Jasmine abroad

What is there to rant about this week? Quite a lot unfortunately, but I can’t bear to work myself into a tizz considering the agonies of the American election; the Brexit farce and the economy; war with Russia (yes, I think we are actually at war, although at the moment it is people outside Europe who are getting hurt); climate change and extinction (ours, perhaps).  I’ve been thinking about trying to be green while still living the life we want to live. That means personal transport.  Over three years ago we changed our car. I wanted one that was fuel-efficient and hence kept our carbon footprint as small as possible. Keeping within our limited budget was also, obviously, a priority. We went for a Ford Fiesta with the Econetic diesel engine. It has been super. On long journeys we have regularly achieved over 70 miles to the gallon (sorry about the old units but that’s still how I think in everyday life) and close to that on local journeys. She had plenty of power to get out of difficulties, would cruise all day (and did when we took her Germany and up to Scotland) and has been very reliable.

But, she’s a diesel. I have been dismayed by the reports over the last couple of years about the damaging emissions from diesels. Now, I know that it is old engines and commercial traffic that are the main culprits but even the diesels in small cars give out up to 10 times more NOx than petrol engines to say nothing about particulates. I feel a little bit duped that we were persuaded that diesels were the way forward. Obviously they are not.  If we lived in a big city then the answer would be public transport and belonging to a car share club giving us a choice of vehicles for whatever purpose we needed one. But living in a small town in a rural county that won’t work.  We need our own vehicle to get around locally, visit family and friends further afield, and for holidays. So what is it to be?  An electric car – too expensive and not enough range for the longer journeys; petrol hybrid – perhaps expensive to purchase; efficient petrol engine – are they good enough?

I’ll let you know later what we decide.

san-antonio

Now on to Jasmine Frame. This week I’m starting a new prequel story set in 2005, so some years before the timeframe of  the Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design novels, but after the two e-book published novellas Discovering Jasmine and Murder in Doubt. Here is the first episode of Falloff.  Let me know what you think.

Falloff: part 1

His lips brushed over the silky skin of her breast.  The softness, the curve, the smell of her, filled his mind. Angela lay motionless beneath him as he delighted in touching her body.
Her body stiffened. ‘What was that noise?’
James lifted his head. ‘What noise? My ears are still ringing from the club.’
‘So are mine, but I’m sure I heard something.’
James listened. There were the typical noises of holidaying young people who filled the Hotel Arena, the rumble of late night traffic, a distant siren, but nothing that drew his attention.
‘What did you hear?’
‘A cry and a bump.’
James pushed himself onto his knees. ‘A cry and a bump?’
‘Yes.’
‘Where?’
‘Just outside our window.’
James got off the bed and walked to the window. He pushed the thin curtain aside and stepped onto the balcony.
‘You’re naked, James.’
‘I know. It doesn’t matter. I’ll just have a quick look.’
A warm, gentle breeze caressed his skin. He looked out across the promenade with its rows of lights to San Antonio’s bay, dark but for the moonlight. He turned left and right. There was no one else on the adjacent balconies. He was about to turn back to Angela but he glanced down to the to the pool and lawn three floors below. Something pale lay on the grass. He saw arms and legs, a body. He froze, his hands gripping the rail.
‘Can you see anything?’
James sucked in air, turned away and ran back into the bedroom. In the semi-darkness, he searched for clothes. There was his dress, cast onto the floor when they returned from the club, along with his high-heeled sandals, bra and knickers, Angela’s clothes too. He scrabbled around on the chair found his bathing shorts, hopped as he pulled them up his legs.
‘What is it?’ Angela said, an anxious tone in her voice.
‘Someone. I think someone’s fallen.’  James ran from the room, down the corridor to the lift. Too impatient to wait, he pushed through the swing door to the stairs. He leapt down two, three steps at a time, till he reached the ground floor and ran across the foyer to the side doors that lead to the pool. He sprinted across the lawn till he came to the crumpled form of a girl.  She was naked but for a pair of the skimpiest knickers, her skin white, her long golden hair spread out like rays of sunshine. Her limbs made strange angles with her torso. Blood trickled from her mouth.
James knelt beside her and lowered his head to listen for breathing. There was the faintest puff of moist air on his cheek, then a whisper.
‘Car. . .’  Then no more.
Feet pounded on the ground behind him. James pushed himself up and looked around. The night manager was standing over him.
‘Qué ha pasado?’
James shrugged.
‘Quién es? Who?’
‘I don’t know her name. Ambulance, get an ambulance.’  The manager ran back towards the hotel. He passed Angela, wrapped in a beach robe running towards him. She stopped at his side and bent over the girl.
‘It’s the girl from next door,’ she said.
‘Yes, I thought so. She must have fallen. It’s three floors. I think she’s dead.’
Other people were emerging from the hotel, shouting and running towards them. They were night porters, bar staff and holidaymakers returning from the all-night clubs and bars. They saw an attraction and gathered around. Some pressed close to the girl, reaching down to move her.
James extended his arms to protect her. ‘No, don’t. Her back may be broken.’  The gawkers froze, eyes wide and staring, forming an impenetrable circle. James leaned down again but could detect no hint of breathing.
It was just a few minutes but felt like an eternity before sirens approached and then the growing crowd was pushed aside and men and women in uniforms were there. James found it difficult to take his eyes off the dead girl but someone took James’ arm and pulled him away.
‘Policía. Come please.’
James looked at the young man in the short-sleeved uniform of the Spanish police.
‘You know this girl?’ he asked.
James shook his head, ‘No, I mean I don’t know who she is but I think we were on the same package.’
‘Package?’
‘The same holiday. She was in the room next to us.’
‘Why you here?’
‘We, my wife heard her fall, I think. I looked over the balcony and saw her on the ground.’
‘Ah. What is your name?’  He took out a notepad and noted James’s and Angela’s names and room number.
James found himself standing next to Angela a little way from the activity around the body. The crowd had been urged back but still they looked on. The ambulance crew did not appear to be doing much. James presumed that his fears for the girl’s life were accurate.  Minute by minute more police officers arrived.
A man in a pale beige suit, with a cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth approached them. James thought he looked about forty with his lined face and small moustache.
The policeman removed the cigarette from his mouth. ‘Seňor Frame?’  James nodded.  ‘I am Inspector Alvarez. You discovered the body?’
James noted that he spoke English with little trace of accent. ‘Well yes, I was the first person here.’
‘You heard her fall, I’m told.’
Angela spoke, ‘I heard a cry and then a faint thud.’
Alvarez nodded. ‘That was all?’
‘I think so,’ Angela said, ‘I wasn’t listening. We were in bed.’
‘Ah, I see. In bed but not asleep. You, seňor, heard nothing?’
James shook his head. ‘I don’t think so. Nothing particular.’
‘But you got out of bed to have a look?’
‘That’s right.’
‘Did you see anyone apart from the body. Someone on the balcony perhaps?’
‘No. I didn’t see anyone anywhere except the girl on the ground.’
‘You knew it was the girl?’
‘No, I wasn’t even certain it was a person. I didn’t see who it was until I got down here.’
‘You recognised her?’
‘I recognised her as a girl I’d seen before but I don’t, er, didn’t know who she was.’
‘Where had you seen her before?’
‘At the airport, Luton; on the plane, on the bus from the airport to here. In the hotel oh, and at the club last night.’
‘Which club?’
‘El Danza.’
‘You saw her a lot, but you still don’t know who she was.’
‘We’re with the same tour operator I suppose. She was with a group of other people, Angela and I were separate. We’re on our honeymoon.
Alvarez smiled. ‘Ah, honeymoon on Ibiza. Very romantic. That’s why you are in bed but not asleep. So, you don’t know why this girl should be on the ground dead?’
James shook his head, ‘I suppose she fell.’
The detective nodded. ‘It looks like that. An accident perhaps. Too much alcohol, the girl unsteady on her pretty feet, tips over the balcony. Or perhaps she jumped.’
‘Suicide!’
Inspector Alvarez shrugged, ‘When these girls are on holiday, they are unsuccessful in love, full of emotion and drink so end their lives.’
James thought it was a rather abrupt conclusion to make.
‘You are here for a while, on your honeymoon Seňor and Seňora Frame?’
‘Just a week? We fly home next Sunday,’ James said.
‘I know where to find you. Perhaps I will have to speak to you again. Enjoy the rest of your stay on Ibiza.’  The police officer turned away from them and walked slowly back to where the body lay.
Angela took James’ hand. ‘Come on, let’s go back to our room. There’s nothing more you can do.’
‘I’m not sure I feel like sleep, or anything else,’ James said as they walked back to the hotel.
Angela tugged on his arm drawing him close to her. ‘I’d just like to feel your arms around me, holding me safe.’
…….to be continued.
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Jasmine ejected

