Jasmine confused

The one thing everyone has asked for concerning Brexit, particularly business people, is certainty. We need to know what is going to happen when (if?) we leave the EU. Most MPs, most business people and, I think now, most citizens, don’t want to leave and do not want the uncertainty of a botched, no deal exit. Yet, confusion reigns. May does her utmost to annoy everyone – Parliament and the 27 leaders of the EU included – while saying she speaks for “the people”.  One thing is certain – she doesn’t speak for me. The funny thing is I don’t think she speaks for the ardent leavers either, so who does she speak for? We are now in the situation  of the EU imposing dates because our government has failed to make any plans at all or to say what it wants. We have a couple of weeks for a majority in Parliament to come together behind some course of action – preferably and most sensibly the revocation of Article 50 to reset things to where they were three years ago,  followed by a further (non-mandatory)  referendum to gauge voters inclinations (hopefully to remain in the EU), followed by a general election to give a mandate to someone who isn’t May.  The damage done to the country over the last three years (to say nothing of the effects of austerity, and so on, since the 2008 crash) won’t be repaired soon. We have to regain of the confidence and goodwill not only of our European colleagues but our overseas trade partners such as Japan (which invested such a lot here since the 1980s and basically saw it being trashed by Brexit).

But who knows where we’ll be on 12th April.

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I was on the radio on Monday evening – BBC Hereford & Worcester. The occasion was the announcement by musician Sam Smith that he considers himself non-binary.  I’ve been the go to person for H&W for while when anything trans related gets tackled on the 20190318_141238evening rush hour prog. The presenter, Andrew Easton, asked some sensible, if basic, questions which were actually about me rather than Sam Smith, and we went on rather longer than was planned I think. I talked about the “spectrum of gender identity”, rejecting male and female stereotypes, and the toxic effect of gender inequality on women in all areas of society. We talked about titles, and whether there is any necessity for them any longer on documents such as passports (surely biometrics provide a much more secure check than whether someone is Mr or Ms.), and the need for non-gendered toilets and changing areas  (easily provided if given a bit of thought and more efficient in the long run). I think it went well. Andrew ended by politely asking how old I was since it might have been thought a “snowflake” issue given Sam Smith’s relative lack of years. I told him I was 66 that day – so I got a Happy Birthday broadcast on  regional radio.

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This week’s piece for my writers’ group was a bit of an experiment.  The topic was “digging my heels in”. My literal brain immediately had an image of just that, which connected with an incident that occurred to Jasmine Frame in Painted Ladies.  So I wrote another take on it but written in the 2nd person. (the character is neither Jasmine, nor me).  It is quite unusual to use 2nd person in fiction but N K Jemisin uses it for one of the three character strands that run through her triple Hugo winning trilogy, The Broken Earth. It seems to me quite effective at putting the reader in the position of the protagonist although it doesn’t necessarily let you know what they are thinking (1st person does that). Let’s see what you think. Here is Heels:

Heels

You stand in front of the long mirror, turn from side to side, peer at the image. It is not you. Not the you that you see in your mind. You recognise it though, that nose that is too large, the thin lips, the short, thinning hair, the wide shoulders and the narrow hips. It’s not all bad. Your new red bra covering the enhancers has given you something of a figure, and the matching knickers are covering what’s below.
You sigh and pull on the tights and the red dress. The hem is just above your knee, sexy but not tarty. You sit down at the dressing-table and start applying your make-up. You’ve done this many times so you know what works and what doesn’t. When you’re finished you stand and slip the brunette wig onto your head and look in the mirror again. That’s better. The wig and make-up may be a disguise, but you are behind it looking out.
You slide your feet into the red shoes with the three-inch, almost-stiletto, heels. You stand again and face the long mirror.  You’ve practised wearing the heels, day after day. You strutted around the flat holding your head up, forcing your legs and back to be straight. You toppled and almost fell often, but gradually you learnt how to keep your balance and walk while always on tiptoe. It was agony at first, the shoes rubbed your heels and your toes hurt. It was worth it. Now you’re ready.
A beep comes from your phone. You grab it and search out the text message. It’s just a smiley but it means that Carol is outside. You glance through the curtain. Yes, there is her car on the road. She’s managed to park right by your gate. You put your coat on, the shiny black, pvc mac, and pick up your handbag.
You hurry from the door to the car. It’s a dark, damp evening, so perhaps none of the neighbours have seen you, or recognised you.
“Hi, Nikki,” Carol says as you slide into the passenger seat. Her voice is lower than yours, but she doesn’t care. “Ready for it then?”
“You bet,” you reply. Does your nervousness show in your voice? You hope not. You’ve been looking forward to this evening out. You don’t want to appear to be the novice that you really are.
“Let’s hit the town then.” Carol presses her foot on the accelerator.

