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 recalls

I’m not, I’m really not going to mention that name.  Putting President in front of it makes an oxy-moron that I refuse to write. I am not going to repeat all the reasons why he is unfit to be President. The fact remains that by the system of the USA, stupid though it may be these days, he has been elected, and for the second time this year I felt sick over a vote. I hope that my (and many other people’s) worst fears aren’t realised.

Everyone is asking how it happened. The same as we asked how Brexit happened. There are lots of reasons but it is a bit disingenuous of the people in politics and government and any sort of authority to express their wonder. The fact is that in the USA, UK, and elsewhere in the West conditions have conspired to, to use a crude phrase, piss a lot of people off.  They have seen their jobs disappear, their earnings and savings shrink, public services deteriorate, while those “in charge” appear to get richer and richer. They have got more and more disillusioned and angry and this feeling has been fed by the media (of all sorts). For some reason the people who should notice didn’t, or thought these people didn’t matter.  Even the pollsters have failed time and time again to factor in the under-current of despair and anger. So, I fully understand the unrest bubbling under the surface and why in democracies the discontented masses became a majority (sort of).

What I fail to understand is why so many people put their faith (yes, that’s the right word) in people who are far removed from them and, despite them mouthing the words, cannot possibly share their experiences. These populists pumping up the fear and loathing are rich and have few if any ideals. Here I am including  Txxxx (no I can’t write it), Boris Johnson, Nigel Farrage and the rest of the leading Brexiteers, although I am unsure of the background of the Le Pens and the other rabble-mongers across Europe.

Why have no leaders arisen from the populace as in days gone by? Do you have to have money now to have a voice?


I don’t often mention my fantasy novels in this blog but I am delighted to show a new portrait of September Weekes, the heroine of Evil Above the Stars (1, 2 and 3). It’s by my niece-in-law, Katie, and I hope she’ll do some more. Thanks a lot Katie.


September discovers the power of the Maengolauseren

©Katie Ellis


I am approaching  the end of another September novel; a different setting although it is a sort of continuation. More news soon I hope.

Below we have the second episode of Falloff, a Jasmine Frame prequel novella. The title may seem a bit crude given what happened in episode 1, but it is in fact a photographic term as all the prequel titles (but one) have been.

Falloff: Part 2

James and Angela lay in each other’s arms just covered by the thin cotton sheet. James couldn’t sleep; what he’d seen kept on going through his head.
He whispered to Angela, ‘The girl. I can’t believe that the girl we saw first at the airport Sunday morning is dead.’
Angela answered, as awake as he was. ‘I know. She and her friends seemed to be having a good time. Mind you, I wasn’t really awake enough to take much notice.’
James smiled. He had been the same.
It was the morning after the wedding.  They’d barely had an hour in bed at the hotel where they’d had the ceremony and reception. He’d wondered whether it was a good idea to book a flight early in the morning, and now he was convinced that it hadn’t been; but it was cheap.  The whole honeymoon thing was cheap. Angela’s parents and his own had contributed to the celebrations but the week away was their own responsibility. After just a few months as a police officer following three years at university, James hadn’t built up any savings. Angela’s finances were hardly better despite an earlier start in her accountancy career. Ibiza was inexpensive and they fancied the dancing in the clubs despite the downside of the resorts being filled with young people escaping from their regular lives. Why not, they were young too.
They had arrived in the departure lounge at around seven a.m., bleary-eyed and still feeling the effect of the long day of celebrations. All James wanted to do was sleep but even that was impossible.  The hall was full of people, many a similar age to themselves but there were also families with children under school age and older couples. All were taking advantage of the lower prices before the school holidays began. They did find a pair of seats that proved to be too uncomfortable to sleep in. It was probably just as well as they did not want to miss the call for their flight.
Instead James drowsily watched the other holidaymakers. Most of them seemed very wide awake despite presumably having had early starts to get to the airport for the morning series of charter flights. There was the group of boys and girls who appeared to be just a little younger than their own twenty-two years. They had been in front of them in the baggage drop-off queue They were in good spirit, no doubt aided by the spirits they were imbibing despite the early hour. Were they university students, or young workers or perhaps post-A level students? James couldn’t decide. The girl with the long blonde hair stood out mainly because she was draped around one of the boys, a muscley hunk of a lad. They were hooting and calling to each other, finding lots of mysterious objects for laughter.
The same group of boys and girls were in the queue to go through security, and the passport check. When the call for their flight came, James noted that the blonde girl’s group also made a move and as he suspected they were on the same plane.  He and Angela followed them up the steps and the girl and her guy dropped into a pair of seats together.  Thankfully, the flight was calm and James managed to get the sleep he desired.
They were together with other young people on the connecting coach which delivered them to the Hotel Arena and James wasn’t too surprised that his and Angela’s room was adjacent to the rooms occupied by the girl’s party. They hadn’t seen them again for the rest of the first day. All he and Angela had wanted to do was relax. The week before the wedding had been tense as they struggled to get all the preparations done on time. The wedding itself had been joyous and he had been jealous of Angela in her simple but attractive white dress.  The reception and party after was fun but exhausting: trying to speak to all the guests; knocking back all the drinks that were offered and taking the lead in the disco dancing.
For the rest of the Sunday, James and Angela lounged around the pool and carried out a gentle exploration of the hotel’s neighbourhood.  They had a quiet dinner for two in a small taberna they found in a back street and then headed for an early night, well, early for the Med.
The girl and her group had not been seen at breakfast the following day but James did notice them heading for the beach later in the morning as he and Angela prepared to explore the town. On their return, he had seen boys and girls coming and going from the adjoining rooms so he didn’t know which of them were occupying a particular room.
That evening they planned for their first venture to one of the dance clubs. For James, it was an opportunity to be Jasmine. Together Jasmine and Angela had prepared for the evening, donning similar light, short dresses and colourful make-up. Angela persuaded her that she did not need to wear her long blonde wig which would have been unbearable in the oven-like environment of the dance floor. Jasmine spiked her hair and agreed that it didn’t look any less feminine. They had set off to El Danza arm in arm and met the blonde girl and her friends at the entrance. They had barely glanced at Angela and her partner being far too interested in each other.
The dancing had been fun and exciting. Jasmine relished the feeling of the loose dress swishing over her thighs as she danced. Angela’s enjoyment of dancing with her as a girl and not as a hunky guy added to her feeling of contentment. The experience was not even marred by approached from a few unattached but hopeful boys, dismissed effortlessly by Angela. Nevertheless, Jasmine and Angela left the club while the dancing was at its height. Jasmine wondered whether she could possibly be feeling old already or whether she was just tired from pressure of starting a new job and the marriage. Perhaps it was just the urge to fall into bed together.
Despite all the sightings of the girl and her friends Jasmine hadn’t really taken much interest in them. The more she thought over the last couple of days she could not recall seeing the girl looking upset or depressed. So why had she jumped off the third-floor balcony? If it was an accident, what were the causes? And if not an accident, what did that leave?
The image of the body was clear in James’ mind. Except she hadn’t been just a body when he found her. She was breathing her dying breath. Something didn’t seem right.
‘I remember something about that girl,’ Angela said dreamily.
‘She had fantastic finger nails. She must have spent hours with the varnish.’
James tried to recall seeing her hands. A different image came into his mind. The girl spread out on the lawn, her arms and hand splayed out.
‘They weren’t fantastic after she’d fallen,’ he said, ‘I think the nail on every finger was broken.’
Angela lifted her head from his chest. ‘How did that happen when she fell?’
‘I don’t know. In fact, I think some of her fingertips were quite bloody.’
‘What does that mean?’
‘It means she didn’t have an accident or jump off the balcony. It was murder.’
………… be continued.

Jasmine keeps a secret

Grange Court, Leominster - Bookfair Mon. 30th May 12 - 4 p.m.

Grange Court, Leominster – Bookfair Mon. 30th May 12 – 4 p.m.

This is the weekend when I get to meet lots of writers and show off my own books – it’s the Leominster Festival.  First there’s the Awards Ceremony for our writing competition – mainly primary schoolchildren, with Deborah Moggach giving out the certificates. That is followed by Deborah’s talk (perhaps I’ll have more on that next week as I’m writing this before it happens).  On Monday we have the Bookfair with about fifteen local authors (and publishers) displaying their books and hoping for sales.  That will be opened by local author of historical fiction, Anne O’Brien. She is an example to us all having started writing only after she retired ten years ago and now has a publisher eager for her work and a burgeoning reputation.

I’ll be offering all my books that are in paperback – the Jasmine Frame novels, Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design as well as the three volumes of Evil Above the Stars. Let’s hope there are some people who actually want to buy books.

By the way, if any readers live nearby, there are still vacancies for the  writing workshops run by Simon Whaley and Fay Wentworth on Monday starting at 11a.m. in Grange Court. They are on the theme of writing about nature and landscapes  in fiction and non-fiction.

copyright BBC.

copyright BBC.

Despite the festival taking up some time this week I have for you quite a long episode of Aberration, the latest Jasmine Frame novella length prequel.  Here James/Jasmine is questioning Andrea/Andy’s mother following the discovery of the body.

Aberration: Part 5

Mrs Pickford turned away and sobbed.  James noticed a bruise on her cheek and realised that he’d been a bit abrupt with his question.
’I’m sorry, Mrs Pickford. I didn’t mean to upset you.’
Andrea’s mother sniffed and turned back to face him. ‘It’s not your fault. Every time I think of my dear girl, I cry. I want her to come back through that door, but the Police came and took us to see her body. I know I’m not going to see her again.’ She cried again.  James felt awkward. Should he put an arm around the grieving woman to comfort her? He decided against it. Perhaps if he could get her to talk.
‘You rang the Police because Andrea didn’t come home.’
Mrs Pickford nodded. ‘We were usually in bed and asleep when she got home from work. You know how late it is when the pub closes?’
James nodded. ‘Yes, I do the late shift. It’s nearly one when I get home.’
‘Sometimes I hear her come in and go to her room but usually its morning when I see her. Tony leaves early – he’s on the bins.  I do afternoons at the Spar down the road so I’m always around in the morning when Andrea gets up.’
‘When did you realise that she wasn’t home?’
‘It was nearly midday and I was about to go to the shop. I was surprised that she hadn’t appeared so I went upstairs and knocked on her door. I wondered if she wasn’t well but she didn’t answer. I opened the door and she wasn’t there.’
‘You didn’t think that she might have stayed overnight with friends?’
‘Andrea never did that and she always gave me a call if she was out for a while. She liked to check I was okay.’
Mrs Pickford waved her hands and looked flustered. ‘It doesn’t matter. I just know Andrea wouldn’t have stayed out without telling me.’
‘So, did you ring the Police then?’
‘No. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t think what Andrea was doing. Look, I was always worried about her, her father was too, really.  I know she had problems. . .’
‘Well, you know her. She’s always been a tomboy and never had a boyfriend, do you know what I mean?’
James knew what she meant but also realised that she didn’t have much idea about her own daughter’s, or son’s, inner turmoil.’
‘What about girl friends?’ James made sure he separated the “girl” from the “friends“ to spare Mrs Pickford’s embarrassment.
‘I haven’t seen Andrea with friends since she left school, but, um, I thought that she might be, you know, a le. . .  Her father thought so too.’
‘You didn’t talk about it, either of you, with her?’
The woman’s eyes opened wide.  ‘Talk? Tony? With Andrea? Tony’s not a talker.’
‘Andrea didn’t speak to you.’
She shook her head. ‘I suppose she got that from her father too.’
James took a deep breath. ‘So when did you call the Police?’
‘I waited till Tony, got home. I should have been in the shop but I rang in and said I wasn’t well. Mr Patel wasn’t very happy. But by the time Tony got in I was frantic. I couldn’t understand why Andrea hadn’t been in touch.’
‘She had a mobile.’
‘Yes. I tried her number but there was nothing.’
‘So, your husband, Tony, got home . . .’
‘He was angry. He gets like that when he’s tired after a hard day on the lorry. He said a few things about my girl, which I know he didn’t mean, really. Then he said if I was so worried I’d better call the Police; so I did.’
James waited for her to continue.
‘I suppose I expected them to say they couldn’t do anything but the woman took my description of Andrea. It was less than an hour later when a policeman rang back and asked me some questions. Then they came round and took us both to see. . . to see her body.’ The tears welled up again and her voice croaked.
‘So you were sure it was Andrea?’
‘Oh yes. Tony was too. She looked as if she was asleep. Well, not really, but her face was like when she was in bed.’
‘Did the Police tell you what had happened?’
‘They said they’d got her out of the Kennet.  What was she doing there? Oh, and they showed us some clothes.’
James’ heart beat faster. ‘Clothes she’d been wearing?’
‘That’s what they said, although I didn’t recognise them.’
‘What were they?’
‘A mini skirt, a lace bra and a pink vest.’
‘You hadn’t seen Andrea wear things like that?’
‘Andrea hasn’t worn a skirt since she was in junior school. In high school the girls were allowed to wear trousers, so she did, every day. You didn’t see her dressed in stuff like that did you?’
She looked imploringly at James as if hoping to be proved wrong.
James shook his head.
Mrs Pickford spoke again. ‘You said you’d worked with her for a short while but you seem very interested in her. Did she talk to you at the pub?’
‘Not really.’ James was happy to confirm their lack of communication at work. ‘There wasn’t time most nights and you’re right I haven’t known Andrea long but doing the same job, the late nights, I suppose I felt a bit of a bond with her.’
Andrea’s Mum produced a thin smile. ‘Well, thank you. I don’t suppose there will be many others who are sorry she’s gone.’ She sniffed.
James wondered if he could ask a favour that might be seen as an intrusion. ‘Do you think I could have a look in her bedroom? Just to have something to remember her.’
Mrs Pickford appeared slightly surprised but then nodded. ‘I don’t know what you might see that reminds you of her, but come upstairs.’ She went to the stairs which rose steeply against the side of the room. James followed her up to the small landing which had just two doors. Mrs Pickford went to the first door on the left, slowly turned the doorknob and opened the door. She stood by it and nodded to James to enter. He stepped passed her into the front bedroom of the house.
‘There. There’s not much which shows it’s a girl’s room is there?’ Andrea’s mother said.
James looked around and nodded. She was right on that point. There was a single bed against the front wall of the house under the window with a bright orange bed spread. A small wardrobe was against the far wall with a chest of drawers next to it. Closer, on the right, was a desk that doubled as a dressing table. James stepped into the middle of the room and turned around. There was small set of bookshelves beside the bed with a mirror above it. Above the bed was a poster of the Reading football team, last season’s squad. On the other available wall space were posters of heavy metal bands that James didn’t recognise. He crouched to look on the shelves. There were CDs of the bands on the walls along with fantasy novels and superhero comics. There was nothing anywhere to suggest that this room belonged to a woman in her early twenties, not a feminine woman. There were no cosmetics on the desk-cum-dressing table, just a deodorant and hair-brush alongside a CD player.
James itched to fling open the wardrobe and search through the drawers but knew that would be too intrusive while Andrea’s mother was looking on.  She saw him glance at the band posters.
‘I don’t know why she liked those groups, but at least she wore ear phones most of the time. Tony hated the noise they make.’
‘Her father got angry with her?’
Mrs Pickford pursed her lips and nodded almost imperceptibly. ‘He never hit her though.’  James noted the accidental emphasis.  ‘He just wanted his little girl back.’
‘Little girl?’
‘The girl with long dark hair that we dressed in pretty dresses and who loved her teddies.’
‘. . .and dolls?’ James added.
‘No, she never played with dolls. She ignored the Barbie we gave her one Christmas. She gave up wearing skirts and dresses when she could choose her clothes and then she cut her hair short. That made Tony really annoyed.’
‘What did he do?’
‘He blamed me for making Andrea the way she was.’ Mrs Pickford sucked in a breath as if realising that she was on the point of revealing more than she should.
James explained, ‘I don’t think it was anything you did that made Andrea the way she was. She just didn’t think or feel girly.’
‘No,’ her mother sighed.
James wanted to tell her about the conversations that Jasmine and Andy had had over coffee in the last few weeks, but he didn’t. He felt that while she seemed to accept that Andrea may be lesbian she wasn’t ready for the full truth of her gender identity. Perhaps she would never learn the truth. He glanced around the room again, fixing it in his mind.
‘Thank you for showing me this, Mrs Pickford. Did the Police tell you anything else, such as how Andrea got into the river or how she died?’
‘Didn’t she drown?’ The woman looked surprised as if she hadn’t considered any other possibility.
‘I suppose so. I don’t know,’ James said.
She shook her head. ‘They said they couldn’t tell us anything else. They asked a few questions such as when we’d last seen her and what she was wearing and what her mood was. I don’t think we helped them very much. She had just seemed normal.  The detective said they were still investigating and would let us know what they found out.’
‘So the police don’t know much. There’ll be a post mortem to prove that she drowned.’
Mrs Pickford raised a hand to her mouth, ‘Oh, will they have to cut her?’
‘I’m afraid so. It’s normal in cases of unexpected death. The coroner will need to know.’
‘You mean there will be an inquest?’
James nodded. Unless it turns out to be a murder case, he thought, and if they find a killer it will go to court; but he didn’t tell Mrs Pickford that.
‘I’d better go. I’m sorry I’ve taken so much of your time.’
Mrs Pickford tried to smile. ‘It’s no trouble. It’s lovely to meet someone who cared for Andrea even if you haven’t known her long. Will you come to the funeral? I don’t know when it will be yet.’
‘Yes, of course. You’d better have my phone number to let me know.’
They returned downstairs and Mrs Pickford wrote down James’ mobile number on a scrap of paper. Then they said farewells and James stepped out onto the street. He took a deep breath and strode away down Albert Street. His head was full of thoughts. What was Andrea doing wearing those clothes when she died? Where did they come from? James was quite sure that if he had searched Andrea’s bedroom he would not have found any similar items. What were the Police making of her death? There was a lot more he wanted to know.


Jasmine has questions

First of all, an invitation.

I would be delighted if any readers would like to join us at The Star, Dylife on Saturday 25th June, to visit the sites that inspired scenes in Unity of Seven, the final part of my Evil Above the Stars fantasy trilogy.IMGP3706

We will begin at 11a.m. with tea/coffee and cake. Then I will give a short introduction to the plot before we set off to visit the sites (not too far, level ground, reasonable paths). Afterwards, we return to The Star for a light lunch. Later, there will be an optional walk to the top of the ridge (weather permitting) to see some more sites and sights.  Cost is £10.

The Star is on the mountain road between Llanidloes and Machynlleth in mid-Wales and is probably one of the remotest former pubs.  For more details, email me at

I’ve just received the feedback from the Wishing Shelf awards on Seventh Child, the first book in the trilogy. It was read and judged by 28 young booklovers of whom 25 said they wanted to read more. It was given 10 out of 10 for plot and 9/10 for style. A composite comment says:

A fascinating fantasy adventure with strong elements of Welsh mythology. A finalist and highly recommended.’

Unity of Seven, cover design by Alison Buck

Unity of Seven, cover design by Alison Buck

Now to return to Jasmine Frame in the fourth episode of the story, Aberration, set a few years before Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design.

Aberration: Part 4
James gasped. ‘That can’t have been Andrea.’
‘What do you mean?’ Kevin asked.
‘I was there. This morning I was with the crowd by the river watching it.’
Kevin shrugged, ‘So?’
‘How do you know it was Andrea?’
Kevin nodded to the phone. ‘Her father rang an hour or so ago. Said she wouldn’t be in, then he cracked up and said her mother had rung the police because Andrea didn’t get home last night and when she gave a description the police came for them to identify the body.’
Listening to Kevin hammered it home to James that it was really true that Andrea was dead.
‘How did she end up in the river?’ he asked himself more than Kevin.
‘Don’t ask me mate. That’s one for the cops.’
James shook his head. It didn’t fit with anything he knew of Andrea. She didn’t have to go near the river to get home after leaving the pub.
The door of the pub was pushed open and a police officer entered encumbered by his anti-stab jacket bearing radio, baton and other accoutrements. He looked from James to Kevin and settled on the latter.
‘Are you the Manager?’
‘Yes.’ Kevin said.
‘Can I have your name please, Sir,’ The PC took a notebook and pen from his jacket pocket and prepared to write.
The officer sighed. ‘I’m asking questions in connection with a death.’
‘You mean Andrea?’ Kevin said
‘That’s right,’ the officer looked at his notepad, ‘Miss Andrea Pickford.  Your name, Sir.’
‘Uh, Kevin Ashton. What do you want to know?’
‘Miss Pickford worked here?’
‘Yes, behind the bar.’
‘Was she working yesterday, specifically last evening.’
‘What time did she leave.’
Kevin looked vague for a moment. ‘It must have been twelve thirty when she finished clearing up.’
‘Did you see her leave?’
‘Yes. She asked if that was all, and I said yes.’
‘How was she when she left?’
Kevin shrugged, ‘Same as she always was. Tired I suppose. It had been a busy evening. She doesn’t say much, um, didn’t say much.’
‘Did she say where she was going after work?’
‘Er, No. She never did. I thought she went home.’
‘Could you describe her appearance when she left?’
‘Clothes, that sort of thing?’
‘She wore what she always wore, jeans and a t-shirt. If it was wet or cool she had a short, black zip-up jacket. What is it called? A blouson? Yeah, I think she had that on when she left’
‘Trainers I suppose. That’s all she ever wore.’
The PC looked at James who was wearing pretty much the same outfit. ‘That was standard dress for your employees was it, Sir.’
‘Sort of. I asked her to wear a skirt but she never did.’
‘She definitely wasn’t wearing a skirt when she left last night?’
A confused look passed across Kevin’s face. ‘No, I don’t think so. I never saw Andrea in a skirt. Not once.’
James had listened to the exchange. ‘Is this a murder enquiry, Officer?’ he asked.
The PC looked at him as if seeing him for the first time. ‘Who are you, Sir.’
‘James Frame. I worked with Andrea.’
The officer scribbled in his notebook. ‘I see, Sir. Were you working last night?’
‘No, it was my day off.’
‘So you didn’t see Miss Pickford last night when she left the pub?’
‘Did you meet her afterwards.’
‘Thank you, Sir.’  The constable closed his book.
‘Was she murdered?’ James asked again.
The PC frowned. ‘I’m not at liberty to discuss the case, Sir.’ He looked away from James to Kevin, ‘Thank you for your help, Sir. There may be some more questions later.’
‘Yes, okay. Anything I can do,’ Kevin blustered. The officer turned and left.
Kevin let out a breath through pursed lips. ‘Phew. That’s brought it home, hasn’t it? She isn’t coming back is she.’ He returned to his stocktake.
James stared at the closed door. She isn’t, he thought, but what happened to her? How did she end up in the river and what was the point of the questions about her clothes?  Was the gossip about her wearing a short skirt when she was brought out of the water true?
James performed his duties that evening through a haze of sadness and a carousel of questions spinning through his mind. Luckily it wasn’t that busy so he and Kevin coped with the customers. A few had heard the news of the body in the river and its identification and were discussing it. Some expressed their condolences, other pressed for the gossip but most hadn’t registered the connection with the rather plain, short haired girl who served them most days.
By the end of the shift, James was burning with desire to find out more. He wasn’t sure how, since he had no access to the police investigation, but speaking to Andrea’s parents would be a start.
‘Can I have Andrea’s address,’ he said to Kevin just before leaving.
‘I want to send her parents a sympathy card.’
‘Oh, yes. I suppose they’d appreciate that. I’ll make a note of it for you.’ Kevin disappeared behind the bar for a few moments then reappeared with a small slip of paper torn from a pad.
He handed it to James. ‘You didn’t know her well did you? You didn’t talk much.’
James shrugged. ‘Not really. She was pretty quiet wasn’t she.’
Kevin nodded. ‘Yeah. I thought that was because she didn’t get on with blokes. I guess she fancied girls. She was a bit butch.’
James didn’t show agreement or dissent.
‘I don’t think she had girly side,’ Kevin added.
‘No,’ James agreed. You’re definitely right there, he thought. He said good night and left to walk home.

Angela was asleep when James got back to the flat. He felt he had to tell her about Andrea but didn’t want to disturb her.  He slid into bed beside her and lay thinking about Andy. He was gone too. Was Andrea’s death anything to do with her second life as Andy? He needed answers.
James stirred from a light sleep when Angela started moving in the morning.
‘Ange?’ he murmured with his brain full of fog.
‘Oh, James. Sorry did I wake you>’
‘No, it’s OK.’ James forced his eyes open and watched Angela pulling her knickers on. ‘Did you hear the news?’
Angela paused with her thin panties halfway up her thighs. ‘What news?’
‘Andrea, Andy, is dead. His body was pulled out of the Kennet yesterday.’
‘What?’ Angela hurried to the bed, sat down and looked with a worried frown at James. ‘How?’
‘I don’t know,’ James said pushing himself up onto his elbows, ‘I want to find out.’
‘I’m going to call on her mother and father. See if they know anything.’
‘Was he Andy or Andrea when she died?’
‘I don’t know, although there was talk of her wearing a skirt.’ James explained how he had seen the activity by the river and talked to onlookers and about the visit to the pub by the policeman.
‘But she never wore a skirt, even when she was Andrea.’
‘I know. That’s what’s so odd, and she should have been nowhere near the river if she went home after finishing at the pub.’
‘The poor thing. I wonder what happened?’
‘So do I.’

Once Angela left for work, James did not doze on as he often did. He was too keen to meet Andy’s parents and find out what they knew.  He showered, dressed and ate some breakfast then set off for the fairly long walk to Andrea’s home. The sun was shining although it was cooler than it had been when he set off.
The distance was about twice what he had to do to get to the pub, as Andrea’s home turned out to be on the opposite side of town. He walked passed the shops of Broad Street not pausing to look longingly at the women’s fashions as he did at other times.  He had to refer to the map he’d printed off the computer before he found Albert Street. It was in a similar Victorian-era warren of terraced houses as their own home.
He stopped at number 12. It was like most of the other houses in the street: a small, tidy front garden and tiled path to the front door, painted green.  He pressed the doorbell. Just a few moments passed before it was opened by a short, slim woman in her late forties.  She had light brown hair held by an elastic band at the back of her head and she was wearing a pale blue dress. If this was Andy’s Mum he must have got most of his looks and build from his father, James thought.
She greeted him with a ‘Hello,’ but her face showed the tale of many tears.
‘Hello. Mrs Pickford?’ James said.
‘Yes. Can I help you?’
‘I’m sorry to bother you. I realise that this is a very difficult time for you, but I did want to see you. You see, I worked with Andrea.’
‘At the pub?’
‘That’s right.’
‘Oh. Andrea never talked about who she worked with except she did sometimes mention her boss, Mr. Ashton.’
‘That’s right, Kevin.  I’m James, James Frame. We didn’t work together for long. I started back in August, but we did quite a few evening shifts together.’
‘You’d better come in,’ Mrs Pickford said pushing the door wide, ‘I still don’t believe what’s happened to her, but it would be nice to talk to someone who knew her. I know she was a bit shy.’
James stepped through the front door straight into the small front room of the house.
Mrs Pickford stopped in the centre of the room and turned to face him.  ‘Do you know what happened to Andrea?’ Her voice was plaintive and her face longed for an answer.
James decided to be bold. ‘No, but I would like to find out. What have the police told you?


Jasmine under cover

It’s been a bit busy this week; there’s been this seasonal festival happening. . . Anyway I’d like to send readers seasonal greetings and best wishes for 2016.

A great day out at the Hay Festival in May '15 and one of the last times I wore a wig.

A great day out at the Hay Festival in May ’15 and one of the last times I wore a wig.

2015 has been pretty busy. I published three novels and a novella. (Vol.1 & 2 of Evil Above the Stars published by Elsewhen, and Bodies By Design and Discovering Jasmine under my own imprint, ellifont). In addition there have been the weekly episodes of prequels to the first Jasmine Frame novel, Painted Ladies, of which Flashlight is the sixth. I’m not sure how many more I can fit into the ten years or so when Jasmine/James is adult but before her transition. Nevertheless, next year will be busy with the publication of vol.3 Unity of Seven of EAtS and perhaps the 3rd Jasmine Frame novel, The Brides’ Club Murder and one or two of the novellas.

Anyway, here is the next episode of Flashlight,  approaching a climax.