wp_20160902_10_44_30_proI had a lovely time last weekend at NAWGfest16. Warwick University was, as usual, a building site (will it ever stop growing?) but the bedrooms, the food  and the conference venues were all pretty satisfactory.  That is, except for the Rootes building where the meals, including the conference dinner, were held. It has just about the worst acoustics of any building I know. The noise from conversations builds up until you can barely hear the person next to you speaking.  But enough of grumbles. The best thing was winning  a trophy – yes, me; for writing. My entry in the Minitale competition was judeged “Best Tale”! Now, I know the other awards are for longer, more developed pieces and the winners probably deserve more congratulation, but the Minitale is a bit special as it is judged on the day of the awards and entries can be made up till 2:30 on the Saturday afternoon. Oh, and entries are made under a pseudonym (I won’t tell you mine in case I want to use it again, not that it was particularly original).  Writing a minitale is not a complete doddle as it has to be exactly 100 words long and needs to be a complete story, not just a scene. I don’t know how many were entered but it’s usually 30 or so and there were 4 in the shortlist. Here is my winning piece.

Foreign Aid

     The children pressed around him. “Tell us about when the aliens came, Grandad.”
     He sighed and settled in his old chair. Few were left that recalled the event.
    “Listen,” he said. “Their great spaceships landed across the world. The aliens spoke to every one of us. ‘Let us give you solutions to your problems,’ they said, ‘Food, energy, medicines, repair the climate; a better future for everyone.’ But the people replied, ‘We don’t want orange strangers among us. We want independence.’ The aliens departed not wanting to impose their assistance.”
     A small girl whispered. “Is that when the dying began?”

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There, you may not think much of it but I’m proud of my win.  I also won a prize in the draw as well so it was a profitable weekend.  The workshops and the talks were enlightening and the company very accepting and pleasant.
For those of you who might want to join us next year,  NAWG is the National Association of Writers’ Groups to which you can belong as a member of a participating writers’ group or as an individual, “associate”, member (which I am).  You can find out more at http://www.nawg.co.uk/

One thing I didn’t do at NAWGfest was resolve what to do with the 3rd Jasmine Frame novel. Trawling agents was one suggestion but many of the writers are into self-publishing (often with more marketing success than me) so that remains a popular and likely option. Anyway, for now, here is the next part of the prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design.

