Jasmine needs reviews

Layout 1I am reversing things a little this week to make an appeal for reviews of the Jasmine Frame books. As I have reported previously, the next novel, the 4th, Molly’s Boudoir, is about to be published.  I am hoping for a launch date for the e-book and paperback around the end of November – just in time for Christmas!  I’d would really like to get some publicity on Amazon for this event and that means getting reviews. First of all, if you have read any of the existing three novels or the three novellas then please, please write a review on Amazon. For Molly’s Boudoir, I will send a prepublication pdf version free to any of you who contact me, in return for a review on the publication date.  Send me an email here if you’d like to take part.

The Jasmine novels are set in and around the town of Kintbridge.  In Molly’s Boudoir the main action takes place in the small town of Thirsbury, west of Kintbridge.  Kintbridge is a fictional version of Newbury in West Berkshire and Thirsbury is modelled on Hungerford.  All the locations in the books are based on real places but I give them different names so I can make small changes to suit my plot. It also doesn’t help that the town centre pub mentioned in Painted Ladies disappeared a few years before I published the novel because the whole area was redeveloped into a new shopping centre. For me Kintbridge is still the Newbury of the 2000s.

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I have never understood hate aimed at groups of people that share a characteristic whether it is racism, homophobia, transphobia or whatever. There are individuals that one doesn’t get on with or dislikes (I can’t think of anyone at the moment), but not whole groups, with the exception of the Brexiteers in parliament, Trump supporters in the Republican Party, and  autocrats running various countries. When I say “understood” perhaps I mean “don’t empathise with” because that sort of hate is, I think, a sign of weakness. Misogyny is one such hate. Are some men so fragile that they cannot bear a woman to match, or exceed them in any way? To hate half the human race seems to me to be an admission of inadequacy. And yet it is still very common and indeed with the rise of the populists/autocrats, is increasing. It is not just a feature of the alt-right. The Soviet Union made much of giving roles to women that were unknown in the west at the time – engineers, pilots, cosmonaut – but how many women did we ever see in those pictures of the leaders of the politburo watching parades at the Kremlin.  There are as few prominent women at the top of the Labour Party as there are in the Conservatives. I would like to see true equality where the gender of any individual is an irrelevant factor in anything that they do or say.

WP_20180913_14_43_11_Pro (2)Another hate I despise is that which suggests that giving trans people rights somehow lessens the rights of women. A piece on the Thursday PM on Radio 4 was, I feel,very one-sided. A male spokesperson for the radical feminist view that transwomen are not women was allowed to spout his distortions of the truth while Ruth Hunt of Stonewall was berated for not controlling trans-activists who respond to this garbage. Hunt pointed out that Stonewall policy was to support the current law of the land i.e. transwomen in possession of the Gender Recognition Certificate are legally women in every respect. This was the first time that I have felt that the BBC did not stick to its famous “balance”. A warning – denying that trans-people have particular rights denies every individual the right to be themselves.

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Jasmine in limbo

I worry about idolatry. (I’m also worried about May’s Brexit debacle and Trump’s UN performance, but those are for another day, perhaps). The way in which (new) Labour party members hero-worship Jeremy Corbyn is the cause of my worry. Idolatry can soon become fanaticism and fanaticism underpins dictatorship. The manner is which Corbyn is hailed as our saviour seems to me to be unrealistic and blinkered. For a start, if we are to claim that the UK is a parliamentary democracy then the leader of a party is only of a limited if significant importance. The tendency has been to form a personality cult around leaders from Margaret Thatcher onwards but the zeal with which the current Labour Party hails Corbyn is beyond anything that has happened before.

Does Corbyn deserve it? He comes across as an honest politician which is rare enough these days and he has values which he has stuck to. Actually that is part of my issue with him since I don’t think he has changed his mind or had a new idea in forty years. The current policies that his team have publicised is a rehash of former Labour/socialist manifestoes – and I do like some of them, but they are hardly fresh or innovative.  Corbyn seems to me to retain old attitudes to the environment (he’s only interested in renewable energy if it can be used to bash the oil companies) and his attitude to women and gender variant people is questionable.

I have my suspicions that Corbyn is a charismatic puppet for a group in the Labour Party with ambitions to establish a state as intolerant of dissent as the rightwingers in May’s party. Their fudge on the subject of the People’s Vote on Brexit is a case in point.

Politicians should earn our respect not our idolisation.  Unfortunately, at the moment I cannot think of one politician of any party who earns my respect for their past and present behaviour, with the possible exception of Caroline Lucas and unfortunately neither she, nor the Green Party, is going to be in a position to affect government policy.

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WP_20180927_16_21_24_ProI am really enjoying attending my new weekly writers group. It’s nice to have a decent cup of coffee while we read our work and talk about writing. They are a lovely group of ladies (unfortunately, the group is almost but not quite exclusively female, not counting me). Today I was given the idea for an excellent murder technique.  Not sure when I can use it, probably not in a Jasmine story, but perhaps if I ever get round to writing my Gussy Harcourt thriller stories (set in 1860s Oxford) it could come in useful.

That’s the joy of writers’ groups – they stimulate the little grey cells and make you want to get down to writing.

Molly’s Boudoir is almost ready to go for typesetting but I’m afraid Jasmine is in limbo at the moment because I’ve run out of time. For this and the next two weeks a couple of hours each day is given over to a trip to the hospital (not for me but for Lou) so I haven’t yet put fingers to keyboard on the next Jasmine short. Patience please.  Don’t forget that their are six Jasmine titles available on Kindle and the first three are also available in paperback from me  viz. Painted Ladies, Bodies By Design, The Brides’ Club Murder, Discovering Jasmine, Murder in Doubt and Trained By Murder.