Flashlight: Part 12

 There was a queue for the club when Jasmine arrived with Milla; not a long one, but the checks by the security guards on the door were sufficient to delay their entry. Milla took her hand in hers to make it look like they were a couple. They had nearly been three. Angela had been determined to come along too, especially when Jasmine let slip that there might be some danger as Milla was convinced the new drug gang was based at the Marquis. It had taken some persuasion to get Angela to accept that jasmine and Milla together could handle themselves and that Jasmine didn’t want Angela put at risk. They didn’t exactly look like a pair of tough detectives. Jasmine was in a short, strappy summer dress that flared out a little alarmingly when she spun around revealing her newly shaved legs while Milla wore a boob tube and short skirt which revealed her midriff.
After a few minutes they reached the door. The bouncers looked them up and down, winked and let them in. Milla tugged on Jasmine’s hand and headed straight for the dance floor.  It was already fairly full, mainly with men in shorts and t-shirts or shirts un-buttoned to the navel or no shirt at all. Jasmine observed the flesh on display.
Milla leaned close. ‘Let’s dance. I want to have a good look around the place.’
With the lasers and the flashlights Jasmine wondered how Milla could see anything at all but she started to move to the beat. Milla didn’t. Jasmine had never danced with anyone other than Angela. They had always had an understanding of each other’s movements and had danced as if they were one. Now Jasmine began to appreciate what she and Angela had going on between them. Milla was barely moving and certainly not with the rhythm of the music. Jasmine felt that they were not really dancing together at all. She put her arms around Milla’s waist and pulled her in.
‘What are you doing?’ Milla shouted in her ear.
‘I thought we were supposed to be a couple? I’m trying to make us look like one.’
‘Okay, but move around so I can see what’s going on.’
They moved as one, well almost. Jasmine stepped and jiggled with the beat with Milla forced into similar movements while held tightly in Jasmine’s arms. They travelled around the dancefloor giving Milla a good view of the dancers and the occupants of the shadowy edges. While Milla watched, Jasmine thought.
Earlier Milla had told Jasmine what had happened when she returned to the office. DC Money had completed interviewing Amy Baker. He’d shown her photos of various known gang members known to be involved in drug dealing. Amy had said she had not recognised anyone but, Money noticed, so he told Milla later, that she had delayed on photos of two men who matched the description of her attackers. Money knew the men and their connections and was pretty sure they had ransacked Amy’s flat and probably been involved in Natalie Peck’s death.
‘Kiss me,’ Milla said abruptly turning her face to Jasmine’s.
‘Why?’ Jasmine responded. Kissing was taking the role play a bit far wasn’t it?
‘Jefferson. I hope he doesn’t recognise us.’ Her lips clamped on Jasmine’s. Milla made a good job of looking like she was snogging Jasmine. In fact, was there a hint of tongue there? Jasmine tried to act like a willing participant but she felt odd. Angela kissed her as she would a man, even when she was dressed as Jasmine. Milla kissed her as she would a woman. There was a difference but Jasmine had problems working out precisely what it was. Perhaps it was the way their bodies pressed against each other.  Whatever it was, it felt different
Milla broke away and spoke into Jasmine’s ear. ‘I’m going to keep an eye on Jefferson. You go and see whether your drug dealer is operating in the loo.’
They parted and Milla disappeared into the mêlée of bodies. Jasmine carried on dancing for a few moments. The guys paid her no attention being focussed on each other. The few other women on the dance floor gave her appreciative looks and one seemed about to approach her. Jasmine moved quickly into the shadows at the edge of the dancefloor. People were entering and leaving the side rooms singly and in pairs. Jasmine ignored them and headed for the toilets.
Unlike on the trans nights, there were just a couple of women attending to their make-up in the mirrors. The doors to two of the cubicles were open revealing them to be empty. Jasmine pushed on the door of the middle cubicle. The bearded young man she had seen earlier in the week was there, sat on the loo seat cradling his post bag.
‘You buying?’ he said looking up at Jasmine.
‘Could be,’ Jasmine replied not committing herself.
‘What do you want?’
‘Well, look, it’s not for me,’ Jasmine began, ‘But I’ve got quite a few people I know who need stuff. What do you say to us doing a deal?’
The young man looked at her with his brow creased in a frown. He was weighing up her suggestion.
‘You mean you want to buy in?’
‘Yes, sort of,’ Jasmine replied.
‘How much?’
Jasmine thought quickly. What sum of money would attract his interest and would not sound ridiculously huge?
‘A thousand?’
‘A grand?’ He nodded. ‘Hmm, what you after?’
He shrugged. ‘Look we had a few problems getting the cut right but it’s sorted now. We’ll have to talk to the boss. See what she thinks of you. Come on.’  He stood up hanging the bag over his shoulder. He was a couple of inches shorter than Jasmine. He urged her out of the cubicle then lead her from the lavatory.  Jasmine was thinking; he’d said “her” referring to the boss. It wasn’t Jefferson then. Perhaps it was the girl who’d been with him this afternoon.
The drug dealer lead Jasmine up the stairs to the entrance of another room. He tapped on the door and got an answering invitation to enter. He pushed the door open. They stepped into a small room which was more store room than office. There was an assortment of containers filling most of the space – cardboard boxes, plastic storage bins, suit cases, brief cases, carrier bags, all of various sizes. There was also a card table and behind it was sitting Amy Baker.
Jasmine stifled a gasp and followed the man into the room. He stood in front of Amy.
‘This tranny has been asking about selling the stuff. She wants to buy in?’
Amy looked up, the bruise around her eye a vivid pink. She glared at Jasmine.
‘Do I know you?’
Jasmine fingered her long black hair. ‘Don’t think so,’ she said trying to put on a London accent in a higher pitch to her usual voice. She had no idea if it sounded true to life but Amy seemed convinced.
‘Why do you want to sell then?’ Amy said.
‘I need to make some money,’ Jasmine replied.
‘What for?’
‘I need to get things done,’ Jasmine was thinking hard. What might sound like a reasonable story?
‘What things?’
‘Tits, and my nose and chin, and I don’t want to wait for ever to get, er, down there done.’ Jasmine waved in the general direction of her crotch.’
Amy nodded. ‘Costly.’
‘Yeah, to say nothing of lasering my facial hair, and getting my legs waxed and so on.’
‘Being a woman is expensive,’ Amy agreed, ‘becoming one, more so. Hmm, so you think you can sell do you?’
‘Yeah, there’s loads of people I know who want stuff.’
‘Hmm, right,’ Amy considered then turned to the man, ‘Go and get Kel off the door. Let’s see if he knows this girl. What’s your name?’
Jasmine chose the first name that came into her head, ‘Kylie.’
The young dealer turned to leave.
‘Oh, Dick, find Jerome too. Tell him we have a potential recruit.’
Dick left.
‘We call him Dick because he hasn’t got one,’ Amy said, chuckling, ‘Like you he wants to get some things done. You want to lose your cock; he wants to have one made for him. Come and take a seat while we wait. Tell me about yourself.’
There was one other chair not occupied by packages. Jasmine sat down, and prepared to answer Amy’s questions. The transsexual was much more confident and assured than she had been when surrounded by the wreckage of her home. Was that all an act, Jasmine wondered? Here she was the fixer, the manager of a team of drug pushers.
Amy asked about her background, whether she took drugs herself, her transition. Jasmine made it all up, all except for not being addict. She based her story on the tales of young transsexuals she had read about – the discovery of her transgenderism, rejection by family and friends, hard times, struggling to get by, the urge to remodel her body – that bit was fairly true as it featured in her fantasies almost daily. Amy seemed satisfied with her answers.
‘I don’t think you need all that secondary stuff, Kylie,’ she said in a motherly tone. ‘Actually you look pretty feminine already. You do need to get your voice trained – your accent and pitch is all over the place.’
The door opened and Jefferson entered followed by one of the burly door guards and “Dick”
‘Is this the one?’ Jefferson said nodding at Jasmine.
‘Yes,’ Amy said, ‘Know her? She’s a tranny.’
Jefferson shook his head, but Kel the bouncer spoke up.
‘Saw her when she arrived with a dyke.’

Jasmine seeks a lead

I don’t say this very often but thank you.  Thank you for reading this weekly ramble and serialised scribbling.  A special thanks to the person, I think it is just one, who accessed a lot of the archived pages this week.  I hope that gave you a good insight into Jasmine Frame.  You can of course purchase the latest novel, Bodies By Design by going to the Jasmine Frame Publications page.

IMGP4329(2)This weekend I’m putting on my “published by Elsewhen Press” badge and my “Seventh Child” t-shirt (if I can find it) and setting off for Nottingham for this year’s NovaCon – one of the biggest SF&F conventions in the calendar. I don’t think I’ll have any exclusive opportunities to promote Evil Above the Stars (vol. 3 Unity of Seven isn’t due out till the new year) but I hope to meet people, introduce myself and catch up with the gang from Elsewhen. Elsewhen are publishing an anthology of short SF stories with contributions from most, if not all, their authors. I’ve got a story in it – a landmark for me in that it is actually my first SF story in a professional publication. More of that when it appears.

This week I have been delighted to make good progress with the third Jasmine Frame novel, The Brides’ Club Murder. What to do with it when it’s finished is one question and another one is what do I write next – more of that next week.  Here though is the next episode of the Jasmine Frame prequel, Flashlight. Jasmine is now a temporary addition  to DCI Sloane’s investigative team and she, or rather he, is learning more about Sloane and his new partners.

Flashlight: Part 6

James followed DC Sparrow down the stairs and into the secure car park. It gave him a chance to look at the young police officer. Although wearing black trousers and sensible flat shoes, she hadn’t adopted the male detective uniform of dull suit, shirt and tie. She wore a grey blouson leather jacket over a pale blue scoop-necked t-shirt and wore her dark hair long and loose. James felt poorly dressed in comparison. He’d removed his police jacket with all its kit when he’d got back to the station with Gavin. Now he just had the showerproof jacket that he wore to and from work over his shirt and his uniform trousers.
Sparrow stopped at unmarked Ford Focus. ‘Get in Jim,’ she said.
James slid into the passenger seat beside her and in moments they were driving through the security gates and out into the town. Milla drove swiftly but safely through the busy traffic until they reached a scruffy part of town – a 50s former council estate now largely housing association run social housing and private lets. They drew up at a three story apartment block. Some of the windows were boarded up but James could see that there were occupants.
‘This is where the gay lad was found?’ James asked.
Milla turned off the engine. ‘Yes, one of the ground floor flats. A right dump. Murray’s flatmate, may be there or he might be out servicing a client or hunting for drugs himself. We’ll give him a try shall we?’
They got out of the car and walked through the rubbish and bits of bicycles and push-chairs to the door of the block. The lock was broken so Milla pushed the door open and stepped inside.  She tapped on the door on the right. There was a moan from inside which James translated as a ‘who’s there?’
‘Lawrence Offiah? It’s the police. DC Sparrow. We met last week when your friend died. We’d like to talk to you.’
There was further moaning but James also heard movement. It was a few moments more before the door opened a crack. Filling the gap was young dark-skinned man, shorter than James, thin, naked but for a pair of grey boxer shorts with a significant bulge. His shaven head was a glistening black
‘Can we come in, Lawrence,’ Sparrow said in a gentle voice, ‘It’ll be easier to talk inside. This is Constable Frame. He’d like to ask some questions.’
The boy shrugged and wandered away from the door leaving it ajar. Sparrow pushed it open and stepped into the room. James wasn’t surprised by the state of the bedsit but he wondered how people could live in such a fashion. A thin, much-stained carpet covered the floor. A grubby duvet was heaped on the three-quarter sized bed. A few bits of crockery and empty plastic cartons filled the sink. An old Dralon-covered sofa faced an almost new 60-inch flat screen TV with a game console on the floor in front of it.
Offiah slumped onto the sofa and scratched his crotch. ‘What do you want now? I told you everything when Guy died.’ His London gangsta drawl cracked a little when he said the name of his dead partner and James saw real sorrow on his face.
Milla soothed him. ‘Yes, Lawrence. You helped us a lot last week and I know it was difficult for you. James here, thinks you can help us find out why Guy died.’
‘He got a bad batch. It happens.’ Offiah shrugged.
‘But where did he get it?’ Milla asked.
‘I said I didn’t know,’ he insisted, ‘it wasn’t from any of the usual pushers because he didn’t have any money.’
James butted in. ‘How do you know he hadn’t just seen a client and been paid?’
Lawrence sneered at him. ‘Because he was sick. No punter would fuck him. Not even the most desperate. I was looking after him but I had to go out and earn some dough.’
‘You were out all night,’ Milla said.
Lawrence slumped and tears appeared in his eyes. ‘Yeah. I got back in the morning and found him. You know all that.’
‘How was Guy, when you left him?’ James asked.
‘He said he was feeling better,’ Offiah said, ‘I told him to have a bit more rest. Make sure he was well before, you know.’
‘But he went out?’ James said.
Offiah shrugged. ‘Must have gone somewhere to get a packet. They don’t do home deliveries.’
‘If he didn’t have enough cash to go to your usual suppliers where would he gave gone?’ Milla asked.
‘I don’t know,’ Lawrence said.
‘Do you know any new sources?  A new venue perhaps?’ James knew he was leading the boy on.
Lawrence looked thoughtful. ‘Yeah, perhaps.’
‘Such as the new club at the Marquis?’ James said.
‘Could be,’ Lawrence shrugged, ‘We took a look in there a couple of weeks ago when it opened. They made a fuss about it being gay-friendly. It was okay. We might have gone again if Guy hadn’t got sick.’
‘You didn’t go back to pick up anyone?’ James asked.
‘Didn’t need to. I’ve got me regulars.’
‘Were you offered drugs at the Marquis?’ Milla asked.
‘Didn’t ask. We just spent a while having a drink, a dance and a kiss and a cuddle. They’ve got some nice cosy corners.’ He smirked at Milla. She sent an enquiring glance at James. He nodded. He could see the two boys getting off in one of the Marquis’ private rooms to the delight of voyeurs.
‘Did Guy leave you at any time while you were there?’ James enquired.
Lawrence turned to James and glowered at him. ‘He might have gone for a pee.’
‘And he didn’t mention anyone dealing from the loos.’
Offiah shook his head. ‘No. Look have you finished. I’ve got to go and meet someone.’
‘You’re sure you don’t want to tell us more about the Marquis?’ Milla said, in a tone rather firmer than she had used previously.’
‘I told you I don’t know anything about that place. Now I’ve got to get ready so I’d like you to leave.’ The young man started to pull his boxers down over his hips.
Milla began to retreat to the door. ‘Okay, Lawrence, but we may be back. This isn’t just about Guy anymore.’
James followed her out of the door and pulled it closed behind getting a glimpse of a dark pair of buttocks as it clicked shut.
‘He’s lying,’ Milla said as they walked back to the car.
‘Yes,’ James agreed, ‘He knew more about what goes on at the Marquis than he admitted.’
‘You were offered drugs in the loo, by Natalie, were you, Jim?’
‘Yes, and the guy I bought them off last night.’
‘A trans-man, you said.’
‘I think so.’
‘You have an eye for transgender, Jim?’
‘Sort of.’
They got into the car. Milla froze with her hand on the ignition key.
‘So there is definitely a link with the Marquis even if we haven’t yet got proof that Guy Murray went there after Offiah left him for the night. Let’s have a go at Butler’s cleaning lady, Mary O’Reilly. With any luck she might have finished for the day.
James glanced at his watch. It was gone five p.m. He only had a couple of hours left on his shift.
‘What time do you finish, Milla?’ He asked as they drove off.
The DC glanced at him. ‘When we’re done for the day, Jim. You don’t get regular hours when you work for DCI Sloane. Is that a problem?’
James shook his head. ’No, no, not at all.’ He was thinking of Angela being at home and wondering where he was. As a uniformed officer he often didn’t get off when his shift was due to end but he usually managed to send Angela a text to let her know. He didn’t want to do that now while he was accompanying Milla.
‘Have you worked with Sloane for long?’ he asked as they joined the Reading rush hour queues.
‘Over a year,’ Milla answered, ‘but not for much longer.’
‘Oh?’ James wasn’t sure whether to enquire further.
Milla drummed the steering wheel in impatience. ‘I’ve got a transfer to the West Midlands force,’ she explained. ‘My partner got moved to Birmingham a while back. It took a bit of time but they finally found a place for me. Sloane was very helpful actually.’
‘Really,’ James expressed his surprise, ‘I’d heard he was, um, difficult to work for.’
Milla chuckled. ‘Oh he is. He’s bad tempered, impatient and old-fashioned but he looks after his team.’
‘Is your partner in the force too?’
‘No, she’s an IT geek. Earns far more than me.’
‘She?’ James blurted out then was embarrassed that he’d said it.
Milla looked at him with a frown. ‘Yes, Jim. I’m a lesbian. Is that a problem for you?’
James shook his head vigorously. ‘No, no, of course not. I’m sorry I was surprised, I mean, I shouldn’t have reacted like that. It’s not important.’
‘Oh, yes, it is Jim. I’ve had to face the insults and the “jokes”. You’re a bloke so I expect you and your mates have fantasised about two girls having it off.’
James denied it as Milla went on.
‘I tried keeping it quiet but you know what the force is like. It’s difficult to keep a secret for long, particularly if it concerns who you’re living with. Actually I think it’s getting better. People, blokes included, are accepting different lifestyles more. Even gay officers are being open now.’
James remained silent. Are they ready for a transgender colleague though, he wondered?
As they edged forward, Milla continued. ‘I think Sloane was uncomfortable. He’s always avoided any mention of my sexuality and never asked about Tania. So long as I was doing a good job he was pleasant enough. But perhaps the reason why he helped me get my transfer was so he wouldn’t have a lezzer on his team.’
‘Do you really think he’s prejudiced?’ James felt a sickening worry in case his own secret was revealed.
‘Prejudiced? No, I don’t think so. He goes along with all the diversity stuff, but he’s old-school. I think he’s just uncomfortable with openness about sex and sexual oddities – despite coming across all sorts of depravity in his job. Ah, at last. Let’s get moving.’ She revved the engine and they moved forward with the traffic.

Jasmine joins the team

Since writing the last blog we have spent a day in London visiting two exhibitions – The Celts at the British Museum and Cosmonauts at the Science Museum.  There are no connections between the two other than my interest in Celtic history, art and culture and anything to do with space. Celtic civilisation influenced my vision of the Land, Gwlad, in Evil Above the Stars but you won’t find any direct links to Celtic history there.

What did strike me about both exhibitions was the possibilities for “what if”. The Celts defeated Rome early in its history. What if they prevented the rise of the Roman Empire? The Russians were almost ready to go for the Moon except their big rocket kept failing. What if the Russians got to the Moon before the Americans? So many possibilities for alternate histories.  Ideas, ideas . . .


Anyway back to ideas that I have got round to developing – the latest prequel to Painted Ladies and the origins of Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective.  Here is the next episode in Flashlight.

Flashlight: Part 5

‘Inspector Metcalfe said you had asked for me, Sir,’ James said aware that there was an uncertainty in his voice.
‘Yes, Frame,’ Sloane replied. ‘We need some extra staff on this case. My sergeant and the rest of the team are otherwise engaged. You know about the Marquis club which may be the source of the drugs that killed the victim and you seem to know something about these transsexuals.’
James saw DC Money’s eyebrows rise.
‘I hope I can assist you, Sir,’ James said.
‘I hope so too, Frame. Now Money, you’d better start your summary again.’
The detective constable looked at his notebook. ‘Preliminary lab tests show that Peck was killed by a massive overdose of heroin. It looks like she was injected with a dose that was much purer than the average street supply but the post-mortem suggests that Peck wasn’t a frequent user.  There were no signs of hypodermic marks on the body. Peck isn’t on any list of known addicts.’
‘Thank you, Money,’ Sloane said. ‘What have you got, Sparrow?’
The female officer looked at her own notebook. ‘There is no sign of drugs in the victim’s flat other than the dregs in the syringe used to administer the fatal dose. But SOCO think it looks as though the victim’s belongings have been searched, Sir. The drawers and wardrobe had signs that they’d been disturbed.’
‘Are you sure he wasn’t just untidy?’ Money asked.
James noticed Money’s use of the male pronoun.
Sparrow frowned. ‘The friend says that Natalie was meticulous about her clothes – a bit OCD in fact. Everything had its place.’
‘Alright’ Sloane said interrupting before Money could respond. ‘Let’s accept that Peck’s flat has been searched and items possibly removed. It reinforces the differences between this death and the others.’
‘Others?’ James found himself blurting out.
‘Yes, Frame. Sparrow will get you up to speed soon.  This investigation started out looking at the deaths of two known addicts in the last week. Like Peck they were killed by an overdose of unusually pure heroin. But it looks as though Peck was murdered using the drugs that he was dealing.’
‘Were the other victims trans?’ James asked.
Sloane looked surprised as if the idea had never arisen. ‘Money?’ he said.
Money shook his head. ‘No Sir.  Murray was a rent boy, pulling tricks to pay for his habit. Butler was a single bloke, occasional user, bit of a loner.’
Sloane scratched his chin as he mused, ‘the only link is that the heroin that killed each of them probably came from the same pure batch.’
‘The sample Constable Frame provided was the same, Sir.’ DC Sparrow said, reaching behind her to pick up a sheet pf paper from the desk she was resting her bottom on.
‘You have a lab report already?’ Sloane said.
Sparrow nodded. ‘Just a preliminary one, Sir. You did ask for it to be fast-tracked. It’s confirmed as being heroin of unusual purity. It’ll take longer to get a full analysis and comparison.’
Sloane turned to James. ‘Well there you are Frame. The sample you purchased has suggested a link between this Marquis place and the three deaths, including the murder of one of the dealers.’
James felt a glow as if he had already made a contribution to the team’s work
‘What does it mean Sir?’ Money asked.
‘Can’t you work it out, Money?’ Sloane said with a note of exasperation. ‘We’ve got a new batch of heroin probably being sold by new suppliers muscling in on existing dealers’ territory. I’d surmise that Peck was killed by the oldsters using his own stock and that his death was a warning to the incomers. If we don’t get to the bottom of it soon we could have a major gangland feud on our hands.’
‘That’s serious, boss.’ Money said.
‘You’re right for once. So we’ve got to get to work.  This link with the Marquis suggests that the new owners may be involved. You get on to them Money. See if they have any history.’
‘Yes, Sir,’ DC Money said pushing himself erect and moving around the desk to sit at the computer.
‘What about, me?’’ Sparrow asked.
‘Go over the files on Murray and Butler, with Frame, here. See if you can find out who their supplier was. Perhaps there is a link with Peck.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ Sparrow said. James felt pleased that he was going to work with the young woman instead of Money.
‘Well, get on then,’ Sloane said impatiently as he headed for the door, ‘I need to report to the Superintendent. Warn him that we might have an intrusion from outside the area and the consequences that could bring.’  He departed.
DC Sparrow went to sit at Sloane’s desk. ‘Come and sit down next to me she said smiling at James, ‘Oh, we don’t have a spare chair.’
‘Don’t know why we have to work here anyway?’ Money grumbled. ‘We could just as easily do this investigation from Kintbridge.’
‘Oh stop grumbling, Keith,’ Sparrow said grinning, ‘don’t mind him, uh, I don’t know your first name Constable?’
‘It’s James. I’ll go and find another chair. I know this building pretty well.’
James hurried out into the corridor feeling elated. He was part of a plainclothes investigation team working on a big case involving drug gangs and murder. It was what he’d always wanted.
It took moments to find a vacant chair and return to the office. He placed the chair next to DC Sparrow who was sorting through the papers that Sloane had left on the desk.
‘Well done, James,’ she said and again James received a warm smile, ‘By the way I don’t think DCI Sloane introduced me fully. My name is Camilla, but most people call me Milla.’
‘Oh, thanks. My friends call me Jim,’ James replied.
‘Glad to have you with us, Jim. I’ve got a feeling we’re going to be pretty busy. Sloane likes to get results quickly.’ Milla picked up a sheaf of papers. ‘Have a look through these.  This is what we’ve got on Murray and Butler.’
‘I thought it would all be online,’ James said.
‘It is,’ Milla said, ‘but Sloane likes paper. He’s a bit old-fashioned.’
Money, head close to his screen, grunted. ‘A bit?’
‘We don’t have a spare computer here at the moment, Jim. I need this one.’ Sparrow pointed to the screen pushed to the edge of the desk. ‘I know it’s cramped in here but make yourself as comfortable as you can.’
‘I’ll manage,’ James said. He put the pile of papers down on the edge of the desk leaving plenty of room for Milla to work. He began reading the reports on the deaths of the two overdose victims. Most of it was factual reports of the discovery of the bodies and the reports by scene of crime officers and the pathology team. James looked for clues about the victims lives. Murray’s body had been discovered by his flatmate in the shabby bedsit they shared. It was clear that they were both gay, sometime partners, and both selling themselves to other gay men to pay for their drug habits. There wasn’t much on where they picked up their clients and James realised he would have to speak to the surviving partner himself.
There was even less on the other victim who lived alone and apparently had a decent job in the town. He’d been found by a middle-aged woman who he employed to clean his flat one day a week. He didn’t seem to have any close friends – no-one at his place of work had shown much interest in his death and all his family lived up north. I wonder if the cleaner knows more about his lifestyle, James thought, cleaners usually have an opinion or two on their employers.
James put the papers down. ‘Do you think we should talk to this partner of Murray and Butler’s cleaner again?’ he said to whichever of Money or Sparrow was interested. He hadn’t yet worked out which was the senior. Money was the older but Sparrow seemed most switched on and alert.’
‘Yeah, if you like,’ Money said, eyes still locked on his screen.
Sparrow looked at James. ‘Why, Jim? What do you think they can tell us?’
‘Perhaps they know more about the victims than they’ve said so far. We may find a link to Natalie and the Marquis.’
‘Good idea, let’s go.’ Milla tapped a key, reached down for her shoulder bag and stood up. ‘You didn’t think Sloane would let you out on your own do you?’ She said to James’ surprised face. ‘We work in pairs when we’re out of the office, Jim. This is the Violent and Serious Crime Unit. You never know what we might come across.’


Jasmine considers a death

A bit of a rush this weak as I am at  Dysprosium, the EasterCon for SF and Fantasy fans at Heathrow – no, not actually in the airport but in The Park Inn, a huge airport hotel.  The main point of being here of course is to promote Evil Above the Stars but it is interesting meeting other writers and fans and aliens.

In full flow at Rachel's Gallery in Malvern

In full flow at Rachel’s Gallery in Malvern

Anyhow, I have written the next episode of Soft Focus which is taking me into my memory of the layout of Bristol. Haven’t actually been there for some years but the Clifton Suspension Bridge is still there I think.

Soft Focus is the fifth prequel to Painted Ladies, the novel that introduced transsexual detective, Jasmine Frame. I have really filled in Jasmine’s back story  now but there’s still room for more cases. Let me know what you think of this episode.

Soft Focus: Part 4

‘That’s seriously suicidal,’ James said imagining standing on the parapet and looking at the river far below. ‘Silla must have been drunk.’
‘I doubt it,’ Sid replied from the sofa. ‘She hardly drank at all. Used to carry a can of lager around with her for show.’
‘But why would she do it?’ James shook his head.
Tiff crossed the lounge from the kitchen area and handed James a steaming mug. ‘Who knows? Perhaps she was having problems with her sex-change.’
James thought back to his brief meeting with the transsexual the previous evening. ‘She did grumble about the delays in getting her treatment and the people at the clinic but she seemed eager to get on with it.’
‘She was very aggressive,’ Angela said sitting down beside Sid and tugging her dressing gown around herself. ‘She didn’t seem to get on with anyone – gays, lesbians.’
‘Perhaps that was it,’ Sid shrugged, ‘she just couldn’t cope with everyone and everything.’
James sipped his coffee, well the hot, black liquid that filled the mug. ‘How did you find out? It can’t have been long since Silla died. How do they know it’s her? Have they got her body out of the river?’
‘Oh, she didn’t fall in the river,’ Tiff said. ‘She jumped off the approach to the bridge, almost landed on a car on the road beneath. She had her keys and union card on her so the Police have been round looking into her room.’
‘She lived here?’ James asked.
‘Not with us. In another flat in the block with a few other year 2 girls,’ Sid answered.
‘Friends?’ James said.
‘Flat mates,’ Tiff replied. ‘I’m not sure Silla had any real friends. She usually pissed off anyone who took an interest in her.’
Angela stood up. ‘I’m going to get dressed. Then shall we go out, James?’
‘Yes, of course.’
Angela hurried out of the room. James took her place on the sofa.
‘So you fancy, Angela, then,’ Sid said. James looked at her in surprise.
‘Um, yes. How did you know?’
‘Oh, the look in your eyes and the bulge in your jeans.’
James felt his cheeks glowing. He hadn’t thought about it but the sight of Angela in her night clothes, albeit well wrapped up, had produced an effect, but he hadn’t thought it was that obvious.
‘You think you stand more chance with her as a boy than a girl?’ Tiff asked with a leery smile on her face.
‘I don’t know,’ James replied, ‘We talked for hours last night and I think we got on. She didn’t seem to mind me being dressed as a girl.’
‘She’s broad-minded even though she’s not a les,’ Sid nodded in agreement, ‘She likes you. Hardly stopped going about you since she got up this morning. You’re in there – boy, girl or both.’
James contemplated. A girl who liked him whether he was dressed as a boy or a girl? It seemed incredible. Could he be so lucky?
Angela reappeared dressed in jeans and already wearing her coat.
‘Ready, James,’ she said heading towards the entrance. She paused ‘You have finished your coffee?’
James gulped down the remaining, still hot, liquid. ‘Yes, coming. Thanks Tiff, Sid.’ He handed the mug to a grinning Sid and hurried after Angela. In moments they emerged into a bright Saturday morning. The sky was blue with fluffy clouds and the air had a much drier, warmer feel to it than the previous dreary day.
Angela grabbed James arm, and dragged him away from the block. ‘So were they giving you the good cop, bad cop routine?’
‘What?’ James replied his brain befuddled.
‘Tiff and Sid. Were they assessing you as suitable or not?’
‘Um, I don’t know. Why?’
‘Oh, they’ve taken it into their heads that I have to be looked after, protected from any boys who might coming sniffing around.’
‘Oh, I see.’
‘But they like you.’
‘Oh, do they?’
‘You’re different. You’re almost a girl.’
‘Almost?’ Was that what he wanted to be – somewhere between boy and girl, almost one but not quite the other?
‘Well that’s what you said last night?’
‘Did I?’
‘You said you didn’t think you wanted to go all the way like Silla does. Oh, I mean, did.’
‘Yes, I did say that.’ But did he mean it? Perhaps he did if it meant he got to go out with a girl like Angela.
Angela stopped mid-stride and James felt her arm tug on his. ‘Oh, I can’t believe it?’
‘What?’ James said.
‘That Silla’s dead.’
‘Did you know her well?’
‘Well, no, not really I suppose.’ They began to walk again. Angela went on, ‘But she lived in our block, so I saw her around the place. She was usually making a noise, complaining about her treatment, organising this protest or that. But I didn’t know her. She ignored me I think – a normal girl. She probably couldn’t bear to look at me. That sounds awfully conceited doesn’t it. As if I think that Silla saw me as something like what she was aiming for. I don’t mean that. Oh, I don’t know what I mean.’
James had tried to follow Angela’s monologue. ‘I think I do, Angela. You’re an attractive, sexy girl. You’re relaxed about yourself. No hang-ups about your body. The opposite of Silla.’
‘Do you think so?’
‘She knew it would be years before she got to be the woman she felt she was and should be. You were a role model, but although I only met her once I could see she had this anger with everyone because of her impatience. She had a go at me because she thought I was mocking her by not wanting to be a TS like her. She said wearing a wig made me a fraud.’
‘Do you think that was why she killed herself?’
‘What, because of me?’ James was horrified that Angela could make the suggestion.
‘No, silly! Her anger and impatience. Did that drive her to suicide?’
James considered. The thing was that despite her anger, Silla seemed full of life, full of determination to get what she wanted and what she thought other transsexual’s wanted.
‘I don’t think she was planning on killing herself when we were talking,’ James said, ‘she was talking about a campaign to get gender recognition for transsexuals. She seemed to have plans.’
‘I never thought of her as being depressed,’ Angela said, ‘angry, aggressive, aggrieved but not depressed.’
They carried on walking arm in arm while James thought about Silla.
After a few minutes, Angela spoke. ‘You know where we’re going, don’t you?’
James looked around, examining the Victorian and earlier facades. ‘Uh, no, I hadn’t thought. I thought you were leading.’
‘I wasn’t. I think we’ve both been going there, unconsciously,’ Angela said.
‘Where?’ James wasn’t sure what she meant. How could they be guiding themselves without thinking?
‘The bridge, Clifton Suspension Bridge. Where Silla died.’
James looked around again. He had a vague idea of where they were, somewhere in Clifton. Angela was right. They weren’t far from the approach to Brunel’s bridge over the Avon gorge.
‘You’re right. Well, since we’ve come this far. Let’s see where Silla supposedly jumped off.’
James shook his head. ‘I can’t believe she did it.’

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as e-book and paperback from all booksellers including Amazon

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Jasmine hears some news

An exciting day today with the launch of Evil Above the Stars at Leominster Library. Go to my SF and Fantasy page for more news.

Thanks Sally for all the support you've given to Tenbury Writers.

Thanks Sally for all the support you’ve given to Tenbury Writers.

Lots of things happening at the moment, not all writing related, such as saying goodbye to Sally in Tenbury, but as ever Jasmine is on my mind. As I said last week at Wrekin Writers, she’s been in my head for fifteen years or so now. I think I know her well but do her appearances in print as a transsexual detective, reflect her whole personality? I hope so and I hope the prequels being published here fill in her backstory so that the character in the novels is fully rounded.  Here’s the next episode from Jasmine’s university years.