Perspective: Part 6

‘That pair probably weren’t my friends,’ Jasmine said, ‘but perhaps you could describe them.’
The look the barman gave Jasmine made her wonder if she’d aroused his suspicions. ‘How do you know you’d recognise your mates when they’re done up in drag?’
‘Well. . .’ she began trying to think of an explanation. At the edge of her vision she saw the entrance door open and a familiar figure enter. The woman strode to the bar brandishing a card holder.
‘I’d like to see the proprietor or the manager, please,’ DS Denise Palmerston said in a voice that demanded obedience.
The barman turned from Jasmine. ‘That’ll be me. Can I finish serving this customer first?’
Jasmine saw Palmerston glance at her, then take a long, second look.
‘Frame! What are you doing here?’
Jasmine pointed to the two glasses sitting on the bar as yet unpaid for. ‘Having a drink with Angela,’ she said.
The DS’s eyes narrowed and her complexion appeared pink even in the dim light in front of the bar.
‘I said, what are you doing here?
‘It’s an LGBT friendly establishment. I feel safe here.’ Jasmine tried the explanation knowing that she wasn’t going to fool Palmerston.
‘You know these premises are implicated in a serious crime. You are suspended, therefore you have no business in going near this or any other place connected to the incident.’
‘I was just . . .’
‘Get out now or I will arrest you for interfering in a police investigation.’ Palmerston ended on a high pitched shriek.
Angela appeared at Jasmine’s side.
‘What’s happening, Jas?’
‘DS Palmerston is insisting that we leave, Ange. I think we should be allowed to enjoy our drink together.’
‘I won’t give you another warning, DC Frame,’ Palmerston said, ‘If you ever want to work as a police officer again, you’d better do as I say, now.’
‘Come on, Jas,’ Angela took Jasmine’s arm and dragged her towards the door, ‘You don’t want any trouble.’
‘Hey, what about paying for these drinks,’ the barman called.
‘Speak to her,’ Jasmine nodded towards the Detective Sergeant as Angela pushed her through the swing door.
The cold air was a shock. Jasmine shivered and pulled on her jacket. A tall figure was standing by the entrance. He saw her at the same moment as she noticed him.
‘Jas! What are you doing here?’
‘Palmerston’s just asked me that, Tom.’
‘Well?’
‘I could say that Angela and I came for a drink to cheer me up after my suspension.’
‘But that wouldn’t be the full story would it?’
Jasmine shrugged, ‘Well, I did think I might find out something about the two queens who allegedly attacked Wizzer.’
‘The two drag queens that CCTV picked up walking down Dock Lane at one-oh-ten, last night.’
‘You went through the footage then.’ That should have been her job not that it was one that she wanted. ‘Why is Palmerston dishing out orders inside then?’
‘The picture quality is so poor there’s no chance of getting an identification. Palmerston thinks that as they almost certainly came from here, there may be CCTV from inside which is better. We need to find out who those guys were.’
Jasmine frowned. ‘Hopkins and Kingston were here earlier. Didn’t they ask for the CCTV discs?’
‘No, but it wasn’t till your friend Nate mentioned the two drag queens that we knew who we were looking for.’
‘So you’re accepting his story about him and Wizzer being attacked by two guys in high heels?’
‘Why not? He and the dead boy are the victims. Palmerston believes his statement.’
Angela tugged on Jasmine’s arm. ‘We’d better go otherwise you’ll get Tom into trouble.’  Jasmine allowed herself to pulled away.
‘I won’t let that woman push me out,’ Jasmine cried into the November drizzle.
‘Don’t annoy her then, Jas,’ Tom replied.
Angela and Jasmine returned to the car.
‘Well!’ Angela said, gripping the steering wheel, ‘that was a pleasant chat, not. Where now, ace detective? Any other crime scenes to drop in on.’
Jasmine slumped. ‘If I can’t trace those queens, there’s nothing I can do. Mind you Palmerston is going to have fun even if there is footage of the two leaving the pub. With all the queens there last night, effectively in disguise, picking them out let alone identifying them will be difficult.’
‘Kintbridge is a small town, Jas. Surely most of the gay men know each other.’
‘Perhaps.’ Jasmine didn’t want Palmerston to succeed; she burned with hate at the woman who was denying her the right to do her job, but she knew that it was only a matter of time before the two queens would be sitting in an interview room.
Angela tried to soothe her.  ‘Well, I’m still thirsty. Let’s go home and have a drink,’
‘Home? I haven’t got anything.’
‘Sorry, I meant my home.’
Jasmine was surprised by a tear forming in her eye. ‘Our home.’
‘I’m sorry, Jas. I didn’t mean to upset you.’
Jasmine wiped the tear away. ‘I shouldn’t be. It’s all yours now, or will be very soon. It’s not ours anymore.’
‘I shouldn’t have suggested it. Where else can we go? Another pub?’
‘No, your place will be fine,’ Jasmine said, making an attempt to smile, ‘I’ve got to get used to us not being a couple, your house not being my home. It was because of me that we split up.’
Angela started the engine and drove away from the car park. A few minutes later they pulled up in the familiar driveway. With its lights on the house looked cosy and inviting. Jasmine got out and stood by the front door for Angela to unlock the front door.  Jasmine followed her into the hallway and stepped into the lounge. The warmth was like a comfortable cardigan. This had been home. Jasmine sat down in her accustomed place on the sofa.
‘White wine? I don’t think I have soda,’ Angela called from the kitchen.
‘That’s fine.’
Jasmine undid the zips of her boots and tugged them off. She tucked her legs up onto the sofa as Angela came into the room.
‘You’re not going to be able to drive me home after knocking that back,’ Jasmine said eyeing the two large glasses in Angela’s hands.
‘That’s OK. You could stay the night,’ Angela said, and added, ‘Don’t worry, it won’t jeopardise our quickie divorce if we sleep in separate rooms. The spare bed is made up.’
Jasmine didn’t want to offer any more arguments. She took the glass that Angela held out to her and swallowed a large mouthful of dry, white wine.
‘So the case,’ Angela said settling down beside Jasmine, ‘I get the feeling that you have doubts about the guilt of these two drag queens that Denise is chasing.’
……………… to be continued

Jasmine dejected

A couple of times this week I have been asked if I mind strangers staring at me or people who know me using my male name. As I am spending the weekend in the company of writers, many who I have known for a few years and who know that I am trans, it is an apt question. I presume that unless one is an attention-seeking extrovert then having someone look you up and down, wondering what you are, is not particularly welcome. It is something however, that I have to expect, especially since I gave up the disguise that a wig offers. I know that anyone who takes a second look at me will question my gender and perhaps conclude that my physical attributes don’t quite go with the skirt or dress, the dangly ear-rings and the lipstick. The problem is that people still have expectations about gender; stereotypes still rule.

Despite all the recent publicity for transsexuals (do I need to name them yet again?) I am sure most transwomen and men still wish to be in “stealth mode”  i.e. their past lives kept secret with no suspicions about their gender. Why go through all the pain and bother of building a new identity if you are out as a trans person? The point is I am not TS and am not living full-time as a woman so being trans is part of my everyday life.. To be blunt I am getting close to not caring what gender people see me as. I am happy if they accept me as me – someone who loves wearing clothes that were designed for female bodies, dramatic ear-rings, make up and varnished nails. By dispensing with the wig and having my own hair styled in a feminine manner, I have made a bit of stand, but anomalies remain. I wear a bra and enhancers though I have no breasts (not even man-boobs). My bust is a lie and yet it gives me satisfaction. I use a feminine name when I am “dressed” to boost my feminine credentials. Why? Because I still retain the binary stereotype in my psyche even when I am proclaiming myself as a non-binary, unique individual. I suppose being human is all about the fantasy picture one builds of oneself and it is difficult to see yourself as others perceive you. That is a reason why I appreciate having a partner who will give me an opinion about my appearance and stop me making too much of a fool of myself.