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Jasmine prepares

NAWG CassAs mentioned in the last blog, I spent last weekend at the NAWG Festival of Writing at Warwick University.  Despite not winning anything, not even a raffle prize, I had a great time. The break-the-ice workshop sessions on Friday afternoon with Steve Bowkett were great and I attended excellent workshops with Simon Hill, Morgen Bailey and Ken Macleod. There were lots of other events, including the Open Mic (I did a bit on moving house), Readings (I read a bit from Cold Fire) and of course the Gala Dinner where I had the pleasure of sitting next to Ken Macleod. I haven’t read much of his work but he is a fine writer. He was a friend of Iain Banks from childhood so I enjoyed talking about one of my favourite authors.  As usual I came away on the one hand feeling that my writing needs to improve but on the other, re-invigorated and keen to move on. As always the atmosphere was inclusive and I felt no problem about being a trans (or rather genderfluid) person amongst cis-people. Actually this year I was not the only trans person (welcome Karly).

NAWG provides a great deal for both writers’ groups and individual writers. If you are in a writers’ group make sure they know about NAWG. You can view the website here

This week I joined a new writers’ group, not unfortunately one that seems to have any contact with NAWG, but an interesting group of authors nevertheless.  I look forward to hearing more of their own writing and telling them all about mine. . .

The latest Jasmine Frame short story, Negative, ended last week (you can go back and read it if you haven’t done so already) so this week I promised a bit more news about the next Jasmine novel – Molly’s Boudoir. Those of you who know about the history of gay and trans people will recognise the significance of the title. This novel is set some ten months after the 3rd novel (The Brides’ Club Murder) and actually takes place in 2013, the year that Painted Ladies was published.  Jasmine’s relationship with Viv has moved on and she is about to have her Gender Reassignment (or Confirmation) Surgery which means a lot to her. Meanwhile there is an incident at Molly’s, a shop owned by Evelyn Bunting in Thirsbury, a town a short distance from Kintbridge, Berkshire. Tom Shepherd is the investigating officer who decides that Jasmine’s help is required. Jasmine of course gets thoroughly involved in the case which takes her into areas of gender and sexuality that she is unfamiliar with.

That’s all I can say without giving too much of the plot away. Let’s say that it is a tale of mystery and action with some sexual content.

I am at the final draft stage so soon Molly’s will be going off for copyediting and preparation for publication – hopefully not long.  Here however, is the cover, once again magnificently prepared by Scott.

Layout 1
Start saving your pennies to buy the e-book or paperback version later in autumn

There will be a new story here, soon.

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Jasmine takes a leap

WP_20180803_14_21_17_Pro (2)This weekend I am at the annual NAWGfest – that is the National Association of Writers’ Groups Writing Festival at Warwick University.  It is a great opportunity to join in several workshops which are always stimulating and thought-provoking as well as meeting and socialising with people that I have got to know over the last few years. NAWG however has something of a split personality. Is it, as its title suggests, a sort of umbrella organisation for writing groups or is it an association for authors published or not.  If the latter then it overlaps somewhat with the Society of Authors, but that organisation is only for published writers. I have been a member of a number of writers’ groups but to my knowledge only one has been a member of NAWG and that one didn’t really participate in the association’s activities.  That was why I became an individual or “associate” member. There are possibly millions of people across the country who are writing, many thousands taking part in on-line or face to face writing groups but not many who take advantage of what NAWG offers, perhaps because of the cost. I find the encouragement I get from meeting other authors, engaging in activities which might not be directly related to my particular writing tasks but nevertheless develop my skills, and just talking about writing, very rewarding. I hope NAWG and its annual festival goes from strength to strength.

You may have noticed I haven’t commented on this week’s news. I am trying to blank it from my consciousness as if I think about it too much I could become very agitated and worried. I really do wonder where we will be in one year, five years, time.

So, let’s get back to fiction. We’ve reached the final episode of Negative. I hope you like the conclusion of this short story.  It fits in the small temporal gap between Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design and I doubt I will be able fit another plot into this period of Jasmine’s life. Next week I’ll say a bit more about Molly’s Boudoir, the fourth novel, and where I’m going with this blog. In the meantime, enjoy.

Negative: Part 11

Alun took a few faltering steps towards his mother who beckoned him with her hands and warm, encouraging words. Jasmine crawled along the cliff edge keeping her head down. The sirens grew louder and then blue lights appeared over the crest of the moorland. Alun froze, took a step back, then another.
Jasmine rose into a crouch, sprang. She intended a low rugby tackle but her shoulders hit Alun’s legs above his knees. He staggered. She closed her arms around his thighs as she toppled to the ground. He flexed his leg. His heel struck Jasmine’s breast. She held on. He slumped.
And rolled. Her arms were trapped under him. Her feet and ankles swung free. She could feel that there was nothing beneath them but air. Now she was holding onto Alun to save herself not to pull him down.
Hands grabbed her clothes, tugged on her, dragged her away from the edge. She spat tough grass from her mouth and looked up. Ceri’s mother was looking down at her and Alun, a uniformed police officer beside her.
‘I thought you both were going over for a moment there,’ the PC said. He dragged the passive Alun off Jasmine and helped him to his feet. Jasmine panted and pushed herself into a sitting position. To her side, inches away, was the drop, the road below out of sight, and the sea. The PC pulled Alun further from danger.
Another police officer offered a hand. Jasmine used it to pull herself up. Alun was already being taken away with his mother tagging along, crying and asking nonsense questions.
‘You okay?’ the officer that had helped Jasmine said.
‘Yeah, I think so.’ Jasmine rubbed her chest. Her false boobs had taken the brunt of Alun’s involuntary kick; her knees were a little sore from being dragged through the tough grass and bare rock; her heart was still thumping from the exertion and the terror.
‘Let me help get you back to the car,’ the officer said. Jasmine nodded and he took her arm allowing her to put some of her weight on him as they walked away from the cliff.