Soft Focus: Part 3

Angela took a sip of her wine, then over the increasing volume of Dido, she leant towards Jasmine and shouted, ‘Do you want to be a girl then?’
Jasmine wasn’t sure how she could answer that question in a single audible sentence. She shook her head and shrugged her shoulders.
‘I don’t know,’ she bellowed in Angela’s ear, ‘I like being Jasmine but don’t think I want to go all the way.’
‘You make a good-looking girl.’
A body slid across the floor, demolishing the dancers as if they were skittles. Jasmine tugged Angela out of the way as the figure stopped at their feet. In the flashing lights they could see that it was Silla. Jasmine bent down to help Silla to her feet but she shrugged off the assistance and staggered off shouting expletives. Jasmine saw that they were directed at a group of young men including Andy. They stood in a huddle waving their hands at Silla and shouting inaudibly.
Tiff reappeared at Jasmine’s side. ‘The gays don’t like Silla, either,’ she shouted. ‘They don’t want a guy with boobs, even false ones.’ Tiff was dragged off again by Sid.
‘Shall we go somewhere a bit quieter,’ Angela said.
‘Yes, let’s,’ Jasmine replied and went in search of her coat.

Out in the corridor, the sound level was low enough for Jasmine to be able to think.
‘Where shall we go?’ she asked.
‘Let’s see what the bar is like,’ Angela replied.
They returned to the cavernous hall close to the main entrance with an immensely long bar. It was busy but there were still places to sit and there was not quite enough noise to drown conversation. Angela led Jasmine to a vacant table in an alcove at the edge of the room. Jasmine sat down and moved her chair closer to Angela’s so that they could speak quietly.
‘So, when did you start?’ Angela asked.

The evening passed more quickly than Jasmine could believe. They had each got up to buy drinks and visit the loo, but otherwise they had spent the time sitting side by side listening to each other talk about their lives before university, their plans or lack of them and their likes and dislikes. Jasmine had never known anything like it. Never had she talked so much about herself or listened to another person’s, boy or girl, private talk. At last she realised that the crowd was thinning and that the background music, which she had stopped hearing, had ceased.
‘I suppose we’d better go,’ Jasmine said sadly.
‘Yes, but there’s a big question,’ Angela said with a broad smile on her face.
‘What’s that?’
‘Which one of us is going to walk the other back to their digs?’
It wasn’t a question Jasmine had considered. They had already established that they lived in halls of residence equidistant from the Students’ Union but in opposite directions.
‘If you were a boy you might do the chivalrous thing and escort me home,’ Angela continued, grinning. ‘But since I think I have more experience of being a girl out on the streets at night than you, I think I should walk you back.’
‘Oh, I don’t think you need to do that.’
‘Oh, I think I do. You know that at closing time there will be thousands of drunk students and other kids wandering the streets. Do you want to find your way through them in your short skirt and high heels?’
‘Um?’ Jasmine hadn’t considered getting back to the flat, sort of assuming that Andy would be around, but he wasn’t.
‘Come on. Let’s go.’ Angela got up and pulled her coat on. Jasmine followed, donning her waist length quilted anorak. She was suddenly aware that her long, almost-bare legs were on display and could be a come-on signal for sozzled randy lads. At the exit Angela put her arm around Jasmine’s and set off at a fast walk. Jasmine kept up as well as she could, feeling a little unsteady on her narrow heels.
Some groups of boys appealed to them to join them. In what, Jasmine did not feel like discovering. Others marked their passing with whistles and innuendo but they soon arrived at the door to Jasmine’s block unmolested.
‘I expect the other guys will be in now,’ Jasmine said.
‘I won’t come and meet them then,’ Angela said. ‘See you tomorrow?’
‘Yes. That would be fun,’ Jasmine replied finding that she really did want to see Angela again, soon.
‘We’d better swap numbers so we can arrange when and where,’ Angela said pulling a small flip cover mobile phone from her bag. ‘You do have a mobile?’
‘Yes.’ Jasmine got her older, chunkier model out. They gave each other their numbers and slipped the phones back in their bags.
‘I’ll send you a text message,’ Angela said.
‘Oh, yes, good idea.’ Text messaging was a new experience for Jasmine as she hadn’t had her phone for long and didn’t have a long list of names in her contact list.

James was late wakening and even later rising from his bed. He lay there thinking about the evening just past. The memories were pleasurable on two counts. First he had been Jasmine. It had been a wonderful feeling being out as a girl again after a few weeks stuck as James. Secondly there was Angela. James was experiencing feelings that he’d never had before and reactions to those feelings which were unexpected, such as repeated swelling between his legs. He’d had lots of girl friends before but never a girlfriend. As he had spent so much time thinking of and actually being Jasmine he had thought that he wasn’t attracted to girls, but then again he hadn’t felt any particular attraction for any boys either. Now he was reconsidering. He was attracted to Angela; boy was he! Perhaps being Jasmine was a phase of growing up, something that would fade into his past, some forgotten quirk caused by having an older sister or something. He wanted to meet Angela again, as James, and see whether the rapport they had developed last night was real or just a one-off.
As he finally swung out of bed and contemplated getting a shower his mobile phone made an unfamiliar buzz. He grabbed it from the bedside table. He had a text message, from Angela. He thumbed the keys until the letters appeared on the small screen.
<come here have news>
What did she mean? He clumsily pressed the alphanumeric keys until he had composed the reply.
<on my way what news> He pressed send and tossed the phone onto the bed. The shower was perfunctory, the choice of clothes random and in a few minutes he was out of his room fully dressed in his daily boy gear. There was no sign of Andy or his other flat-mates in the communal living room and he moved swiftly on out of the block. He jogged the kilometre or so to Angela’s hall of residence, reminding himself that he needed to get to the sports facilities to get back in trim and recalling how much he liked the feeling of running.
He couldn’t get in to Angela’s block of course and neither could he remember the number of the flat she shared. He started pressing buttons on the panel beside the door. The first couple didn’t produce a reply. A few seconds after he pressed the third, a voice spoke.
‘Jasmine. Is that you?’
‘James, actually. Angela?’
‘Come on up.’
The door lock buzzed and opened when he pushed it. He climbed the stairs to the first floor and saw a door opening. Angela appeared wearing a fleece dressing gown.
‘James?’ her tone suggested she wasn’t quite sure.
‘I wouldn’t have recognised you, even though your hair really is blonde.’ James brushed his hand through the short hair on his head. ‘And those jeans hide your lovely legs.’ James blushed. ‘Come on in.’
She opened the door wide and James stepped into a room similar to the one in his flat. Sid sprawled on the sofa and Tiff was in the kitchen area doing something at the cooker. She turned and looked at James.
‘Not got your boobs in to day then,’ Tiff said. James felt the blush return. ‘Just kidding. Nice to see the other you. Like a coffee?’
‘Uh, yes please.’ James was feeling mixed up. He wasn’t used to meeting people who had previously met Jasmine. He turned to face Angela.
‘Your message said something about news.’
‘Sid told me just now. Thought you’d like to know since you met her last night.’
‘Silla. She’s dead.’
‘Dead?’ Jasmine was confused. How could the aggressive transsexual who she had spoken to just hours before be dead.
‘Yeah. Dead. Gone to meet her maker,’ Sid said from the sofa.
‘How?’ James was mystified.
‘Jumped off Clifton suspension bridge,’ Sid replied.

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and paperback from all booksellers including Amazon

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Jasmine Frame in “Soft Focus”

It’s been one of those busy weeks you get after a time away. As well as catching up with the usual stuff, doing research for the 3rd Jasmine Frame novel (working title – The Brides), I’ve done three sessions with the great folks of the Malvern Book Promotions group, two as Penny reading from Painted Ladies and talking about Jasmine, and one as Peter introducing Evil Above the Stars to the world (there will be mnore about that on my SF/fanatsy page soon).  They’ve all been good fun and I’ve met some lovely people but they haven’t been the great selling opportunities that I hoped.  Oh, well, it’s all publicity I suppose.

With other presenters at Mad March Malvern Book Promotions

With other presenters at Mad March Malvern Book Promotions

I haven’t had time for writing but I have been thinking about the next prequel so here is a short introduction to  Soft Focus (working title) looking at another stage in the development of Jasmine Frame as a transsexual detective.

Soft Focus – Part 1

There was a tap on the door and a muffled voice.
‘Jim? It’s me. Are you ready?’
Jasmine sat up on her single bed. She recognised the voice.
‘Coming Andy.’ Jasmine swung her legs off the bed and stood up on her high heeled shoes. She took the five steps to the door, turned the key and opened the door just a little. Andy was there in the narrow corridor, looking no different to usual – jeans and t-shirt with a slogan that was only witty to other computer nerds.
‘Are you ready?’ he said, ‘Have you done it? Got dressed?’
As an answer Jasmine pulled the door open and looked for the response in Andy’s face to her revelation.
‘Phew!’ was all he said as his eyes went up and down taking in her shiny, sheer tights, short denim skirt and black metallic off the shoulder top that clung to her (artificial) breasts. His eyes settled on her made up face, long, mascaraed eye lashes and shoulder-length blonde hair.
‘I’m not sure if I can do this, Andy,’ Jasmine said taking a step back into her room. Andy followed her and shoved the door closed.
‘What do you mean? Do what?’
‘Go to the party. Like this.’
‘Why not? You look fantastic.’
‘Do I look like a girl?’
‘Of course.’
‘Not a tranny; a bloke in a skirt?’
‘No. Not at all. Look if I wasn’t gay, I’d fancy you.’
‘But I am a boy. Shouldn’t you fancy me?’
‘Not when you’re a girl. Hey this is doing my brain in.’ Andy shook his ginger haired head. ‘Come on let’s go.’
‘I don’t know,’ Jasmine shifted her weight from one foot to another. ‘I’m nervous.’
‘About what? Look, you told me you’ve been dressing up for years. You’ve been out. What’s different?’
‘I’ve never been out to somewhere where there would be people who know me as a boy. I don’t know how they’ll react to Jasmine.’
‘Jasmine? Oh, that’s what you’re calling yourself. There’s only one way to find out how people will react and that is to meet them. And where better than the Uni LGBT Club. You’ve joined. You’ve told them you’re trans. What’s the problem?’
Jasmine sighed. She knew Andy was right but she was in a new city, amongst people she was only just getting to know. Not sure exactly who she was.
‘And anyway,’ Andy went on, ‘I don’t think anyone will know it’s Jim Frame inside that outfit and hair. Even I can’t believe Jim and Jasmine are the same person. So come on, before all the decent beer’s gone.’
‘Okay,’ Jasmine said picking up her puffer jacket from the back of the desk chair. She pulled it on and slung her small bag over her shoulder. She followed Andy out of her small student room and locked the door. This would be Jasmine’s first outing in Bristol.
Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and paperback from all booksellers including Amazon

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

New life

Ellifont logo grey

My apologies for a late posting this week. I have been away visiting family so there was little opportunity for writing, other than a little work on the next Jasmine Frame novel (the third). I do intend starting another prequel novella possibly in the next week.

Visiting family did provide time to observe and think about important matters such as life and writing. In particular, I observed the wonder of new life in the form of our one month old grandson. Totally dependent on his parents (and occasionally grandparents, well Gran, anyway) for food, comfort and protection he is nevertheless starting to react to his environment. His eyes focus on things around him (when he’s awake) and certain things bring a small smile to his face.  This contrasts with his brother who in the space of three years has developed a personality and powerful individuality, a growing competence in two languages (he now corrects Gran’s German pronunciation and can translate words as diverse as parrot and please) and confidence in his physical abilities (e.g. on a rope climbing frame or riding his hobby-horse bike). He loves books and will have reading after reading of the same or different stories. He can now recite to his baby brother, books such as “Superworm” off by heart while turning the pages. In a few short years both will be individual people with their own aptitudes and skills and responsibilities. Every person on the planet goes through the same process of growth and development. It is a pity that we don’t remember our common origins as we fight with each other instead of cooperating.

Developing characters is a little like observing children grow. I have lived with Jasmine Frame in my head for nearly fifteen years now. She is almost as real to me as a close friend. My difficulty, which is that of all writers, is getting that knowledge of the character described on the page so that Jasmine comes as alive to readers as she is to me. On top of that I have to get the characters she interacts with as real as her. The same is true of September Weekes the “star” of my Evil Above the Stars series. I’ve been writing about her for over four years now and she too is a living person in my head.  Developing and describing believable characters is the challenge of writing. I enjoy it and I hope I am improving at it.

In the coming fortnight I will be appearing at events in the Mad March in Malvern promotion hoping to increase interest in both my book series. It should be fun. (See on Facebook)

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as e-book and paperback from all booksellers including Amazon

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Jasmine makes a run for it

I’m making a few changes to this blog. Thoughts about transgenderism, crime, Jasmine Frame and all that will continue to appear here along with episodes of Jasmine Frame stories. But to read about my SF/fantasy writing, particularly the September Weekes series, Evil Above the Stars there is a new page for your delectation. Soon there will be extra pages on other topics and possibly a whole new design – exciting.

One question that has been concerning me this week is this. Is Jasmine in a niche (or a rut)? My original aim was to write exciting crime thrillers in which the lead character, Jasmine Frame was a pre-op transsexual. I hoped that put her in the niche crime thriller market (as opposed to the police procedural or whodunnit mystery niches) which is pretty big. The suggestion is that I’ve actually confined her to the transgender fiction niche which is a considerably smaller market. So far all my plots have centred around trans issues because obviously Jasmine is pretty emotionally involved in such matters. Does that stop them being appreciated by a wider audience?  I hope not but perhaps I need you, the readers of this blog, to let me know what you think.

Even trans writers have to do the chores

Even trans writers have to do the chores

Here then is the next episode of the prequel to Painted Ladies that tells of Jasmine’s beginnings.

Discovering Jasmine: Part 8

Despite the warm August sunshine, James felt cold inside. The gang were planning on hurting Cleo really badly but what could he do about it? Run away while Nicko and his mates were lying around relaxing or wait to see what they did? But he couldn’t stop their plan all on his own. He wasn’t sure what to do so just sat, arms around his knees and conscious of the fading ache in his abdomen caused by Nicko’s punch.
‘So, Jimbo, you don’t like trannies,’ Nicko said.
‘Uh, no,’ James replied, feeling the greater pain of betrayal.
‘What you got against them then?’
James thought. What did people like Nicko have against people like Cleo? ‘It’s not normal, is it,’ he offered as a likely answer.
‘What ain’t?’ Nicko asked.
‘Well, a bloke wearing women’s stuff and all that.’
Nicko nodded. ‘Yeah and actually asking to have your knob and balls cut off. That’s sick.’
The other boys nodded and grunted in agreement.
‘They try to make out they’re women,’ Nicko continued, ‘and fool blokes into fucking them.’
James wasn’t sure that Cleo spent time prowling around the estate looking for men to have sex with, even if she did dream of a lover.
‘That’s why we’ve got to get rid of people like this cheating fucker,’ Nicko concluded. ‘Don’t you agree, Jimbo?’
‘Oh, yes,’ James said, wishing that he was miles away from this cosy chat.
The two boys that had been sent off returned carrying cans and bottles and celebrating their victory over the shopkeeper. Each member of the gang selected from the choice of cheap strong lager or cider. Nicko chucked a can to James.
‘There you go, Jimbo, courtesy of the Crew.’
James tugged at the ring pull, sucked at the froth that emerged but did not take a swig of the strong alcohol. He had to keep hold of his wits and not get drunk. The gang though, swiftly emptied their first cans and started on a second. Their conversation grew louder and reduced to expletives and accusations. A couple of boys wandered down to Cleo’s window and bellowed obscenities through the pane. Another couple engaged in a mock fight like playful lion cubs.
A boy stood up and lurched towards the apartment block. ‘I need to take a leak,’ he muttered.
‘Piss on the perv’s door,’ Nicko called out. The boy nodded and continued around the building.
James watched his surroundings. The road was quiet with just the occasional car passing by. There were even fewer pedestrians. A woman pushing a pushchair came up the road but crossed over before she got close to the carousing crew. She hurried past.
The boozy conversations were halted by the familiar tinkle of the Nokia tune. All the boys looked to Nicko who scrabbled in the pocket of his jeans. He pulled out a chunky mobile phone, looked at it as if it was a monster then stabbed one of the buttons with a thick, grubby finger. He held the phone to his ear.
‘Hello?’ he said, somewhat tentatively, ‘Oh, Stash, it’s you.’ His head went back suggesting that he’d been given a telling off in some ripe language, then he listened closely for a minute or so. Finally he pressed another button and shoved the phone back in his pocket. He looked around at his fellow gang members.
‘That was Stash,’ he said. Everyone nodded as if they hadn’t gathered the fact. ‘It’s all set for this evening. Stash wants us to keep an eye on the tranny until he comes down with the stuff when it’s getting dark. We’ve got to make sure the guy doesn’t leave.’
James glanced at his watch. It was just three o’clock. It would be another five hours before the action took place. By then this lot would be off their heads if they drank more booze. He didn’t want to be hanging around when it all happened. At least he now knew something about what was planned.
Nicko hauled himself to his feet. ‘It’s going to be a long wait so I’m going to get some stuff. You lot stay here and do what Stash says. Don’t be stupid.’ He turned his back on the gang and headed up the street. James wondered whether he had been forgotten as the boys returned to their joshing and stories of their triumphs, supping from their cans and bottles. James waited for a few minutes then stood up.
‘Where you off, then?’ a short boy said.
‘Need a pee,’ James said heading off towards the block. The others giggled and returned to joshing one another. James walked down the side of the building, passed the entrance to the flats and on to the rear. As he had observed earlier that took him to a line of garages that linked the three apartment blocks. Once sure he was out of sight of the gang he began to jog. The lane from the garages lead into another road of terraced houses. James kept on running, listening out for any sound of pursuit. There was none. The kids had probably forgotten all about him, at least until Nicko returned. Then they might start to wonder about who he was. By then though he would be far away, never to return.

Soon, James reached the perimeter road of the estate. He crossed and passed into the older part of the town. He slowed to a gentle trot. Ten minutes and another mile brought him to the town centre and the entrance to the police station he had visited the previous night. He walked up the steps and opened the door. The police officer on the desk was unfamiliar. It was silly to expect the same one as in the middle of the night but James was sorry that he had to introduce himself all over again. This was a man in his fifties with greying hair and signs of a paunch.
‘Yeah, lad, what can we do for you?’
James was unsure where to start. ‘They’re going to murder Cleo,’ he blurted out. The police officer looked unconcerned but picked up a pencil and twisted it around his fingers.
‘Right. Who’s Cleo and what makes you think she’s going to be murdered?’
‘Um, I don’t know her surname. She lives in a flat on the council estate. She’s transsexual.’
‘Oh, that Cleo,’ the PC groaned. ‘Has she been telling you that they’re going to get her?’
‘No, well, yes, and no.’
‘What do you mean lad?’
‘Well, I did speak to her. She told me about all the aggro she gets.’
‘Well, she will go flaunting herself in mini-skirts and tight blouses. Always down here complaining about fancied slight or other. Stories, all of them.’
James realised that there wasn’t a lot of sympathy for Cleo.
‘She’s on her own,’ he said.
‘Yeah, who’d want to be with a creature like that,’ the officer said in an offhand manner.
‘But she’s being targeted. Her flat is graffitied, her window smashed. She gets abused every time she goes out, and this evening they’re going to put a petrol bomb through her door.’
‘She told you that did she?’ The PC sniffed.
‘No. Stash said so.’
The police officer stared at James, suddenly interested. ‘Stash Wright? Dark hair, mixed-race?’
‘Yes, that’s him. He’s leader of the Crew.’
‘How did you meet him?’
James described how Nicko and his mates had met him outside Cleo’s flat, taken him to Stash and then included him in their stakeout.
‘So you don’t like trannies either. Is that it?’
‘No, no. I don’t dislike trans people at all. I am one.’
‘What?’ The officer’s eyes opened wide. ‘Look lad, I think you’d better start at the beginning.’
James sighed, drew a breath and related the previous evening’s events and explained that he had wanted to check that Cleo wasn’t badly hurt and so had called on her.
‘So why did you join Stash’s gang.’
‘I didn’t join but I couldn’t just walk away from them. They would have trashed me if they thought I wasn’t with them. Stash is the guy who had the knife last night.’ James saw the flashing blade in his head again. ‘I recognised him straightaway, and he had the same knife that I saw last night.’
‘Didn’t he recognise you?’ The policeman seemed unconvinced.
‘No, I was dressed as a girl last night, make-up, ear rings, my hair brushed up. Most people only see what they expect to see. Today they saw a boy in jeans and trainers; they didn’t see the girl in the short dress and high-heels.’
The PC’s face turned pink and he started scribbling on the pad in front of him.
‘OK,’ he said after a few minutes of writing. ‘So you overheard the gang making a plan to attack the trans-guy.’
‘Cleo. She’s a woman. She’s had all the treatment.’
‘OK, so you say. So what are they going to do, pour paint through her letter box or something?’
‘Not paint. Petrol. They want to drive her out by setting fire to her flat and then kill her.’
‘That’s a bit over-dramatic isn’t it, lad? Are you sure that’s what Stash meant? We’ve had Cleo in here before saying she’s had death threats.’
‘Yes, I’m sure. Stash and his gang are going to get her.’
‘Hmm.’ The officer sucked his pencil. ‘I think I’d better pass this on. Take a seat for a while, lad.’ He pointed with the pencil to the bench seats set against the opposite wall of the foyer. James went to them and sat down. He wasn’t sure that the police had taken Cleo’s predicament seriously before. Would they now?

Painted Ladies:A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and a paperback from all booksellers including Amazon

Painted Ladies cover

Jasmine seeks out Cleo

All week I have been keeping an eye on a certain e-book supplier (here) to see how Seventh Child (Evil Above the Stars vol.1) is doing.  Well it’s not in the best seller list but has moved up and down and up so I presume that means some copies have been sold. Volume 2, Power of Seven will be available soon and then we’ll see what happens.

I’ve been having discussions and giving thought to how I can promote both of my series – Jasmine Frame and Painted Ladies and September Weekes and Evil Above the Stars. The problem is that they are in two different genres with, probably, very different readerships. It has been suggested that I have a website linked to this blog and stick solely to  crime fiction and transgenderism  i.e. Jasmine Frame, with my fantasy/SF material promoted elsewhere.  What do you think?

It was interesting to learn this week that Jasmine (and me for that matter) are no longer allowed to drive in Russia, because Putin’s government have included  trans on a list of “medical” conditions that could cause drivers to have accidents. What! How blatant can prejudice be? Well, that’s it. I won’t be visiting Russia (another country crossed off).

Penny Ellis -  no longer allowed to drive in Russia

Penny Ellis – no longer allowed to drive in Russia

So to Discovering Jasmine, a prequel to Painted Ladies. Here’s the next instalment. Let me know what you think.

Discovering Jasmine: Part 5

They were back in the police car, driving out of the town centre, heading home. James felt tired and depressed but he couldn’t stop thinking about Cleo the transsexual.
‘Did you catch the gang that attacked Cleo?’ he said.
The police officer in the front passenger seat twisted to face him.
‘What was that, lad?’
‘Did you get them? The man with the knife and the others.’
The officer shook his head. ‘They ran off when we turned up.’
‘Didn’t you chase after them?’
‘No. Our first responsibility is to the victims. We had to check that you and Cleo were safe and getting the treatment you needed. We try not split up. It’s not like on TV you know.’
‘So the men got away.’
‘I wouldn’t call them men,’ the officer said. ‘From your descriptions, and other bystanders, they were youths, a similar age to you, possibly even younger.’
‘But you will go after them?’ James had the feeling that the police weren’t too concerned.
‘We will be continuing with our enquiries.’
‘What will you do?’
‘Someone will talk to Cleo when she gets home from hospital. There’s a good chance that she knew the boys. They probably live on her estate.’
‘And that’s it. Couldn’t you be rounding up the kids on the estate to question?’
‘Look lad. We don’t go pulling in people unless we’ve got a good idea they are involved in a crime and we haven’t the officers to launch a major inquiry just because one tranny has got himself beaten up. The investigation is live, that’s all, OK.’ The officer turned back to face the front. Holly patted James’ hand.
‘Don’t say anything more,’ she whispered.
‘But…but…’ James wanted to say that Cleo’s life had been threatened and it sounded as if it wasn’t the first time she’d been attacked. Why wasn’t she being protected? Was it all because she was transsexual?

They soon arrived at the dark house. James and Holly got out and watched the police car drive off at speed before they went inside. James trudged upstairs without a word and went to his bedroom. He pulled off the sandals, slipped the remains of Holly’s dress over his head, extracted the one bag of rice and unclipped the bra, then wearing just the knickers went to the bathroom to wash off the make-up. When he emerged, Holly was waiting on the landing.
‘I’m sorry about your dress,’ James mumbled. Holly waved her hands dismissively.
‘I’m not bothered about that. I’m just sorry you got hurt and that your evening out got spoiled.’
James shrugged his shoulders. ‘Yeah, so am I. Look Hol, I really appreciate what you did. You’ve been really great to me, helping me be Jasmine.’
Holly placed her hand gently on James’s shoulder. ‘Look, I’m not sure I fully understand why you want to dress up as a girl but it obviously means a lot to you. We’ll do it again sometime, although with Mum and Dad back at the weekend I don’t know when or how. It may be the new millennium and all that but I don’t think they’ll want to know you’re a transvestite.’
James shuddered. The thought of revealing Jasmine to his parents was scary as was being found out by his mates.
‘Don’t tell them,’ he said hurriedly.
‘Of course, I won’t, James. It’s our secret if you want it to be.’
Holly gave him a quick kiss on his cheek and went off to her room. James pushed his door open, went in and threw himself onto his bed.

Next day was warm and sunny so when James set off for the council estate, shortly after breakfast, he wore a T-shirt, jeans and old trainers. He thought that would make him blend in as he searched for Cleo’s flat. He got off the bus and started walking the streets. There were a few kids on the road kicking a ball around but otherwise there was little movement. Most of the buildings were shabby terraces and semi-detached houses put up in the fifties and sixties. There were scruffy patches of grass or dried mud in front of them where cars were parked or dumped with one or more wheels missing.
He came to a development of four storey apartment blocks. It wasn’t difficult to guess which contained Cleo’s flat. The ground floor walls on two sides of the block had slogans and pictures crudely sprayed on them. “Tranny” and “Perv” were a couple of the legible words and a few fanciful images of penis and testicles. It appeared that someone had attempted to remove most of the graffiti but some looked older than others and more ingrained into the brickwork. A window facing the road was partly boarded up. James walked up the side of the building till he came to a communal door. It opened when he pushed on it and he stepped into drab foyer with a dusty, vinyl-tiled floor. There was a stairs and entrances on the left and right. He chose the left. There was no bell or knocker so he tapped his knuckles on the door. It was a few moments until he heard feet scuffing against a carpet on the other side of the door.
‘Who’s there?’ A voice called out. Neither deep nor high-pitched it was impossible to tell if it was a male or female.
‘Is that Cleo?’ James replied. ‘We sort of met last night; on the promenade; when you were being attacked. I tried to help.’
There was the rattle of locks being undone and the door opened a few centimetres but was stopped by a chain. Half a face appeared, pressed into the gap.
‘Who are you? What are you doing here?’
‘I’m James Frame but last night I was Jasmine. I wanted to know if you were OK.’
‘You were the kid who stopped those thugs attacking me?’
‘Yeah. Well, I tried.’
‘You’re trans?’
‘Um. Yes.’ It was still difficult for James to admit it to someone else. The door closed, the chain clanked and then the door opened wider.
James noticed Cleo’s head first. Mousy hair flecked with grey covered her ears but had receded from her high forehead. One eye was covered with a patch and bruising showed around it. There was dried blood in a cut on her lip and another bruise on her cheek. Then James looked down and noticed the pressure bandage on Cleo’s right wrist, the short pink vest revealing a paunch and the miniskirt that failed to cover most of her plump thighs. Her legs were bare but she wore high-heeled sandals.
‘You’d better come in.’ Cleo looked over James’ shoulder, obviously checking there was no one else in the foyer, then stepped back into the short hallway. James stepped through the doorway and waited while Cleo closed the door and replaced the chain. Then James followed her through a door into a small living room with a tiny kitchen attached.
‘Have a seat,’ Cleo said sweeping a heap of newspapers off the grubby two-seater settee and shoving a dirty plate underneath it. James sat down hugging himself tightly so he didn’t have to touch too much. The room was a mess, with heaps of papers, magazines and post and piles of clothes, washed and unwashed. It was quite dim despite the bright sunlight outside because half the small window was covered with cardboard.
‘So here you are,’ Cleo began. She tried to speak in the upper register of her voice but every few words it dropped an octave. ‘You can see I’m fine. Just a bit bruised. Is that all you want to know or is it the first time you’ve seen another tranny?’
James was confused. Cleo was suspicious and not very welcoming. Perhaps she had reason to be.
‘I can see you took a hammering,’ he said. ‘Are you sure you’re feeling alright. Can I do anything for you? Go to the shops or something. Those blokes were vicious.’
‘Kids they were. Just fucking kids. I don’t need any help but thanks for the offer.’ Cleo pulled up a dining chair and sat down spreading her legs. James stopped himself from looking up her short skirt at her knickers. His eyes rose to her T-shirt stretched across her high, ample bosom and battered face.
‘One of them had a knife. He took a swipe at me,’ he said.
‘Yeah. The cops asked me about that. I didn’t see it.’
‘The police officer thought you might know them.’
‘They’re probably from around here. I might recognise them. Don’t know their names though.’
‘You get bothered a lot?’
‘Bothered!’ Cleo laughed. ‘Obscenities sprayed on my wall; banging on my door at all times of day and night; stones thrown at my windows, some large enough to smash the glass.’ She pointed to the boarded up window. ‘Followed whenever I step outside the door, name-calling the whole time. Oh, yes, I get bothered.’

Painted Ladies: a Jasmine Frame story is available as an e-book and paperback from all booksellers including Amazon

Painted Ladies cover

Seventh Child and more Discovering Jasmine

I’m learning – at least I hope I am. Once upon a time writing meant putting pen (or pencil) to paper.Then  it was tapping the keys on a typewriter. Now I’m perfectly happy writing on screen but that’s not enough these days. If you want people (that is more than just a few friends and family) to read your creations you have to learn how to promote them. But you have to be careful – it can’t be all sell, sell, sell. Apparently you have to be subtle, cosy up to people, comment on their efforts and sort of slide in mentions of your own offerings.

Seventh Child cover, designed by Alison Buck

Seventh Child cover, designed by Alison Buck

So, I will just say that this week has been exciting with the publication in e-book formats of Evil Above the Stars vol.1 Seventh Child published by Elsewhen Press. You can purchase it here and find out more about it here.   Now the hard work starts, trying to get reviews, pushing it up the lists so it gets noticed. Perhaps it will be easier when volume 2 Power of Seven is published in a week or two or perhaps when the paperbacks come out in March. The struggle for readers will be interesting. All comments will be appreciated.

While September’s adventures in EAtS are at the forefront at the moment I am still thinking of Jasmine and trying to promote her story and cases. Here is the next episode in the prequel to Painted Ladies.

