Jasmine abroad

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

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

I’ll let you know later what we decide.

san-antonio

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

Falloff: part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Brides’ Club Murder

Chapter 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

………………………………

Jasmine takes a break

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

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

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

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

2013, shortly after the publication of Painted Ladies

2013, shortly after the publication of Painted Ladies

2016, at Hay Festival.

2016, at Hay Festival.

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

20,000w

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

21,000w

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

76,000w

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

 

Jasmine finds a lead

Is becoming fearful about the future a sign of getting old? When I was younger during the 60s to 80s there was the threat of nuclear war hanging over us or of a Soviet invasion of Europe but the fear, if there was any, was an abstract thing and I don’t recall being bothered by it. Also, I don’t recall being too emotional about the financial situation although I do recall watching the Share index falling to about 150 points in a mid-70s crisis. Despite being a fairly keen Liberal and interested in politics, I never felt worried that the world may collapse around me. Perhaps I was just too concerned about my own state.

Now, I feel beset by problems although my own situation, being retired, happily married and pretty well out as transgendered, is pretty calm. The turmoil of the referendum nonsense and its possible dire outcomes, the threat of terrorism, the rise of a belligerent Russia, an expansionist China, and the general sickness of the Earth, all just add together to make one big bundle of worry. On top of that I have developed a deep loathing of the majority of politicians, leaders of big business, and anyone who spouts extremist/populist propaganda on right or left.

Perhaps it is a feature of growing old that we fear for the world of our children and grandchildren and it’s when we lose youthful optimism it’s time to hand over to the young.

At How the light Gets In, Hay, May '16

At How the light Gets In, Hay, May ’16

Right. After that depressing interlude, on with the story.  Here is the next part of the Jasmine Frame novella, Aberration. I realise that in this story she has spent rather longer as James than Jasmine but as it is from a period where she is still uncertain of her gender identity and resisting the idea that she is transsexual I think it is appropriate. Here he/she is getting somewhere at last. Don’t forget that Painted Ladies, Bodies By Design, Discovering Jasmine and Murder In Doubt are all available to buy.