A few minutes later Jasmine found herself sitting on a hard, plastic seat in an interview room at the town police station. She had barely noticed where the police car was taking her when she had been shown into the rear seat and they had set off down the hill. Her thoughts had been going over those last few moments; her fear that Alun was about to throw himself off the cliff, her own narrow escape from falling; she wondered if the police understood what had happened, the reason for Alun’s flight; did they realise that Ceri had nothing to do with Tegan’s death.
The door opened and a detective walked in, a short, thin woman with lank hair. She carried a mug which she put down on the table in front of Jasmine.
‘This is for you. Sweet tea. I believe you’ve had a bit of a shock. What’s your name?’
‘Jasmine Frame.’ She looked at the pale beige liquid in the mug. A coffee perhaps was desirable but not this sugared water. ‘Thanks,’ she said, nevertheless.
The detective sat down opposite her. ‘I’m DS Huws, Glynys Huws. Sorry to put you in here. It’s not very comfy, but we need to ask you some questions. Like what was going on up there on the cliff?’
‘I thought Alun might jump,’ Jasmine said.
‘You know him then?’
‘No. I know his sister, Ceri.’
‘Ah, yes, Ceri Powell. Mrs Powell says she found you alone at her house.’
Jasmine took a deep breath and began her story. ‘I’d gone to see her, find out what was happening to Ceri. Only Alun was at home. We had a talk but he became agitated. I got knocked over as he ran out.’
‘Knocked over?’
‘Well, knocked out I think. He didn’t mean it. I cracked my head against the door. That’s how his mother, Mrs Powell found me.’
DS Huws showed concern. ‘How’s your head now?’
Jasmine felt her skull. The headache had dulled; she was hardly conscious of it amongst the other scrapes and bruises of her contribution to saving or arresting Alun.
‘OK,’ she said, ‘I don’t feel concussed.’
The detective smiled. ‘Why did Mr Powell become, er, agitated?’
‘I had got him to tell me what he did with Tegan Jones.’
‘What he did?’ The detective’s eyes widened.
‘Ceri had nothing to do with Tegan’s death.’ Jasmine explained about Tegan’s transphobic treatment of Ceri and Alun’s brotherly response. The detective listened.
‘So, Alun Powell confessed to you that he abducted Miss Jones, knocked her unconscious, took her to the top of the headland and dropped her off the cliff.’
‘No, not the last,’ Jasmine shook her head vigorously. ‘He left her on the edge. Her fall was an accident.’
‘I’m not sure the death of Tegan Jones can be called an accident.’
Jasmine shrugged. She reluctantly had to agree with the detective on that point. ‘No, not an accident, but not a deliberate act.’
‘If we corroborate your story then perhaps it will be manslaughter not murder. But how did you get involved. You’re not a local. Is it because you and Ceri Powell are both . . .’
‘Transsexual women. That’s not why I came here,’ Jasmine explained, reluctant to talk about herself. ‘We recognised what we are and became friends, but I’ve only known Ceri a few days since I met her at the hotel where she works. I came for a rest.’
‘A rest? A holiday? On your own?’
‘Yes, on my own. It was more recuperation than holiday.’
The detective examined her. ‘What do you do, Miss Frame?’
‘I’m a detective.’

Jasmine sat on the slightly more comfortable seat in the waiting area, a mug of cooling black coffee resting on her knee. Mrs Powell sat a metre from her, but they weren’t conversing. She was deep in her thoughts no doubt contemplating the future with Alun in custody, facing an appearance in court and perhaps, probably was more likely, a sentence in prison. The DI in charge of the case had allowed her to sit in while Alun was interviewed, his “learning difficulties” recognised.
Jasmine was waiting to hear that she was not required for any more questioning, but she was reluctant to leave the older woman alone, even if they weren’t talking.
A door opened and a sergeant in shirt sleeves emerged followed by Ceri. Mrs Powell leapt to her feet and embraced her daughter. Jasmine stood up and waited for an opportunity to greet her friend.
‘The DI says you can all go now,’ the sergeant said, ‘We’ll keep Mr Powell in the cells over night and give you a call in the morning when he is going to be interviewed again. Do you need a taxi?’
Ceri parted from her mother and spoke first. ‘No, I want to walk in the fresh air. It’s not far.’
The custody officer said good bye and retreated through the locked door.
Ceri stepped towards Jasmine. ‘Thank you for what you did.’
‘What did I do?’
‘Saving my brother.’
Jasmine frowned. ‘I’m afraid I haven’t saved him from the responsibility for Tegan’s death.’
‘I know, but you saved him from falling from the cliff, and he didn’t mean for Tegan to die. You said that.’
‘That’s true. I knew it wasn’t you, but I didn’t know what had happened until Alun told me.’
‘He didn’t know what he was doing,’ Ceri said.
‘He’s a child really,’ Mrs Powell added. ‘They won’t put him in prison with criminals, will they?’
‘The police will treat him as kindly as they can,’ Jasmine explained, ‘but there is the matter of justice for Tegan.’
Ceri bowed her head and looked at the floor. ‘I know. I hated the things she said to me. When they were questioning me, accusing me of killing her, I felt at first that she deserved it, but then it came to me that she was just mixed up. No one deserves to die. I wish I hadn’t complained so much about her to Alun.’ She sniffed and her mother put an arm around her.
Jasmine revealed her thoughts. ‘I don’t know why Tegan was transphobic and I don’t think her partner, Bob, understands either.’
Ceri looked at her. ‘You spoke to her? Bob?’
‘Yes, she and Tegan were obviously very much in love.’
‘She’ll want Alun put away for life,’ Ceri snivelled.
Jasmine shrugged. ‘That’s why we have courts and judges. A jury will probably conclude that Alun is guilty of manslaughter, but the judge will decide how responsible he was and what a fitting punishment really is. It’s not up to the victim’s family or supporters. Alun will be protected.’ Jasmine hoped that what she said was true.
‘Let’s go home,’ Mrs Powell said, taking Ceri in her arms. The three of them walked out of the entrance of the Police Station and commenced the short walk back to their house. The streets were empty now and the sky was dark. Jasmine looked at her watch surprised at how late it was. It was gone midnight. She said farewell to Ceri and her mother and continued towards the hotel. She got her mobile out of her bag relieved that it hadn’t been lost on the hillside and also that it was still working. There was a text she hadn’t read earlier. The Benefits Agency wanted her to start an investigation. She had a job to go home to. Her holiday was over.