Discovering Jasmine: Part 4

She was falling from her first step as the high heels skidded from under her, but by pumping her legs and with pure willpower Jasmine maintained her momentum. The woman was fending off the blows with her bare arms as Jasmine crashed into the attackers. Two were sent spinning to the ground with Jasmine between them. Her knees and knuckles grazed the concrete. Stunned, she pushed herself to her knees.
One of the boys stood over her with something in his hand. A triangle of silver.
‘You stupid fucker,’ he said. His arm swung. Jasmine leaned back. Something snagged on her dress and bra strap then sliced through them and on across her breast. Rice grains trickled from the gash.
‘What? Another sodding trannie!’ He pulled his arm back again.
A blast on a whistle. A siren. Shouts.
‘Cops!’ A different boy’s voice
‘Let’s get out of here!’ The boys ran away. For a moment Jasmine was alone with the woman slumped against the railings then there were people crowding around, muttering, calling for help.
Holly’s arms on her. ‘James are you alright?’
Her legs didn’t want to work, nor her voice, as she relived those milliseconds. Then more authoritative voices, fully clothed, with belts loaded with devices, urging the onlookers back.
‘Are you hurt, Miss?’ One of the police officers said, addressing her.
Jasmine found some words. ‘Uh, I’m okay. I think.’
‘Let’s get you into the car while we sort out this other person.’
Strong arms lifting her onto her feet, onto her heels, supported her as they staggered a few metres to a police car. She was put into the rear seat. The door closed shutting out the noise.
‘Holly?’ Jasmine whispered, but Holly wasn’t there. She could see her standing not far from the car, talking to the police officer. Another siren, an ambulance arriving.

The police station was just a short drive from sea-front. The car pulled up at the front entrance. The police officer jumped out and opened Jasmine’s door. She pushed herself out and stood up. Her knees were stiffening up.
‘Come inside,’ the officer said. ‘It won’t take long to get your statement down then we’ll run you two kids home.’
Holly joined her and they entered the police station. The PC spoke to the desk officer then lead them on to an interview room. He stood by the door as Jasmine and Holly entered.
‘Take a seat. I’ll get you a nice cup of tea.’
The door closed.
Jasmine and Holly sat next to each other at the table in the centre of the room.
‘Are you sure you’re alright, James?’ Holly said. She seemed to have given up all pretence of calling her by her female name.
‘I’m fine,’ Jasmine muttered, examining her knees, knuckles and torn dress. ‘They’re just grazes where I hit the ground.’
‘But look at that slit in the dress and bra. A sharp knife did that. You could have been cut badly. Why, James? Why did you do it?’
Holly’s words came to Jasmine through a fog of fatigue and disappointment at the end of her evening of being a girl. She saw again that glistening triangle of steel coming towards her and an image filled her mind of a blade slicing through flesh, of blood spurting and tissues parting. A wave of cold passed over her. That’s what could have happened if the boy had stretched out his arm another centimetre or so. It would have been her skin and muscle that would have torn not just the clothes. Her blood that would have spilled. Her chest may have been scarred or perhaps he might have caught her throat and her life might have trickled away through an opened artery. She shivered, her arms, legs and body shaking involuntarily.
‘What’s the matter?’ Holly asked, ‘You’ve gone white.’
‘The…the knife,’ Jasmine whispered.
‘Yes, I said, you were lucky.’
‘I w…was.’
‘Oh, James. Is that it? The shock of being attacked with a knife. I didn’t know you were scared of knives.’ Holly clamped her arms around Jasmine, stilling her shaking limbs. Jasmine felt her warmth passing through the thin layers of cloth between them.
‘I…I didn’t know I was s…scared of knives,’ Jasmine said.
‘Here you are.’ The police officer’s voice came from the doorway as he pushed the door open with his foot. He set down two paper cups of steaming weak tea on the table along with a pad of paper he had tucked under his arm, then sat opposite Jasmine and Holly.
‘Are you feeling okay? You look a bit, um, shaky.’
Jasmine felt the trembling in her limbs subsiding. Holly let go of her.
‘I’m fine. Just got a bit shivery,’ Jasmine said.
The PC’s face showed concern. ‘You’re cold? You haven’t got a coat or anything? I could get you a blanket.’
‘No. I’m fine. It’s passed off now.’ Jasmine cupped her hands around the tea, feeling the heat.
‘Right then let’s get the details down.’ He pulled out a cheap ballpoint pen from his shirt pocket and held it above the pad of paper. ‘What’s your full name?’
Jasmine paused. She was going to have to reveal who and what she was. She knew she was being silly because her partly bared chest made it obvious, but putting the truth into spoken language was difficult.
‘James Lyndon Frame.’
The officer looked up, his eyebrows raised. ‘Lyndon?’
‘It’s a family name. I don’t use it.’
‘Oh. Where do you live?’
James recited the address.
‘And you, miss?’ The PC continued.
‘Holly Ann Frame. Same address.’
‘You’re brother and sister? You’re very alike.’
James saw a thin smile cross Holly’s face. ‘Yes, although we don’t usually look so similar.’
‘So you were out together. Just taking a walk along the seafront?’
‘Yes, well, no,’ James stuttered. ‘We’d been to The Safe. You know, the dance club, and we were on our way to Hypnotism.’
‘I see. Moving upmarket were you,’ the officer chuckled.
James didn’t know what to say.
‘I thought it would be less, um, threatening,’ Holly said.
‘Threatening?’ the PC queried.
‘Well, you know. The Safe is rather full of lads on the pull. Jame…Jasmine was getting a bit too much attention.’
The officer looked closely at James.
‘So you’re Jasmine when you’re, uh, dressed as a girl?’
James nodded.
‘Do you do this often?’ the officer continued. James shook his head.
‘It was his first time,’ Holly explained.
‘A pity it ended like it did,’ the police constable said. ‘So you were walking along the promenade. What time was that?’
James shrugged.
‘I didn’t notice the time,’ Holly said, ‘but it all happened very quickly, it was just a couple of minutes before you arrived.’
‘So just after twenty three hundred, eleven o’clock,’ the PC said. ‘Tell me what happened.’ He looked at James.
‘Um. We were just walking along. I heard shouts. Someone said ‘trannie’. I looked and saw this gang of guys surrounding the woman.’
‘Did you know them?’
‘What did you do?’
‘I went to help her?’
‘They were attacking her. Beating her up.’
‘What did you do?’
‘I just ran at them.’
‘Did you think they’d run away?’
‘Yes. No. I don’t know. I just knew I had to help her.’
‘Why did you feel that so strongly? Would you normally take on five fit men alone?’
‘No. I just felt she needed my help?’
‘Why your help particularly?’
‘Because…because we were the same. We are both trans…’ James couldn’t finish the word.
The officer scribbled on the sheet of paper.
‘I’m sure she appreciated your support but I don’t think you are that similar.’
James stared at the officer.
‘You know her?’
‘Oh, yes. We’ve met Cleo before, on many occasions actually. She’s a transsexual, had the op, the whole sex-change thing. Says she’s a woman and insists on being treated like one. But, well, she’s too well known and will get herself into situations like this.’
James felt a flush rise up his neck. ‘You mean she asks for trouble?’
‘Well, I don’t suppose she wants it,’ the policeman shrugged, ‘but let’s say she takes offence easily and doesn’t help herself. Anyway what happened when you launched your rescue?’
‘I’m not sure,’ James shook his head trying to recall the events. ‘I collided with one or two of them, fell on the ground. Then as I got up one of them swung a knife at me.’
‘A knife?’
‘Yes.’ James saw it again and shivered. ‘He had it gripped in his fist. It was a short blade, triangular.’
‘Ah, a craft knife, Stanley knife. That sort of thing.’ The officer wrote urgently. ‘He took one swipe at you, and then?’
‘That was all. They ran off. You must have appeared.’
‘Yeah, lucky we were cruising the seafront. It could have got a lot worse. Here have a look at what I’ve written down.’ He pushed the pad across the table. James and Holly bent their heads to read.
James nodded. ‘That’s it. That’s what happened.’
The PC smiled. ‘Good, anything you want to add, Holly?’
Holly shook her head. ‘No. It was all so sudden. We were walking along then James was flying and crashing into the bunch of lads. I’d hardly taken in what was happening. There was a lot of noise then you guys appeared and that was it.’
‘But you saw the, uh, woman being attacked before James launched his rescue mission.’
‘Oh, yes, I heard the lads call her some vile names and I saw them hitting her.’
‘Right, well that’s it then. Sign the statement. Drink up your tea then we can get you home.’
‘What happened to Cleo?’ James asked, his hand gripping the cooling tea cup.
‘An ambulance took her off to be checked over,’ the officer replied.
‘Does she live nearby?’
‘Oh, yes, up on the council estate. Why? Are you thinking of visiting her?’
‘Um, I’m not sure. Yes, perhaps.’
‘Well, think carefully about it and don’t go dressed like you are now. Trannies and other misfits aren’t popular up there. You can’t miss her place though. She’s got a ground floor flat which has been graffitied rather a lot.’
‘Oh. Thanks.’ James wondered how someone could cope with being perpetually targeted for just living as who they felt themselves to be.
Holly put her empty cup down and took James’ arm. ‘Come on, James. I’m not sure you should be thinking about seeing this Cleo person.’
James stood and shook his arm free. ‘I will see her. I must.’


Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and inpaperback from all booksellers including Amazon

"Jasmine and Me": readings and discussion about the Jasmine Frame stories and transgenderism

“Jasmine and Me”: readings and discussion about the Jasmine Frame stories and transgenderism

September Live! and Discovering Jasmine

Publication  of Evil Above the Stars volume 1, Seventh Child, the first novel featuring sixteen year old, September Weekes, is days away and I’m getting very excited. It is available for pre-order (here) as an e-book and will be on sale from 2nd January. I’m really hoping that September’s adventures in an alternate world and the perils she encounters grab the imagination of readers – both young adults and older. I would really appreciate reviews anyone would care to write. The second volume, Power of Seven, follows soon.

Seventh Child cover, designed by Alison Buck

Seventh Child cover, designed by Alison Buck

It would be really exciting to buld up a following before the paperbacks come out in March and the grand launch at EasterCon.  While the publication of Painted Ladies was a big event for me, this is in many ways more important because it is down to a publisher, the good folks at Elsewhen Press, who have put their money and reputation on the line to get my stories published. Come back here to find out more about September, my vision of the worlds she inhabits, the trials she faces and the people who befriend her.

Meanwhile, regarding Jasmine Frame, there is no news to report but here is the next episode of the the fourth prequel.

Discovering Jasmine: Part 3

The door on the other side of the police car opened and Holly slid in beside Jasmine. Then the other police officer got into the front seat.
‘Are you alright, Jame….Jasmine?’ Holly said. Her eyes flicked up and down showing her taking in Jasmine’s dishevelled appearance.
‘Yeah,’ Jasmine muttered, avoiding Holly’s gaze. ‘I’m sorry about your dress.’ She pulled at the broken end of the left shoulder strap of the satin dress trying to cover up her chest. It was no use – the bag of rice had gone and she was left with just one false breast.
Holly waved her concerns away. ‘It’s alright. I’m just glad you didn’t get as badly hurt as that other, um, girl. The ambulance has taken her off to hospital now.’
The second police officer twisted to face them both. His eyes lingered on Jasmine. ‘We’re going to the station to take your statements. It won’t take long. Then we’ll run you home.’
A statement! She was going to have to describe what had happened and explain how she’d got involved. Did it mean that she’d be found out as a transvestite? Jasmine shivered and her bare skin became goose-pimpled.
‘Are you cold?’ Holly asked.
‘No. I’m fine,’ Jasmine insisted. The engine started and the Rover moved off through the cordon with its lights flashing. On-lookers parted, peering in through the car windows at their street-lamp illuminated figures.

It was still dusk when they had left home – a warm and, now that the rain clouds had blown away, dry evening. As they walked to the bus stop Jasmine felt strangely exposed with her arms and shoulders bare and the evening breeze blowing on her shaved legs. She carefully placed one high heel in front of the other so that her bottom swayed and the gossamer-light hem of the dress brushed sensuously across her upper thighs. She worried that passers-by were looking at her but Holly took her arm and whispered.
‘They’re looking at both of us – two pretty girls off on an evening out.’
The bus arrived after just a few minutes wait and they snuggled into a pair of seats. On the short drive down to the seafront it filled up with other couples, boy-girl, boy-boy and girl-girl, and other groups of people of a similar age to themselves. Apart from a few of the boys no-one took a second glance at Holly and Jasmine. They all disembarked at the terminus on the sea-front and joined the movement towards the entertainments along the promenade.
‘Here we are,’ Holly said as they joined a short queue outside The Safe. The building was a former bank but now advertised itself as the town’s best venue for the new millennium. ‘I don’t think it’s changed,’ Holly said, ‘I came here with my friends when I was at school.’
‘So they’ll let me in?’ Jasmine asked, feeling a bit exposed now they weren’t moving.
‘Of course. Two attractive girls. We’ll always get in.’
The queue inched forwards and then they were past the bouncers and inside the club. Heavy beats thudded against her chest and the heat immediately made Jasmine’s foundation bubble. She realised why Holly had insisted that they would not be underdressed. The dance floor was packed with young people making the most of the last week of the high season, the week before many of them, locals and visitors alike, returned to being school students.
Holly pushed through the crowd to the bar dragging Jasmine with her. Jasmine was amazed how quickly she attracted the young barman’s attention and ordered drinks. She turned away from the bar with two tall glasses in her hand. Bubbles rising in the clear green liquid.
‘White wine spritzer,’ Holly bellowed in Jasmine’s ear, ‘Get you in the mood for dancing, but don’t put it down if you want to come back to it.’
‘Why?’ Jasmine mouthed.
‘Drugs.’ Holly replied. ‘Keep safe! And keep your bag over your shoulder.’ Jasmine placed a hand on the small bag that hung at her hip.
With their glasses in their hands they drifted to the edge of the gyrating, bouncing mass of limbs and bodies in its own cloud of vapour and spray. They watched for a few minutes, sipping from their glasses until Holly put hers down on a table.
‘Come on!’ she shouted through the din and pulled on Jasmine’s hand. As she was being pulled onto the dancefloor, Jasmine put her almost empty glass down. They joined in the rhythmic leaping, gradually working their way into the melee. Jasmine lost herself to the beat, tossing her head and limbs with the exultation of being herself. The slightly rough segue from one track to the next brought her back to herself and she saw a couple of young men grinding their pelvises up and down in front of her and Holly, their bodies barely a few centimetres apart. Jasmine glanced at her sister. She was taking no notice of the boy whose eyes were focussed on her oscillating breasts. Jasmine closed her eyes and continued to dance.
‘Let’s take a break. I need the loo.’ Holly’s shouted voice was just audible in her ear. Jasmine opened her eyes having lost count of how many numbers they had been dancing to. The boy was still there throbbing in front of her, sweat dripping from his chins and lights reflecting from his shiny face. There was a certain kind of look in his wide-pupilled eyes – desire, lust, longing. Jasmine surprised herself by realising that she was the subject of those emotions. The guy fancied her!
Holly tugged her hand and dragged her through the crowd to a corridor and the ladies toilets. Inside was almost as full as the dancefloor, with girls dabbing their sweaty faces, repairing make-up, sucking cold water from their hands. Holly pushed Jasmine into a vacant cubicle. She locked the door and reached under her dress to tug down her pants then stood in front of the toilet bowl. That was when she remembered that she was a girl. She turned and sat but didn’t need long; perspiration had dehydrated her. Standing, she carefully tucked her bits away and made sure that her dress hadn’t got tucked into the knickers, then opened the door. The throng was just as great. She felt unsure what to do, then another door opened and Holly emerged. She pushed through the bodies to a washbasin, swilled her hands, dabbed her face with cold water and pulled her lipstick from her bag. Jasmine copied her then followed her from the room.
‘Phew, I was getting puffed from the dancing,’ Holly said in the relative quiet of the corridor. ‘You’re fitter than me; you can take it.’ Jasmine nodded, the dancing had barely raised her heart rate. ‘Those boys were getting a bit too interested, as well. I thought an excuse to get away was needed.’
‘He really thought I was girl,’ Jasmine said, thinking about the way the boy had been looking at her.
‘Of course he did. You’re everything he wanted – tall, slim, blonde hair that’s really striking, and tits.’
‘Except they’re not real.’
‘And that’s why we had to move away. Give him a few minutes more and he would have moved in with his tongue and hands going everywhere. You wouldn’t want that would you?’
Wouldn’t she? To be in a boy’s arms, lips pressed against lips. Kissing a boy? She felt confused. Then Holly’s words penetrated – his hands groping her, finding the rice bag boobs, rising up her bare thigh, reaching her …
‘No, I don’t want that,’ she said.
‘Perhaps we should try somewhere else. Let’s go up the prom to Hypnotism. It’s a bit less of a cattle-market than this place.’
‘OK,’ Jasmine agreed and followed Holly to the exit. It was dark now but the summer street decorations and lights of the bars and restaurants made the seafront almost as bright as day. They joined the people walking along the promenade. Jasmine appreciated getting away from the deafening level of the music in the club and the cooler evening air. She walked along with her dress swaying and the perspiration cooling under her bare arms, thinking how much she was enjoying being out.
Raucous shouts drew her attention. Thirty metres in front of them a girl was confronted by half a dozen young men. She wore a short red skirt over stockings with high stiletto heeled shoes. Long black hair flowed over her tight, sequinned blouse. She stood still, head bowed, cringing as each man’s mouth opened and a noise emerged.
For a moment the sounds made no sense, then Jasmine’s brain translated the words of abuse.
She froze, watching as the group of boys formed a semicircle around the woman who was pushed back against the railings. The tirade of abuse continued. The woman raised her head looking over the shoulders of her captors directly at Jasmine. In that glance Jasmine saw herself.
‘She’s like me,’ Jasmine cried.
‘Yes, but…’ Holly said.
Fists were raised and blows started to fall on the cross-dresser.
‘No!’ Jasmine screamed, starting to run.
‘Jasmine!’ Holly shouted. ‘Come back! You can’t…’


Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and paperback from all booksellers including here

Painted Ladies coverAnd finally – Happy New Year from me.

Penny Ellis author of the Jasmine Frame series of crime thrillers

Penny Ellis author of the Jasmine Frame series of crime thrillers

Discovering Jasmine – and September

This has been an exciting week.  I have received a preview version of volume 1 of Evil Above the Stars. Seventh Child introduces September Weekes, a 16 year old inadvertent hero of my fantasy series. Seventh Child will be out as an e-book in January and as a paperback in March. I am particularly pleased with the cover designed by Alison Buck of Elsewhen Press.  Volume 2, Power of Seven will follow swiftly after.

Seventh Child cover, designed by Alison Buck

Seventh Child cover, designed by Alison Buck

But back to Jasmine Frame and the second part of the fourth of my prequels to Painted Ladies. I’m still looking for ways to get Bodies By Design, the second novel in the series, out to readers, so any bright ideas will be well-received.

Discovering Jasmine: Part 2

The police officer twisted in his seat to look directly at Jasmine. He seemed to be examining her carefully for the first time, taking in her bare legs and arms and satin-clad torso.
‘I wouldn’t use that word to describe yourself if I were you lad,’ he said quietly, ‘Not if you don’t want to be labelled a weirdo or a cocktease and end up like the poor sod you helped.’
‘Why?’ Jasmine’s voice trembled. What was wrong in being the girl she felt herself to be?
‘Guys don’t like trannies,’ the officer turned around again and looked up at his mirror. ‘They think they’re going to con them into gay sex. If you want to get beaten up come into town in the evening dressed like you are.’
‘But… but, you’re supposed to protect people from getting attacked.’
‘We can’t be everywhere lad, and there’s enough real girls to scrape off the pavements after an evening on the booze without worrying about twats who think they’re girls but have dicks. What were you thinking of?’
Jasmine didn’t answer. She was thinking about how the evening had started with her dreams turning to reality.

Holly pushed her up the stairs.
‘Get undressed and have a shower. Wet your hair.’
Jasmine hurried into her bedroom wondering what Holly had in mind. She sat on her neatly made up bed to undo the sandals and kick them off, then pulled the ear-rings from her lobes and set them on her desk next to her computer monitor. Standing she dropped the skirt to the floor and pulled the T-shirt over her head. Finally she tugged the bra around her chest until she could unfasten the severely strained hooks. The rolled up socks spilled onto the carpet. Suddenly her room had become untidy.
She kept her pants on and went to the bathroom. Jasmine halted in surprise to find Holly in there. She was holding out a razor, her own.
‘You’ll have to use this. I’ve put a new blade in for you.’
‘What for?’
‘Your underarms, and your legs. You can’t go out in a summer dress, James, unless your legs and pits are smooth. I’m wondering about your arms too.’ She grabbed Jasmine’s right arm and peered closely at it. ‘I think you’re o.k. You’re so fair.’
Jasmine took the razor and looked at it uncertainly.
‘People will notice.’
‘Who looks at a bloke’s armpits? But when you are a girl you can’t go flashing hair every time you raise your arms.’
‘How do I…’
‘In the shower. Soap well. Use my shower gel. It’s got a nice perfume. Now get in there. I’m going to see what I can do about your boobies.’ Holly left the bathroom. Jasmine stood for a moment. She hadn’t considered all the preparation that went into a girl’s evening out and shaving her body hair was a big step. It was one she could take easily though. She stepped into the shower.
She spent three times as long as normal under the water. Finally Jasmine emerged from the cubicle, dripping and hairless. Her armpits felt a little sore and she wondered how often Holly put herself through the process of shaving.
Having towelled herself dry she pulled her pants back on. They were much tighter than those she usually wore when she was male but when she tucked her private bits between her legs they were held firmly and didn’t protrude. She smoothed a hand down her abdomen to confirm that she had a female profile.
Jasmine opened the bathroom door.
‘Come to my room, James.’ Jasmine followed Holly’s voice into her bedroom. As the elder child Holly had the bigger room even though she was away most of the time at university. Drawers and wardrobe doors were open and Holly sat on the bed amongst a pile of clothes.
‘Good. Let me check.’ Holly leapt up and stopped Jasmine in the centre of the room. She smoothed a hand down both of Jasmine’s legs and raised her arms to examine her armpits. Then she stood back. ‘Turn around. Let me have a look at you.’
Jasmine pirouetted slowly and felt her cheeks and neck warming up. Showing her body to her sister was embarrassing.
‘Hmm. You know what the problem is don’t you?’ Holly said.
‘What?’ Jasmine said returning to face her.
‘You’re such a handsome guy.’ Holly sighed. ‘Are you sure you want to be a girl?’
Jasmine thought about her answer for a few moments. Holly’s question was one she kept on asking herself.
‘I know I’ve got a boy’s body but I feel that I should be a girl, at least some time.’
Holly nodded and pursed her lips.
‘Well, OK. The trouble is all that running you do has given you legs any girl would die for, but it’s also given you broad shoulders and a large chest. What with your narrow hips, well you just don’t have a female figure at all.’
‘I know,’ Jasmine’s head drooped. Was she being silly expecting to pass as a girl on a night out?
‘Never mind,’ Holly clapped her hands, ‘we’ll see what we can do. Make the most of those legs and arms and that mop of blonde hair you’ve got. First we must give you some breasts but there’s no way you’ll get one of my bras around you. What size chest are you?’
‘Mum’s never that big.’
‘I know. I’m stretching her old bra to its limit.’
‘Well it’ll have to do. Go and get it.’
Jasmine hurried to her room and picked up he discarded bra and socks. She returned to Holly’s room. Holly grimaced at the grey garment with its frayed edges.
‘You won’t need the socks,’ Holly said, standing with her hands behind her back
‘But I’ll need something to fill out the cups,’ Jasmine complained.
‘Of course you do, but socks are no good; they’re not heavy enough. Breasts have weight I can tell you.’
Jasmine had long admired Holly’s ample pair but had not thought it appropriate to comment on her sister’s attributes.
‘What do you suggest then?’ Jasmine asked.
‘These,’ Holly revealed her hands each holding a plastic bag. ‘I’ve filled two bags with rice. They should fill out your cups. Not perfect, I know but, well, there’s nothing else I can think of.’
‘Won’t the rice leak out?’
‘I hope not. I’ve tied them up tightly. Look.’ She shook the two bags. No grains of rice came out. ‘Let’s try them out.’
Jasmine put the bra around her chest and stretched the ends until she was just able to put the hooks through the eyes. She tugged the cups around to the front then pushed the straps over her shoulders. Holly handed her the bags of rice and she tucked them in the cups. She faced Holly.
Holly rocked her head from side to side, examining her chest, then pummelled and massaged the false breasts into shape. She stepped back.
‘I don’t think that’s bad at all, James. Have a look at yourself.’
Holly had a long mirror on her wardrobe. Jasmine used it often when Holly was away. She looked at herself now and was surprised to see how feminine her profile was.
‘They look great. Thanks, Hol.’
‘Right now put this on.’ Holly hand Jasmine a silver-grey, satin dress. It weighed nothing in her hands. ‘I bought it for a party at uni. It’s from T.K.Maxx. It turned out to be a bit big for me. Should fit you though.’
Jasmine dropped it over her head. It slipped down her body as insubstantial as a cloud of cigarette smoke. The top of the dress caught on her breasts and she had to tug it down for the final fit. There were two spaghetti-thin, silver straps over her shoulders and the neckline just skimmed the top of the bra. The dress clung tightly to her false beasts and under her arms then fell like a waterfall to her thighs ending about six inches below her groin. Her legs, arms and shoulders remained bare.
Holly looked her over. ‘A pity you have to have your bra straps showing but that looks fine. You can’t see that you have no waist.’
‘Fine?’ Jasmine said, ‘I feel practically naked but for my pants and bra.’
‘Yes, but it’s so feminine and just right for a warm summer evening in a hot, crowded club. Now shoes. What size are you?’
‘I’m a seven. It’s going to have to be those sandals you were wearing earlier. At least they’ve got heels so they’ll accentuate your legs. Now let’s get started on your make-up.’

I was a couple of hours before Jasmine was allowed to look at herself again. In that time her finger and toenails had been shaped and given a silver coating, her hair had been back-brushed and sprayed into a strikingly feminine style, her face had been buffed and smoothed with foundation and powder, her eyes had been mascaraed and kohled so that they seemed double their normal size and her lips had been coated and glossed a bright red. Holly fetched her sandals and helped her put them on her feet, then she stood up.
‘Have a look at yourself, James. I think you’ll do.’
Jasmine stood in front of the mirror, rotating and looking over her shoulders to see herself at every angle. It was amazing. She was the girl she dreamed of being.
‘It’s fantastic. I hardly recognise myself,’ Jasmine said, indeed Holly’s expertise with brushes and cosmetics revealed how much she had to learn. ‘Thanks, Hol.’
‘It was fun,’ Holly said surveying her handiwork, ‘It reminded me of when Sophie and Milly and I used to take turns to doll each other up when we were teenagers. We spent hours in each other’s bedrooms doing all this stuff.’
A feeling of sadness came over Jasmine. She couldn’t have that shared experience of learning how to be a woman. How could she have the confidence to go out and mingle with people when she had so much learn?
‘I just have to get myself ready, and then we can hit the town. But I can’t go calling you James when we’re out. What did you say you called yourself, Tamsin was it?’
‘Jasmine. I’m Jasmine, Holly.’

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is published in  e-book and paperback and available from all booksellers including Amazon

Painted Ladies cover

Thoughts of Christmas

20141206_135005Something a bit different this week. I’ve been visiting the family so not had time to work on Jasmine Frame or September Weekes work except for checking the final proofs of Evil Above the Stars vol.1 Seventh Child (published by Elsewhen Press as an e-book in January). My writing group task for next week is to write a Christmas Newsletter. I am sure the others will produce some witty parodies of those excruciatingly awful annual reviews that people send out to disinterested family and friends. I decided on a different approach.

Many years ago I wrote what I hoped would be a popular children’s Christmas story, the first of a series. It concerns the Baubles, a set of Christmas tree balls, and their companion decorations. I didn’t get a publisher for the original story but here is a sequel written as a kind of newsletter from Argenta which I will read to the group on Tuesday,

The Baubles’ Christmas Newsletter

Season’s Greetings from the Christmas Tree. This is Argenta with news from the Baubles and all the other decorations.

Eleven months usually flash passed when we are snug in our box but this last year has been rather less restful than usual. It all began last Christmas with talk of retirement – not ours I hasten to say. We’ve all still got our shine and are good for many more years hanging from the branches. It was the Mother and Father who were talking about retiring and downsizing. Aurus had to explain what that meant – he follows all the Family’s business. He said that downsizing meant living in a smaller space. Azura thought we couldn’t all get into smaller box; it’s a tight fit already with us four larger balls, the four little silver balls, Corn Dolly Angel, Cotton Wool Snowman and China Father Christmas, as well as all the tinsel streamers. Aurus said that it was the house that was going to get smaller not our box. The Family were downsizing because there were fewer people living in the house now. Rufus said it seemed pretty full now that Boy and Girl each have their own partners and Girl has a baby but Aurus explained that the house was only full because it was Christmas and during the rest of the year it was almost empty.

I must admit that we didn’t realise what downsizing would mean. First of all our sleep was disturbed when our box was dragged out from under the bed in the middle of the summer. We were shoved into a packing case with other ornaments on top of us. I must admit to being worried that we may get crushed. We were in the dark for days then bumped and shaken for hours. The little silver balls got quite agitated. We all wondered what was going on. Rufus said it was all because we were travelling in a big truck. He’d watched them on TV. Things finally went quiet but we were left in the packing case for months. It was difficult to sleep because we weren’t in our cosy spot under the bed and it colder and colder. Rufus said that we would become frosted glass balls if we were left much longer but at last we were lifted out and carried from the garage. Christmas had come to the new house.

That’s when we discovered what downsizing really meant – a smaller tree. I was dismayed when I saw the poor thing we were to hang from. Instead of the usual majestic real tree we were suspended from a plastic thing no more than three feet high. It’s not even green but a shiny red. Angel is happy though. Her vertigo is a lot better not so far from the ground but she does complain that the top of the tree is rather sharp. Snowman is more comfortable too. The new house is less draughty than the old one so he’s not feeling cold.

Father Christmas has been a little upset and hasn’t give us any ho-hoes yet because our bit of sad news affected him badly. The fairy lights have gone. They have been getting dimmer and less reliable for a while. Last year one bulb popped right next to Aurus and nearly set fire to the tree. Father Christmas misses them because they were as old as him, and that’s pretty old. We are all sorry they’ve gone because they were so warm and friendly – not like the new lights. The box said they were “led” lights. I thought that meant that they would do as they’re told but Rufus says it stands for “light emitting diodes”. That’s what they do alright – they’re very bright blue-white – and they flash! When I say flash I don’t mean just on-off-on-off but all sorts of wild patterns. They might be going on and off slowly and gently and then go into a wild frenzy. I never know what they’re going to do next and they give me a headache. Aurus thought they were sending Morse code messages but Rufus says they’re controlled by a program whatever that means. Apart from the flashing they’re cold. I can’t have a chat and giggle with them like I did with the old lights.

What with downsizing who would have thought there was room for more decorations but lo and behold a new ball was hung on the tree a few days ago. Aurus is put out because the new ball must be twice his size. He’s not shiny like us but covered in a white frosting which says “Merry Christmas”, “Frohe Weihnachten”, “Joyeux Noel” and lots of other things. We’ve nicknamed him Babble the Euro-bauble because he never stops going on about how he knows all about Christmas all over Europe but Azura says he’s got a “Made in China” stamp on his bottom and he’s not even made of glass.