Aberration – Part 7

Despite a rush to grab something to eat, James started his shift at the pub on time. Kevin was there as usual and Mel, another young woman who James had worked with occasionally. Mel pleased Kevin rather more than Andrea as she was slim with long hair and long legs that were largely bare thanks to the cute shorts that she wore. Her vest clung to her breasts. James noted how the eyes of the male drinkers followed her around the room when she emerged to pick up glasses.  Being Friday it was a busy evening and it was while James was wiping tables and Kevin was filling the dishwasher when he spoke to James conversationally rather than giving an order.
‘Did you send that card then?’
‘Card?’
‘To Andrea’s parents.’
‘No. I called on them and met her mother.’
‘Oh. How was she?’
‘Upset.’
Kevin shrugged, acknowledging that that was the obvious response.
‘I don’t think she could believe it was an accident or suicide,’ James added.
Kevin stared, ‘Suicide?’
‘Well, do you think she would end up in the river by accident? She doesn’t have to go near the river to get home.’
‘Well . . .’
‘You saw her on Wednesday evening. It was my day off. What mood was she in?’
Kevin considered for a moment. ‘Pretty much the same as always. Didn’t say much.’
‘Pretty much? What does that mean?’
‘I suppose she was a bit grumpier than usual.’
‘Grumpier?’
‘Well, edgy. She was in more of a hurry to get off.’
‘Why?’
‘She didn’t say. Never did explain her moods did she.’
James could have given reasons for Andrea’s reticence but he didn’t. Revealing too much of his connection with Andrea might have caused questions about his own personality.
He nodded. ‘She kept things to herself, but did anything happen that evening to make her, er, edgy?’
Kevin straightened up and thought. ‘Yeah, well, Ben and his mates were in.’
‘Ben?’
‘They had a go at Andrea before.’
James nodded. Now he knew who Kevin was talking about; the four thirty-plus louts who had teased and groped her.
‘Your friends,’ he accused.
Kevin shook his head. ‘No, we’re not friends, not really. I’ve known them for years. They come in from time to time and act as if they own the place.’
James wasn’t sure whether to believe Kevin’s denial. They seemed just the sort of blokes who Kevin might count as his mates.
‘What happened then? Did they have a go at Andrea?’
Kevin shrugged. ‘A bit, I suppose, but Mel was on too, so they had an eyeful of her. She could take it though.’
Doesn’t mean that she liked it, James thought. Mel was happy in her female body and perhaps had learned how to respond to randy, older men. Andrea didn’t because she didn’t feel female.
‘They spoke to Andrea as well as Mel?’ James asked.
Kevin shook his head, ‘I don’t know, yes, a bit I think, at least one or two of them did. Why is it important? She’s dead.’
‘That’s right – she’s dead. She ended up in the river an hour or two after leaving here and being hounded by those guys.’
‘They weren’t hounding her.’
‘Alright, but you said she became edgy later.’
‘Er, yeah.’
‘So, perhaps the one or two of your friends who spoke to her said something that got her worked up.’
‘They’re not my friends.’
‘OK, but am I right?’
‘Hey, hold on Jim boy. Why are you getting a heat on? You hardly knew the girl.’
James realised he was getting hot and bothered. He tried to brush it off.
‘Yes, well it’s not everyday someone you work with is fished out of the river.’
Kevin nodded and bent to put a few more glasses in the washer.
‘That’s a fact,’ he muttered.
‘So who was it, that tried chatting Andrea up?’ James insisted while trying to keep his voice cool and calm.
‘I wouldn’t call it chatting up. I only saw them exchanging a few words.’
‘Who?’
‘His name’s Josh. I don’t know him well but he often hangs round with Ben and the others.’
‘Does he live round here?’
‘No idea, but they’re all Reading guys so I ‘spect they live in town somewhere.’
‘They don’t come in here that often. Where else do they hang out?’
‘How should I know. I told you I’m not one of their mates. There are dozens of pubs and clubs around town; you know that. They move around looking for the talent.’
James considered what Kevin had told him. It seemed clear that he needed to meet this Josh and find out what he said to Andrea.  He tried to remember what the four men looked like but his memory was vague.
‘Which one was Josh?’ he asked.
‘The bald, short-arse,’ Kevin said as he slammed the door of the dishwasher.  James nodded as he saw the man in his memory of the four around the table.

James stirred as Angela moved around the flat. Of course, it was Saturday so she wasn’t at work. He groaned.
‘Oh, sorry James,’ Angela said. She came and sat on the edge of the bed. ‘I didn’t mean to wake you.’
James rubbed his eyes. ‘What time is it?’
‘Gone nine. Go back to sleep if you like. I’ll try and keep quiet.’
James pushed himself up the bed. ‘No, I’m awake now and I want to see you.’ They hadn’t seen each other awake since his day off on Wednesday apart from the sleepy conversation about Andrea’s death.
‘I want to see you too. It’s a nice day. Perhaps we can go out somewhere before you go to work.’
James grabbed Angela around the waist and pulled her on top of him.
‘Or perhaps we could just stay in,’ he said, leaning forward to kiss her.  Angela giggled. They kissed and cuddled. Angela slipped a hand between his legs. She pulled away.
‘Your mind’s not on it. What’s the problem?’ she said.
James sighed, ‘I’m sorry. I keep thinking of Andy, Andrea.’
Angela sat up, looking concerned. ‘Oh, is there news?’
James described his conversations with Mrs Pickford, the detective and Kevin.
‘Do you think this Josh guy killed Andy?’ Angela summarised.
James screwed up his face. ‘I don’t know. I am sure Andy was killed and Josh is the only lead I’ve got, but I’ve no idea what happened between them, if anything.’
‘You need to find him.’
‘But all I’ve got is his first name, a pretty vague description and that he often hangs out with the other three.’
‘And he visits the pubs and clubs in town.’
‘It’s a big town, Ange. I could be wandering around for months and never come across him.’
‘If he’s out a lot, other people may know who he is.’
‘So there’s a lot of people to ask.’
‘If you want it to be you that solves Andy’s murder yes. Or you could just tell the police.’
‘And they’d think I was nuts because there’s no evidence that Josh had anything more than a few casual words with Andy while he was doing his job.’
‘I don’t think you’re nuts.’
‘But the police will. They want a nice easy accidental death, or a slightly more troublesome suicide.’
‘Don’t you think they want the truth, James?’
‘I wonder.’
‘Well, if you’re joining them I hope you won’t take the easy path.’
James looked into Angela’s unblinking eyes. She gave him determination.
‘No, I won’t and I will get the truth about Andy’s death. Jasmine Frame will find it.’
Angela nodded. ‘I think you should be Jasmine. She was Andy’s friend. Come on, get dressed. I’ll come asking questions with you. It will be an excuse for getting out of this flat since we’re not going to be doing anything else while you’re in this mood.’