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I have said this before – Jasmine Frame is not me. I have however used my experiences and knowledge of transgenderism to build her personality and the situations she finds herself in. She is most definitely transsexual, at least she is by the time of the novels Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design, and is determined to achieve a state of womanhood that requires not just hormone treatment but surgery. The stories explore her experiences but I hope I have made and am making the plots interesting in their own right.  Here is part 5 of Perspective:

Perspective – Part 5

‘Off to chase more kids?’ “GG” Gorman called out as Jasmine passed the desk. She didn’t answer afraid that her voice might crack. She pushed the door open and descended the steps to the car park with tears forming in her eyes. It wasn’t the cold that caused them.
She got into the old red Fiesta and sat gripping the steering wheel. What was she going to do without the job to fill her days, and nights? Being a detective was the one thing that took her mind off all the problems of transitioning. At last, she turned the key in the ignition and felt a little grateful that the engine churned into a semblance of life.  She drove home paying little attention to the traffic.
The flat was cold. She couldn’t afford to leave the heating on while she was at work, but she put it on now, made a cup of black instant coffee and sat on her threadbare sofa with her coat on, cradling the hot mug.

She didn’t know how long she sat there, occasionally taking a sip of the drink, but when her mobile phone gave out its familiar piped ringtone, the mug had become luke-warm in her hands. She put the mug down and scrabbled in her bag. The small screen of the phone announced that it was Angela.  She imagined her soon to be ex-wife holding one of those shiny new smart phones.
‘Hi, Ange,’ she said, trying to sound cheerful.
‘Hello, Jas. I hoped I’d catch you on a Saturday afternoon. You’re not at work are you?’
‘I should be but I’m not.’
‘Oh. You’re not ill are you Jas? You don’t sound right.’  Jasmine wasn’t surprised by Angela’s concern. They’d been looking out for each other for ten years now.
‘No. I’m not ill, just fed up. I’ve been suspended.’
‘What! Why?’
Jasmine explained the events and consequence of the previous night and day. ‘Palmerston wants rid of me Ange, and Sloane’s going along with her,’ she ended.
‘And you’re going to let them push you out? That’s not like you Jas.’
Jasmine smiled. Angela had always encouraged and supported her even when she came to realise that it would mean the end of their marriage, the end of their relationship.
‘I’m not sure I can go on being put down, given the mundane jobs, having my femininity doubted.’
‘You have the right to transition, Jas. You are a woman, even though you haven’t had the, er, alterations yet. You’re a good detective. Sloane knows that.’
‘Palmerston has soured him. He never was comfortable with me changing. I think now he’s looking for any opportunity to avoid having to see me every day. Suspending me is a start.’
‘You can’t give in just like that.’
‘What can I do, Ange?’
‘What you always do, Jas. Stick at it.’
‘Stick at what?’
‘The job, the investigation, being a woman, being yourself.’
‘Hmm.’
‘Look, you said the suspects are two drag queens and the Horse and Barge ran a gay night last night.’
‘It’s an LGBT friendly pub, Ange.’
‘Well, why don’t we give it a look over this evening, Jas.’
‘We?’
‘Yes, you and me.  I’ve been busy too and could do with a bit of a social life. You need cheering up. Oh, and we need to meet up.’
‘Why?’
‘Because I’ve got a few bits of post for you and you’ve got those documents. You have signed them, haven’t you?’
Jasmine glanced at the pile of large envelopes on the dining table. They contained divorce papers and forms for handing over the house and mortgage to Angela.  They were untouched.
‘Uh, yes, of course.’
‘Right, well I’ll pick you up at nine. We’ll swap post and the I’ll run us into town. We can have a couple of drinks at the Horse and Barge and you can have a snoop around for any clues to the identity of those queens.’
‘Hmm. Okay.’ Jasmine wasn’t convinced but the opportunity for an evening with Angela was too good to pass over.
‘Right. Nine it is then.’ The call clicked off. Jasmine sat staring at the phone. What could she possibly find at the pub. Denise Palmerston and the team would be there now questioning the staff. They had probably already identified the two queens.  She looked again at the heap of formal letters. Perhaps she had better deal with them before Angela arrived expecting them completed.

Jasmine added her signature to the final sheet of paper and put the pen down. Her scribble hadn’t changed even though her name had but putting her mark on these documents was the final sign of the end of her former life with Angela.  In a few months the divorce would come through, and very soon Angela would be the sole owner of the house they had bought together. Angela could afford it now that her business career was advancing at speed. Jasmine wondered what sort of career future she had. Not much by the way things were going and yet she had all the expenses of her transition to come unless she relied on the NHS for everything, in which case it would be years before she became the complete woman she dreamed of being.
She put the documents ready to hand to Angela and then went to the kitchen to find something to eat. There was some pasta and some pesto and that was about it. It would have to do. After eating she considered what to wear as she was going out with Angela. They were going to a supposedly safe and welcoming venue so she decided to be as feminine as she could. She went to her bedroom and stripped off her sensible work suit. She dug out a short sleeved, fluffy jumper which had shrunk a little in the wash. It clung to the enhanced curves of her breasts and ended just below her ribs. No matter, she was proud of her flat stomach even if she didn’t have a waist to crow about. She decided that despite being November she would not wear tights, but pulled on a multi-coloured mini skirt that revealed her thighs. From the back of her wardrobe she dug out the knee-high boots with the three inch heels and tugged them on her legs.
She looked in the mirror. Tarty yes, but she felt feminine. Long hair wasn’t really possible for a police officer so she still had a fairly short blonde bob. She brushed it up and back combed it to give it a little more volume. Some colour to her eyes and cheeks and a bright red lipstick completed her look. Now she just had to wait for Angela to arrive in a couple of hours’ time.  Her little-used portable TV provided some entertainment.