Anyway, what with the lights flashing manically, Babble prattling on, all of us packed onto a small tree in a smaller room I was not looking forward to Christmas. The house started to fill up. Girl arrived with her baby except he’s not a baby anymore but toddling around falling into things. He’s worse than the old dog was with his huge wagging tail always threatening to knock us of our branches. The baby is fascinated by Scatty who, as usual, can’t hang still like Twinkle, Sparkle and Glitter, the other small baubles, do. Yesterday the baby reached out and grabbed Scatty. He was tugging the little ball off the twig. Scatty’s thread was just about to lose its grip and goodness knows what might have happened to him. Suddenly Babble loosened his thread and dropped down directly onto Baby’s head. Of course Baby let go of Scatty and started to cry. Girl picked him. Babble fell on to the new carpet and rolled into the centre of the room. I’m sure we all thought that he would be stood on and that would be the end of him, but Father was there, saw what had happened and picked Babble up. We were so pleased when Babble was hung on the tree again and we all thanked him for saving Scatty. He was very modest and said he was in no danger as being plastic he could take a lot of knocks. We all laughed at his bravado. Perhaps he’s not such an annoying bauble after all.

Anyway, now we’re all looking forward to Christmas Day. With a small tree in a smaller room we’ll all be to see the presents being opened. Aurus has been explaining to Babble all that happens and everyone has been getting excitied. Perhaps downsizing isn’t so bad.

Merry Christmas from all the Baubles.

Argenta                                Aurus                    Rufus                    Azura

Sparkle, Glitter, Twinkle and Scattered Reflections of Electromagnetic Radiation (Scatty)


Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as a paperback and e-book from all booksellers.

Evil Above the Stars vol.1 Seventh Child and vol.2 Power of Seven will be published by Elsewhen Press as an e-book in Jan. 2015 and as a paperback in March.


Seven is a theme of Evil Above the Stars

Seven is a theme of Evil Above the Stars

Conflict in fiction from Gruffalo to Hobbit

Last week I bemoaned the emphasis on dystopias and post-apocalypse societies in SF as “easy” ways of introducing conflict in stories while novels based in utopian civilisations such as Banks’ Culture require a more imaginative plot. I was being provocative as of course there are many excellent stories set in dystopic societies from 1984 onwards. What I was thinking about was the need for conflict to make a story interesting. This week I am spending quite a bit of time reading to my 3-year-old grandson (and hence not writing much myself) which has caused me to think further about tension in stories.

I must admit to a growing admiration for Julia Donaldson. First of all the language in all her books is a delight to read aloud – the rhythms and rhymes with their selection of appropriate vocabulary (not always the simplest or most common words) creates wonderful word pictures, but the stories are also exciting because of the conflict or tension she evokes. Gentle they may be as they are aimed at young children but the plots of the Gruffalo (and G’s child), Stickman, Superworm and Room on the Broom, place their characters in sticky (no pun intended) situations resolved by cleverness or team work. For example, Superworm is rescued from the wicked wizard lizard by the combined action of all the insects and amphibians he helped, while Mouse uses guile to avoid being gobbled up by various creatures including the Gruffalo. These are all much more satisfactory stories than traditional tales that often require a deus ex machina to resolve the plot.  Even on (many) repeated readings Donaldson’s work gives pleasure to the older reader as well as the young listener. Which is more than I can say for Dr Seuss and “Green Eggs and Ham”.

It is a pity that so much modern SF, particularly films, think that resolving  a conflict can only be done by lots of flashes and bangs and violence instead of using intelligence. My main dissatisfaction with The Hobbit films is their use of destruction to solve problems rather than Bilbo’s cleverness as happens in the book. Now I must admit that in my fantasy series, Evil Above the Stars, September destroys the forces arrayed against her using miraculous powers but they are controlled by the qualities she finds within herself. Transsexual detective, Jasmine Frame too, while facing violent antagonists, relies on her powers of deduction more than her physical prowess, although I have to admit that she has to be rescued on more than one occasion by her buddy, DS Tom Shepherd. Of course how much tension there is in my stories is up to my readers to report.

Painted Ladies: a Jasmine Frame Story is available in paperback and as an e-book from all booksellers.

Evil Above the Stars: volume 1 Seventh Child and volume 2 Power of Seven will be published by Elsewhen Press in e-book in Jan. 2015 and in paperback in March 2015.

Seven is a theme of Evil Above the Stars

Seven is a theme of Evil Above the Stars


A day at Novacon

It’s November, it’s Nottingham, it must be Novacon, the annual convention for SF fans. It was actually my first time and only my second visit to an SF/Fantasy convention after my brief visit to the Worldcon in London in the summer. Novacon is a regular event, this was the 44th, and for a lot of the attendees it was an important event in their year. As it happened I could only get there for one day, the Sunday, which was a pity as I think I missed some of the best sessions.

My first impression was that it was an event for middle-aged bar huggers as a considerable proportion of the delegates had apparently attended all the previous 43 Novacons. But looking closer there were a good number of women, younger fans and even families – O.K. one family. Things ran smoothly, evidence of a well-oiled mechanism performing familiar tasks.

The main purpose of my visit was to link up with the folk from Elsewhen Press, in particular, Peter and Alison and the ever-smiling Deirdre, but also their keen group of authors. It was great to see that Elsewhen had the biggest and most visible stand in the dealers’ room and fantastic to see the array of publications that Peter and Alison have published since they went into the business. As I was sizing things up for the launch of my fantasy series, Evil Above the Stars, in the new year, it was good timing that I arrived in time for Elsewhen’s new publication session.  This was the launch of Chris Nuttall’s new volume, Necropolis, in his historical magic fantasy series.  There was a good attendance and fun was had by all thanks to the free drinks. I am looking forward to a similar affair at Eastercon!

I managed to fit four more sessions into my day. The first was a discussion on “Girly Sci-fi” with an all-female panel. The discussion looked at the current fashion for “strong” women leads, as in The Hunger Games series, compared with the weaker(?) females of yore and the Twilight series. With “strong” often meaning adopting male attributes of aggression and violence, the developments weren’t uniformly welcome. As the lead character of EAtS, September Weekes, is a 16-year-old girl with issues, thrust into a position of power and authority, I found the discussion interesting and look forward to reviews of the first two volumes, Seventh Child and Power of Seven.

Seven is a theme of Evil Above the Stars

Seven is a theme of Evil Above the Stars

Next there was a discussion on the expansion of Print-On-Demand publishing, with a very good contribution from Elsewhen’s Peter. It answered some of my prejudices. Then there was a gem – screening of the 1957 Soviet film “The Road to the Stars” which began with a history of rocketry, focussing mainly on Tsiolkovsky of course, but then launched into a fantasy on the future of spaceflight (hopelessly wrong, of course). Finally, I attended the Awards ceremony – the Nova awards are among the most sought after in SF fandom (certainly the trophies based on a Ray Bradbury spaceship are well worth competing for). Actually most of the session was taken up with drawing raffle tickets.

It was an enjoyable day although I realised that I had not heard much in the way of discussion or criticism of actual SF stories, novels or films. Perhaps that was my fault in not spending enough time at the bar engaging in conversation. My imminent publications are more fantasy than SF which is a bit of a mystery as my first love has been SF. I started on Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke, moved through Brunner, Niven and Cherryh and now, having lost Banks, look out for Reynolds, Baxter and Mieville – to name just 10 of my admired authors (there are lots more – don’t ask me to name a favourite.) One topic that did get mentioned was the current preponderance of dystopias. I think it’s quite easy to envisage everything falling apart whether through disease, war or self-inflicted environmental disaster. Once civilisation has been fractured, the population almost eliminated, and technology lost, the “world” of the novel becomes a simple desolate wasteland where a few survivors struggle for existence.  How much more exciting to work out a future where things actually work – however crooked or unfair the society may be. Here civilisation must be self-consistent and have a past, a present and a future. That was what I liked of the best of Banks’ Culture  and Reynolds Chasm City novels to name but two. I see that the second of Ann Leckie’s “Ancillary” series is out in paperback so I have some reading to look forward to.


Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available in paperback or as an e-book from all booksellers including Amazon

Painted Ladies cover

Who is September?

Last week I completed, Close-up, the third prequel to Painted Ladies, featuring Jasmine Frame, my transsexual detective character. There will be another story coming along in the near future and I have high hopes that the sequel to Painted Ladies, Bodies By Design, will find a publisher soon or instead will be self-published as an e-book. I am also planning to put edited versions of the prequels online. Then there will be the further sequels…

But this week my focus is on my other character, September Weekes. I have been completing the edits of volume 2 of Evil Above the Stars: Power of Seven and I have been getting very excited about the publication of both volumes in the new year by Elsewhen Press. They will appear first as e-books then as paperbacks with a launch at Eastercon. So who is September?

As a character she came to me some years ago – a feisty, teenager with issues. Why the silly name? Well, she’s the last child of parents who solved the name choosing problem by using the names of months for their first five children – April, May, June, Julie and Gus (Augustus). What could they do with the sixth? Well they had to continue the theme didn’t they. Anyway I like it – especially when contracted to Ember or Em. Being the last member of a large family proved to be important.

Then the idea of a fantasy novel grew out of a scene that I developed for a short piece for Ludlow Writers’ Group. I think it was for a Hallowe’en time meeting and so involved witches or druids. The story featured a teenage heroine and so September had her opportunity. She changed a bit and grew white hair. At the opening of the novel there is little that is heroic about her – she’s plump, a bit silly, lacks self-esteem, is bullied at school and treated as dim by her teachers. She is on a journey of self-discovery as well as a quest and “task”. I don’t want to give spoilers of what happens in Evil Above The Stars but I think it is a gripping story in original settings with interesting adversaries and intriguing concepts involving celtic myth, alchemy and Ptolomaic cosmology. Oh, yes, and the number 7 has special significance.

Seven is a theme of Evil Above the Stars

Seven is a theme of Evil Above the Stars

I think it is intruguing that while the number 7 features in all our lives (7 days, 7 colours in the rainbow, etc.) the seven pointed star is actually quite a rare motif, certainly less common than four, five, six and eight pointed stars. I like the one shown in the picture because if you trace it out it seems to go on and on, never repeating although, of course, it does. It’s symmetry is also less comfortable than the more familiar star patterns.

Why are both the main characters in my novels feminine? I don’t know really. There is a trend for active, intelligent women in novels these days but I suppose I feel more comfortable writing from a feminine point of view. Of course it is for readers to decide whether I have given my characters credible personalities. Actually there are a lot of differences between Jasmine and September. Jasmine is a mature, transsexual woman while September is a girl approaching adulthood who has no gender identity issues but hasn’t developed her sexuality yet. While there are no doubt similarities in my writing style in both series, they deal with very different subjects and the backgrounds, scenes, plots etc. etc. are wildly different.

I like having two (or more!) threads to my imagination and I find it quite easy to move from Jasmine’s life in Kintbridge to September’s somewhat more extensive universe. Again it is up to the reader to decide if I have been successful but I can only point to one of my heroes, Iain (M.) Banks who also seemed able to hop between very different worlds of imagination. I don’t have Banks’ talent but I hope I can cite him as my inspiration.

I am currently writing the third volume of September’s adventures. It remains to be seen whether there will be more.

You can find out more about the publication  of the September books and other Elsewhen Press publications here Elsewhen

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as paperback and e-book from all booksellers including Amazon

Painted Ladies cover

Close-up: Jasmine chooses the moment

Lots of people write. A lot write simply for the pleasure of seeing their ideas appear on paper or screen. Others write for a circle of friends such as a writers’ group and enjoy the feedback they receive. Many hope to sell their work to magazines or as books, paper or e, either self-published or with a publishing deal. The money is a confirmation of the worth of their work. I fit into all three categories. It is fun putting imagination to work in writing a story and I value the comments and suggestions from my writers’ group friends, but I am conceited enough to believe that there are people out there who will be willing to pay to read my creations. The problem is reaching those generous people who are prepared to hand over their hard-earned cash. I have been down the self-published route and while it is good to have control over the publishing process it takes a considerable outlay and you have to work like stink to get your money back – something  I haven’t done for a variety of reasons.

I am lucky to have a publisher, Elsewhen Press, for my fantasy series, Evil Above the Stars, which is coming out in the new year. I don’t expect to make a fortune but I am committing my time and not my savings to see the books, Seventh Child and Power of Seven published. I hope that EAtS (as we refer to it) is a success for Elsewhen and justifies their investment.

SEven is theme of Evil Above the Stars

Seven is a theme of Evil Above the Stars

I would like the same for the Jasmine Frame series and in particular, Bodies By Design the follow-up to Painted Ladies. I believe that she is an interesting character, regardless of gender identity issues, and that my writing is sufficiently competent for the series to make money for a publisher. Finding that lucky company is the problem. It seems that some publishers would like to wrap up all the rights to a story while making paltry efforts in marketing  and offering little reward to the author. I have hopes that Jasmine’s fate will be in better hands.

This blog is an attempt to get a wider audience for my writings and introduce readers to Jasmine through the novella length, episodic prequels that I have posted which explore the early stages of Jasmine’s transition from male to female. Talking of which, Close-up, the third of the prequels, reaches its conclusion today. There will be a break for a week or two while I look at other issues on this page, but Jasmine will be back in another story very soon.  Anyway, here’s the last episode of Close-up.

Close-up: Part 14

The muted ringtone of Jasmine’s phone sounded from inside her bag. Jasmine’s legs tensed. Harris’s head turned towards the bag that lay on the floor by the front door where Jasmine had dropped it.
Jasmine sprang up, her left hand reaching out for Harris’ right arm. The knife wavered in the corner of her eye but she focussed on his face. Her thighs thrust her forward and her fingers encircled his wrist. Her grip tightened as his head turned to her, his mouth open in surprise. Palm open, she rammed her right hand into his chin pushing his head back. She held the knife-wielding hand away from her. Harris fell backwards pulling Jasmine with him. As his head hit the carpet, Jasmine smashed his hand against the floor. Harris’ grip loosened and the knife fell out.
Jasmine straddled Harris’ prone body. She held his right arm down and reached to grab his left. The phone continued to ring.
She breathed in and her head filled with pain. It was if her skull was being filled to bursting point by heavy water that sloshed from side to side. Her vision blurred.
‘Jas. What can I do?’ Angela asked.
‘Come and kneel on his chest. Hold him down while I untie you.’ Jasmine pulled Harris’ arms across his body. There was no resistance but a moan came from him. ‘Quick, before he comes round and starts to move.’ Jasmine shuffled onto Harris’ thighs as Angela stepped over him and sat down heavily. Harris let out an ‘oof’. Jasmine undid the knots she had tied a few minutes before.
‘Sorry, I didn’t think to tie a slipknot like you did, Ange.’ Jasmine pulled the tights away releasing Angela’s arms.
Angela rubbed her wrists. ‘I’m glad those years in the Brownies finally proved useful.’
‘Help me turn him so we can get him trussed up.’
Together they rolled Harris over with no resistance from him. Still the phone rang, the jangling making her head worse.
Jasmine handed the tights to Angela. ‘You seem to know your knots. Tie him firmly. I’ll get the phone.’ She reached for her bag, pulled it open, dug out the mobile, and lifted it to her ear.
‘Jasmine. Are you at home?’
‘Yes …’
‘Good. We’ve got Amber Markham and found the suitcase.’
‘Great. We’ve got Harris.’
‘He jumped us when we got home.’
‘Harris was waiting at your house?’
‘Yes. We managed to overcome him. Get a car here.’
‘Are you both alright?’
‘I’m OK. A bit of a headache. Angela’s alright, I think.’ Angela nodded to her. ‘She’s sitting on him now.’
‘There’ll be someone with you in a few moments. I’d better go.’
‘Thanks, Tom.’ Jasmine dropped the phone onto the stairs and looked down at Harris. He attempted to lift his head up and extend his legs.
‘Don’t move or I’ll put you out again, Harris.’ Jasmine said.
‘Can I kick him?’ Angela asked as if she was eager to do him some injury.
‘Just stay sitting on him. Are you really OK?’
‘Yes. How about you? Is your head bad?’
Jasmine thought about her answer. If she held her head still there was just a heavy throbbing with an additional ache in her neck where Harris had hit her.
‘I’ll be OK. I’m sorry that this shit gave you a fright.’
‘Uh, I don’t think I had time to be scared. What was he going to do?’
‘Let’s ask him.’ Jasmine knelt down beside Harris and lowered her head to his. ‘What was it you said you wanted to do with us, Harris?’
He replied groggily, ‘I wanted you to help me get away.’
‘There was no chance of that. Half the force would be after you. You said you might kill Angela and me. Why?’
‘It’s your fault.’
‘My fault?’
‘You got Parnell picked up and linked him with Amber, Ashley and me.’
‘If I hadn’t someone else would have.’
‘Yeah, but you’re like Stephen, a trannie.’
An urge to smash her fist into Harris’s face filled her. ‘I am not like Parnell. I am a woman.’
Harris sighed, ‘Yeah, Yeah.’
‘You thought you were smart, Harris, didn’t you? Making Parnell think you were his friend, encouraging him to dress and persuading the two girls that had got him convicted to have sex with you. Then this farcical plot to cover up Jack’s murder. You forgot all the CCTV cameras that picked up Amber’s movements and Parnell being on the sex register. Amber’s story unravelled almost as soon as she tried telling it.’ It made her feel better showing Harris what a jerk he’d been.
‘It would have worked if Amber and Parnell had done it like I told them to.’
‘Controlling people is more difficult than finding where they live and watching them. You’re just a Peeping Tom, getting your kicks by violating people’s private lives. You’re worse than Stephen Parnell.’
‘He’s a perv.’
‘And you’re not!’ Jasmine laughed. The doorbell rang.
Jasmine got to her feet and opened the door. Two uniformed officers stood there.
‘DC Frame?’ one said.
‘Yes. Come in. You’ve come to collect him.’ She pointed to Harris. ‘I think you can get off him now, Ange.’
Angela stood up. Harris wriggled and tried to get up but the police officers stepped in and hauled him to his feet. One held him firmly by the upper arm while the other snapped hand cuffs around his wrists and untied the tights.
‘These yours, ma’am?’ the PC said holding out the tights to Jasmine.
‘Yes. I think those are mine.’
There was a rap of knuckles on the door and she turned to find DCI Sloane filling the doorway with Tom standing behind him.
‘Ah, all secure, then Frame?’ Sloane said.
‘Yes, Sir,’ Jasmine replied.
‘Have you formally arrested him?’
‘No, Sir. I thought as I was on sick leave or suspension I should leave it to someone else.’ In fact, reciting his rights hadn’t occurred to her.
‘Yes, well, Shepherd can do it. Take Harris outside.’ The two officers prodded Harris. Jasmine and Sloane stepped aside as he was escorted out.
Sloane pushed the door closed and looked at Angela. ‘Are you alright, Mrs Frame? I was told that Harris attacked you.’
‘It’s Bevan, Chief Inspector. I went back to my maiden name when Jasmine transitioned. I’m fine. He attacked Jasmine and threatened her with a knife. I just did what I was told.’
Sloane looked a little confused. ‘But, nevertheless, you overpowered Harris, Frame?’
‘When he told Angela to tie me up she used a slipknot,’ Jasmine explained with pride for her not yet ex-wife, ‘and then she got him talking while I managed to get myself free.’
‘Very good, Miss, ah, Bevan.’ Sloane nodded. ‘What did he tell you?’
‘The whole story, I think,’ Jasmine said, ‘including that Amber killed her baby.’
‘She says it was Harris.’
‘Tom said she’d been found.’ Jasmine was eager to get the full story even though her head was aching and she really wanted to lie down.’
‘Hmm, yes. Kingston and Money had to follow a trail of Harris’ acquaintances as his parents didn’t know where he was living. They found Miss Markham in a squat that Harris had been sharing.’
‘And you’ve found Jack’s body.’
‘Yes, Frame. Your hunch was correct. The case was hidden in undergrowth behind Stiles’ house. The pathologist is trying to identify the cause of death. Now I think I had better leave you to recover from your injuries.’
‘Thank you, Chief Inspector,’ Angela said. ‘The hospital said that Jasmine was supposed to rest.’
‘I’m sure that is the best thing. We’ll be in touch tomorrow, Frame.’
‘Am I suspended, Sir?’
‘We’ll talk tomorrow.’ Sloane turned away, opened the door and stepped outside. As the door closed, Angela took Jasmine’s arm and guided her into the lounge.
‘I’ll make some tea. I expect you need to take some more tablets, don’t you Jas?’
‘Yes, I do.’ Jasmine lowered herself into the sofa trying to avoid sudden movements of her head. With the excitement over she only had the headache to concentrate on. Angela went into the kitchen and prepared tea, while Jasmine sat with her eyes closed.
‘Here you are,’ Angela said returning with two mugs of steaming tea.
Jasmine reached for one mug. ‘I’m sorry, Angela.’
‘What for?’
‘Getting you involved in this. Getting you attacked.’
‘It was you he attacked.’
‘But he was threatening to kill both of us. If you hadn’t made it possible for me to get free …’
‘And if you hadn’t floored him, Jas.’ Angela smiled at Jasmine’s modest shrug. ‘He was dangerous, and he had a knife. You were great.’
‘Thanks. You were too.’
Angela waved a hand to dismiss Jasmine’s praise. She sat beside her. ‘I was thinking while the kettle boiled.’
‘About what?’
‘What I said about you moving out, Jas. What if Harris had attacked you when you were on your own somewhere? Perhaps we should stick together.’
Jasmine swallowed a painkiller tablet and took a sip of hot tea. ‘Thanks, Angela, but it was my stupidity that revealed our address to Harris. I shouldn’t have allowed it to be public knowledge. But you were right. It’s time I got a place of my own and let you, Miss Bevan, get on with your own career and life. I need to pursue my job on my own. If I still have one.’

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as a paperback and e-book from all booksellers including Amazon

Painted Ladies cover

Close-up: Jasmine follows a lead

A step forward to publication of Evil Above the Stars: vol.1 Seventh Child this week with the editorial comments and suggestions from the publisher Elsewhen. Glad to say there was nothing too difficult to amend. Also worked on volume 3 Seven Times Seven. Gave some time to article writing, particularly to mark the announcement of the Nobel Prizes for Physics and Chemistry. I like to see if I can write something to make the chemistry of the prize work understandable for school kids (OK, more able ones). You can see if I’ve been successful by going to this coming week

Of course, I’ve also written the next episode of the Jasmine Frame prequel, Close-up, which is below. We’ve reached the 10th!

Close-up: Part 10

A uniformed police officer entered the interview room while Jasmine was noting down Parnell’s description of Ryan Harris. When she had finished she stood up.
‘Can I go now?’ Parnell asked, again.
‘Perhaps. I’ll have to check with DCI Sloane,’ Jasmine replied. She moved to the door and spoke to the officer. ‘Look after Mr Parnell here, please, until we decide whether he can leave.’
Jasmine returned to the team office and knocked on Sloane’s door. He called for her to enter and as she did so saw him putting his phone down. He looked at her with his glaring eyes as if expecting her to transfer her report telepathically.
‘Well, Frame?’
‘Parnell’s description matches the others we have of Ryan Harris. It must be the same man.’
‘Hmm. This is an interesting development along with what I have just heard.’
‘What’s that, Sir?’
‘Forensics have found traces of blood and tissue in Markham’s flat. In the child’s bedroom to be precise. The room had been cleaned thoroughly but not well enough. They found traces of other bodily fluids, vomit, faeces, urine. Probably the child. They haven’t matched it yet, but it looks like we may have a murder or serious assault to solve.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ Jasmine was thinking through who the suspects might be; Amber Markham and her supposed boyfriend, obviously; the child’s father, possibly; Parnell? ‘What should we do about Parnell, Sir?’
‘Let him go for now. He seems to be a pawn in the game. This fellow Harris, must have told Markham of Parnell’s whereabouts. I wonder what he’s up to?’
‘Who, Sir?’
‘Harris. I want you to find out all you can about him; and get on to Palmerston and the others. Tell them that the child was probably injured, perhaps killed, in Markham’s flat. We need to find the child alive or dead.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ Jasmine hesitated wondering if Sloane had any other instructions.
‘Get on with it then.’
Jasmine returned to her desk and began calling up records while thumbing her phone. Denise Palmerston didn’t answer but Tom Shepherd did.
‘Hi, Jasmine. Got some news?’
‘I have. Jack Markham may have been hurt or even killed in Amber’s flat. Forensics found blood where he slept.’
‘Oh, right. That makes it more serious.’
‘Yes, and Amber’s boyfriend, Ryan Harris, knew Parnell and probably told Amber where he lived.’
‘That’s interesting.’
‘Are you with Ashley Stiles?’
‘Yes, Palmerston’s talking to her. I slipped out to answer your call.’
‘What has she said?’
‘Well, you were right. She has kept in touch with Amber. They met up from time to time. Amber called on her a couple of days ago actually. Stiles thinks she seemed a bit upset but wouldn’t talk about it.’
‘How did Amber get to Aldermaston? She doesn’t have a car. Did someone, her boyfriend perhaps, give her lift?’
‘I’ll ask.’
‘Oh, and see if Stiles knows anything about Ryan Harris.’
‘I will. Is that it? I’d better get back in there.’
‘That’s all. Let me know what you find out.’
The call ended and Jasmine rang Derek Kingston to pass on the new information. Then she phoned downstairs to arrange for Parnell’s release. At last she was able to look for information on Ryan Harris.
Two hours later she was following a trail of clues and becoming more and more interested in the young man. Her mobile rang and Jasmine picked it up expecting one of her colleagues but it was Dr Gould.
‘Hi, Jilly.’
‘Hello, Jasmine. I thought I’d give you a personal call to let you know that your prescription is ready to pick up. You’ll be getting an official email of course.’
‘That’s great. Thanks for letting me know.’
‘You can start taking the pills straight away but we’ll need to keep an eye on the effects. Let me know if you don’t feel well. We may have to adjust the dose of the oestrogens or the anti-androgens.’
Jasmine was excited. She could start the course of drugs that would help make her female.
‘Thanks, Jilly. That’s great.’
‘Got to go. See you soon.’ The connection broke. Jasmine stared at the phone. She had to get out to the chemist and pick up her pills; she was so eager to start her treatment. Of course it would be months before the changes became obvious, but that didn’t matter. She was on the way to becoming the woman she knew she was. But how could she get out? Perhaps if she reported what she had learned to Sloane he’d allow her a few minutes to run into town. She left her desk and approached his office.
When Sloane had replied to her tap, she opened the door.
‘Sir, I’ve found out a few things about Ryan Harris.’
‘Well, don’t stand there. Tell me.’
Jasmine took a step into the office and looked at the notepad she had in her hand.
‘I looked back at the records and found that around the time that Parnell was arrested, there were a number of complaints from young women about a young man watching their homes. One of the women recognised him and identified him as Ryan Harris. He was only sixteen at the time so he was just given a warning and advised to speak to a counsellor. I rang Parnell’s counsellor and she confirmed that Ryan Harris had been on her list about five years ago and that he did attend group sessions with Parnell. She wouldn’t give me details over the phone but she did say he had something of an obsessive personality.’
‘Good. So you’ve confirmed Parnell’s story. Anything else?’
‘I have an address in Reading, Sir, where he lived when he was having the counselling sessions. It looks like it’s his parents’ home.’
‘Let me have it. We need to speak to that young man.’
Jasmine handed over the slip of paper with the address written on it. Sloane picked up his phone and poked at the keys. She guessed that Sloane wasn’t going to send her off to find Harris.
‘Thank you, Frame. Is that all?’
‘Yes, Sir. Except, do you mind if I go out for a few minutes. I have to pick up a prescription.’
‘What. Oh, yes, if you must. Don’t be long. This case is moving.’
‘Thank you, Sir. I won’t.’
Jasmine backed out of Sloane’s office, hurried back to her desk grabbing her coat, bag and phone.

It only took a few minutes at a fast walk to get to the High Street from Police HQ. There were few shoppers around as it was still not yet ten o’clock, but it was a dry morning after yesterday’s rain. The local chemist’s shop that she used was almost empty and it took moments for her to pick up the packet of drugs. Jasmine grasped it in her hand as if it was a prize she had won. She was eager to return to the police station, rip off the packaging and take her first daily dose but as she left the shop her phone rang. She pulled it from her bag and answered. It was Tom.
‘Hi, Jas. Thought you’d like to know.’
‘Know what?’
‘We asked Ashley about Ryan Harris.’
‘She knew him.’
‘She did! How?’
‘Ashley met him in a café, here in Aldermaston, a little over a year ago, soon after she’d had her baby. Her child is a bit older than Markham’s.’
‘They just met?’
‘Well apparently, Harris was friendly, they got chatting. She was feeling a bit lonely and worn out having to look after the kid on her own.’
‘What happened?’
‘They became friends. Harris visited her at her house. She never went to his home and of course, with the child to look after, she couldn’t get out much.’
‘Were they lovers?’
‘I guess so.’
‘But they’re not together now?’
‘No. Ashley said he got a bit demanding, obsessive. She finally threw him out and told him it was all over.’
‘Did he leave her alone?’
‘No. That was the point. He pestered her for weeks then suddenly stopped calling on her.’
‘Sounds like about the time he started going out with Amber. Does Ashley Stiles know that Amber was seeing Harris?’
‘No. Ashley says she knew Amber had a new man but Amber hadn’t told her who it was. They didn’t meet up that often.’
‘How did Harris behave with Stiles’ child?’
‘Apparently he was very good with the kid at first but later urged her to get child minders to take the kid so that they could be on their own together.’
‘Sounds like he was nice to the child to get in her good books.’
‘That’s right.’
‘Well, I found an old address for Harris, and I think Sloane is sending Kingston and Money to check it out.’
‘That’s great. We’re getting somewhere. We’re heading back in a few minutes. See you at HQ.’
The call ended. Jasmine stood in the street, prescription in one hand, phone in the other, thinking. Parnell would probably be home by now. What would he make of Harris’ liaisons with both the girls that he’d flashed at? Perhaps it would stir up some other useful information from his memory. Decision made, Jasmine dropped the mobile and drugs into her bag and strode down Waggoner’s’ Passage towards the river and the old mill where Parnell lived.
In a couple of minutes she reached the old brick building and started to climb the steel staircase. As she reached the first landing, she heard the crash of a door flung open above her and feet running down the stairs making the steel ring like a bell. She looked up as a figure appeared on the flight of steps above her, a young man, scruffy beard and long hair, dirty jeans and sweatshirt, thin. Instantly she knew it was Harris. He leapt down the steps two or three at a time towards her.
‘Harris. Stop!’ she said stepping into his path. He raised his arm, not slowing at all. His hand hit the side of her head and his body cannoned into hers. She was lifted off her feet by the impact. Spinning round she grabbed for the hand rail; missed. Harris was passed, leaping down the last flight. Jasmine tumbled down the steps, head over heel. Her head cracked against the steel post at the bottom. Darkness descended before the ground ended her fall.