The club is crowded. The flashing lights make it almost impossible to discern the variety of bodies, drinking, dancing and chatting, well, shouting at each other. The air hot and damp and full of smells of cheap perfume, sweat and a few other substances. You sip your g&t while looking around, taking in the sights and the sounds. How many of the girls are like you? How many of the girls are girls?  There are men too, some with the girls, some circulating, eyeing up the others, the unattached.
“Let’s dance,” Carol shouts in your ear. She takes your hand and hauls you up. You stagger a little getting your balance on those three-inch heels. Then you follow her into the mêlée of gyrating bodies. The noise is deafening but there is rhythm. You start to move to the beat, enjoying the feeling of your make-believe breasts oscillating up and down. For a few moments you lose touch with your surroundings, just enjoying being a dancing girl.
Bodies press against you. You open your eyes. A man has inserted himself between you and Carol. He’s in a shiny, grey suit with a white shirt and thin black tie. His hair is slicked down and combed to one side. He could be your age, perhaps younger. He’s examining you, eyes flicking from the top of your wig down passed your boobs to the hem of your dress which is flapping as you dance.
He gives you a smile. It’s not a cheery, friendly smile. It doesn’t make you feel happy. He comes closer. It could be the press of the other bodies, but you think it’s deliberate. He wants to be close to you. He places a hand on your right hip. You shudder. It wasn’t what you were wanting or expecting. What were you expecting? Definitely not contact.
He leans forward so his lips are by your ear.
“Nice dress,” he shouts. He straightens up again, the leer back on his face. You try a smile, but you aren’t sure if it looks like one.
His hand is still on your hip. You’ve almost ceased dancing because you’re afraid the hand might move with you. He’s looking into your eyes. You’re looking back. Wondering.
You’re not prepared for his next move. His other hand shoots up your dress and grabs you between your legs. He’s found something to grab hold of. Now his smile becomes a laugh. His grip tightens. You can’t move. You can’t think.
He edges forward again, his feet between yours, your crotch held tight. “I thought so. Tranny.”
You have to get away. You don’t want what he wants, whatever that might be. One thought comes into your brain. You lift your right foot. You slam it down heel first. On his foot.
His hands release you. He falls back. His scream is audible above the music. You stand and stare.
Carol grabs your hand. “Let’s get out of here.”
She guides you from the club, pausing just to pick up your coats. You’re outside.
“Run. Before they see we’ve gone. He and his mates will do you in if they catch you.”
You hurry after her, your heels clattering against the pavement. You’re not thinking of keeping your back straight now.
You reach the car. Carol’s already inside starting the engine. You move off as you pull the door closed.
You sigh. Carol glances at you as she manoeuvres onto the road and speeds up.
“What did he do? Grab your balls?”
You nod. You’re shaking.
“Did you push him or something?”
“I dug my heel into his foot.”
Carol laughs.

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Jasmine hears a tale

Phew! A majority of Americans have slowed the Trump/Republican goosestep towards right wing dictatorship.  I don’t fully understand the American government system but with the Democrats winning the House of Representatives perhaps a stalemate will ensue. Just so long as the Law of Unexpected Consequences doesn’t operate and something occurs that no-one wants or expects. Trump’s press conference fracas is one.

To home, and an article in last weekend’s Guardian. It concerned the work of the Tavistock Clinic in London, which assesses and treats children with gender dysphoria, together with the recent ITV series Butterfly, which told the story of a family with an MtF child. I was disappointed with the Guardian’s editing of the piece. It struck me that it allowed a group of people, largely parents, to spout untruths as if they were facts with no real “balance”  (how you can have balance between truth and lies I don’t know). The main complaint against the Tavistock was that it doesn’t provide a service for 16-25 year olds. Well, no it doesn’t.  16 year olds are adults in terms of medical care and, yes, we know there isn’t enough cash in the NHS to provide care for all the people with gender issues. The Tavistock itself has seen its number of patients rise in the last ten years from under 100 a year to nearly 2000. It certainly doesn’t push children into non-reversible treatment. Gender Reassignment Surgery (GRS) is not carried out on the NHS on under 16s.