……………………….

Jasmine Frame in Aberration

courtesy of the BBC

courtesy of the BBC

The power of the media. Following our “exposure” on the BBC World Service we were contacted my BBC Hereford & Worcester and visited by a very pleasant presenter. We chatted and then she recorded an interview and video (using her phone) of us talking about my revelation of being trans. The story was very much the same as the World Service interview as that seemed the only item of interest.  Anyway, it was duly broadcast on local radio on Monday morning, during the 6 to 9 a.m. magazine-style programme. That meant they kept on repeating tiny excerpts but the transgender issue took up quite a large segment of the programme with contributions from a Rev who runs a LGBT friendly church and Joan King from Gender Trust. There is also a Facebook video. I hope it showed others that secrets can be revealed without the sky falling in and that couples can reach a loving accommodation with the trans life. I presume I am even more out now than before as a few people have commented on hearing the broadcast and seeing the video.

Despite there being little advertising in either of the media features there has been a noticeable increase in views of this blog and associated pages, so I’ll say “Hi” to new visitors and urge you all to come back from time to time, especially to catch these weekly rambles and story episodes.

Things have been busy for the last week or so and writing has been put on the “pending” pile.  However I have made a start on  the new Jasmine Frame prequel which I have called Aberration. You may wonder where my titles come from.  When I started writing Jasmine Frame stories I decided to make each title a play on words relating  to paintings, photographs, drawings i.e. connected to “Frame”. Latterly I have used photographic terms like focus, resolution, and now aberration. While this principle applied to the first published Jasmine stories, Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design I have decided that the prequel novellas probably need more explanatory titles when they appear as e-books, hence Discovering Jasmine and Murder In Doubt. All these titles are available as e-books and the two novels can be purchased as paperbacks in bookshops or direct from me.

You’ll have to wait a week or two to discover the pun in Aberration although I think it is probably pretty obvious. So, here we go with the first episode.

Jasmine Frame prequels – Aberration: Part 1

‘Really Andrea! Couldn’t you do something with yourself?’
Kevin’s voice made James pause in taking the glasses from the dishwasher rack. What was the pub manager on about now, he wondered?
‘What do you mean, do something?’
That was Andrea, James’ fellow bartender. Her voice like Kevin’s came from the cluttered corridor between the two bars.
‘Smarten yourself. Look attractive,’ Kevin said.  James resumed stacking the glasses on the shelves, doing it as quietly as possible while he listened to the conversation.
‘Like how?’ Andrea’s voice suggested she might explode pretty soon, but Kevin seemed oblivious.
‘Like, wearing a skirt. Or a dress. Give the punters something pretty to look at.’
The eruption James expected didn’t come.
‘Why don’t you ask Jim to wear a skirt or a dress? I’m sure they’d look as good on him as me.’
James felt himself blushing. Andrea couldn’t possibly know that he’d love to be wearing a dress or skirt right now, although not perhaps in this particular pub.
‘I said pretty not pervy.’ Kevin sounded exasperated. ‘The customers don’t want to see a tranny behind the bar. Your job is to get them to buy drinks and you’ll do that better if you played the sexy bargirl.’
Andrea’s reply was calm and soft not the outraged roar James feared. ‘I am a woman and what you’re suggesting amounts to sexual discrimination.’
‘Yes, well, it was only a suggestion,’ Kevin backpedalled.
‘I’ll do my job in the same way that Jim and the other guys do it. I’ll pull pints for the customers and take their money but I won’t parade myself in front of them like a peep show tart.’
‘No, alright, Andrea. I get the message. Just make sure you do your job.’ Footsteps receded. Andrea emerged into the bar that James occupied.
‘Did you hear that, Jim?’ Andrea said.  Like James she was in her early twenties and matched him for height.  Comparing their legs and torso she probably outweighed him and she had a sizeable pair of breasts which she kept covered in a loose, black t-shirt. She was wearing her ubiquitous jeans and trainers. Her hair was cut short in a boyish style and James doubted that she had ever worn make-up. She was definitely a tomboy and possibly lesbian. Kevin was onto a loser if he expected to get her into a girly outfit.
‘Yeah. He was out of order, there. You could certainly have got him on an equality rap or even sexual harassment.’
‘Thank you, Mr Lawyer, but I think I’d rather just keep my job.’
‘You’ll put up with him having a go at you for not dressing as he’d like?’ James wondered how much antagonism the girl could take.’
‘Well, it’s the only job I’ve got. Unlike you who will be marching off into a well-paid career in a couple of months.’
James had told Andrea of his plans to join the police force in November shortly after starting the job in the pub a couple of weeks ago at the end of August.
‘Don’t go telling Kevin that. He thinks I’m staying for a while. I wouldn’t have got the job otherwise. Look, he’s probably worried about sales. This place doesn’t seem to get that busy.’
‘Well if he wants to drum up trade by having someone wear fancy dress he can do it himself.’  Andrea stomped off to the other bar.        It was that time in the evening when the commuters had left and the night-birds had yet to turn out. There were just one or two customers focussed on their drinks while James and Andrea prepared for busier times.  Soon there wasn’t time for conversation and the noise level in the bar made exchanging even a few words difficult.