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as a paperback and an e-book from all booksellers

"Jasmine and Me": readings and discussion about the Jasmine Frame stories and transgenderism

“Jasmine and Me”: readings and discussion about the Jasmine Frame stories and transgenderism

Close-up: Jasmine has some questions

A varied week this week. I’ve been editing Bodies by Design, the second Jasmine Frame novel, continuing with the writing of the third volume of Evil Above the Stars, and of course writing this week’s episode of Close-up. I’ve even done some marketing of Painted Ladies by offering my presentation “Jasmine and me” to writers’ groups. I wonder if it is a good idea to have a number of projects going simultaneously – but I like it.  So here is the next episode of Close-up.

Close-up: Part 9

DCs Kingston and Money sauntered into the office closely followed by DCI Sloane with DS Palmerston tagging along behind. Sloane stood in front of the whiteboard and gestured impatiently to the team to gather round.
‘Report please, Detective Sergeant,’ he said as they assembled in a rough semicircle.
‘Still no sign of Markham, Sir,’ Denise Palmerston said.
‘What about the child?’ Sloane asked.
‘No leads there either, Sir,’ Palmerston replied raising her hands to indicate her frustration.
‘Are we even sure the kid exists?’ Keith Money said. ‘’The buggy Markham was pushing was empty. Perhaps it’s a phantom baby like some women have phantom pregnancies.’ Derek Kingston giggled.
‘Don’t be an idiot,’ Palmerston said, ‘Markham’s parents and the boy’s father talked about him and social services confirmed that Jack exists, and we only have Parnell’s word that the buggy was empty.’
‘And Jasmine’s analysis of Amber Markham’s movements,’ Tom said.
Palmerston’s nose wrinkled in a sneer. ‘Oh, yes, Frame’s “analysis”.’
Jasmine felt anger rushing through her arteries and veins. She wanted to respond to Palmerston’s dismissal of her work but gritted her teeth and said nothing.
‘Are you suggesting that Parnell may be lying to us?’ Kingston asked.
‘It’s a possibility but unlikely,’ Sloane said with a raised eyebrow at Palmerston. ‘You found the pushchair cover where Parnell said it would be. It matches the one in the CCTV on Markham’s pushchair. Soco have taken his flat apart overnight but found no evidence that a child has been in the flat. I think we have to take his word, at least where the child is concerned.’ Palmerston looked as though she wanted to disagree while Kingston and Money nodded.
‘Jasmine’s got a lead,’ Tom said. The other four detectives looked at Jasmine with wide-open eyes. Palmerston’s cheeks coloured.
Sloane spoke, ‘What have you got, Frame?’
‘The other girl that Parnell flashed at, Ashley Stiles, lives in Aldermaston, Sir. I have her address.’
‘Why didn’t we know about this Stiles woman?’ Sloane said, glaring at each of his officers.
‘None of Markham’s family or neighbours mentioned her,’ Palmerston said. ‘There’s no evidence that Markham and this woman are still in touch. It is six years since Parnell was in court.’
‘At the time, they were close friends,’ Jasmine said, ‘I see no reason why they shouldn’t still be even though Ashley has moved away from Kintbridge.’
‘Denise. You and Shepherd, get over to Aldermaston, now,’ Sloane said. ‘Let’s find out from Stiles how much contact she has had with Markham.’ Palmerston started to move with the reluctant acceptance that this was an obvious thing to do. Jasmine passed to Tom the address she had scribbled on a sticky-note. Tom winked at Jasmine and hurried to open the door for the DS.
Sloane turned to Kingston and Money. ‘Get back to Markham’s address and ask the neighbours again when they last saw Markham with her child. We need to establish exactly when the baby disappeared, if indeed it has. Also, detailed sightings of this man Markham was supposed to be dating. What’s his name?’
‘Ryan Harris, Sir,’ Kingston said.
‘I want him traced a.s.a.p.’
‘Yes, Sir,’ both officers chorused.
‘Well, go on then.’ Sloane waved for them to depart and started to make his way to his office.
‘What about me?’ Jasmine said finding herself alone again. Sloane turned to look at her apparently having forgotten she was still standing just a few feet from him.
‘I want more on this Stiles woman, Frame. How much contact has she had with Markham? And this Harris, fellow. Why has he made no appearance even though he was supposed to be living with her?’
‘Do we have a description, Sir?’
‘It’s in the files. Look for it Frame.’ Sloane resumed his walk to his office.
‘What about Parnell, Sir?’ Jasmine called after him. Sloane paused again.
‘What about him?’
‘We still have him don’t we Sir?’
‘He’s down in the cells. I need to decide if we charge him with anything. We can’t keep him much longer and Soco have completed their search.’
‘Can we speak to him again, Sir?’
‘He might know if Amber has had contact with Ashley Stiles. Amber might have mentioned her when she confronted him and got him to help her with the buggy.’
Sloane turned and stepped back towards Jasmine, stroking his chin.
‘That is a good point, Frame. You had better accompany me down to the interview room. We’ll have a few more words with Mr Parnell.’
Excitement gripped Jasmine. She was going to interview a suspect. Sloane hadn’t let her get this close to an interviewee since she transitioned. The fact that there was no-one else on the team left to ask was beside the point. She hurried after Sloane as he took big strides towards the door.
Jasmine followed Sloane into the interview room. Parnell was already sitting at the table. He looked up angrily as Jasmine and Sloane took their seats.
‘When can I go home?’ Parnell asked. ‘I haven’t done anything wrong.’
‘Apart from causing a hazard to navigation in the canal, you mean,’ Sloane growled, ‘or wasting police time by colluding with Amber Markham in the fictional abduction of her baby.’
‘She made me do it,’ Parnell whined.
‘Well, we’ll think about releasing you after we have asked you a few more questions.’
‘About what?’ Parnell looked defensive, unsure about what was going to come next.
‘Ashley Stiles.’ Sloane said. Parnell’s eyebrows rose. ‘You do remember the name?’
Parnell dropped his head.
‘Yes, I remember the name. She was Kylie’s friend.’
‘Kylie?’ Sloane said
Jasmine leaned towards Sloane. ‘That’s Amber’s former name, Sir.’
‘Oh, yes. Did Kylie/Amber mention her to you, Mr Parnell?’
‘Are you sure?’
‘I said, no.’
‘Have you had any contact with Ashley Stiles since you were in court?
‘Of course not.’ Parnell shook his head violently.
‘Why of course? You weren’t expected to have contact with Markham but you have.’
‘She recognised me and followed me home.’
‘That is what you told us she led you to believe.’
Parnell looked mystified. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Well, I find it quite hard to believe that she recognised who you were when she saw you out in the street dressed as a woman. Frame here looks very different to her former self and she is not even wearing a wig.’
Acute embarrassment gripped Jasmine, mixed with anger that Sloane could make reference to her former existence as a man.
‘Well…’ Parnell examined Jasmine then shook his head.
Sloane pressed on. ‘That is unless you are an unusual transvestite who makes no attempt to pass as a woman despite wearing female clothes.’
Parnell was affronted. ‘I do my make-up well and I have some very good wigs. I’ve been told I look very feminine and pass easily.’
‘Who tells you that?’ Sloane snapped. Jasmine knew that Parnell lived alone and had no family nearby. She had had the impression that he was a loner and she couldn’t see him as one who socialised in transgender groups.
‘Who, Mr Parnell? Who do you meet dressed as a woman? Who told Amber Markham where you live and that you cross-dress?’
Parnell’s face showed confusion. He shook his head. ‘No, it can’t be.’
‘Who can’t it be?’ Sloane insisted.
‘It can’t be Ryan.’
Jasmine’s heart beat rapidly when she heard the name.
‘Who is Ryan?’ Sloane said.
‘We met after my case. I visited a counsellor to help me to stop. She had group sessions. He was in the group.’
‘What’s his surname?’
Jasmine almost couldn’t believe it. Another connection with Amber Markham. It couldn’t be a coincidence. Surely not. Sloane turned to her.
‘Ryan Harris. Is he on the sex offender’s register, Frame?’
‘I don’t think so, Sir. If he was and he’s being living in the locality I’m sure his profile would have come up.’
‘Hmm.’ Sloane turned back to face Parnell. ‘Tell us all about Ryan Harris. What was he seeing the counsellor for?’
‘He had been warned about following people.’
‘I suppose so. A few women had complained about him hanging around their homes.’
‘So just a warning. He didn’t have any convictions?’
‘I don’t think so. He never admitted to having any.’
‘OK. So you met, you talked. How well did you get to know him?’
Parnell smiled. ‘He was a good friend. He was sorry that those girls had got me arrested. We hung out together. He came to my flat.’
‘How did he find out about you being a transvestite?’ Sloane asked.
‘He knew from the start. In the group sessions we had to talk about ourselves and what we’d done. I spoke about dressing. We talked about it after. Ryan was interested.’
‘But it wasn’t just talk was it. You said you were complimented on your appearance.’
‘Ryan persuaded me to dress for him. He said I looked as good as a real woman.’
Jasmine wondered how honest Ryan Harris had been if Parnell was telling his story truthfully. How well did Parnell pass for female when he was dressed? The pictures of him in his brightly coloured mac on the CCTV didn’t provide much evidence of his skills. He was short and stout, not a very feminine shape.
‘So Harris knew about your conviction, the statements of the two girls, your transvestism and he knew where you lived.’
Parnell nodded. ‘Yes.’
‘Are you still friends? When did you last see him?’
‘I don’t know what happened. He stopped coming round, he changed his phone. I couldn’t contact him. I haven’t seen him for over a year.’
‘He dropped you.’ Sloane said. Jasmine thought he was being unnecessarily heartless.
‘Perhaps,’ Parnell said forlornly.
‘Right. Well we’ll need a description of Ryan Harris. See if it matches. You take over, Frame. I’ll get a uniformed officer to join you.’ Sloane stood up and walked out.
‘DCI Sloane has left the room,’ Jasmine said for the benefit of the recording.
‘Why are you so interested in Ryan?’ Parnell asked.
‘He could be important. We’re not sure. You dressed for him?’
‘Yes. He said he liked how I looked.’
‘What sort of things did he like you to wear?’
A blush came into Parnell’s face. ‘You know. You went on about what I wear yesterday afternoon. You know what it’s like dressing up. You’re one.’
‘I am transsexual. I am not a transvestite.’ Her response was unnecessary she knew, but Parnell had riled her by suggesting they were similar. Parnell screwed up his face. ‘What did Harris want you to wear?’
‘Female things.’
‘I know that, but what sort of female wear.’
‘He brought me some stuff to try on.’
‘Such as.’
‘Mini-skirts, leather-look, tops with sequins.’
‘And you wore those with stockings and suspenders.’
Jasmine had to stop herself from grinning. She tried to imagine the plump, middle-aged Parnell in a short, shiny skirt with his stocking tops showing and couldn’t without grimacing.
‘He got you to dress like a tart.’
‘He said I looked great.’
Jasmine suppressed a laugh. ‘Perhaps he thought you did. Did he come on to you?’
‘Oh, no. He was straight.’
‘So why was he so keen on seeing you dressed up?’
Parnell shook his head and suddenly looked very sad. Jasmine had the impression of a loner grateful for the companionship of a younger man.
‘Did you offer him sex? Is that why he stopped visiting you’
‘No! You may fancy it with a man but I’m not gay. I just like being dressed.’ Jasmine hadn’t yet worked out whether as a woman she wanted sex with a man but the vehemence of Parnell’s denial almost convinced her that he thought he was certain he didn’t, but she wondered whether Parnell himself understood his desires. Perhaps she had pushed him enough.
‘OK. We’d better just get his description down then I can see if it matches with the other statements we have.’
‘Can I go home then?’
‘Perhaps. That’s up to DCI Sloane.’
Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as a paperback and e-book from all booksellers.
Painted Ladies cover

Close-up: Jasmine receives some information

It’s been an interesting week, writing-wise. First of all I spent last Saturday at the World Science Fiction Convention, LonCon3, at Excel. It was my first time at an SF convention so it was fun to see many people in costume, to see the displays of SF and Fantasy art and the dealers stands. Best of all was meeting Pete and Al of Elsewhen Press and a number of their authors. They are a variety of ages and backgrounds and write across the sub-genres of SF and Fantasy. They made me welcome and I am looking forward to the publication of the first two parts of Evil Above the Stars – Seventh Child and Power of Seven.

Then we had a visit by Elizabeth Gowing, who was speaking to our U3A group about her love of Kosovo and the Edwardian English traveller Edith Durham who preceded her. We had a good chat about publishing. She had a publisher for her first book but set up her own company for the second while her partner has a publishing contract for his Victorian spy novels. She has put a tremendous effort into publicising her books and giving talks. She puts me to shame and makes me feel I really must do more to get “Jasmine and Me“, my talk about transgenderism including readings from Jasmine Frame stories, more well known, and I must speed up getting Bodies By Design, the second Jasmine Frame novel, published in some form.

Anyway, on to Close-up, the third of my prequels to Painted Ladies.

Close-up: Part 3

Was not finding baby Jack alive or dead, good news or bad news? Jasmine wasn’t sure but DC Kingston seemed to need some reassurance.
‘I think so, Derek, but …’
‘Shepherd, Frame, pay attention.’ Sloane’s voice boomed out as he strode into the room with Denise Palmerston at his heels. ‘Money tells me they’ve found the pushchair.’
‘We heard, Sir,’ Jasmine said, ‘I’ve got DC Kingston on the line.’
‘Good, keep him on,’ Sloane said.
‘Did you hear that, Derek?’ Jasmine said into the phone.
‘Loud and clear,’ Kingston replied.
‘Tell Kingston and Money to wait by the lock. Keep gawpers away and wait for Soco to arrive. We’ll have to call in the divers to search the river for the baby. Tell Kingston not to let any boats through the lock. We don’t want them churning the water up.’
‘Have you got that, Derek?’ Jasmine asked again.
‘Palmerston, I want you down there supervising. Organise a proper search of the area. Shepherd, pick up a female officer from Family Liaison and take Miss Markham down to the lock to have a look at the pushchair. See if she can identify it. Then take her home. Perhaps she’ll be a bit calmer and able to give us a full story in her own surroundings. Any questions? No. Right. Get on with it.’
Denise Palmerston and Tom headed for the exit. Sloane headed for his office. Jasmine was about to say goodbye to Derek Kingston and put the phone down but a couple of questions came into her head.
‘Hey, Derek,’ she called down the phone.
‘I’ve got to go, Frame. Money is calling me.’
‘Wait a second. How was the pushchair found? They don’t float too well.’
‘There’s a boat coming up through the lock. They found it jammed against the lock gate when they tried to open it. A couple of officers were searching the area for the missing kid as the boaters were dragging it out of the water.’
‘Where’s the boat now?’
‘We’re holding it in the lock. I heard Sloane say not to let any boats through.’
‘What state is the pushchair in?’
‘Looks okay. Can’t have been in the water long.’
‘Is it folded or open?’
‘Uh, difficult to tell. Half open I guess. Why?’
‘Oh, I don’t know. I just wondered.’
‘Well, I’ve got to go. There’s a crowd forming and Money needs me.’ The line clicked off. Sloane’s voice roared from inside his office.
‘Have you got that list of sex offenders yet, Frame?’
‘Yes, Sir,’ Jasmine called back, grimacing at the maleness of her raised voice.
‘Any addresses close to where the pushchair has been found?’
‘I’ll search, Sir.’ Jasmine returned to the list and called up a map with the addresses of the named offenders tagged. She zoomed in on the map until only the area around the lock was visible. One flag remained.
‘There’s one, Sir.’
Sloane emerged from his office at a considerable pace, rounded the desks and stood behind Jasmine looking at the screen.
‘Who is it?’
Jasmine leaned close to the screen to read the small print on the tag.
‘Stephen Parnell.’
‘Don’t know the name,’ Sloane said shaking his head.
Jasmine remembered his name from the list.
‘He’s only on the register because he exposed himself to a couple of teenage girls, Sir.’
‘How close is he?’
‘About as near as he could be, Sir. He lives in the flats in the old mill beside the weir, a hundred metres from the lock.’
‘Hmm. Well, we’d better check him over. Never ignore what’s under your nose, Frame. Give his details to Money and tell him to give this Parnell fellow a call. See if he will let him have a look over his place. Tell him not to give too much away. We’re still looking for a missing child.’
Sloane returned to his office while Jasmine called Money and passed on the instructions. As she put the phone down one of the civilian workers entered carrying a jiffy bag. She dropped it onto Jasmine’s desk and went out with hardly a word spoken. Jasmine broke the seal and took out a dvd disc. She loaded it onto her computer and was soon reviewing the recorded CCTV views. Flicking through the different camera files she noted which views were available. It was soon apparent that there was no direct view of the delicatessen on the bridge. The CCTV control room had been unmanned during the morning so the cameras were on automatic – recording the scene in the frame of the camera lens but not moving around or zooming in and out. She had a view of the side of the road and the bridge opposite the deli and views up and down the High Street on the other side of the bridge from early morning until after Amber Markham had declared her baby missing. It was going to be a long job trying to track her movements and observe whether there were any suspects in the passers-by. She glanced at her watch. It was already 1 p.m. She’d come in early today so she could finish her shift by 2:30 when she had a doctor’s appointment. It didn’t look as though anyone was going to get away today, unless baby Jack was found alive and well, but this appointment was important to her. She sighed and set the recoding running.

She tried not to blink in case she missed a fleeting appearance of Amber Markham on the screen but after an hour Jasmine was forced to freeze the recording and rub her eyes. She had already tagged Amber on the recordings from most of the cameras. Usually she was seen pushing the pushchair but a couple of times she was on her own, presumably from when she was searching for her missing baby. This had been a quick scan. A more thorough search would be needed to detect anyone showing a suspicious interest in the child and his mother. She was getting anxious. The time of her appointment was approaching and she needed to ask Sloane whether she could go off-duty for an hour in order to keep it. Sloane, though had left the office for the control room and she was reluctant to ring through and ask his permission while he was with other officers. The phone rang. She picked it up and recognised DC Money’s gruff greeting.
‘Sloane told me to report to you since you are looking into the sex offenders,’ he said.
‘That’s right.’
‘Well, I’ve called on Parnell. Smarmy bugger, fell over himself to be obliging once he’d answered the door. He was wearing a dressing gown and said he was about to have a shower. Invited me in immediately when I said we were looking for a missing child, as if he wanted to prove he had nothing to do with it. There was no sign of the kid in his flat and he denied seeing the woman and the child.’
‘So he’s not a suspect, then.’
‘No evidence to suggest he is, Frame, but that’s up to Sloane. Mind you it amazes me.’
‘A thicko perv like Parnell still has a girl.’
‘How do you know?’
‘There was a pair of stockings and a bra on the bed and woman’s dresses in the wardrobe. She wasn’t there though. Got to go. The divers have turned up at last.’ He ended the call.
Jasmine sat, pondering. What Money said had set her thinking. She returned to the sex offender’s list and called up Parnell’s file.
Sloane burst through the door, heading at speed to his office.
‘Sir?’ Jasmine called. Sloane slowed a little.
‘What is it, Frame?’
‘I have an appointment with my GP at two-thirty, Sir. Can I keep it, please?’
Sloane stopped mid-step. A flush rose up from his tight white collar. Jasmine imagined him thinking how on earth one of his team could possibly think of leaving their desk during an investigation. Then he seemed to remember that this was the twenty-first century and people, even transsexuals, had rights. He slumped and continued his march across the room.
‘If you need to, Frame.’
‘Thank you, Sir.’ Her words were lost as the door to Sloane’s office slammed closed. Jasmine looked at her watch. She could make her appointment if she was quick. She picked up her bag and hurried to the door pausing to grab her coat off the hook.
She left the building almost at a run. There was no quick way to reach the surgery. It was across the town centre and would have taken as long to drive there and find a parking space as it was to run. Anyway she was a runner; she enjoyed running, though not in knee-high boots and encumbered by tights, a skirt, and winter coat. It was cold and wet and she had to serve around shoppers that shuffled along looking pretty fed up. Traffic on the streets that weren’t pedestrianized, deluged the pavements as they passed through the puddles stretching from the blocked gutters. Despite being fit it took her several minutes to cover the mile to the health centre and she was feeling hot and sweaty when she finally pushed the door open and entered the reception area. The clock told her that she had arrived with a couple of minutes to spare. She approached the desk.
‘I’m Jasmine Frame. I have an appointment with Dr Gould,’ she said to the bored-looking receptionist.
‘Can you sign in on the screen,’ the young woman said pointing to a large TV screen beside the desk. Jasmine fliustered and followed the on-screen instructions until she had confirmed her arrival. At least her name appeared correctly and gave her gender as female. She went to sit in one of the many empty seats and drew an envelope out of her bag. It was the subject of her meeting with Dr Gould. She had been accepted onto the gender reassignment programme. Now she could start to achieve her dream.

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available in paperback and as an e-book from any bookseller.

The scene of the opening of Painted Ladies - in daylight

The scene of the opening of Painted Ladies – in daylight

Close-up: Jasmine faces Amber

A little early this week as the weekend is going to be busy. On Saturday I’m at LonCon, The World Science Fiction Convention, mainly to visit the stand of Elsewhen Press who will be publishing my Evil Above the Stars series (well volumes 1 and 2 anyway).  So with no more ado here is the second episode of my new Jasmine Frame prequel.

Close-up: Part 2

Jasmine felt the anger and embarrassment grow in her like a hailstone turning into a block of ice. She knew her voice wasn’t perfect yet. It kept slipping down an octave. Was she really so obviously trans? She didn’t need to wear a wig because her own hair had been growing for a few months and was styled in a lovely, flattering bob. She dressed as femininely as possible although Sloane made it obvious that he thought she showed too much leg and she tried to make her make-up not appear like a mask even though she had sometimes to go for too many hours between shaves. She so wanted to be accepted as the woman she felt herself to be but still the little unconscious slips let her down.
She could have reacted to Amber Markham’s accusation, made a fuss, asserted her rights as a transitioning transsexual, but she stopped herself blurting out a denial. She was a police officer trying to assist this woman who was understandably distraught at the disappearance of her baby. Jasmine took a breath and tried to speak as calmly and softly as possible
‘I am a woman, Ms Markham. May I take your photo?’ Jasmine raised her phone to frame the young woman, thumb poised on the record button.
Amber leaned back in her chair, turning her face away from the phone.
‘I’m not having no freak taking my bloody photo.’
‘What’s going on here?’ Palmerston’s voice was authoritative though not an uncontrolled shout. Jasmine hadn’t heard her enter the interview room and she turned now to see the detective standing in the doorway. Jasmine had admired her since she’d joined the team a month ago. She was a strong, independent woman who seemed sure of her position as a rising star of the police service. DS Denise Palmerston was obviously female but preferred to wear trousers when on duty. She hit back at men who tried to bully her with usually a cutting and witty comment. DC Money had soon met his match. Sloane had been a little suspicious of her at first but now seemed to respect her as his number two.
‘I don’t want a fucking perv eyeing me up on his phone,’ Amber said, her face contorted into an ugly sneer.
‘DC Frame is doing her job,’ Palmerston said, ‘The photo is to aid the search for Jack. Can you please stand up, Amber. I’ll take it if you like.’ She took the phone from Jasmine’s hand. Amber slowly got to her feet, twisting her body so that she faced Palmerston rather than Jasmine. The phone flashed, twice.
‘There, DC Frame, one of those should be sufficient. Go and get on with your work.’ Palmerston returned the phone to Jasmine’s hand and pointed to the door.
Feeling a blush rising up her cheeks and a bitter, acid taste in her mouth, Jasmine took the phone and strode out of the room. In the corridor she met Tom carrying a steaming paper cup.
‘Are you alright, Jas?’ he said.
‘Don’t ask,’ Jasmine replied, hurrying passed him.

Jasmine sat at her desk looking at the photos she had downloaded from her phone. She examined the image of Amber Markham. She was young but looked tired, exhausted even. She was thin and with bare legs, the polka dotted miniskirt and the thin, shiny red jacket, seemed totally unprepared for a cold, wet November day. Jasmine expanded the image of her face. The dark rings around the eyes, the lank hair, the expression of misery. Was that due to her feelings towards Jasmine, her anxiety at the loss of her child or something else? She zoomed out again. At least her appearance was distinctive enough that she should be able to pick her up on the CCTV recordings when they arrived.
She saved the photos and returned to the list of sex offenders. It was a surprisingly long list, more than filling the screen. They were drawn from an area of five miles radius from the centre of Kintbridge. She read down the list, noting the addresses, their record of attendance at monitoring sessions and their offences. There were the rapists and the groomers and the child molesters who had served their time in gaol, and the other less severely punished characters, the flashers and those who perhaps through opportunism or simple stupidity had found themselves arrested for having sex with an underage girl or boy. Some of them no doubt had IQs considerably lower than their victims. Nevertheless their names were now listed and cropped up whenever a sex offence was recorded. Jasmine could see none with a known interest in babies or who had been charged with stealing a child, for any reason. There were no obvious suspects.
Tom Shepherd sauntered into the open plan office and wandered over to Jasmine’s desk.
‘You OK, Jas.’
‘Fine, thanks. How’s Ms Markham?’
‘She’s calmed down a bit. I gather from Palmerston that she had a go at you.’
Jasmine sighed and grimaced. ‘She read me straight away, Tom. What can I do? I try so hard.’
‘You’re doing fine, Jas. You look really good.’
‘But until I get on the hormones, get my own breasts, have the op, I’m still a bloke in drag.’
Tom shook his head. ‘No Jas. Look I can’t understand what you go through, but every day that passes makes you more of a woman.’
‘But you’ve got used to me. You just see Jasmine now, not a man who’s trying to be a woman. But when I meet new people, and they have a good look at me, they see through me. No wonder Sloane won’t let me out let alone interview anyone.’
‘Oh, come on Jasmine. It’s not that bad.’
‘Yes, it is. One close look from Amber Markham and she was accusing me of being a pervert and working herself into a state.’
‘She was already in a state, Jas.’
‘So how can I be an effective detective if I can’t calm down someone like that.’
‘It’ll come, Jas. As you say, once you get on your programme, get all the things done you say you need, nobody will know you were once a guy. Sloane will come round. He knows you’re a good cop.’ Tom laid a hand on her shoulder and squeezed. It was the first time he’d touched her since she’d transitioned. It was more reassuring than she could have expected.
‘Thanks Tom. Look we’ve got work to do. What’s Amber told you?’
Tom rolled a chair from an adjacent desk to sit beside Jasmine. He sat and spread his legs comfortably.
‘She says she walked into town with Jack in the pushchair. She lives on the estate over the other side of Reading Road.’
‘Got it.’
‘She says she wanted something from the delicatessen on the bridge, but because it was busy and there wasn’t much space inside, she left Jack in the buggy outside. When she came out it was gone. She says she ran up and down High Street until she bumped into the CSOs. You know the rest.’
Jasmine mulled over the story.
‘She’s a single mother, nineteen. Lives in a one bed flat. Survives on benefits.’
‘Jack’s father?’
‘Not on the scene. Lives in Reading apparently. She says she hasn’t seen him since Jack was born. There is boyfriend but she says he doesn’t live with her.’
‘I guess Sloane is following them both up.’
‘He will be, you can bet on it.’
Tom’s account went round and round in Jasmine’s head.
‘What was she doing in the deli?’ she asked.
‘Buying something, I suppose,’ Tom replied.
‘I don’t know. I could check. Why?’
‘She’s on benefits. What’s she doing shopping in the deli, Tom?’
‘What’s wrong with that, Jas?’
‘The deli is expensive. She’s managing on a tiny budget. Unless she’s got some unusual tastes I can’t see her as a regular, upmarket delicatessen shopper.’
‘Just because she’s poor, Jas, doesn’t stop her going into a posh shop if she wants to.’
‘I’m not being classist,’ Jasmine said. ‘I shop in that place. I often call in to pick up things that Angela has asked me to get – stuffed olives, Italian salami, that sort of thing. You don’t see many single mothers like Amber Markham in there.’ She was sure she wasn’t being prejudiced. People’s behaviour and shopping patterns were somewhat determined by their backgrounds, and how full their purses were.
‘Well, I don’t know why you’re making a fuss, Jas. The girl says she was in there and the shop assistants say she was there – that was the first place the CSOs asked questions.’
The phone on Jasmine’s desk rang. She grabbed it and put it to her ear.
‘Frame? It’s Kingston. We’ve found a pushchair. It looks like the description of the missing one.’
‘Where did you find it, Derek?’
‘In the canal, just above Town Bridge Lock.’
‘The baby?’
‘No sign. I think that’s good news isn’t it?’

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available in paperback and as an e-book from all booksellers.

Close-up: Jasmine Frame’s new case

Well, after a week off I couldn’t wait any longer to start a new Jasmine Frame story. This month’s Writing Magazine includes an article by Simon Whalley quoting me as saying that I like to have a few projects on the go, and it’s true. I’m currently writing the third volume in the September Weekes, Evil Above The Stars trilogy/series, I’m thinking about the next Jasmine Frame novel and a few other ideas, and now I’ve added another prequel to the mix.  I don’t know whether it helps or hinders my writing to swap between stories, characters and even genres but I like it. When I get a bit tired of writing one story I can go to another.

Close-up is the third prequel to Painted Ladies and is set a few months after The Switch (which I am going to re-title, Self Portraits when I revise it). It’s still over a year before the events of Painted Ladies so there’s space for yet more cases. As usual with these episodic tales we’ll see where it goes. Let me know what you think.