It was ten minutes to nine when the doorbell rang. Jasmine glanced at her watch to check and smiled. Angela was always on time. She opened the door.  Angela looked her up and down, raising her eyebrows.
Jasmine responded, ‘Yes, I know, it’s probably not an appropriate look, but I feel like making a statement.’
‘And what statement is that?’ Angela asked, smiling as if she already knew the answer.
‘That I’m a girl.’
‘I’m not sure it will say that when you’re in a gay pub, but if you’re happy. . . Here’s your post.’ Angela handed over a slim pile of letters. Jasmine glanced at them noting that most of them were probably junk mail. She dropped them onto the table and picked up the thicker heap of documents.
‘Here’s the stuff you needed. All signed.’
Angela took the envelopes into her arms. There was a sad look on her face. ‘I know what it means, Jas, but it is what you want, isn’t it?’
No, she didn’t want to lose the one woman she had loved, and she didn’t want to lose the comfortable life they had had together, but all this was necessary if she was to be the woman that she wanted to be in law.
Jasmine nodded. ‘Come on, let’s have some fun.’ She picked up her bomber jacket and bag and stepped outside the door.

The main bar of the Horse and Barge was dimly lit and almost empty, but it was warm after the cold, and damp of night-time Kintbridge. Jasmine shucked off her jacket and held it over her arm as she and Angela approached the bar.
The round-faced barman smiled and said in a sing-song voice, ‘Hello ladies, what’s it going to be tonight?’
Jasmine didn’t have to ask Angela. She knew their favourite drink from many nights out together, particularly early in their relationship.
‘Two white wine spritzers please, with soda.’
The barman turned away to make the drinks.
‘I’ll get them,’ Angela said.
‘No, I can still afford a drink even if I’m suspended. You go and take a seat.’
Angela shrugged and walked off.  The barman returned with two large glasses half-filled with white wine. He held the soda dispenser above the glasses and squirted the fizzy liquid into each glass.
‘You’re a bit early for the entertainment,’ he said. ‘We’ve got a live band on at ten. A punk lesbian outfit. Should be a laugh.’
‘Oh, I thought it was a drag queen evening,’ Jasmine said innocently.
‘That was last night.’ The barman peered at Jasmine, ‘You don’t look as if you’re that type?’          Jasmine smiled. Was that a compliment? He didn’t think that she looked like a gay bloke dressed as a parody of femininity? What did he think she was? Probably not a real girl but TS or TV? It didn’t matter really, not tonight.
‘No, but I was expecting to meet a couple who are,’ she replied.
‘Well, there’s always a few in. Perhaps your friends will arrive later when things warm up.’
‘Were there many queens in last night?’
The bar man chuckled. ‘’Were there many? The place was heaving with them. It’s quite a joke actually because I had the police in here earlier asking me to describe two of them.’
‘Two?’
‘The cops said that two queens were involved in a bit of argy-bargy along at the car park.’
‘Were you able to help them?’
‘Nah. You couldn’t see anything here last night for stiletto heels, false tits and beehive wigs. I told the pigs I didn’t have an inkling which pair they were after.’
Jasmine didn’t like being referred to as a pig but wasn’t about to give herself away
‘You didn’t help them much.’
‘I can remember the days when they’d raid a place like this packed full of gays and lezzers and guys in bras and suspenders. I give them as little as I can get away with.’
Jasmine dropped her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. ‘Do you know who the police were interested in?’
The barman leaned forward. ‘Well, I can’t be certain, but I went outside for a breath of fresh soon after one and two of the guys came out and staggered off down Dock Lane. All the rest were still having fun when we chucked out at three.’
…………….to be continued

Jasmine on the case

I don’t usually comment on sport in this blog. After all, sport is not important in the great issues that face us is it? Well I think it is, actually, since for many of us sport of one sort or another is our main form of entertainment – watching that is, not doing it. I think a lot of our attitudes, to say nothing about economics and politics, is influenced by sport. This piece isn’t about the Olympics but a cricket match. I’ve enjoyed cricket since I was a kid and I still try to get to one match each season. Last night I went to a county T20 match.  For those of you who aren’t cricket followers, that is the short (very short) form of the game where each side gets 20 overs (that’s about 80 minutes) batting each. It means that a match can be wrapped up in under three hours which is fine for the busy working men and women of today and the TV spectators.

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Flamethrowers at cricket

With so few balls to face (120 in total), the batting side can’t patiently build a score waiting for the loose balls to hit, they have to go for the runs from the start, taking risks. It can be exciting if simplistic, losing the subtleties and skills of the longer forms of the game. That’s okay. The excitement of 20:20 is like the sugar rush from sucking a toffee (no, it’s not as long-lasting as that, more like a fruit pastille) compared to the three, or more courses, of a restaurant dinner that is a test match. It’s a bit of entertainment and in today’s world not many can or want to sit around for a four-day county match or a five-day test match. What annoys me is how the presentation of the 20 over matches has infantilised the game. There are the extra rules to make the game even more “exciting” – the free ball following a no-ball in which the batsman can’t be given out and the “scatterplay” or whatever it was called, where for an over all the fielders had to stand on the boundary. Why? Neither rule seemed to provide any incentive to the batsmen or the bowlers.  Then there’s the razzamatazz: the loud music from the speakers arranged around the boundary, between every over (6 balls) and wickets, the flame throwers (vertical, I’m relieved to say, although a pigeon or two may have got singed) every time a 4 or 6 was scored, together with fireworks for a  wicket. All thoroughly pointless. If the game is not exciting enough of itself then it is no point being played.

There was a good crowd, largely wanting to see the home side do well (they didn’t), and quite a few children who enjoyed the pyrotechnics  and bashing each other with blow-up cricket bats but watched hardly a ball bowled. This was a sport struggling to make itself appealing to a mass audience and in so doing rubbishing the skills developed by the players over many years of practice. It was a sport desperately trying to attract fans’ money with an Emperor’s new clothes display. What will they do in a few years time when the crowds grow bored with the familiarity of the noise and the effects and the simplistic game?

There, that’s enough of that. Next week – Trans at the Olympics.

 

To more vital matters – here’s the second part of Perspective, the Jasmine Frame prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design.