It was approaching one a.m. when James clambered, exhausted, up the stairs to their studio flat. He tried to be quiet opening the door but he knew that the slightest noise would disturb Angela, asleep on the double bed in the corner of the small room. He pushed the door closed and pulled off his shoes. He padded across the thin, cord carpet to check on her. She was turned away from him, her long brown hair spread over the pillow. He stood for a few seconds just looking at her illuminated by light from the street lamp which filtered through the unlined curtains.
‘Come to bed,’ Angela mumbled without turning.
‘Yes. I won’t be a moment,’ James whispered unnecessarily.  He pulled off his clothes, went to the tiny shower room to pee and wash and then to the equally cramped kitchen to get a glass of water. At last he was ready to slip under the sheet beside Angela. He placed a hand on her bare shoulder.
‘I’m tired,’ Angela said.
‘Me too.’
‘Sleep well.’
‘And you.’

James stirred when Angela clambered over him. He groaned and curled up tighter wanting sleep to reclaim him. He heard Angela moving around, showering, having some breakfast, getting dressed. She tried to be quiet as he had done in the night, but floorboards creaked, kettle whistled, mug and plates clacked on the miniature table, the wardrobe door squeaked.
James was aware of Angela standing over him.
‘Is this going to work, James?’
‘What?’ He moaned.
‘We never see each other. I’m at the office all day and by the time I get home you’ve gone off to your bar and don’t get home till I’m asleep.’
James forced his eyes to open. He had a blurry view of Angela standing beside him in her accountant’s suit.
‘It’s only till November, Ange. Then I’ll be a trainee police officer.’
‘But it’ll be the same when you’re done training. You’ll be working shifts. We’ll still be crossing in the doorway.’
He pushed himself up into a slumped position. ‘We’ll work it out, Ange. You’ll see. When you’re a high-earning corporate accountant and I’m a Detective Inspector we’ll be able to make time.’
Angela laughed. ‘That’s be years if not decades. I want time with you now. Do you realise, we haven’t been in this bed awake together since we moved in.’
James knew she was telling the truth of their situation. They’d taken this grotty Reading flat just a day before they started their respective jobs, Angela’s permanent and his temporary, but neither well-paid. Life as a working couple was proving to be less carefree than the student experience.
‘Look tomorrow’s Wednesday; my day off. We could do something in the evening when you get home.’
‘I don’t know James. I’ve got studying to do.’
‘Your exams are months away yet.’
‘I know but I need to get up to speed with what I do in the office.’
‘You can afford one evening off. To be with me.’
Angela smiled. ‘To be with Jasmine I suppose.’
‘Well, yes, okay, that would be great.’ It was exactly what he wanted although he hadn’t dared to make the suggestion. They were in a new town and he hadn’t yet ventured out as Jasmine Frame, but he wanted to, very much.  ‘I’ll have a look around to see what’s happening. We haven’t danced since we were on holiday.’  The memory of dancing, two girls together, surrounded by other people their age on that Greek island seemed rather distant now. Their final fling as students. Now real life was pressing down on them.
‘Alright. I’ll see. I’d better be off.’ Angela leaned down and kissed his cheek. He felt the sticky impression of her lips.