Close-up: Part 1

 Chapter 1

Jasmine looked up from her screen covered in rows of numbers. What had disturbed her concentration? The answer was DCI Sloane, flinging the door of his office open and striding across the floor, his polished shoes squeaking. He reached the middle of the long white board that filled one wall, turned and faced the rows of desks, some of them occupied by Jasmine and her colleagues.
‘Gather round, ladies and gentlemen,’ he said in his gruff but polite voice. It wasn’t always polite.
‘What’s up Boss?’ asked DC Keith Money, the eldest of the team, hauling himself out of his chair. Jasmine stood, too, smoothing her grey skirt down her nylon-covered thighs. She gave the hem an extra tug to pull it closer to her knee. She saw Sloane’s eyes glance in her direction then flick away.
‘We’ve been asked to investigate a missing child,’ Sloane answered. Money slouched against the front desk and Jasmine stood by his left side. Money flinched away from her.
‘Is that really a job for the Serious and Violent Crime Unit?’ Money said in a mutter.
‘Shut up Money,’ DS Palmerston said, taking up a position on his right, ‘DCI Sloane will explain if you keep your mouth shut.’ The big blonde woman gave him a jab in the ribs with her elbow to emphasise her point.
The other two members of the team, Detective Constables Shepherd and Kingston joined the ragged row.
‘Thank you, Palmerston.’ Sloane said pausing to take a deep breath. ‘Since the child has allegedly been abducted it is likely to be an S and V, so you can put aside your present work for the time being.’
Jasmine sighed with relief. Her head had been buzzing trying to come to terms with the balance sheets, invoices, expense claims of their current money laundering case.
‘That’s good news, isn’t it, Jas,’ Tom Shepherd leaned to whisper in her ear.
‘What was that Shepherd?’ Sloane asked.
‘Hope we can assist, Sir,’ Tom said.
‘I hope so too, Shepherd, otherwise you don’t deserve to be on my team,’ Sloane said. Jasmine noticed Tom’s face redden while Palmerston sent him an arrow-like glare and Derek Kingston gave him a nudge.
‘Enough,’ Sloane said, ‘Two CSOs on routine street patrol in Kintbridge High Street were approached by a woman in a state of distress saying her baby had been taken, along with the pushchair, from outside a shop near the Kennet Bridge.’
‘When was this, Sir?’ Palmerston asked, raising her head from her notebook.
Sloane glanced at his watch.
‘About forty-five minutes ago at ten thirty a.m. Uniformed officers are with the woman now in the High Street and we’ve been asked to coordinate the search for the child and determine what, if any, crime has been committed. As our current investigation is not at a crucial phase I have agreed to commit all the unit, at least for a few hours.’
There were general mutterings of agreement as all five members of the team asserted their willingness to join the search.
Sloane went on, ‘Palmerston. Meet the uniformed officers in the High Street. Interview the woman, find out all you can about her, whether she noticed anyone watching her, what she was doing when the chair and its occupant went missing. Take Shepherd with you. Money and Kingston, I want you in the High Street questioning passers-by. The CSOs and other officers will assist. I hope to have a description of the baby and the pushchair with you by the time you get there.’
‘Where do we meet the uniforms, Sir,’ Money asked.
‘They’re outside M and S,’ Sloane said, ‘should be about half a dozen of them by the time you get there. I’ll be coordinating the investigation from downstairs, initially.’
The four detectives started to move leaving Jasmine feeling left out and a bit silly. Sloane turned and took a step towards the exit.
‘What about me, Sir?’ Jasmine said. Sloane turned and looked at her. His top lip curled in distaste.
‘What’s the matter, Frame?’
‘What do I do, Sir? Can I join the search?’
Sloane cleared his throat. ‘No, Frame, I want you here. Take reports from the team. In the meantime, assuming the worst and we do have an abduction, start getting together information on the sex offenders that are in town, and anyone convicted of child snatching. Oh, and collect as much CCTV as you can get.’ He turned away from her and strode out of the room.
Jasmine groaned and returned to her seat. She thumped the desk. Another office job. When would Sloane let her out to join an investigation? Not once since she started her transition three months ago had she been allowed out to a crime scene let alone speak to a victim, witness or suspect. She closed down the files on the finance case and typed in her password to the national records. Stretching back in her chair, while the system loaded she felt her silicone breasts move against her chest and start an itch. She slipped a finger inside her low-necked woollen top and bra and gave the skin a scratch. At least there was one advantage to being left alone in the office.
She lifted her phone, dialled the CCTV monitoring centre and using the soft and feminine voice she’d been practising, requested copies of the discs for the relevant cameras that kept watch on the town centre. When she put the phone down she fed in her search terms on the sex offenders register and watched the screen as the list of names grew.
The phone rang and Jasmine snatched it up.
‘Jas, Tom here.’
‘Hi, Tom. What’s up?’
‘Jas? I can’t hear you.’
Jasmine sighed and spoke louder, losing the feminine tone, ‘I’m here Tom. What is it?’’
‘Sloane said to speak to you.’
‘That was nice of him.’
‘What’s the matter? You sound peeved.’
‘So would you be if you’d been left behind again to do the IT stuff.’
‘Oh, I see. I’m sorry Jas. I’m sure Sloane will come round eventually.’
‘It’s taking a time. Anyway, what have you got?’
‘Palmerston is talking to the woman; well she’s barely more than a girl. Her name’s Amber Markham. The missing baby is Jack, seven months old. It’s pretty cold and wet out here.’
‘Well, it is November. I wouldn’t mind a bit of cold and wet. Anything would be a change from this dump.’
‘You’re welcome to it. We’re bringing Mizz Markham back to the station. Hope that we can get her to give us a sensible account.’
‘Good. I’ll need a picture of her so I can search for her on the CCTV.’
‘You’ve got that job have you?’
‘Do I ever have anything else to do but stare at a screen?’
‘It’s not that bad is it, Jas?’
‘It is.’
‘We’re on our way. See you in a couple of minutes.’ The connection was cut. Jasmine put the phone down and stood up. At least she could meet Tom, Palmerston and the Markham woman as they arrived. She took her mobile out of her bag and walked out of the office.

The temperature in the public area was a few degrees below the office. Jasmine felt the restricted entry door lock loudly behind her. Desk Sergeant Geoff Gorman looked up from his paperwork at the front desk.
‘What are you doing here, Frame?’ He said.
He acts like I shouldn’t be here, Jasmine thought. She felt his X-ray eyes seeing through her female dress to the male bits she still had underneath. She shuffled uncomfortably.
‘I’m meeting Palmerston, Shepherd and the mother of the missing baby.’
‘Oh, well, don’t make the place look like a freak show.’
Anger knotted Jasmine’s stomach and she was about to say a few words to the grey haired older officer which might have got her into trouble for insubordination. The entrance doors opened letting in a gust of icy wind. DS Palmerston entered, followed by Tom guiding a slim girl in a mini skirt and inadequate shiny zip up top.
‘Take Amber through and get her something to warm her up,’ Palmerston said, turning to the desk. Jasmine held her i.d. to the door and pulled it open for Tom and the girl to enter. Amber glanced at her as she passed, her eyes seeming to linger on her.
‘Come in, please Amber,’ Tom said leading her into the more pleasant of the interview rooms, the one with white walls and padded seats. The girl flung herself onto one of the chairs looking dazed.
‘Tea or coffee?’ Tom asked.
‘Coffee,’ Amber said. ‘Can I have a fag?’
‘Not in here. I’m sorry,’ Tom said. ‘I’ll leave Miss Markham with you, Jas, while I get the coffee.’
He left. Jasmine stepped forward and pulled a chair from behind the desk so she could sit close to Amber without it looking like a formal questioning.
‘I’m sorry about your baby, Mizz Markham. Jack is it? I’m sure we’ll find him.’
Amber looked at her with her wide, tired and painted eyes. She didn’t say anything.
‘Do you mind if I take a photo of you? It’s so I can check the CCTV. See if we can spot you and whoever may have taken Jack.’ She held up her phone.
‘You speak weird, like a bloke. Are you a fucking tranny?’

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is avaialble as a paperback or e-book from all booksellers.

Jasmine looks ahead

Well, here it is – the final episode of The Switch. A bit of resolution, life goes on, that sort of thing. Eighteen episodes, 26,000 words. It was fun actually, and at least I had some idea this time where the story was going. But does it work as a novella? What do I do with it now?  One possibility is to publish it and Blueprint as e-books, or wait and see what happens to Bodies by Design for which I am still hoping for a publisher.  Ideas and comments would be very welcome.

I will be starting a third Jasmine Frame prequel in a couple of weeks. I’m just getting ideas together. Away from this blog things are pretty busy – life does indeed go on. I’m working on the third volume of Evil Above the Stars and soon I expect to be working with Elsewhen Press on the proofs of the first two volumes, Seventh Child and Power of Seven.  As I mentioned I am still  actively looking for a publisher for Jasmine, and sometime soon will start putting together the third novel which is still untitled.

Isn’t it great being a writer.

The Switch: Part 18

There was a glow in the eastern sky as Jasmine stooped the Fiesta in the driveway. She hauled herself from the driver’s seat and fumbled her key in the front door lock. She stumbled up the stairs willing her eyes to stay open. Which bedroom should she go to? Was Daniel asleep in her bed?
‘James?’ A sleepy call from their bedroom. No, it was Angela’s bedroom now. Jasmine pushed the door open and peered round it. Angela was heaving herself up on to her elbow.
‘You’re awake?’ Jasmine said unnecessarily.
‘Of course. I always hear you when you fall up the stairs in the middle of the night.’ Angela put the bedside light on. Her mussed up, long, brown hair and reminded Jasmine why she had been so attracted to Angela.
‘Where have you been?’
‘At the station.’
‘All this time?’
‘Yes. Sloane made Tom put me through it.’ Jasmine entered the bedroom and sat on the bed.
‘You’ve still got a job?’ Angela’s face showed her concern as much as her voice.
‘Yes, just. Where’s Daniel?’ Jasmine remembered that Angela had called the police. ‘Did they take him in?’
‘He’s at home with his mother. Where he should be.’
‘Oh, Good. Why did you hand him over?’ She felt betrayed and couldn’t help it coming through in her voice.
‘I didn’t,’ Angela took hold of Jasmine’s hand and squeezed. ‘I thought you were being stupid but I didn’t dump Sloane on you.’
‘It seems like it. You rang in,’ Jasmine said.
‘I know but it was Daniel’s own decision. After you dashed off to see his father we talked. He was very grateful for what you had done but realised that you might be in a difficult position with your colleagues. OK, I explained that you may have put your job on the line by not informing Sloane of Daniel’s whereabouts. He thought about it.’
‘He was scared.’
‘I know, but he’s a sensible boy. He asked me to phone the police and make excuses for you. Say that Daniel had come to you to hand himself in.’
Jasmine felt a lump in her throat thinking of Daniel overcoming his fears of being treated as a girl.
‘What happened?’
‘I made the call, spoke to someone. They said a car would come to pick Daniel up. No one came. Then a few hours ago, it must have been midnight, I got a call from someone. One of your colleagues I suppose.’
‘What did they say?’
‘That Daniel wasn’t a suspect anymore and wasn’t needed, but he should go to the station tomorrow to give a statement.’
‘How did Daniel react?’
‘Well, at first he was delighted. We both were. Then he got this idea that it was his father that had killed the other boy. That made him upset of course. I suggested that he should speak to his mother. He rang her and then I walked him home.’
‘You walked over to the estate at midnight.’
‘Yes. It was quiet.’
‘You were lucky.’
Angela shrugged. ‘Perhaps. Anyway. What happened to you? Was it Daniel’s father?’
‘No, although he became an accidental accessory.’
Jasmine told the story of her evening. It was well rehearsed having gone through it a number of times with Tom. When she got to the confrontation with Kyle’s thugs in the security hut her voice trembled. Angela eyes went to the tear in her T-shirt.
‘You weren’t hurt, Jas, were you?’
‘No. He got my false boob. I’ll have to dig out my spare ones.’
‘But knives, Jas. I know what you’re like.’ Jasmine had nightmares of knife attacks.
‘It was over in a moment. I was OK. There was too much happening to think about what a knife can do.’
‘So, that was it. Tamsin’s guilty of what – manslaughter?’
‘Yes. She didn’t intend killing Kyle.’
‘And Daniel’s father is accused of concealing evidence, tampering with a crime scene.’
‘Something like that.’ Jasmine knew she should know the precise wording for her sergeant’s exams.
‘And Daniel’s in the clear.’
‘Yes. He’ll have to give evidence because of setting his father off after Kyle and because he was part of the reason for the argument between Kyle and Tamsin.’
‘And you?’
‘I’ll have to give evidence too, especially as Tamsin confessed to me.’
‘I meant your job; your relationship with Sloane.’
Jasmine sighed.
‘Well, it hasn’t done it much good. He was suspicious of my transition; he doesn’t seem to know whether to treat me as one of the guys or as one of these strange females that he’s increasingly have to deal with.’
‘But he’s keeping you in the team.’
‘Yes. I’m on probation. It’ll probably be like what it was right at the start with him watching everything I do and issuing his orders every two minutes.’
‘You can cope, Jas. You’re a good detective and he knows it.’
‘Yes, well. I’ll be good for nothing if I don’t get some sleep.’
‘What’s the time?’
Jasmine glanced at her watch. ‘About half five. I think I’ll sleep to midday.’
‘You can’t,’ Angela said.
‘Why not?’
‘Have you forgotten? You’ve got that appointment with that new doctor at eight thirty.’
Jasmine groaned.

Chapter 7
                ‘Mr James Frame to Doctor Gould.’
Jasmine froze. Around her in the waiting room were elderly men and women, women with babies and young children, other people with various ailments. They were all listening for their appointment to be called and watching to see who got up next. She couldn’t move. If she stood up they’d see a smart, young woman in a summer dress but they’d know she was Mister James Frame, male. They’d wonder, perhaps some would snigger. But she couldn’t wait. The name may be called again or Dr Gould might assume that she wasn’t there and call her next appointment. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. At least she didn’t know any of these people. She thought of Daniel, at school surrounded by people who knew him when he was Emma.
Jasmine stood up. She opened her eyes and looked around. Most people weren’t looking in her direction. Nobody was looking at her with any kind of interest. She hooked her bag over her shoulder and walked determinedly towards the corridor and her appointment.
The door had a handwritten label on it saying Dr.J.Gould. How long would it take for Jilly Gould to get a permanent name plate, Jasmine wondered, she’d already been in the practice for a couple of months. Jasmine tapped on the door, heard a voice from inside and entered.
‘Hi, uh, Jasmine. Come and sit down.’ Jilly Gould was young, ginger-haired and her red-cheeked face full of smiles.
‘They called for Mr James Frame,’ Jasmine said sitting down on the plastic chair beside Dr. Gould’s desk. Jilly frowned.
‘Oh, did they? I’m sorry, Jasmine. But you’re here today to make your transition formal aren’t you? It won’t happen again, I promise.’
Jasmine handed over a sheaf of forms.
‘I’m on leave to sort out all the legal changes. As far as the law is concerned I’m now female.’
‘Good,’ Jilly glanced at the forms and placed them on her desk. ‘You’re happy about it.’
‘Yes. It’s a start. No more complications. I’m female, my documents say I’m female, or will once they’re processed, and I hope I look female.’
‘You do, Jasmine. You’re looking lovely.’
Jasmine didn’t feel lovely. She’d had just over an hour’s sleep before she had got up and started making preparations for this appointment. She had showered, shaved closely all over her body but particularly her face, moisturised, dressed with thought and finally made-up with great care; but her eyelids were heavy and she felt tired.
‘Thanks. Now I want to move on. I want the full gender reassignment.’
‘Yes, I understand, Jasmine. We’ve discussed this. You’ve helped me learn a lot about gender identity that I didn’t know before. You still want to follow the NHS route?’
‘I haven’t got any choice, Jilly,’ Jasmine said, ‘I haven’t got the cash to go private. All my savings, our savings I should say, Angela’s and mine, went into buying the house. I can’t deprive her of that even though we will separate. And I’ll need my share to get my own place to live.’
‘I understand Jasmine. You’ve explained it to me, but you know that the NHS process can take a long time.’
‘The good news is that I’ve got an appointment for your assessment at the GR centre. It’s a couple of weeks’ time. If that goes well, we’ll be able to get you on the drugs, the oestrogens and the ant-androgens. Then you’ll start to see some changes even before you have the surgery.’
‘Thanks, Jilly.’ Jasmine felt excitement fill her. She was on the path to womanhood. Sometime in the future, perhaps not too distant, she would be able to stand naked in front of a mirror and see an image that matched her inner vision of herself – Jasmine Frame, detective.

The End

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as paperback and e-book from all booksellers.

Jasmine takes a risk

It has been one of those satisfying weeks when I’ve been able to get on with my writing, particularly Seven Times Seven, the third volume of Evil Above the Stars, my fantasy series. I hope I’ve been developing it slowly towards a first climax  during which the hero, September Weekes finds out important things about herself and the world she inhabits.

Anyway from one heroine and genre to another. Here’s the next episode in a tale of transsexual detective, Jasmine Frame.

The Switch: Part 14

 Chapter 5

‘Why?’ Jasmine asked almost speechless with confusion. Daniel shrugged.
‘I didn’t know where else to go. I got to Basingstoke, wandered round the shops for a couple of hours and realised I didn’t want to be stuck there when it closed for the night.’
‘You knew that it could be dangerous sleeping rough,’ Angela said placing the bowl of salad on the table.
‘Yeah, I noticed a few weirdoes lurking around. I didn’t fancy meeting up with them when the crowds had gone.’
‘That was sensible,’ Jasmine agreed, ‘but what made you think your father would have you.’
‘He got in touch with me a while ago, after my birthday,’ Daniel said, ‘He was sorry for what he had done to Mum and wanted to get back in with her. She wouldn’t speak to him so he tried me.’
‘And you spoke to him?’ Angela said sharing out the main dish between three bowls.
‘Why?’ Jasmine was stull mystified, ‘I thought you and he had fallen out over your transition.’
‘We had but that was done now. I was a boy. Well, not fully but on the way. He couldn’t stop me now I was sixteen. And anyway, he was my Dad, we’d got on okay before I became desperate.’
‘Okay,’ Jasmine had to accept that family bonds remained strong even when there was a major falling out, ‘So what happened?’
‘I called him, said I needed to see him. He told me to visit him at his place.’
‘In Basingstoke?’
‘Yeah, a flat, not far from the shops. I walked there.’
‘This was when? Late Saturday afternoon?’
‘Yeah. He seemed pleased to see me. Invited me in, gave me a beer.’
‘Treated you like a boy?’
‘Yeah. Even called me Dan. He was trying to be nice so I’d report back to Mum.’
‘You told him the reason why you’d left home.’
‘Yeah. I told him about Kyle.’
‘How did he respond?’
‘He was furious. Stomped around the flat. It’s pretty small so he didn’t have much space to stomp in. Said all sorts of things about not having his kids molested by a fucking shit like McLeery. Those were his exact words.’
‘What happened next?’
‘Well, he got me to tell him all that I knew about Kyle. Where he lived, where he went on the Common, who his mates were. He calmed down, we had another beer, he ordered a pizza and we watched some d.v.d.s.’
‘Look the spaghetti’s getting cold,’ Angela said. ‘Eat while you talk.’
Angela offered Daniel the salad bowl and he shovelled a helping into his dish. He started chomping while Jasmine did the same.
‘And that was it?’ Jasmine continued her questioning, ‘he didn’t say anything more about Kyle?’
‘No, nothing else. He just said I could stay with him for as long as I wanted to. Mind you he only had one bedroom so I’d have to sleep on the sofa.’
‘So you stayed there?’
‘Yeah. After a few beers I got pretty sleepy so curled up on the sofa.’
‘You slept all night?’
‘No. I woke and it was still dark. Dad had put a blanket over me but I was pretty hot. I had the feeling that something else had woken me up; a door closing or something. I went to the loo for a pee. I needed it after the beer. Going back into the living room I noticed his bedroom door was open. I had a look in and although it was dark I could see he wasn’t there.’
‘Your father had left the flat?’
‘When did he come back?’
‘In the morning. I’d got up, had a shower, and was getting some breakfast in his kitchen. He didn’t have much food in, just an old piece of bread. He came in all worked up and edgy.’
‘How did he explain being absent in the night?’
‘He didn’t really. Said he’d got up early to get a job done. I don’t think he realised that I knew he’d left well before it got light.’
‘Did you ask him?’
‘I tried but he’s always had a temper has Dad. As soon as I started questioning him he flew off and said he’d been on his own for long enough and could do without the inquisition. The he said he had another job to do and went out again.’
‘On Sunday?’
‘Yeah, well he’s a builder. He’s always done jobs for people at odd times. Anything to earn a few quid I suppose.’
‘What did you do?’
‘Stayed in his flat. I didn’t have a key so I couldn’t leave without leaving the door open and I didn’t think that was a good idea – in Basingstoke. So I hung around watching TV and getting pretty bored.’
‘Did you see your father again?’
‘Yeah, he got back in the evening, brought another takeaway with him, Chinese.’
‘He was in a better mood.’
‘A bit. Said he was sorry about earlier and not being around all day, but he was pretty quiet and went off to bed early saying he was knackered after a day’s work.’
‘So you slept in the flat again.’
‘Yeah, but I was pretty restless having done nothing much all day.’
‘Did he go out again in the night?’
‘No. He got up about six, that was his usual time, and got ready to go to work. He said he thought I should go home to Mum.’
‘What did you think about that?’
Daniel shrugged with a forkful of spaghetti on its way to his mouth.
‘I thought that after two nights he’d had enough of me.’
‘Didn’t you think that was strange after the welcome he’d given you on Saturday?’
‘Well, it was just like him. His moods changed a lot. Perhaps he was expecting someone else to visit who he didn’t want me to see.’
‘So you packed your bag and left.’
‘Yeah. He said I could hang round but after a while I went back to the mall wondering what to do and thought of you.’
‘Thanks.’ Jasmine ate a few mouthfuls of food while she was thinking.
‘What do you think he was doing on Saturday night?’
Daniel put his fork down and looked at Jasmine. There were tears in his eyes.
‘I don’t know, but I think he might have gone after Kyle.’
‘That’s what I was thinking too,’ Jasmine said putting her cutlery down in her dish. She pushed her chair back and stood up. ‘I think I need to ask your father some questions.’
‘Oh, Jasmine. What do you think you’re doing?’ Angela cried. ‘Ring Tom, tell him that you think Dan’s father is a suspect.’
‘And let him know that I’ve been in contact with Dan when I let him think I hadn’t. That’ll do my career prospects a lot of good. I’ve got to clear this up so we know that Dan’s in the clear.’
‘But if his father is Kyle’s killer he could be dangerous,’ Angela said, her complexion turned white.
‘He’s not a serial killer. I’ll take care.’ Jasmine crossed the kitchen and picked up the Fiesta keys. ‘Now, Dan, what’s the address?’

Basingstoke wasn’t on Jasmine’s normal beat but she knew enough about the town to be able to navigate to the address that Daniel had given her. She drew up outside a nondescript block of seventies flats. She left the car on the road and climbed the stairs to the landing which Parry’s flat was on. She knocked on the door. It was only a few moments before the door was opened. The man was a couple of centimetres shorter than Jasmine, even when she wasn’t wearing heels, and had dark hair and a resemblance to Daniel. It was obvious he was his father.
‘Mr Parry. I’m Jasmine Frame. I’m a friend of your son.’
‘My son? Oh, you mean Daniel. What do you want?’
‘Well, perhaps you know that the police a looking for him.’
Parry’s eyes flickered and the muscles in his neck tightened.’
‘He’s not here.’
‘I know. He’s at my house but I need to talk to you.’
Parry looked beyond Jasmine as if expecting her to be accompanied. ‘You’d better come in.’
Jasmine followed him into the room described by Daniel with a sofa, a TV and little else. She remained standing by the door, keeping her escape route free, just in case Parry did prove to be violent. Parry leaned on the back of the sofa trying to look relaxed but not succeeding.
‘What do you want with me?’
‘Do you know why Dan’s wanted by the police?’
He shook his head but he failed to look directly at her.
‘It’s in connection with the murder of Kyle McLeery,’ Jasmine explained.
‘I don’t know anything about that.’
‘But you’ve seen Dan since he left home on Saturday morning.’
‘There’s no point lying about it, Mr Parry. Dan told me he spent the last two nights here.’
Parry’s shoulders slumped.
‘Yeah. OK. I put him up for a couple of nights.’
‘And he told you about what McLeery threatened to do to him.’
‘Yeah. Look why all the questions? How do you know Daniel? Who are you?’ As he asked his questions Parry looked Jasmine up and down. Pennies seemed to drop.
‘Are you one of them tranny people? Is it you who’s persuading my girl that she’s a boy?’
‘I’ve only known Dan a few days and anyway he didn’t need persuading. He is a boy.’
‘How can you say that? She’s got tits and a fanny. I bathed her when she was a baby. She’s my little girl. You’re a cock-sucking perv in a skirt.’ He straightened up and took a step towards Jasmine. His right arm swung up, his fist heading towards her cheek. Jasmine grabbed the arm turned in, twisted Parry around. He toppled over the back of the sofa and ended up in a heap on the floor. He lay there shaking his head with surprise at his fall.
‘I’m not here to fight you, Mr Parry. I am a police officer. I’m trying to prove that Daniel is innocent of McLeery’s death. I’m trying to help him.’
Parry rolled on to his front and pushed himself onto his hands and knees.
‘So I want to know what you had to do with it,’ Jasmine went on, ‘like, where did you go in the middle of Saturday night?’
Parry sat back on his ankles and looked dejected.
‘How did you know I’d gone out?’
‘Dan woke up and found you’d gone.’
‘Damn. I thought after the beers she’d slept all night. I thought she believed me when I said I’d just got up early to do a job.’
‘And did that job involve finding Kyle McLeery?’
‘Yes, but he was already dead.’

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as paperback and e-book from all booksellers.

Jasmine takes a risk

No major events this week. Managed to get on with volume 3 of my Evil Above the Stars series, resolving one or two little problems I felt I had with it. I’m happy with the progress I’m making there. It would be great to have it finished before volumes 1 and 2 are published by Elsewhen Press at the end of the year.

Next Friday I’m off to the New Writers UK,  Gedling Book Festival in Nottingham. I’m hoping for some interest in Painted Ladies and the chance to chat to other writers.

So, on with the Jasmine Frame story, in particular, the prequel to Painted Ladies, The Switch..

The Switch: Part 12
How could she be so silly as to forget that she didn’t have a car? Jasmine agreed with Daniel that if they took the bus back to Kintbridge there was a strong chance of someone seeing them walk from the bus-stop to her home. What about a taxi? Expensive and still a chance of being noticed when they arrived back at the house. No she needed a car so that Daniel could hide until it was clear to get into the inside unseen.
‘I’ll have to go home and pick up the car,’ Jasmine said, ‘Angie, that’s my, um, partner, will be back by about five with it and I can come and pick you up.’
‘OK,’ Daniel said without much enthusiasm.
‘Will you be okay if I leave you here?’
‘Yeah, of course.’
‘Keep out of the way. Don’t draw attention to yourself.’
‘I’m good at that.’
‘How’s your phone?’
‘Getting a bit low on charge.’
‘Well, don’t use it until I text you to say I’m here. But just in case, where shall we meet?’
‘In the car park?’
‘You’ll be pretty conspicuous if you loiter around there. Anyway it’s vast. We’ll never find each other.’
‘OK, by the entrance to the mall.’
‘Where the cinemas are?’ Jasmine wasn’t totally sure of the layout of all the entrances to shopping centre.
‘Yeah, there’s always people hanging round there waiting for a film.’
‘There could be someone from Kintbridge who knows you.’
Daniel shrugged, ‘I suppose so.’
‘I know, let’s go for a wander, look as though we’re shopping and find a suitable spot.’ Jasmine got up from her seat and flung her bag over her shoulder. Daniel followed her from the café.

It was gone four o’clock when Jasmine reached home. The Fiesta was sitting in the drive. Good, Angie had got home in good time. She could head straight back to pick up Daniel.
‘Hi,’ she called as she entered the hallway. Angela emerged from the kitchen still in her business suit.
‘Oh, hello, Jas. Where have you been? I thought you’d be here slogging through your transition forms.’
‘I had to go to Basingstoke.’
‘Basingstoke? Why? On the bus?’
‘Yes. I had to meet Daniel.’
‘Oh, you found him. Why did you have to go to meet him?’
‘You don’t know, do you, Ange?’
‘Know what?’
‘Kyle, the bully, has been murdered.’
Angela’s face turned pale.
‘Daniel killed him?
‘No. At least I don’t think so but he’s a suspect. The police want to question him.’
‘How did you find him?’
‘He called me on his mobile.’
‘So you’re bringing him in. Why not just tell Tom, or Sloane even and let them pick him up? Why didn’t he come back with you on the bus?’ Angela shook her head as if trying to shake out the confusion.
‘Because Daniel is terrified. He doesn’t want to give himself up. I’m hoping that if I can get him back here I can persuade him to go and be questioned.’
‘You want him to stay here!’
‘Yes, just for a day or two. Give him a chance to get his mind straight so that he can do the right thing.’
‘The right thing is for him to go home to his mother and then speak to the police. If he had nothing to do with Kyle’s death then he’s got nothing to worry about.’
Jasmine understood Angela’s point of view but felt she didn’t really understand the problem.
‘I think you’re forgetting something, Ange.’
‘Daniel is trans. He’s afraid that he’ll be treated as a woman, or that he’ll be abused.’
‘They won’t let that happen, will they?’
‘No, of course not but Dan doesn’t grasp that. He’s scared.’
‘Why not go home?’
‘Because the police are watching his house and he doesn’t want to worry his mother.’
‘She’s worried enough as it is, I expect.’
‘Yes, I know, Ange, and if I get Dan back here for one night then I hope he will see that the best thing is for him to go home.’
Angela shrugged her shoulder in resignation and began to climb the stairs.
‘OK. One night. It’s your job that’s on the line if Sloane doesn’t like what you’re doing.’
‘I can handle Sloane.’
‘Can you? James Frame was his protégé but what about Jasmine Frame? He hasn’t even seen you yet.’
‘Hmm.’ Angela had reawakened doubts that Jasmine had about the degree of understanding she would have from her boss when she returned to work after her transition. DCI Sloane was a strict disciplinarian who followed all the rules but he’d been in the force long before diversity was an issue. He hadn’t reacted with pleasure to her taking time off to transition. What would be his response if he discovered that she was harbouring a suspect? She didn’t think she’d get off lightly. She had to convince Daniel to hand himself in quickly or hope that the real murderer turned up.
‘I’ll be careful. It’ll just be for one night.’
Angela paused at the bend in the stairs.
‘Where’s he going to sleep? We only have two beds.’
‘He can have mine. I’ll come back to sleep with you.’
‘Oh, you will, will you. Perhaps I’ve got used to having the double bed to myself.’ She gave Jasmine a cheeky smile, ‘but I don’t suppose you’ll be interested in doing anything exciting, will you.’
‘With a guest in the house?’
‘Don’t use that excuse.’
‘Where are the car keys?’ Jasmine asked, changing the subject.
‘In the kitchen. I suppose Daniel will need feeding as well won’t he.’
‘I should think so. I would have thought he’s had enough of burger and fries.’
‘I’ll put something on for the three of us. Don’t be long.’ She completed the climb and Jasmine went into the kitchen to pick up the keys to the Fiesta.
She stepped out of the front door and pressed the key fob to unlock the car.
‘Hi, Jas. Going out?’
Jasmine looked up and saw DC Tom Shepherd advancing up the drive, his police Focus blocking her exit.
‘Oh, hi, Tom. Another business call or is this personal?’
Tom ambled up to the back of the Fiesta and stopped a few feet from Jasmine. Jasmine felt awkward. How should she greet a friend, particularly one she’d known for years as a man? Female friends often exchanged kisses. She didn’t think Tom would appreciate that.
‘A bit of both I suppose. I’ve been up at the scene of crime and called on Mrs Parry. Heading back to HQ I thought I drop in and see how you were.’
‘I’m fine.’
‘I don’t suppose you’ve heard anything from Daniel Parry. Of course, you would have phoned in if you had.’
‘Of course,’ Jasmine echoed without emphasis. ‘Would you like a cup of tea?’
‘You were on your way out.’
‘Nothing important. You can come in.’
‘No, it was just a passing call. I’ve got to get back for a meeting. We’ve put out an appeal for sightings of Daniel Parry. Got to decide what to do next.’
‘Oh, right. Sorry I’m not there to help.’
‘Yeah. I wish you were too, what with this, um, boy, being trans. We could do with your, um, insight.’
‘Perhaps I can help, if you let me know how the investigation in going. Is Daniel the only suspect?’
‘At the moment. McLeery’s friends check out and there’s no evidence that other gangs have anything to do with it. The Parry kid is the only one to have a real motive for killing him even though McLeery is a renowned troublemaker in the area.’
‘But there’s no actual evidence that Daniel did it?’
‘No, we’re still waiting for the path report and forensics on the length pf pipe we found in the pond.’
‘Well, I hope Daniel turns up and speaks to you soon. I don’t believe he’s the type to kill; even someone who was pestering him as much as Kyle was.’
‘We need to check his alibi, Jas, otherwise he’ll remain top of the list.’
‘I understand that.’
‘Well, I’d better let you go wherever you’re going.’
‘Thanks Tom. Drop in again soon.’ Why did she say that? The last thing she needed was for Tom to turn up for a coffee while Daniel was in the house.
‘Will do,’ Tom said waving and turning back to his car. Jasmine stood and watched him get in and drive off before she got into the Fiesta.


