streak through. It caught my eye, well, my camera lens, when it reflected the sunlight. A brief flicker, then it was gone. Thinking about it, perhaps it wasn’t a meteor after all. It wasn’t moving fast enough. Some of the states on Earth don’t like what we’re doing and have threatened to lob a bomb at us. One or two of them still have the capability. That’s why we’re on the “other side” facing away from Earth. Some of the guys are upset that we don’t have a view of Earth but I don’t care. I don’t want to see what we’ve done to that place, or let the bad guys down there have a good view of what we’re doing.
It was a missile. Li told me that someone she knows in admin said that our defences took it out before it got anywhere near. They’re not expecting many more as they’ve started lobbing nukes at each other down there. That should take their minds off us. Mind you the chances of us getting more supplies look pretty slim. Just like the chances of some of the guys going home.  I’ll just get on with my job managing the machines fitting out Cavern 2. I’m a builder now not a digger.
That’s it. We’re on our own. The multi-nationals who were behind us don’t exist anymore, like their customers, or most of them anyway. Admin have cut our rations to tide us over until the first crops are ready in a few weeks. It’ll be tough but I don’t need much to eat.
Chatting to Li, she thinks that the company bosses knew this was going to happen. That was why there was such a rush to get the colony set up. She says they used up all their capital to move as much stuff up here as possible in the time that was left. They had to do it without the governments noticing as otherwise their resources would have been commandeered for the patriotic wars.
Li and I moved into our new home today. It’s on floor 6, two hundred meters below the surface but handy for the elevators. We’ve got more room than we expected because there’s no more people coming up from down below.  We celebrated with a special dinner – a tube of protein paste saved from yesterday’s ration, re-hydrated rice and a fresh lettuce from our first crop.  Food may be short still, but we’re nice and cosy down here and the solar energy collectors on the surface are 100% as it’s mid-moon day. We selected a view of the surface for our video-screen. Some of the others have selected scenes of Earth relayed by the satellite. I don’t know how they can look at that spoiled place now. It’s not the blue, white and green globe it used to be but a dirty brown ball.
We had boiled egg today. Okay, Li and I had to share it, but it was a real egg; shell and everything. We spent as much time looking at it as eating it. I had no idea that we’d brought chicken embryos up with us. Once we got the bio pods up the chicks were incubated. Now they’re hens and laying.  We had bread with the egg; real bread made from grain grown in the bio pods. Food is still rationed, probably always will be, but we’re self-sufficient.  Li and I talked about raising a kid. Of course, we can’t actually make a baby by ourselves, not us two, but we’re going to have a chat with the meds.
We’re going to be a mum and dad!  I supplied the sperm and Li the egg and the cybermeds did the rest. Nine months’ time we’ll have a daughter called Selene. We decided against gen-eng so she’ll be like Li and me. Admin agreed to it. In fact, they suggested it. They need our brains but being immobile we don’t need as much food as the ables. Selene won’t be the first child. Dmitri and Makena are having theirs the traditional way, a few weeks sooner. Admin were delighted. Without the extra people that were expected from Earth we’re a small number. Now that the food situation is easing, they want more mouths to feed, and hands and brains to do the work.
I’ve got a new job.  Admin have patched me into the colony’s mainframe. I’m making sure that all the systems are running to plan. I look after the farmbots in the bio pods, energy generation, the foundries extracting metals and making plastics, the water and oxygen extractors, life support, everything really. It’s not just me of course. Li does a shift and there are others like us.  I wonder if the guys who designed the neuro-interface that give us a life, guessed that one day we’d be running the first colony on the Moon. Okay, it’s probably the last as well, but we have a future, which is more than those poor folks on Earth have got.
It’s a good job that we can override the default settings. A few of the guys who couldn’t go home to Earth got a bit upset. I had to cut their oxygen. They won’t cause any more problems.
I love this job. It means that I’m on the surface any time I like, looking out through the cameras on the bio pods, the solar collectors and the communications towers. I can see the ragged ridge that surrounds our crater, the grey dust that’s now criss-crossed with the tracks of our machines and I can look up and see the stars in that black sky.