Jasmine spent the day in the stuffy flat trying to think of something more useful to do than watching the Olympic games from Athens on their small portable. She did use her laptop to investigate evening entertainments in Reading and while the dial-up connection wasn’t perfect she made one welcome discovery.
Before Angela returned she wrote out a note. ‘LGBT disco night, monthly, Wed. Athena nightclub.’ Then she went to change into her bar uniform which was precisely the same as that worn by Andrea.
James was pleased to find he was on duty with Andrea again at the start of the evening but she was sullen and quiet. She served the customers but didn’t make small-talk.
‘Anything bothering you,’ James asked hoping to draw her out.
‘Nah,’ she said, ‘Just looking forward to a night away from this dump.’
‘Oh, yes. Me too. Got anything planned.’
Andrea shrugged. ‘Don’t know yet. Wait and see I suppose.’ An impatient drinker barked an order, ending their quasi-conversation and so the night went on.
Angel was asleep again when James returned but turned over as he joined her.
‘Okay,’ she murmured.
‘Okay, what?’ James said.
‘We’ll go to that place you found, tomorrow, tonight, whenever.’
‘Oh, that. Great. Night love,’ He kissed her cheek but she was already snoring softly. Before he too dozed off he considered what outfit he should wear for Jasmine’s first venture into Reading’s nightlife.
…………………

Jasmine across the world

copyright BBC.

copyright BBC.

Well, not Jasmine so much as me and Lou.  We were on the BBC World Service last Saturday and featured on the BBC magazine website where apparently for a time (a few minutes, hours?) it was trending in the top ten articles. You can read it here.  The programme was part of the World Services “Identity” series looking  at how personal secrets are kept and shared.  Really it was a rehash of the programme we did two and half years ago and didn’t examine transgenderism or gender identity in any greater depth. Nor, more’s the pity, did it promote the Jasmine Frame series to any worthwhile extent with no links on the website. For this we gave up a couple of hours of our time, exposed ourselves to the media (the presenter and producer were quite sweet actually) and no money exchanged hands.

What is interesting, perhaps, is the result.  I didn’t expect much of a slightly boring, short interview with little publicity, although a friend did point out that there was a potential audience of a billion or so. What did happen was a brief small spike in views of this blog and a tiny, short-lived spike in e-book sales.  What was lovely were the comments here, on Facebook and in person from friends who heard or saw the feature. Thanks for the encouragement, folks. One irritating response was from a publisher, who I had not had previous contact with, asking me to review a  novel with a transgender character that they were putting out.  Cheek! Not even an offer of payment. I wondered if it was worth doing for the publicity but thought giving someone else a sale wasn’t worth my trouble.

Murder in doubt coverWhat the media exposure did do was spur me to put out Murder In Doubt on sale a few days earlier than I had planned (it was intended to coincide with this post). It is, chronologically, the second prequel novella featuring James/Jasmine Frame and follows after Discovering Jasmine.  An unedited version appeared here a long time ago.  James/Jasmine is starting his/her university career and, nervously, relishing the opportunities to be Jasmine. She meets Angela for the first time  and another trans-woman called Silla.  Soon she is investigating a possible murder and making surprising discoveries.   Murder In Doubt is available on Kindle, and for just one day you can get Discovering Jasmine free.

 

Look out for. . .

There is no new Jasmine Frame episode this week but a new story, called Aberration, will start next week.  Chronologically it follows Murder In Doubt.  James/Jasmine and Angela have graduated and are entering the world of careers and renting somewhere to live. Jasmine is getting used to living outside the cloistered community of university and is waiting to join the police force. It’s 2004 and the Gender Recognition Act has just been passed by parliament but is not yet law. Being Jasmine, she soon finds herself investigating a death which the police have misinterpreted.  The first episode will appear on Sat 30th April – be here!