Jasmine makes Daniel an offer

Elsewhen Press have put out a press release announcing my forthcoming fantasy series, “Evil Above the Stars“.  Read it here Press Release 140606.

Here it has been a busy week with the Leominster Festival on. On Friday we had a “Writers’ Showcase” where I did a “Jasmine & Me” session. Lots of lovely comments and interesting questions about Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design and about Jasmine’s life as a transsexual detective. IMGP3662 Then in the evening we had a discussion with author Phil Rickman  (Merrily Watkins crime and John Dee historical crime thrillers). He said that one of his favourite characters is a cross-dressing Welsh shaman. Perhaps he/she should meet Jasmine…

Anyway, here is the next episode of The Switch.

The Switch: Part 11

Daniel shrugged and looked down at his empty coffee cup.
‘Where do you want me to start?’ he mumbled.
‘Let’s take it from Saturday morning when you left home after your mother had gone out.’ Jasmine said in a quiet voice.
‘Why do you want to go back to then?’
‘The police will want to track all your movements. So I want to know too.’
‘Well, Mum went shopping and I left soon after.’
‘You packed your bag.’ Jasmine nodded to the sports bag at Daniel’s feet.
‘So you planned to stay out for some time.’
‘I suppose so.’
‘Oh, come on Daniel. You told me on Friday evening that you felt you had to get away from Kyle and his gang. I didn’t think you meant next day – did you?’
Daniel looked up at Jasmine. She guessed her face showed her annoyance at Daniel’s evasive answers. He looked sad and vulnerable, a boy barley into his teens not sixteen.
‘After you left, I thought about what had happened. Actually it stopped me falling asleep when I went to bed. I knew that Kyle and his mates would keep after me and that the chances were that they’d get me soon and each of them would have a go with me.’
‘Not pleasant thoughts. So you came to a decision.’ Jasmine sipped her hot coffee.
‘Yeah. I decided I had to leave.’
‘What did you pack in your bag?’
‘Why do you need to know that?’
‘It shows your intentions.’
‘Oh. Well, I put in a spare pair of jeans and a clean t-shirt with a couple of pairs of pants.’ Daniel paused.
‘Anything else?’
‘A toothbrush, my phone and charger and my wallet,’ he paused, ‘and a spare bandage and my pills.’
‘For flattening my chest.’ Daniel pressed a hand against his chest. Of course, he still had breasts. The lad had to bind himself every day to stop them sticking out from his shirt and giving away his birth gender. Jasmine could imagine how uncomfortable that must be. It made tucking her superfluous bits away seem an easy task.
‘Yes, I see. And the pills?’
‘My testosterone tablets.’
‘Ah, yes. You are on the programme then?’
‘Since my birthday. I’ve been with the GR doctor for a couple of years. I wanted to go on the anti-puberty drugs, but my Dad wouldn’t give permission. But now I’m old enough to make my own decisions.’
‘How long have you been taking them?’
‘A couple of months.’
‘Seen any changes?’
‘I’m not sure. I think I’m starting to get a bit of facial growth.’
Jasmine looked at Daniel trying not to make it obvious that she was searching his face for signs of a beard. His chin still looked soft and smooth. She smiled at the thought that their desires were exact opposites. Daniel wanted to grow a beard or at least have to shave while she would be delighted to be able to give up the, sometimes twice daily, chore. Daniel was ahead of her though – she hadn’t even started taking hormones to feminise her appearance.
‘I’m sure it won’t be long,’ she said.
‘I want my voice to break too,’ Daniel said.
‘That’ll come,’ Jasmine reassured him. ‘So you packed everything you needed for at least a few days away and you left home. What did you think you would gain by being away a few days?’
‘I wasn’t planning on it being just a few days.’
‘What were you planning then?’
‘I don’t know. I just had it in my head that I had to get away from Kintbridge and something would turn up.’
‘Like what? Kyle dying?’
‘No. I don’t know. I wasn’t thinking straight.’
‘Right. That I can understand.’ Jasmine took a mouthful of coffee. ‘So you headed across the Common.’
Daniel looked mystified. ‘How do you know?’
‘You were seen on the Common with Kyle.’
‘Who by?’
‘Just some walkers who saw two youths together answering yours and Kyle’s descriptions. Was it you?’
Daniel sighed. ‘Yes. I couldn’t believe it. The one person I want to keep out of the way of and I bump into him five minutes after leaving home.’
‘You bumped into him?’
‘Yeah. Mad isn’t it. Head down, just thinking about, well nothing really, and I actually walked into him.’
‘What did he do?’
‘I think he must have been far away too but he grabbed hold of me. I tried to get away but he held me tight and then he realised who I was.’
‘Was he pleased?’
‘Not really. He didn’t have his sidekicks with him so I think he was headed somewhere. To see Tamsin perhaps.’
‘No, he’d left her a while before.’
‘You’ve spoken to her?’
‘Yes. I found her in that security hut by the entrance to the Common. She was grieving over Kyle.’
‘I suppose she thought he loved her,’ Daniel said in a cynical growl.
‘You don’t think he did?’
‘The only person he loved was himself.’
‘I’m not sure if even that’s true. Bullies often pretty low on self-esteem,’ Jasmine offered the benefits of her psychological profiling training. ‘But where was Kyle off to then?’
‘One of the other girls, perhaps.’
‘Yeah. Tamsin was his chief bitch, but they passed a couple of others around them. He didn’t want me at any rate, not without his back-up.’
‘He let you go?’
‘I tried to get his arms off me and he slapped me around a bit and called me all the usual names, but he didn’t come after me when I got away.’
‘So you carried on your way.’
‘Kyle didn’t chase you.’
‘You didn’t arrange to meet him?’
Daniel’s dark eyebrows shot up. ‘No. Why should I? He’s the last person I want to meet.’
‘OK. So where did you go next?’
‘I walked across the Common to the road and caught a bus here.’
‘Why here?’
‘It’s somewhere else. There wasn’t any other reason really.’
‘So you got here, when? Early Saturday afternoon. What did you do?
‘Looked round the shops; got something to eat; nothing much.’
‘What about sleeping?’
‘I found somewhere to doss down. It was a warm night.’
‘You slept rough?’ Jasmine was horrified. A young person like Daniel could easily have been picked up or worked over by all sorts of unsavoury people. ‘Did you have any problems?’
‘No. It was ok.’
‘Really?’ Jasmine didn’t fancy spending a night in the open in Basingstoke or any town, summer or any time.
‘So what did you do yesterday?’
‘Same as before. Wandered around, ate and went to see a film.’
‘You had enough money for the cinema.’
‘I got some cash from my account. I didn’t realise at the time that the police might be tracking me.’
‘They weren’t then, but if they are now, they’ll have found a record of the transaction so they’ll know you’ve been in Basingstoke.’
Daniel glanced around as if expecting police to burst into the coffee-shop.
‘I’d better move somewhere else then.’ He started to rise from his chair. Jasmine grabbed his arm and tugged him back into the seat.
‘I shouldn’t think they’re on to you yet, Dan. Take it easy.’
Daniel was on edge but he remained seated.
‘What film did you see?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Iron Man.’
‘I thought that came out a few years ago.’
‘It’s the sequel, Iron Man 2.’
‘Oh.’ Superhero films weren’t on Jasmine’s list of favourites, classic film was her taste. ‘And then you slept rough again.’
‘You can’t carry on doing that.’
‘Why not?’
‘Come on Dan. You’re a smart kid. Either the police will pick you up or some other guys, not nice ones will. And even if you can use your card, what happens when you run out of cash and can’t afford burgers and fries or whatever.’
Daniel shrugged.
‘Speak to the police,’ Jasmine urged, ‘then you can go home. Kyle’s not there to bother you anymore.’
‘No, what?’
‘I can’t go to the police. I can’t face it.’
Jasmine could tell from Daniel’s determined expression that she wasn’t going to be able to make him hand himself in just yet. His story wasn’t a convincing alibi either. Apart from the visit to the cinema which could perhaps be proved he didn’t have much proof of what he’d been up to for two days.
‘I don’t suppose you kept receipts for your meals and the cinema ticket, did you?’ she asked.
‘No, why?’
‘The times of the transactions would support your alibi.’
‘I don’t need an alibi. I didn’t have anything to do with Kyle’s death.’
‘The police will check your alibi and it’s got more holes than substance at the moment.’
‘Well, that’s tough. I’m not going to see the police anyway.’
‘So you’re just going to hang out here are you?’
‘Yes. No. I’ll get some cash out and then go somewhere else. London.’
‘And hang around the streets and parks with all the other drug addicts and dropouts.’
‘Yes.’ Daniel didn’t look to happy about that possibility.
‘What about your mother?’
‘What about her?’
‘She’s worried about you.’
Daniel’s head dropped. He didn’t reply. Jasmine was thinking. She had to protect Daniel and question him further to see if she could find any clues to who did kill Kyle. There was only one thing to do.
‘Come home with me,’ she said.
Daniel looked up. ‘Back to Kintbridge?’
‘Yes. You can stay with me. We’ll get a message to your mother that you’re safe and well.’
‘I’m not going to the police.’
‘We won’t contact the police unless you want to.’
Daniel mulled the proposition over while Jasmine considered the consequences. Their third bedroom was a study. The second bedroom was Jasmine’s room where she now slept having given up the double bed to Angie. Where would she put Daniel?
‘Ok. I’ll come.’
‘Good. Let’s go.’ Jasmine drained the last drops of cooling coffee.
‘Isn’t there a problem?’ Daniel asked.
‘Didn’t you come by bus?’
Jasmine had forgotten. ‘Um, yes.’
‘Well, if we both go back by bus someone might see us walking to your house. I don’t think that’s a good idea.’
Jasmine wondered how she could be so stupid. ‘You’re right, Daniel.’


Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as a paperback and e-book from all the usual sources.

Jasmine and Daniel meet

A hectic start to the :Leominster Festival.  On Saturday (31st May) we held a Writers’ Slam with fifteen writers (me included) reading their work. It went well although we could have done with a larger audience and a few more people prepared to spend money on books.  There are more events during the week. Should be fun.

Further news from Elsewhen Press. The links from their menu to my pages are now live, so to find out more about Evil Above the Stars go to and look up under “catalogue”.  It’s going to be a few months yet before there is much more news but it’s a good start.

So to return to Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective and the prequel to Painted Ladies, The Switch. We’re up to part 10 already and perhaps it’s beginning to hot up a bit…

The Switch: Part 10

Jasmine was too stunned to answer for a moment. Was it really Daniel on the line? The thin high-pitched voice was familiar, but having set out to search for him she could hardly believe that he was contacting her.
‘Uh, hi, Daniel. Is that really you?’ What a stupid thing to say, she thought.
‘Yeah, um,’ was his equally uninformative reply.
‘Where are you?’ Jasmine finally asked something important.
‘What are you doing there?’
‘Not much. I just couldn’t stay at home with Kyle and his gang everywhere.’ He’s mentioned Kyle as if he’s still a threat. Does he know?
‘Daniel. Do you know what’s happened?’ It was another silly question but perhaps would give Daniel a chance to reveal what he did or didn’t know.
‘Happened? What do you mean? Is my mother alright?’ Jasmine heard the pain in Daniel’s voice and hurried to reply.
‘Your mother’s fine; worried about you, of course. Why haven’t you been in touch?’
‘I didn’t know what to say. She’d want me to come home and I can’t do that,’ there was a pause. ‘What did you mean? What has happened?’
‘Kyle’s dead.’
The only sound from the phone was background noise, incoherent voices. Finally.
‘He’s dead? How?’
‘He was found in a pond up on the Common, last night. It wasn’t an accident.’
There was a gasp on the other end of the line.
‘Someone killed Kyle? Who?’
‘That’s what the police would like to know. You’re a suspect.’
‘Me?’ It sounded like a genuine exclamation of surprise. ‘Why me?’
‘Because you’ve been missing since before Kyle was killed and the police know about him pursuing you.’
‘But that’s why I left home. To get away from him. I couldn’t kill him. You don’t think that do you Jasmine. You’re the police.’
‘No, I don’t think you would, Daniel. But the police need to speak to you.’
‘No. I can’t. They’ll put me in a cell. They’ll say I’m a girl.’ Daniel’s voice trembled. He was really afraid.
‘No, they won’t Daniel. You’re a boy.’
‘They’ll put me in a cell with other men who’ll think I’m a girl.’ It was obvious that Daniel was scared to death of things that the police wouldn’t do.
‘No, Daniel, listen to me. The police will treat you as a boy. They will protect you. They won’t let you be abused by other people. They want to talk to you.’
‘No, I can’t. I won’t.’ The voice faded and came back. Jasmine could imagine him shaking his head violently.
‘OK, Daniel. What if I come and meet you and we have a talk about it?’
‘Oh, please, Jasmine. But don’t tell anyone where I am.’
Should she agree? As a police officer she should inform her boss of the contact she’d made, but she needed Daniel’s trust to find out what had happened to him since he left home on Saturday morning.
‘No, I won’t Daniel. Where shall I meet you?’
‘I’m in the shopping centre. Shall we meet in Starbucks?’
‘That’s fine. What time?’ Jasmine glanced at her watch and was surprised that it was passed midday. How long would it take to drive to Basingstoke at this time on a Monday? Then she remembered. Angela had gone off in Rose, the Fiesta, this morning. She didn’t have a police vehicle because she was on leave. She would have to catch a bus to Basingstoke. How long would that take?
‘Look, Daniel. I’m going to have to come by bus. I don’t know when I’ll get there. I ring you when I’m at the shops, OK.’
‘Keep out of the way. Don’t draw attention to yourself. The police have probably put out a call for you so officers may be keeping their eyes open for you.’
‘I understand. I’m good at avoiding people.’
‘Good. I’ll see you as soon as I can.’
The connection was broken and Jasmine put the phone down. It was only then that she realised that she was naked, her shower interrupted. She needed to hurry. She didn’t want to leave Daniel on his own for too long, but she felt sticky after her run. She must shower, but first she must make a note of Daniel’s mobile number. She skipped downstairs to pick up her own mobile and ran back upstairs to get the number off the phone. Then when she was sure that she had Daniel’s contact secure she went into the bathroom. Hot water had been spraying into the shower cubicle all the time she had been speaking to Daniel. The room was full of mist. She washed herself quickly, removing the stale sweat from her run. Then she dried herself, hurriedly, and, still damp, pulled on her knickers, tucked herself away, and fastened a bra around her flat chest. She tucked in the falsies and then looked in her wardrobe. She must be as unobtrusive as possible. She mustn’t draw attention to herself or Daniel. A knee-length summer dress drew her eye. Bright summer colours but appropriate for a bright summer day. It was cut modestly with short sleeves so wouldn’t attract too many eyes. She dressed quickly and pulled a pair of flat sandals onto her feet. She couldn’t rush out of the door yet though. Her make-up had to be done carefully. Nevertheless, it was under half an hour from Daniel’s call when she left the house, tossing her bag over her shoulder.
It was about a half mile walk to the bus-stop and when she got there the timetable told her she had half an hour to wait for a bus to Basingstoke. She stood as patiently as she could with sunglasses shading her eyes and perhaps adding some anonymity. The last thing she wanted was for a car containing one or more of her colleagues to be driving by and stop to offer her a lift. But no one did. As the time for the bus approached a few other people joined her in the queue. As always she felt self-conscious, forced to be on show in a queue. From behind her shades she checked if anyone was taking an interest in her. They weren’t. She was just another, fairly tall, young woman waiting for a bus on a beautiful, warm afternoon.
The bus was only a couple of minutes late and quite empty. Jasmine stepped on and fumbled in her wallet for the fare, unfamiliar with the process. The driver didn’t look at her as he handed her a ticket. She took it and walked down the aisle sitting in the first empty pair of seats. The other new passengers followed behind her and found their own spaces. She was relieved that no-one had taken the spare seat next to her.
The journey along the familiar road was uneventful but Jasmine found it interesting. She was used to driving along the busy road, not being a passenger, so she enjoyed looking out at the fields and buildings that they passed. They stopped a few times and passengers got off and got on but Jasmine remained alone.
At last they entered Basingstoke and the bus pulled up at the stop for the shopping centre. Jasmine got off and as she walked towards the entrance doors pulled her phone from her bag. She found Daniel’s contact and pressed ‘call’. What if she couldn’t get a connection inside? Her heart rate rose for a few seconds until she heard the call tone and Daniel answered.
‘Yes, Daniel. I’m here. Sorry it’s taken a while. I’ll see you in Starbucks in a few minutes.’
‘OK.’ She cut the connection and set off, trying not to hurry but looking relaxed and casual – an afternoon shopper. The layout of the mall was complicated but she thought she remembered from previous visits where the Starbucks was – always supposing there was just one. Her memory proved to be accurate and as she entered the door she scanned for Daniel. He wasn’t visible from the entrance but as she approached the counter she saw him. He’d sensibly kept away from the windows and was sitting at a small table in a far corner almost shielded from view by customers at other tables. She purchased a coffee – black Americano, no sugar, medium, and moved in as unhurried a manner as possible to join Daniel. She saw a small empty cup in front of him.
‘You’ve had a coffee,’ she said as she sat down opposite him.
‘Yeah. I had enough cash for a small one.’
‘You’re out of cash?’
‘Just about. I’ve got more in my bank account but after you said the police were looking for me I was afraid to use my card. They can trace your movements by following your card use, can’t they?’ Yes, and by logging your phone calls, Jasmine didn’t add, but rather doubted that DCI Sloane would have yet gone to those lengths to trace Daniel.
‘Are you OK?’ She examined the young man. Dishevelled, a little grubby, he didn’t look too out of place for a youth in a cheap coffeehouse. There was a bag by his side. Jasmine recognised the small sports bag from his mother’s description.
‘Yeah, I s’pose so. A bit knackered.’
Jasmine sipped her coffee.
‘So, what are we going to do?’
‘Don’t know.’ He looked down at his empty cup, his shoulders drooping.
‘First of all, tell me what you’ve done since you left home on Saturday morning.’
‘Because I want to hear your alibi so I can tell you if it will convince the police.’
‘I didn’t kill, Kyle.’ Daniel had to stop his voice from being raised. He glared at Jasmine.
‘I know, but tell me all the same.’


Jasmine investigates

Life is getting hectic. I’ve had the contract for the publication of the second volume of my fantasy series, Evil Above the Stars.  There will soon be a biog and blurb on the website  of  Elsewhen Press.  It’s also getting very close to the Leominster Festival which has a number of literary events – a Writers’ Slam!, a showcase of local writers’ work (including me doing Jasmine & Me), the awards ceremony for the writing competition we’ve been running, and finally, the highlight, a talk by author Phil Rickman.

So, back to Jasmine Frame, and the next part of the prequel to Painted Ladies, The Switch.

The Switch: Part 8

Chapter 4

Jasmine jogged up the road leading to the Common. She didn’t usually like to run during the heat of the day, and today was warm, but it was a good cover story for visiting the sites where Daniel had apparently been seen with Kyle and the place where Kyle’s body was found. She enjoyed the rhythm of putting one foot in front of the other, pushing the pace a little so that she could feel her heart beating a little faster.
She reached the pond at the top of the Common first. It was more of a sunken hole in the ground, about ten metres across that had filled up with water than a picturesque water feature. There was a layer of algal scum on the surface and a few clumps of reeds at the edge. The whole pond was ringed by police tape attached to spikes driven into the chalky ground. A couple of male CSOs, that Jasmine didn’t recognise, patrolled the perimeter. She ran up to them and stopped, making a fuss of catching her breath. The sweat was real though.
‘What’s going on here?’ she asked between exaggerated puffs.
‘They pulled a body out of the water,’ the younger of the CSOs replied.
‘A bloke, well, a kid really,’ his colleague added.
‘Oh, when was that?’ Jasmine asked innocently.
‘Last evening,’ the first said.
‘He was in the water?’ Jasmine wanted as much detail as possible.
‘The body was floating face down in the middle when the dog walker saw it, so they say,’ the older man said.
‘Any signs of a struggle?’
‘Dunno,’ the young CSO said
‘Why do you want to know?’ The elder asked, suddenly suspicious. Jasmine realised that she had fallen into interrogation mode.
‘Oh, just wondering how he got there,’ she said fluttering a little. ‘I’d better get on.’ She started to run away from the pair, making a circuit of the pond. After a couple of paces she slowed down to a gentle jog and examined the side of the pond within the police tape. The ground was hard and dry and quite dusty after the recent dry weather. The pond had shrunk quite a bit but was clearly still a few feet deep in the centre. Kyle must have been unconscious when he fell or was pushed into the water. The wielder of that steel tube that Tom had mentioned must have given it quite a swing.
She came to a spot where the reeds were bent over and creased. Was this where the fight took place? Or was it where the police pulled the body from the water? It probably didn’t matter. She wasn’t going to find any sign of Daniel here that the SoCO officers hadn’t.
Jasmine continued her jog along the gravel path that ran parallel to the perimeter road. She kept scanning the ground on both sides for any clues. Was this where Kyle was seen with Daniel or was it someone who looked like him? The path inclined downwards slightly and she found herself heading to the access road where she had met with Daniel and his assailants on Friday evening. It was deserted now but the security hut drew her attention. Kyle and his mates had been trying to get Daniel into it. Was it one of their usual meeting places?
The hut was a simple concrete cube with a flat roof. The windows were boarded up but the door didn’t look secure. In fact it had been open when Jasmine had last seen it. Jasmine approached. Presumably there had once been a padlock but the bolt had been smashed off and hung by one screw. Jasmine pushed her hand against the door. It swung inwards in little jerks. The interior was dark and Jasmine’s eyes were adjusted to the bright sunlight. She took one step in, saw movement.
‘Who’re you?’ a nervous, female voice. Jasmine froze, raised her hands. It showed she was unarmed but also left her prepared to defend herself. A girl stepped out of the shadows. She wore a tight black micro-skirt that barely covered her bottom and revealed her long bare legs. On top she had a cut-off vest revealing her midriff and belly-button ring. She had long, dark hair draped over her bare shoulders. It was the girl who had been with Kyle on Friday evening.
‘I’m Jasmine. We sort of met on Friday.’
The girl took a few steps back, leaning against the rough wall of the hut. Jasmine’s eyes were beginning to adjust to the dim light. She saw a mattress on the dusty concrete floor, a few empty bottles, cigarette ends.
‘You said you were a cop,’ the girl said, ‘you don’t look like one.’
‘That’s right. I am a police officer but I’m off-duty,’ Jasmine said.
‘You’re a trannie.’
‘I’m transsexual,’ Jasmine corrected. ‘What’s your name?’
‘It’s Tamsin.’
‘What are you doing here, Tamsin?’
‘None of your business,’ she said and folded her arms.
‘Is this where you and Kyle’s gang used to hang out?’
She nodded and then tears appeared at the corner of her eyes and made a streak down her tanned face.
‘You know what’s happened?’
The girl nodded again.
‘The cops came to my house and asked me questions,’ she sniffed.
‘You and Kyle were close?’
‘He said I was his bitch, his boss-girl.’
‘Really. Did you and he come here alone?’ Jasmine nodded at the grubby mattress.
‘Yeah. We shagged for the first time in here, and other times.’ she spoke as if it was a proud achievement. Perhaps it was to have been selected by the gang leader as his preferred sexual partner.’
‘Kyle had other girls though did he?’
She nodded and sniffed again.
‘He picked all the girls and gave ‘em one before letting the other guys have their turn.’
‘And that’s what he was going to do to Daniel on Friday was it?’
She sniffed again and blubbed.
‘Kind of.’
‘What did you think of that?’
‘I was sorry for Dan.’
‘We’ve known each other since we started school. Emma and me were friends then, before she became Daniel.’

Jasmine Frame in “The Switch” – all new story

A little early this week in posting this blog but I’m excited because I have started a new Jasmine Frame story.  It is set between the events of Blueprint and Painted Ladies so is both a sequel and a prequel. It occurs at another important stage in  Jasmine’s transition that sees her involved in another case.  Like Blueprint I will be posting an episode each week, the difference being that this time I have some idea where it is going. What I don’t know is how long it will be or what convolutions will occur in the plot as we go along.

My other source of excitement this week was the news that a publisher is interested in publishing my fantasy novel, Evil Above the Stars featuring the heroine, September Weekes.  The publisher is Elsewhen Press, a small publisher of SF and Fantasy. Like my Jasmine Frame stories, I have been developing September’s adventures for a few years now. I couldn’t be more delighted that it looks as though they’ll be available to an audience. More news as it develops.

So, here is the first episode of The Switch.

The Switch: part 1

Chapter 1

The soles of her running shoes barely touched the concrete pavement as she loped along at a swift but comfortable pace. Despite it being the end of a long working day at the end of a long working week she felt exhilarated and bounding with energy. A weight had been taken off her. No longer would she have the burden of living two lives. From now on she was only Jasmine Frame. James was no more. Ahead of her stretched three weeks of leave from the Kintbridge police force; three weeks to sort out the legal papers; three weeks to acclimatise to being Jasmine full-time.
There was still plenty of light on this July evening but the temperature was comfortable now. Running was easy. The shoulder-length blonde wig was a bit of an irritation as were the silicone inserts in her sports bra, but they were necessary. They made her feel more feminine but she longed for the day when her body would match her image of herself. The wig could be discarded soon but it would be some years before she had breasts of her own to fill the bra cups. She hadn’t even started the gender altering drugs yet, and as for surgery, well, that was in the distant future.
She crossed the road and joined the gravel path that circled the common land that had been an air base. Where once there had been the roar of jet bombers now there was peace but for the call of birds. Sometimes she met other joggers and dog walkers, but this evening she was alone.
Or so she thought. She heard voices, young raucous voices, angry voices. She crested a low rise. Now the path dropped down to one of the old access roads onto the airfield. There were five young people by a disused gatehouse. Their noise and movements attracted Jasmine’s attention as she jogged towards them. There was one girl with long dark hair who slouched a couple of metres apart from the other four who appeared to be boys. Three of them were surrounding the last, jostling and shoving him. The three were taller and tougher looking than the subject of their attack. He tried to evade them but was unable to escape their triangle. Two of his assailants grabbed him and dragged him towards the open door of the concrete hut. From the shouts and swearing Jasmine gathered that it wasn’t some game in progress. This was an assault.
Jasmine stopped and pulled her phone from her belt. She thumbed the contact to the police station and spoke urgently.
‘Back-up required, youths fighting, north entrance to Enborne Common off Bowdown Road.’ She sprinted down the path towards the road. The three boys were trying to push the other through the doorway but he had a foot up on the door jamb pushing back while he waved his arms trying to keep them free. The girl hung behind not helping the assailants or their victim.
‘Stop. Police,’ Jasmine shouted realising that she had used her male voice. The girl and the boys looked around and paused in their pushing. The short boy shook himself free.
‘Fuck off,’ one of the boys shouted towards Jasmine and grabbed the boy’s arm
‘Leave him alone,’ Jasmine roared. ‘The police are on their way.’ She waved her phone to emphasise the point. The two other boys looked at the one holding the victim.
‘Come on Kyle. Let’s go. The fuzz are coming,’ one said.
Kyle glared at Jasmine, his lip curling. Jasmine could see him matching her masculine voice to her bosomed vest and blonde curls.
‘Don’t listen to him, guys. It’s a freak, a perv.’ Kyle took a firmer grip on the small lad who was struggling to get free.
Jasmine took a few steps closer, stretching to her full height, unfortunately no greater than Kyle’s, and adopting a pose with her arms and fists that suggested that she could look after herself in a fight. She was confident she could take Kyle alone but knew she couldn’t defend herself against all three, or four if the girl decided to join in. What was she getting into? At least there were no knives in sight. Knives were her worst fear.
‘Leave it Kyle,’ the other boy spoke up, ‘Perhaps the trannie has called the police.’ A siren sounded in the distance and all the young people stiffened. Jasmine smiled, it may not have been the car she’d called for but it was a useful coincidence.
‘There. They’ll be here in moments,’ Jasmine said in as calm a voice as she could manage, striving to raise her pitch. The three bigger boys and the girl gazed towards the road. The victim wriggled free of Kyle and ran towards Jasmine. Kyle moved to follow. Jasmine grabbed the small lad and held him protectively.
‘If you run, you may avoid being arrested,’ Jasmine added.
‘Come on, Kyle. It’s not worth it,’ the girl said. Kyle stopped a couple of metres from Jasmine and the boy. His fists clenched and the muscles in his bare arms tensed. Was he going to attack? Jasmine prepared to push the lad away while she defended him.
The same or a different siren sounded, closer. The other two boys ran off. The girl tugged on Kyle’s shoulder. After a moment he relaxed and allowed himself to be pulled away. He turned and with the girl ran off in the same direction as the others.
Jasmine was left with the victim of the attack. The top of his head was barely up to her shoulder. The sides of his head were shaved and there was a tuft of spiky black hair on top. His cheeks and chin were smooth and soft. He wore a loose T-shirt and baggy knee-length cotton shorts. Jasmine thought he must be about twelve or thirteen and perhaps rather than being short was actually quite tall for his age.
‘Hi, I’m Jasmine. Who are you?’ Jasmine asked, smiling broadly to reassure the young lad.
The boy frowned.
‘I’m Dan,’ his voice was a soft treble, ‘Are you a trannie?’
Jasmine sighed. She wasn’t surprised that she’d been read. The aggressive Kyle had spotted her. It wasn’t surprising when her shouted police voice didn’t match her waxed arms and legs to say nothing of her now slightly skewed wig.
‘Yes, I’m trans,’ she admitted. ‘What was all that about?’
Dan ignored her question
‘Are the police really coming?’
‘I hope so. I called for back-up.’
‘You’re a cop?’
‘They have trannies then.’
‘A few.’ Jasmine had been listening to Dan’s questions and watching him. His interest in her didn’t seem to be the fascination with the weird or the disgust that being read often generated. This young boy intrigued her. ‘You haven’t answered my question, Dan. Why were Kyle and his friends all over you?’
Dan didn’t reply at first. Jasmine watched various emotions pass across his face. Finally he spoke.
‘He was going to fuck me.’
Jasmine knew that her shock must have registered on her face. Did Dan know what he was implying? She had to spell it out.
‘What? You’re underage. Does Kyle want to be known as a gay paedo?’
‘It’s not like that. I’m sixteen and he wants to show everyone that I’m a girl.’