Perspective: Part 2

                 There was a different feel to the Violent and Serious Crime Unit’s office when Jasmine arrived for her shift mid-morning next day. There was an urgency and air of expectation that she had not experienced for some time. Detective Constables Hopkins and Kingston were deep in animated conversation and DS Palmerston was with DCI Sloane in his office discussing something urgently. Whatever was causing the buzz of excitement it wasn’t a mundane case of fraud or cybercrime. The feeling was infectious and even she felt eager to know what it was all about. She sat at her desk and fired up her computer then turned to Tom Shepherd whose eyes were fixed on his own screen.

‘What’s up, Tom?’

DC Shepherd looked up. ‘Oh, hi, er, Jas. We’ve got a killing, a young boy. You’re just on time for Sloane’s briefing. Look, here he is.’

Jasmine shifted in her seat and saw DCI Sloane marching from his office to the white board that stretched along one wall of the office. Denise Palmerston followed urging the other officers to pay attention with a peremptory wave of her hand.

Jasmine stood up and edged forward with Tom at her side. Terry Hopkins leaned against his desk at the front with his younger coloured partner Derek Kingston by his side.

Sloane looked around the silent quartet checking that he had their full attention.

‘Good morning,’ he said in his deep voice, ‘As you know a body was discovered in the Riverside car park early this morning. It was a young male. He had a knife wound in his chest. Pathology says death occurred between midnight and about 2 a.m. and the fatal wound followed a struggle.  There are bruises on the victim’s arms as if he was gripped firmly. The wound is not a clean thrust but the blade has been dragged through the flesh and undergone a number of thrusts before piercing the heart. Pictures, Palmerston, please.’

The DS fixed three of the large prints she had been holding to the whiteboard. The first showed the complete clothed body almost curled up, with a blood stain covering the abdomen and spreading onto the tarmac and white line of the car park. The boy was dressed in jeans and a hooded top.  The second photograph was a close up of his face after he had been turned over onto his back. The third showed the bruises on his wrists.

‘Obviously the first task is to identify the victim,’ Sloane continued. ‘There was no i.d. on the body and no-one has yet contacted us about a missing person. We also have to ask what a young man of fourteen or fifteen was doing in the car park at that time and of course who his attackers were and their motive.’

Tom raised a hand.

‘Yes, Shepherd?’ Sloane said.

‘Where exactly in the car park was he found. It covers quite an area.’

‘That’s true Shepherd. DC Hopkins, you were the duty officer called to the scene. Tell us what you saw.’

The middle-aged detective slouched against a desk suddenly came alert and stood up.

‘Uh, yes sir. The call was made about 6:15 by a . . .’ he looked down at his notebook, ‘Steve Brown. He’s a street cleaner. He was doing his Saturday morning round and came across the body in the area by the public toilets.’

Sloane nodded. ‘Thank you Hopkins. Any comments Shepherd?’

Jasmine saw Tom give a start as if he wasn’t prepared to be put on the spot. ‘Um, no Sir.’

Jasmine spoke up. ‘There’s a taxi rank alongside the car park, Sir.  If the attack took place at the time you said, some of the pubs and clubs are still open then and there may have been a taxi or two there.’

‘Good point, Frame,’ Sloane said although he didn’t look directly at her. DS Palmerston glared at Jasmine. She thinks I should keep my mouth closed, Jasmine thought.

‘We will of course be interviewing all taxi drivers that use that waiting area,’ Palmerston said.

‘Of course,’ Sloane added. ‘And you are correct Frame, that at the time of this boy’s death there may have been witnesses from the various entertainment venues. What was the weather like at that time?’

‘Cold with a drizzle of icy rain,’ Hopkins replied and Jasmine nodded in agreement remembering her encounter at midnight.

‘Not the sort of weather in which you would expect members of the public to be standing around,’ Sloane said.

‘Unless they were waiting for a taxi, Sir,’ Derek Kingston added.

‘True. So we need to make an appeal for witnesses. Palmerston, you contact the media. We don’t have the murder weapon as yet. Shepherd, you get down there and accompany SOCO searching the environs.  According to the pathologist we looking for a short knife, the blade no more than three inches long and half an inch or so wide; a kitchen knife most likely. Hopkins and Kingston, you start asking questions in the pubs and clubs that were open at that time.’

There was a pause. Jasmine was on edge. What was her task going to be?

‘And me, Sir?’ she said, eager for a part to play.

‘You can be looking for CCTV footage,’ DS Palmerston said. ‘There must be cameras near the spot.’

Jasmine groaned and sagged. Not again. Would she ever get out of the office to do some real detecting? It was always her that was given the important but sedentary tasks because the female DS didn’t want her seen by the public.

Sloane pulled himself to his full height. ‘Right get down to work. We’ll have another meeting at four and I want some results by then. I’ll consider calling in the rest of the team to assist.’

The other officers scattered leaving Jasmine peering at the whiteboard. Something Sloane had said had made her think.  The description of the knife used to kill the boy reminded her of the weapon she had been threatened with. She could see it waving in front of her face, shining in the streetlights. She took a few paces closer to the board and examined the photos of the victim closely. Could he possibly be the youth that had brandished the knife at her? What did his mate call him? Wizzer or Wizz? It had been so dark last night that she hadn’t taken in his appearance but the clothes the victim was wearing could easily be the same as her attacker and they had similar height and build.

A shiver passed through her. If the mugger and the victim were the same youth, then he was dead less than two hours after mugging her for a few quid. How did he come to be stabbed by his own knife? Where was his accomplice? She had important information pertaining to the investigation but she hadn’t reported the incident. Guilt flooded her. If she had called in after the thieves had left her there may have been a police presence in the town centre which would have prevented the boy’s death. She shook herself. It was no point going down that path. She had to tell someone, Sloane or Palmerston what she knew and what had happened to her. Now though, it wasn’t the embarrassment of being mugged that troubled her but the telling off she would get for not putting a report in.

The office was deserted. All the team, including Sloane were going about their business elsewhere. Jasmine returned to her desk. She might as well start collecting the video evidence while she waited for Sloane or Palmerston to return.

She had only got as far as making contact with the CCTV control centre when the internal phone rang.

‘DC Frame,’ she announced when she picked up the receiver.

‘Oh, it’s you,’ the voice of desk sergeant GG Gorman said. ‘Is the DCI or DS there?’