THE END

Jasmine asks questions

WP_20180803_14_21_17_Pro (2)For the last week we have been settling into our new home. There’s been a lot to do – unpacking, setting up new pieces of furniture, even some decorating (not my favourite job).  I was appalled by the amount of cardboard waste we generated but at least we have delivered it all to the recycling centre.  The polystyrene and polythene sheet was another matter – surely they can be recycled, the polythene especially, but apparently not.

We know no-one here although we have said hello to some of our neighbours but it has been pleasant just getting on with our own thing. Political issues have not been at the forefront of my mind although the pieces I have read have not eased my fears for the future. Nevertheless we are looking forward to getting familiar with our new home and meeting people.

Next weekend I will be at the 9Worlds convention in London otherwise known as the London Geekfest. It’s turned out I’m doing two talks, the first on creating positive trans figures in fiction, i.e. Jasmine, although I hope to widen out my talk into a discussion with the audience.  My second talk is about alchemy and chemistry in SF and fantasy or “Cavorite to Coaxium – super-materials in SF&F” which will, of course, include a plug for my September Weekes books. I seem to have drawn the short straw with the timings though – 5 p.m. on Friday for the former and 9 a.m. on Saturday for the latter. We’ll have to see if there is an audience.

Thanks to getting our home somewhat straight, I have at last been able to get back to some writing and have written the next episode of Negative, the Jasmine Frame prequel/sequel that fits in the short period of time between Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design. We’ve reached episode 7 and Jasmine is, at last, starting to investigate. . .

Negative: Part 7

‘You were close to her,’ Jasmine said as empathically as she could manage, ‘I’m sorry.’
The woman looked at her. ‘Thank you.’ There was a hint of a sob in her voice.
‘Do you know what happened here?’ Jasmine persisted. ‘Was she in a car accident?’
The woman shook her head. ‘I don’t know. The police won’t say; not yet.’ She turned and glanced up at the mist-shrouded cliff. ‘They say she could have fallen instead of being hit by a car. They’re waiting for the pathologist to tell them how she died.’
‘Oh, that’s awful.’ Jasmine was trying to think of comforting things to say but struggling. The eagerness to find out the facts, whatever they were, overrode her feelings of sympathy. ‘It was last night wasn’t it? What was she doing out here then?’
The woman looked at her with a face filled with anguish. ‘I’ve no idea. There was no reason for her to be here. She should have been home with me after work.’
‘After work?’ Jasmine said innocently. Of course, she knew Tegan’s work, or presumed she did.
‘Tegan worked in a hotel. Head waiter. She should have come home when dinner was finished. She usually got in by nine-thirty. She didn’t last night.’
‘You must have been worried.’
Her face creased up. Jasmine was afraid she was going to burst into tears. ‘When it got past ten, I was worried. I waited another hour then rang the police.’
‘Oh, did they start looking for her?’ Jasmine thought she knew what the answer would be.
‘No. They said some things which were supposed to reassure me and told me to ring again later if she hadn’t turned up. As if Tegan would go off for a night without telling me!’
‘They might have started searching sooner if they thought that your partner was suicidal.’
‘Suicide!’ The woman looked horrified.
Jasmine shrugged. ‘She wasn’t then?’
‘No, no, not Tegan. Okay, she wasn’t really happy at work, but it wasn’t so bad that she wanted to end her life. I’m sure of it.’
The mention of work increased Jasmine’s interest. ‘What was wrong at work?’
‘A new waitress. Tegan didn’t get on with her.’
She must mean Ceri, Jasmine thought. Apart from the bubbly Myfanwy who only worked two days, there was only Ceri working with Tegan.
‘Did she tell you why they didn’t get on?’
There was a small shake of her head. ‘Tegan said she was rude to her and didn’t do what she was asked to do. It was strange because she usually got along with everyone.’
That wasn’t Jasmine’s impression, but perhaps Tegan’s issues with Ceri affected her manner with guests. Or perhaps it was simply that Tegan didn’t get on with trans women.
Jasmine backpedalled in the tale. ‘So, did the police find her here?’
The woman shook her head vigorously. ‘No, that was a jogger. I don’t know who it was but they called the police and ambulance. It was too late to save her though. She was already dead. Someone at the police station remembered my call and they got me to look at . . . her.’ This time there was a sob. Jasmine reached out a hand and touched the woman’s arm gently.
‘I really am sorry. I shouldn’t have disturbed you. It’s a very sad time for you.’
‘No, no, talking about her, Tegan, about what’s happened, helps. It seemed unreal, a dream but now I know it’s something I have to deal with.’ The woman looked into Jasmine’s face. ‘Who are you?’
‘My name’s Jasmine, Jasmine Frame.’
‘I haven’t seen you before. Do you live here?’
‘No, I’m a visitor. I was out for a walk. Fresh air with added water.’ Jasmine was lying; she was out in the rain because she was eager to find out what had happened to Tegan.
‘Ah, I see. Well, thank you for stopping to talk.’
‘What’s your name? You told me your partner was Tegan.’
‘I’m sorry, I should have said. You told me your name. I’m Bob, short for Roberta.’
The rain became harder. Both women shrank into their jackets.
‘Look, I’d better go,’ Bob said, ‘that policeman has been waiting patiently for me to finish.’
Jasmine looked at the police car. Through the rain-spattered windows she could see the police officer watching them.
‘He brought you here, did he?’ Jasmine asked.
‘I wanted to see where she’d been, er, found. He offered to drive me up here. It’s such a lonely spot. Thank you again.’ Bob crossed the road to the police car. The officer leaned over and pushed the passenger door open. Bob got in and they drove off towards the town.
Jasmine pulled her jacket tight around her, not that it was stopping her getting soaked. The police car was out of sight almost as soon as it set off. Jasmine crossed the road to the cordoned off area, stepped over the tape and crouched down to the look at the bouquet. There was a sodden card stapled to the clear plastic. The ink was running but the words were still just legible. They read, “For my love, Bob”.
Jasmine surveyed the tarmac and the narrow strip of gravel between the road and the cliff. There was nothing to draw her attention, but she didn’t expect to find anything. Forensics would have done a thorough investigation and taken away any objects of interest. What was missing was interesting though. Even though the rain had washed away blood and other water-soluble bodily fluids spilled onto the roadway, some marks might have been expected to remain since the time of Tegan’s death. Tyre marks for instance. Jasmine paced up and down the crime scene, then stepped over the tape and walked in both directions along the road. There were no traces of any skidmarks. It wasn’t conclusive. The water on the road could have washed away the greasy rubber if it had been there, but surely some would remain to be observed by a detective’s practised eye.
So, Tegan wasn’t hit by a vehicle slamming on its brakes. Either it was a hit-and-run where the driver didn’t pause or slow at all, or Tegan wasn’t killed by the impact with a vehicle. Perhaps she had fallen from the cliff above. Jasmine gazed upwards. The rain was easing and the cloud breaking up. Visibility was improving. She couldn’t see the clifftop, but it was a long way up. A fall from that height would most likely be fatal. Tegan’s injuries would confirm whether she was killed by a fall or collision.
She began to retrace her steps back into the town. Tegan’s death was a mystery. Why hadn’t she returned home to her partner, Bob, when her shift at dinner ended? What was she doing either here on the road or up above, if indeed she got here under her own volition? And why was her relationship with Ceri so fraught if Bob’s opinion of her being a warm, loving person was correct?
Jasmine pondered as she trudged along the road, the sun beginning to warm her and dry her sodden clothes.