Jasmine makes a date

Back from the weekend in Manchester.  A SF&F convention is certainly a diverse gathering – all ages, sexualities, genders (including alien ones) and personalities. There was a trapped audience of a thousand but persuading them to spend their money on books still proved to be difficult. The same applies to all genres. More and more books are published and fewer and fewer people are actually buying. The writer is caught in the middle so we end up buying each other’s books and never making a living from our craft.  Still, it’s fun isn’t it.

Murder in doubt coverThe second Jasmine Frame novella will be published very shortly. It follows on from Discovering Jasmine  and is called Murder in Doubt. It is of course based on one of the serials published here. Here is a sneak preview of the cover.  More details soon.

Back to the present and the next episode of Resolution. We’re approaching a climax.

 

 

 

 

Resolution: Part 11

 James pulled on his dark trousers, tucked in his shirt and selected a tie from the rack.  Angela came into the bedroom, stopped and stared.
‘That’s your work suit. It’s Sunday. Aren’t you going to be Jasmine today?’
‘I need to call into the Station, Ange. I won’t be long, I hope.
‘Oh. Is it to do with that man that was following you? I’m worried James. If he is linked to Milla Sparrow’s death, aren’t you in danger?’
James wrapped his arms around Angela’s shoulders. ‘I don’t think he wants to kill me too. I’m going in because I need to write up my report on the Hargreaves case. We completed it on Friday evening and Sloane will want it on his desk by tomorrow morning.’
He looked into Angela’s eyes. They still were dark and worried.
‘Well, take care, and come back as soon as you can. I’m not sure I can relax with you out of my sight at the moment.’

The V&SCU office was empty which surprised James a little. Surely it wasn’t a quiet weekend for crime. Perhaps the other detectives were actually out on cases. James settled at his desk and booted up his computer. He didn’t start writing his report but instead took Eric Dawson’s card from his pocket and keyed the name and brief details into the police database. Dawson’s file appeared but didn’t tell him much. There was no link to his previous existence as a woman. There were notes in the record that linked Dawson to shady deals in Reading and London and incidents where people, predominantly criminals themselves, had been “removed”.  There was insufficient evidence to charge Dawson with any wrongdoing let alone convict him of any crime. James felt frustrated. He had to find a way of ridding himself of his tormentor before he revealed James’ dual gender.
The door to the office slammed open despite being on a stiff spring. James looked up to see the grey-suited Sloane striding across the room to his own office.
Seeing James didn’t slow him but he declared. ‘Ah, Frame. Glad you’re here. In my office, now.’
James launched himself from his chair and hurried after the DCI. Sloane rounded his desk and slumped into his seat. James stood in front of him.
‘I haven’t finished preparing the case against Michelle Greaves . . .’
‘There won’t be a case,’ Sloane said.
James was confused. ‘No case, Sir? But Michelle Greaves confessed to killing her wife on Friday evening in front of DS Trewin and myself.’
‘I know that, Frame. You both did a good job but it won’t be going to court. Not a criminal court at least.’
James shook his head in incomprehension.
Sloane went on without a pause. ‘Greaves is dead.’
‘Michelle Greaves?’ James whispered.
‘Yes. He killed himself in custody last night.’
‘How?’
‘Hung himself from the window catch by his bra.’
‘Bra?’
‘Yes, careless of them. We take belts away from prisoners to prevent this type of thing. The bra wasn’t actually holding up any part of his anatomy. No reason why he should have been allowed to keep it.’
‘But, Michelle was a woman,’ James mumbled.
‘What was that, Frame? Look it’s a mess. I’ve called Trewin in. I’ll need you both to write a full report of your interview with Greaves. See if there was any warning of him being a suicide risk.’
James replied cautiously, ‘She did ask if she’d be placed in a woman’s prison.’
‘Did he?’ Sloane’s bushy eyebrows rose. ‘Why? He was still physically male wasn’t he?’
‘She was transitioning,’ James explained as carefully as he could, ‘She was living as a woman while waiting for medical procedures to start. She wouldn’t have wanted to be among men in a male prison.’
‘Hmph. Well, perhaps the Sheffield lot didn’t take his mental state into consideration sufficiently. I’ll need that report from you and Trewin. It’ll be the coroner’s court for Greaves and for Elizabeth Hargreaves.’
Sloane picked up his phone and waved James away. James returned slowly to his desk. He couldn’t understand how someone could take their own life. Could the thought of being treated like a man have been so terrible for Michelle Greaves? Apparently it was. James tried to recall as much as he could of the interview with Greaves in the Sheffield Police Station. It seemed so long ago.