‘No, they’re not. It’ll have to be me, Sergeant, if you’ve got a message.’

‘Hmm, well, I’ve got a lad down here who says he knows something about last night’s, er, incident in the car park. Says he heard about it on the radio.’

‘OK, thanks. I’ll come and speak to him. How old would you say he is?’

‘A teen, fourteen or so. Scruffy kid in a hoodie and jeans.’  Just like the victim. Could it be Wizzer’s partner?  Jasmine put down the phone and ran from the office and down the flights of stairs to the entrance.

She stepped through the locked door and saw the lad sitting in the public area. He looked up and saw her. He frowned. Jasmine approached him.

‘Hello. I understand you’ve some information about the incident near the toilets in the Riverside carpark?’ As she spoke she saw his eyes widen.

‘I know you,’ he said, ‘You’re that tranny.’

My voice, again, she thought. ‘I think we met last night,’ she said. There was a millisecond pause, then the boy turned and ran.

…………..to be continued.

Jasmine at Pride

Pride2016A4_300dpi_CMYK_5mmBleedToday i.e. Saturday 30th July, is quite a special day. It’s the first time I have been involved with, attended, had anything to do with a Pride event. Today is the first (for a number of years) Herefordshire Pride at the Booth Hall in Hereford from 2 p.m. till late (?!). There will be info stalls (till 5 p.m.), displays, performers, music, comedy, food and drink and, we hope, lots and lots of people, so come along and have a look round.

While the focus is on LGBT, the event celebrates all forms of diversity.  Basically the message is – Be Yourself. If this event is a success then next year will be even bigger and perhaps there will even be a pride parade.

While I did once, a long time ago, take part in a carnival as Penny, this is my first time at a Pride event and I’m looking forward to it. I’ll be wearing two hats. With the first I’ll be supporting the West Mercia Police campaign to improve reporting of hatecrime.  The second hat is as P R Ellis, the author of the Jasmine Frame books. I’ll have paperback copies of Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design available at special prices and, as a special promotion for just two days, there will be offers on the e-book versions of Bodies By Design and the novella Murder In Doubt. Visit Amazon

Post-referendum there have been lots of anecdotal reports of abuse of people perceived to be non-British.  This has been aimed at people born in EU countries and elsewhere, many who have lived here for decades,  and second or third generation citizens of the UK. At Pride and beyond we want to tell all these people that they are still welcome  and we value the work they do and the culture they share with us. They should be confident about feeling safe but report any cases of abuse of any sort.

I hope there will be lots of trans people at Pride, from all points on the gender spectrum. We’ve had a lot of prominence in the media in the last year or so (yet another article in last week’s Observer) but there is still misunderstanding and indeed prejudice and not just from the expected quarters. We’ve got to show that trans people are not necessarily transsexuals (living fulltime in the gender they identify with) nor drag queens (often gay men who dress as a parody of women). There are many of us who simply like presenting as the feminine aspect of ourselves or reject being labelled with a gender.

Finally, to keep your hunger for Jasmine Frame stories whetted, here is another short excerpt from the as yet unpublished third novel, The Brides’ Club Murder. This is where Jasmine appears for the first time.

The Brides’ Club Murder

Chapter 4

Hello, Jasmine. How are you today?’ Katie Kershaw beckoned Jasmine into the treatment room.  Slow, tinkle-tinkle music played at a low volume.

                Jasmine was unsure how to answer and just mumbled ‘Fine, thanks.’  On the one hand she looked forward to these fortnightly appointments with Katie, her electrolygist, as each one took her that tiny step towards ending the daily, sometimes twice daily, chore of shaving. Eventually she would have the soft-skinned face of a woman, but that was a long way off.  She had many, many more of these dates with the electrolysis needle before that goal was reached and that gave the reason why she dreaded them. She had to prepare by leaving part of her face unshaved for two days before and a day after the treatment. Anyone looking at her at all closely could see that she grew a beard and would think she was an imposter, a man dressed as a woman. Not even make-up could be used to cover up the hairs as that would interfere with the treatment. There was also the small matter of the pain.

                ‘Come in. Let’s get you calm and settled,’ Katie said as warm and welcoming as she always was. Her own immaculate complexion and short black hair belied her forty-four years. Jasmine often wondered at her cheerful manner despite a messy divorce and having to bring up two teenagers on her own.

                Jasmine took off her red duffle coat, loosely folded it and dropped it on the floor on top of her shoulder bag.  She sat on a chair beside the door and took her boots off.  Meanwhile Katie busied herself at her trolley of equipment.

                Katie turned around and saw that Jasmine was ready. ‘Come and lie on the couch, Jasmine. Let’s see how we’re doing.’

                Jasmine crossed the small room to the high massage couch and climbed on.  She rested her head on the slightly tilted end of the table. Katie directed two diffuse but bright lamps at her face and bent down to examine her.

                ‘So, have you been busy, Jasmine?’ Katie said as she peered closely at Jasmine’s left cheek.

                ‘The usual. A couple of benefit fraud cases and a woman wanting her husband checked up on. Nothing interesting but it pays the bills.’ In actual fact Jasmine was bored silly with endless surveillance and longed for something more stimulating and difficult like the cases she had tackled in the police force. Paying the bills was however a necessity and the fortnightly electrolysis sessions didn’t help her bank balance.

                ‘Hmm. The area we did last time looks fine. You haven’t had any reaction?’

                Jasmine shook her head, then realised that she wasn’t helping Katie’s examination. ‘No. I’ve hardly felt a thing after you’ve finished.’

                ‘That’s good. I can see you have left the hair growth in the area we’ll tackle today. I’ll clean it off so we can get started.’

                ‘Thanks.  Do I have to leave such a large area unshaved?’ Jasmine asked although she thought she could guess Katie’s reply.