……………………to be continued

Jasmine’s day out

I couldn’t let it pass without comment, could I. The big topic of the week. No, not that. School uniforms, of course. First there was the now annual revolt of boys adopting skirts because they were denied shorts as an alternative to long grey trousers in the hot weather. Then there was the discussion about school uniforms in general. Apparently some schools have imposed a supposedly non-gendered uniform policy on pupils i.e. they have to wear a stereotypical western male uniform of trousers and shirt, (and probably a blazer and tie). This is justified with some derogatory comments about skirts or dresses being “embarrassing”. The main reason for choosing trousers is supposed to be to prevent “upskirting”.

20180621_185132Having taught in boys’, girls’ and mixed schools, as well as being genderfluid with a predilection for wearing skirts and dresses, it won’t surprise you that I have an opinion on this. Only one school I taught at did not have a uniform. Dress code was smart so no jeans (at least I think that was it). While most students were sensible, a sizeable number, particularly girls but not exclusively, treated dress as a competitive sport. They were little rich kids so they could afford very expensive and trendy stuff. I recall one girl wearing a £500 (1980s prices) leather jacket to my practical chemistry class. Girls who arrived without an up-to-the-moment wardrobe were ridiculed.

It’s always been one of the arguments for uniform that it takes away this competitive element, stops the morning arguments about what Olivia (or Oliver) should wear and makes the school’s kids easy to pick out when outside school (that happens less often now there are fewer trips). But some schools have got tied up in knots about the actual dress rules and are struggling now that gender is an issue. Many schools are still stuck with a girls having a choice, skirts or trousers, while boys don’t policy. It is sexist as well as a restriction on those who want to express their gender questioning.

While there might still be a case for some uniform element, I think it is restrictive and displays a lack of acceptance of diversity on the part of the school management. There should be no distinction between male and female; boys should be allowed to wear skirts if they like and girls shouldn’t be forced into trousers. The upskirting argument is spurious – boys should be taught how to behave in modern society and that intruding on a person’s (girl or otherwise) privacy is not allowed. But I also feel that the western style of male dress is too narrow. In many cultures across the world, men wear forms of gowns or kilts. Young people should be able to adopt those styles if they wish.

So, let’s allow much more variety in our schools, even if there is an element of uniformity in colours or badges.

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In one week I will be at BLISS at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Southport, Lancs. where all my (paper) books will be on sale. I’m hoping for a good crowd of browsers (with some money to spend).

We’ve reached episode 4 of Negative, the Jasmine Frame sequel/prequel that fits between Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design. Things are warming up.