DS Trewin arrived and joined James in a brief discussion of the news, then he left James to prepare his account of the investigation alone. James completed it, saved it to the file and attached it to emails to Sloane and Trewin. Writing the report had helped him come to terms with Greaves’ death. He could see some kind of parallel between Michelle Greaves’ fear of being cast back into the role of a man and his own fear of being outed by Eric Dawson. He recognised that he shared with Greaves a vulnerability in gender identity that was a danger to them both. Greaves’ determination to be recognised as a woman had led to her Elizabeth’s and her own deaths. James realised that he would have to take care of his own mental state because of his fears about his mixed up gender. He could succumb to Dawson’s blackmail and become his tame monkey, or he could fight him and risk his gender confusion becoming public knowledge with whatever consequences that would have. He didn’t want the former so he would have to pursue the latter course however much that scared him.
James returned to his electronic trail of Eric Dawson. There were plenty of snippets of reports and hints about Dawson’s role in criminal activity. Now that he knew his appearance James was able to observe him in surveillance photographs of meetings of criminals. Dawson, he discovered was a link between the drug lords and the suppliers on the streets and in the clubs across the south-east as well as the go to man for removing troublesome clients and employees. Dawson had established his position and reputation despite his transgender history. Or was it “despite”? Perhaps he had gained his reputation for organisation and ruthlessness because of his adoption of a male persona. He may look a somewhat flabby specimen of a man but testosterone coursed through his veins and produced a masculine response to a crisis. Nevertheless, he had been born a girl and James felt sure Dawson must still harbour a feeling of insecurity about his female origins. James accessed his birth certificate. It was a new one, post Gender Reassignment Act certification. It told him that Eric Dawson, male, had been born in 1969 in Southampton. James would need a higher authority to delve into Dawson’s female history, but perhaps he didn’t need the truth to stick a needle in Dawson’s buried and almost forgotten fears.
A meeting would have to be arranged at which James would keep Dawson guessing as to whether he was going to be compliant or defiant. If he could play Dawson along, James hoped he could lead him into indiscretions and incriminate himself even if it meant Jasmine and James Frame were revealed as one and the same person. James’ fingers skipped across the keys, his eyes locked on the screen as he continued to build up his knowledge of everything there was to learn about Eric Dawson.
A long while later, James stretched and rubbed his eyes. He glanced at his watch, saw the time and felt a pang of anxiety about Angela. He must get back home to her to calm her anxieties. He wanted to get back into a dress again too. First though he had a phone call to make.

Next morning, following the briefing and some routine and boring paperwork James joined Tom Shepherd in the corner by the coffee machine.
‘Are you free this afternoon, Tom?’ James said in a quiet voice but trying not to be too conspiratorial.
Tom shrugged, ‘If nothing comes up, I suppose so. What’s up?’
‘I’m meeting someone and I’d like you to come along. You know, as witness, partners.’
‘What’s it about. The Hargreaves case is over now that Greaves has topped himself.’
‘No, it’s not that. It’s to do with Milla Sparrow.’
Tom frowned. ‘The DS that was killed? I thought the Birmingham lot were investigating that.’
‘Yes, they are but I’ve become involved because I knew her and we worked together on her last case here,’ James tried not to tell an outright lie. ‘I’m meeting someone who might give us a lead.’
‘Oh, right. What time?’
‘Two. We can go straight from lunch.’ When it won’t be so obvious that we’re missing, James didn’t add.

Before lunch James picked up surveillance kit from stores and hid the microphone and recording device under his clothes. He met Tom in the police canteen and after a they had each finished off a plate of sausage and chips they left in one of the cars assigned to their unit. James drove them out of Kintbridge.
‘Where are we meeting this guy,’ Tom said as they drove east along the main A road.
‘Not far,’ James replied. He felt a tightness in his stomach. His appointment with Dawson was just minutes away.

………………………………