………………………………

Jasmine consequences

You go away for a week and the government changes – completely. It wasn’t surprising I suppose, after the turmoil since June 23rd, but things did move pretty rapidly in the last week, didn’t they. Cameron got turfed out of No.10 sooner than he expected and we have our second female PM – pretty right-wing but the best of a bad lot I think. As for the cabinet changes. . . Well, I’m delighted that Gove has got his comeuppance – good riddance, hopefully for ever. I’m also pleased that Nicky Morgan, the frightened rabbit in the headlights, has gone from education. I think May has been quite canny in putting brexiteers in positions where they have to live with their comments and promises; Johnson to face the foreign secretaries of the countries of the world; Davies to realise the off-the-cuff predictions of future benefits of brexit that the Leave campaign made; and, Leadsom to answer the farmers questions about their subsidies. At least now the Conservative Party has got over its leadership convulsions and can get on with the rather important business of governing and getting us out of this mess that they created.  When, or even if, Labour will form a credible opposition is anyone’s guess.

Being in Germany was very pleasant as usual, and although we didn’t speak to many Germans or other Europeans, the impression we got is that they cannot understand the referendum result or believe that Britain will actually, irrevocably, leave the EU. I said they do not know most of the 52% who voted Leave.

1605 HTLGI 1 (1)But let’s get away from the world of politics and into the fictional world of Jasmine Frame. As I said last week I am not writing  another novella prequel for a while but what I have done is re-edit the third Jasmine Frame novel. This has the provisional title, The Brides’ Club Murder. It follows a couple of months after the events of Bodies By Design which itself comes about 3 to 4 months after Painted Ladies. That means it is November 2012, Jasmine is 29 years old, single, having divorced Angela, but in a deepening relationship with Viv. She’s working as a private investigator and now, having developed a reputation, getting more business; largely boring surveillance operations for the Benefits Agency and suspicious wives and husbands. She’s bored and would grab a meaty murder with both hands. As it is two months since the “minor” op that relieved her of her testicles, she is feeling more feminine but still longing to complete the surgery that would make her physically a woman; but that still appears to be a long way off. While having electrolysis on her facial hair she receives an offer that both attracts and appals her – to go undercover to solve a murder at a convention at a local country house hotel.

TBCM is a traditional country house murder mystery (sort of); a whodunit, rather than a thriller. I think it works and now I’ve edited it for the second or third time I think it’s ready to go. But what do I do with it? Do I send it out to publishers and agents, like I did with PL and BBD or do I go straight to self-publishing under the ellifont impression as I ended up doing with BBD? The latter course makes sure the book gets published but it costs me hard-earned cash (i.e. the pension). Experience suggests that it will be a century before I make my money back at the present rate of sales i.e. realistically never, unless I can move my marketing to a new level and make Jasmine more visible. Dilemmas!  Comments welcome.

Jasmine takes a break

And still it goes on – the news I mean. I’m writing this a little early this week but already we’ve had Farage resigning, again, He’d done his job, so he says. No thought about the aftermath or what responsibility he might have. And Chris Evans resigning from Top Gear. I haven’t watched the new series and neither, for a long time, did I watch the old version.  I like James May and Richard Hammond but Clarkson increasingly got on my nerves with his views. But a TV programme is unimportant compared to what is happening to the government of our country. I’ve read and heard Europeans comment that they thought us Brits were calm and thoughtful and wouldn’t, couldn’t, make such a mess of things as leaving the EU. Well, all I can say is that they haven’t met the ones that voted Leave because if they holiday abroad at all, it’s likely that they stay in hotels and camps that are shut off from the country they are in and the only “foreigners” they meet are the waiters, chambermaids, etc. Doesn’t apply to all of them of course.  We shall see what the next week brings.

Having finished Aberration last week I have decided to take a break from writing Jasmine Frame stories for a few weeks.  Writing the stories is fun but each episode takes up a considerable time each week. I also feel I need to give Jasmine a rest so I can get the imagination and creativity going again. I am writing another fantasy novel which I need to devote more time to. I also want to get the third Jasmine novel ready for publication, and perhaps prepare another of the prequels for e-book publication,  so that will keep me busy. It is almost three years since I started writing the prequels and I have finished nine of them (I thought it was just eight!). For those of you that are interested, the table below lists all the Jasmine Frame stories, written, published or planned. There are still a few gaps in Jasmine’s life story, particularly her first years in the police force. However, I don’t really like writing police procedurals and her opportunities for investigations as a uniformed PC may be limited – but we will see.

This blog will continue nevertheless, with comments on the world outside fiction, especially my experience of transgenderism and news about the Jasmine publications (perhaps some free or reduced price offers soon) so I hope you will continue to pop in for a read.

To show how things change in three years here are a couple of photos of me during that time.

2013, shortly after the publication of Painted Ladies

2013, shortly after the publication of Painted Ladies

2016, at Hay Festival.

2016, at Hay Festival.

Provisional title date situation crime Publication & length Publication date
Discovering Jasmine 2000 James experimenting with his gender identity Transwoman intimidated by youths Ebook, Discovering Jasmine

20,000w

2015
Soft Focus 2001 James meets Angela at Uni. Transman dies; suicide or murder? Ebook, Murder in Doubt

21,000w

2016
Aberration 2004 James & Angela living together post- graduation Transman killed 16,000w  
Flashlight 2009 James seconded to V&SCU, meets DCI Sloane for the first time. Woman killed by drug overdose supplied by transwoman 24,000w  
Resolution 2009 James appointed to V&SCU. Meets DC Tom Shepherd Colleague (from Flashlight) murdered 23,000w  
Blueprint 2009 James reveals he is trans Crossdresser suicide 38,000w  
Self=portrait 2010 Start of transition Young transman accused of murder 27,000w  
Close-up 2010 Jasmine back at work. Conflict with DS Baby alleged to be snatched in high street 23,000w  
Split Mirror 2011 Separating from Angela, move into flat. Conflict with DS Transwoman disappeared 22,000w  
Painted Ladies 2012 Jasmine working as private detective. Divorce from Angela. Serial killer targeting trans women Ebook & paperback, Painted Ladies 80,000w 2013
Bodies By Design 2012 Biorchidectomy, start of relationship with Viv Transwoman murdered Ebook & paperback, Bodies By Design 72,000w 2015
The Brides’ Club Murder 2012 Electrolysis. Planning to move in with Viv Leader of Bridal wear group murdered t.b.d

76,000w

2016/17
Molly’s Boudoir 2013 Breast augmentation. Living with Viv Arson at trans shop t.b.d. ?
Impersonator 2014 GRS. Female impersonator killed t.b.d. ?