Negative: Part 4

‘When’s your day off?’ Jasmine asked, changing the subject.
‘Tomorrow. Hey, we could meet up and I could show you around.’
Jasmine felt her spirits lift. It would lovely to spend a day with this attractive and vivacious girl. ‘That’s lovely. Any ideas?’
‘Let’s jump on a bus and look over the castle. The old town’s got lots of lovely shops and cafes.’
‘Great. What time? Do you have a lie-in on your day off?’’
Ceri grinned. ‘Definitely. I don’t get up before six on my one day of freedom. Shall we meet at the bus station at nine-thirty?’
‘Suits me.’
They chatted for a bit longer before Ceri left to do some errands for her mother. Jasmine set off to walk around the headland. It was a good distance and she was pleased to feel her muscles working. The cliffs and the ever-changing view across the sea entertained her.
A bath followed by dinner completed her day. Ceri was cheerful when she served her. Myfanwy was again a jolly colleague. At the end of the meal Ceri said, ‘See you in the morning.’ Jasmine nodded and headed back to her room.

Tegan was back on duty at breakfast and spreading chill with her dark frowns. Jasmine did note that she was polite to the older woman filling in for Ceri. Was Tegan a bully who picked on more junior colleagues or was it because Ceri was trans that she persecuted her? Jasmine wasn’t certain but was happy that it was Myfanwy who served her with a smile and a chuckle.
As Jasmine got up to leave the dining room, Tegan approached her.
‘You’ve been meeting Ceri,’ Tegan said.
‘I have,’ Jasmine replied. She had considered saying it was none of Tegan’s business but decided to see where the glum woman was going with this conversation.
‘We have a rule that staff should treat all guests the same.’
‘That’s what I would expect of any hotel,’ Jasmine said.
‘So we don’t allow staff to meet up with guests socially,’ Tegan went on.
Jasmine felt a flush come to her cheeks. ‘I think you’ll find that what a member of staff does in their own time is their own business, and who a “guest” or anyone else meets outside of this building is none of yours or anyone else’s concern.’ Jasmine pushed past the woman and marched somewhat faster than she intended from the dining room.
She got herself ready for a day out and was at the bus station with plenty of time to spare. She was still angry at Tegan’s effrontery but decided that she wouldn’t mention it to Ceri. The bus drew up at the stop and Jasmine got on. She glanced at her watch. It was nine-thirty and there was no sign of Ceri but the bus was not due to leave for another ten minutes.
With a minute to go, she saw the girl running towards the bus with her golden hair blowing out behind her. As she leapt on, her short skirt rose revealing her smooth, tanned thighs and a flash of large knickers. She flopped down beside Jasmine.
‘Sorry I’m late. I knew I had time to catch the bus but I got stuck with my brother.’
‘Oh, what did Alun want?’
‘Nothing really. Just checking on me I suppose.’
The bus pulled away. Ceri fidgeted beside Jasmine but pointed out places that related to her lifetime in the town. Then they were on the road along the estuary and approaching the bridge into the old town with its castle a prominent landmark. Soon they were disembarking and Ceri lead Jasmine through the narrow streets. Jasmine enjoyed her guided tour but felt there was something behind Ceri’s never-ending chatter and constant impatience to show her something else.

They stopped their tour for a late lunch in an olde-worlde café which Jasmine cheerfully paid for. She felt she had to repay Ceri for her company.
‘I’ll have to catch the bus back soon,’ Ceri said putting down her fork.
‘Oh, that’s okay,’ Jasmine replied feeling a little surprised because she had thought she had Ceri for the day. ‘I mustn’t take up all your time.’
‘No, I’m sorry. I didn’t know. There are things. . .’
‘It’s really no problem. It’s been very good of you to show me round.’
Ceri started to get up. ‘You don’t have to come with me, now.’
‘Oh,’ Jasmine hadn’t considered what she would do. ‘Are there buses later.’
‘Oh yes. Every hour until late this evening. But you’ll want to be back at the hotel for dinner won’t you.’
‘Mmm, yes.’
Ceri stood up. ‘I’ll see you tomorrow then. Breakfast.’
‘Yes, ‘Bye Ceri. Thanks.’
The girl was gone in a flash of gold hair. Jasmine was left contemplating her sudden departure. Had she known all along that she would have to leave at this time? What was it that demanded her return? Had she read a text while Jasmine wasn’t looking that made her decide to leave? It was probably of no concern of hers. She should be grateful for the young woman giving up the time she had on her one free day of the week. Jasmine finished her drink and decided to resume her wandering around the town, at a slower pace than Ceri had set.

Despite Myfanwy’s smile, dinner was served in the gloom caused by Tegan’s scowls and curt responses to queries from guests. Jasmine ate quickly and returned to her room for a quiet evening of TV and reading. She realised that she had fallen into a comfortable routine of sightseeing, meals and relaxation, with her meetings with Ceri a highlight of stimulating conversation. Not that they discussed weighty matters. The closest they got to that was comparing notes about their transitions and their hopes for their future lives as women.
Jasmine was still getting tired at the end of the day despite her lack of stress. Would she ever be ready to go back to investigating? She hoped so.

Jasmine woke the following morning to find the light entering her room, dull. There were raindrops on the window and grey clouds in the sky. She stayed in bed until it was almost too late for breakfast. There was only one laid-up table, her own, when she entered the dining room. Just one other couple were finishing their meal. Other tables were still covered with the detritus of breakfast eaten. Neither waitress was in evidence.
Jasmine sat in her usual seat and waited. A few minutes passed before Ceri appeared from the kitchen. Some of her long golden hair had escaped from her bun and she looked harassed. She approached Jasmine.
‘Good morning, Ceri. How are you after your day off?’ Jasmine asked feeling that as Tegan wasn’t in sight she could be friendly.
Ceri took her notebook from her pocket. ‘Oh, er fine. What would like this morning.’ Jasmine gave her usual order which Ceri jotted down. Tegan had still not appeared to glower at them.
‘Isn’t Tegan on duty today?’ Jasmine asked.
‘No, she isn’t. I’ve had to do everything.’ There was an impatient tone to Ceri’s reply.
‘Oh. Is she ill?’
Ceri shrugged. ‘I’ve no idea. I don’t think she called to say she wasn’t coming in. I’ll get your breakfast.’ She hurried off. She returned with the coffee jug, and then with toast and Jasmine’s cooked breakfast. In between she dashed around clearing tables, doing the job of two waitresses.
Jasmine was alone now, taking her time over her bacon and egg. Ceri passed close to her with her arms loaded with crockery.
‘Does this happen often?’ Jasmine said.
Ceri paused. ‘First time. I’ve never known Tegan miss a shift.’ She departed for the kitchen.
Jasmine had finished her final piece of toast, washed down with black coffee when the door to the dining room opened. The proprietor of the hotel, a short man with thin strands of black hair plastered across his bald head, entered followed by a uniformed policeman.
They both glanced at Jasmine, the hotel owner perhaps surprised to see a guest still at breakfast. Ceri emerged from the kitchen and stopped dead. An ‘Oh,’ escaped from her lips.
‘Hello Ceri,’ the owner said, ‘the police officer would like a word with you.’
‘With me? Why?’ Ceri looked confused.
The policeman stepped forward. ‘You normally work with Miss Tegan Jones.’
‘Yes.’
‘When did you see her last?’
‘The day before yesterday,’ Ceri replied still bemused.
‘Not yesterday?’ the officer said, ‘Wasn’t she at work yesterday?’
The owner raised his hand. ‘Oh, I forgot. Yesterday was your day off wasn’t it Ceri. Myfanwy was on with Tegan yesterday.’
Ceri nodded in agreement. ‘Yes, why? What’s happened?’
‘The body of Tegan Jones was found earlier this morning. We’re trying to trace her movements.’
Ceri stared. ‘The body?’

………………………..to be continued.

 

 

Jasmine’s back

WP_20180414_09_47_33_ProIn four weeks I’ll be at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Southport, Lancashire for the BLISS Book Lovers event (Sat. 14th July.)  It’s another of those bookfairs where the authors display their books and engage visitors with enthralling chat about their work. It really works best if there are lots of people wandering around who aren’t the participating authors. For that reason I have a few free entry tickets available for anyone wanting to attend.  Just send me a message on paintedladiesnovel@btinternet.com and if they haven’t all gone I’ll see that you get a ticket. Also send me a message if you want to pre-order any of my books for delivery at the event.  They will all be priced at £8 on the day except for Painted Ladies, which is free with either Bodies By Design or The Brides’ Club Murder. The Evil Above the Stars trilogy will be £21 for all three volumes.  There will also be free bookmarks and postcards of scenes from the September novels, particularly Cold Fire.

Of course, if you can’t get to Southport you can order the books direct from me by sending a message to me at the same email address above.  All books are £9.99 inc p&p each and the free offer for Painted Ladies stands. The package of the three Evil Above the Stars books is £25.

……………….

And so Jasmine returns. I’ve had a rest from writing Jasmine Frame stories for a couple of months although the fourth novel, Molly’s Boudoir, is still on the stocks. This new story is something of an innovation.  It is both a sequel and prequel.  It fits into the short period of time between the events of Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design. I am not going to give away any of the plot of Painted Ladies other than to say Jasmine is recovering.  You’ll have to wait and see how the story develops but I do want it to be a little more reflective.  Jasmine is stuck at the stage in her transition where she’s living as a woman and taking hormones but the body she wants is a distant goal because of the time it takes to get Gender Confirmation  Surgery. She’s alone and self-employed and has just completed a traumatic case so she has reason to be reflective.

By the way I’d welcome beta readers for Molly’s Boudoir.  If you would like to read it in its pre-copyedit state and are prepared to make comments (positive and negative) then please send me a message on the email address above. In  return you’ll get my grateful thanks and a signed (yes, really) paperback copy when it is published.

So here is the first episode of Negative.

Negative: Part 1

The forest of wind turbines on the horizon in a flat calm sea seemed to be unchanging. It was only the rattle of the railway carriage that told her that she was moving. She kept her face close to the window gazing at the scene. It had been a long time since she’d seen the sea, but it was almost like coming home having grown up in a coastal town. This was a different bit of sea though and turning away to look out of the other side of the carriage she could see that she was travelling through unfamiliar country. Hills clothed in bright green grass and dark trees rose steeply from the narrow coastal strip and beyond, partially hidden in cloud, were the dark blue hints of higher mountains.
Jasmine looked back at the sea. She needed a holiday, a break, a change of scene, but it felt a little like she was running away. Angela had recommended it, as did Jilly, her GP. While her injuries were healing, the dreams still disturbed her nights. She woke feeling she couldn’t breathe. The media interest in her, though lessening, was irritating and stopped her from getting back to work. Not that she was sure she would have much work. Frame Investigations might be defunct. Who wanted a private investigator whose picture had appeared in the local and national newspapers and on the internet?
She’d argued. She didn’t want to go away. She wanted to curl up in her drab, small flat. She was alone. What was she going to do on a vacation? Anyway, she couldn’t afford it.
Angela had argued back. The change would do her good, refresh her. She’d meet new people; people who didn’t know her. She had some money coming from the Police for her work and in victim compensation, and why didn’t she use some of her savings. That was for her transition, she’d responded.
Angela had replied, ‘Your wellbeing now is more important than having money in the bank for whatever surgeries you decide you might need in the future.’ Jasmine had wanted to retort that future treatment was what was going to make her what she wanted to be, but she had accepted Angela’s point.
So here she was, on a train to somewhere unfamiliar. On her own because, of course, Angela had her own career she couldn’t desert at short notice and anyway they were divorced now. There was no-one else.

The train pulled into the terminus station. Jasmine collected her small case and stepped onto the carriage accompanied by a couple of dozen fellow travellers. It was summer, but not yet school holiday time so the season hadn’t really taken off. Her companions were largely grey-haired. Though they might have noticed her in her t-shirt and short skirt, none seemed to take any interest in her. She checked the map on her phone and strode out of the station towing her case behind her. The hotel she’d booked wasn’t far. It was in one of the streets that lead down to the seafront, but she noted, didn’t have a direct view of the sea. It was a small independently run establishment. The grey stone Victorian building looked as though it had had a coat of paint applied to its woodwork but didn’t seem to have had any recent improvements. Not seedy anyway. She’d booked it because it was cheap, offered breakfast and dinner and had a single room spare for a fortnight – that was as long as she thought she’d survive being on holiday.
The owner showed her into the room. Its narrow window looked out at the row of buildings in the next street with just a peek at the hill that rose beyond the town. He was welcoming and explained the idiosyncrasies of the plumbing and informed her of the mealtimes. She examined his face. Had he guessed what she was? Did his eyes display any sense of judgement? No, he was treating her as she thought he would any other guest who happened to be a single woman, taking care not to fuss over her in case it was interpreted as being sexist.
After asking if there was any other assistance she needed, the proprietor left her alone. Jasmine unpacked her bag and then decided to explore. She left the hotel and walked down to the seafront. Although the sun was still shining it was now late afternoon, her journey had taken most of the day, and there was a cool breeze blowing in off the water. Her bare arms and legs felt a bit chilly. To keep warm, she strode out along the promenade. She passed retired couples and families with young pre-school children, but the wide concreted pavement wasn’t crowded. On one side were the large, at one time grand, hotels and on the other, brightly painted wooden huts offering the usual seaside goods for visitors – buckets and spades, sunhats, ice cream, soft drinks, and fast food accompanied by the sickening smell of over-cooked fat.
She went to the iron rail that marked the boundary between the shore and beach and gazed out at the curve of the bay with the mountains on the right and the headland to the left. Why was she here? She knew no-one and knew nothing about this area. It was simply a retreat, somewhere to be herself, unknown and hopefully unbothered. For a moment she wondered what the attitude of the locals was to transitioning transwomen. Were they likely to be more or less accepting than in the cities and towns she was familiar with? She didn’t know, and it gave her a little anxiety about what she might discover. Holiday-makers, surely, were only interested in their own enjoyment so would be unconcerned by her, that is unless there were some young, single men looking for women to satisfy their vacation lust. She’d have to avoid them.
She wasn’t sure what she would spend her time her doing. There were plenty of things to do and see, walks to do and she’d brought a few books. Swimming in the sea was out. No bathing costume helped her look more feminine, and her scars would show. Relax, that was the main thing – and recuperate; dispel the nightmares of the slashing knife, ripping through her skin, chopping at her penis and scrotum. Yes, she wanted rid of them, but in a controlled, clean, anaesthetised manner where they would be used to build her new genitalia. She shivered, not just with the breeze on her shoulders, and turned to walk back to the hotel.

After kicking off her shoes and lying on the bed to read a not very interesting novel for a while, her watch told her it was time for dinner. Did one dress for dinner in hotels these days? She wasn’t sure but decided to change from the clothes she had travelled in. Instead she put on a calf-length dress with a thin cardigan. She powdered her face and re-did her lipstick. She looked in the mirror. What impression did she give? A young(ish) woman on her own in a small holiday hotel. Would people wonder why she was alone and perhaps examine her for reasons for her aloneness? Would their examinations note the wide shoulders, the mannish angle of her nose, and firm jaw-line? Would they suspect her for what she was?
She was used to these worries although it was the first time for a long time that she had been in a new place to test them. She took a deep breath, picked up her bag, checked her new smart phone was in it and stepped outside her door.
The dining room was half full. Most of the occupied tables by couples although one had two pairs sitting at it. Glances noted her entry, but none lingered. A waitress, dark hair, probably in her forties, indicated that she could sit at any of the smaller tables set for two, and left her to choose. She went to a table at the corner of the room which, while unobtrusive, gave her a view of the diners. She sat, pulling the hem of her dress under her bottom and looked at the brief menu.
There was a buzz of conversation around her. She caught snippets of conversation about the day’s activities, and discussions of the news of the moment – the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and preparations for the London Olympics, now less than two months away and the media, at least, becoming frantic that the organisation was incomplete.
Jasmine was approached by the second of the waitresses on duty. She was young, slim and tall, at least as tall as Jasmine’s five foot nine. Her long blonde hair was tied in a bun so that it wouldn’t flop into the dinner plates when she served the diners. Like the other waitress she was dressed in the typical waiting uniform of short, black skirt, black tights and black pinafore but the younger girl’s skirt ended higher on her thighs. She gave Jasmine a thin smile but there was a nervousness about her, her eyes not looking directly at her, that caused Jasmine to examine her. She noted the heavy foundation on her chin and cheeks, and the bold colour of her eye and lip make-up. The shirt was tucked into the skirt but the girl didn’t have much of a waist. The hand that gripped the notebook had painted nails but was large with stubby fingers.
“Are you ready to order?” the girl said in a way that Jasmine suspected she’d prepared herself to speak rather than just spill the words out. She smiled at the girl and the thought came to her, what were the chances that the hotel I chose to stay in had a trans employee?

………………………..to be continued.