Butterfly was a relatively sensible look at the issue and was advised by Mermaids, the charity for transgender children. Only in the third and last episode with a bit of fraud and a dash to the USA did it get unrealistically dramatic. The arguments for and against Max/Maxine were well-rehearsed and generally answered. It showed how long it takes for a child to get an appointment to be assessed. It showed the depth of the questioning to understand the cause and degree of motivation of the child, and it showed that patients are not immediately handed drugs to delay puberty. It exercised the view (spoken by a grandparent) that perhaps Max was a just a gay boy and showed that that was not the case but revealed that at least society has moved on to largely accept teens can be gay.  It dealt with the question about whether being a girl was truly Maxine’s idea or whether she had been pushed into it by her sister and mother who had accommodated or encouraged her wish to dress girly.

The critics of the show missed all these vital scenes and put forward all the false arguments that show that they were displaying their own prejudices and not considering their own children who may have gone through the trauma of gender dysphoria. To make the points once more:

  • Gender identity is not sexuality. Gender is about who you feel yourself to be. A child with a male body may feel themselves to be a girl or vice versa. Some, like myself may feel themselves to be somewhere in between, not identifying with the stereotypes at either end of the gender spectrum.  Sexuality is about who turns you on, who you want to fuck.
  • Gender identity and therefore, in some children, gender dysphoria, arises from the age of 3 or 4. Perhaps 1% of the population feel a mismatch between their physical sex and gender identity. This feeling may become a realisation that they are trans or gender-queer at any age.
  • Children are quick to learn what their parents, families, society, consider important, or disgusting or unspeakable. Becoming gender dysphoric is not sudden, but someone, even a child, may keep it to themselves for years before something forces them to reveal it.
  • Unless you are adult and have lots of cash, you cannot change your physical or legal gender quickly. The NHS is so hard-pressed it may take a year to get a first meeting with a gender specialist.  There will be a long period of assessment before any treatment is offered. There are many opportunities to turn back. Only if the patient is found to be mentally stable will an adult be allowed to go for GRS.
  • The number of children who have revealed that they are transgender, or gender-queer has grown ten-fold in the last few years but they still make up much less than 1% of their age-group. They and us older gender-questioning people are a tiny minority. Only by the understanding of the vast number of people who have never questioned their gender, can we have our right to life upheld. Traditionally the support of gay people has been important but with some lesbians siding with the radical feminists who deny that transwomen are women, the unity of the LGBT+ community is not secure.

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Layout 1I have received the final formatted versions of Molly’s Boudoir back from Alnpete and so it is go for publication of the Kindle version on 30th November with the paperback version available soon after. I’ll be sending review copies very soon so if you would like to receive one (free in return for an Amazon review on 30th Nov.)  then please contact me here.

The third episode of the Painted Ladies prequel short story, Monochrome, follows. We’re getting to the nub of the story here.

Monochrome: Part 3

Jasmine and Angela waited for the girl to begin but she seemed intent on gazing at Jasmine. Jasmine was impatient to hear her story but before she could urge her to talk, the girl spoke.
‘Are you trying to be a woman?’
‘I’m not trying to be anything,’ Jasmine answered irritably.
“Yes, you are. You’re a bloke but you’re dressed like a girl and wearing a wig.’
Jasmine sighed. ‘I’m trans. Sometimes I’m female and sometimes I’m male.’
The girl screwed up her face. ‘That’s weird.’ She turned to face Angela. ‘But you let him fuck you?’
Angela frowned. She wouldn’t be perturbed by the coarse language but Jasmine wondered how she would answer.
‘We love each other, that’s why we’re married. Jasmine has issues about her gender, but that doesn’t bother me.’
The girl looked puzzled. Which of those concepts troubled her Jasmine wondered – her muddled gender identity or being in love.’
‘You’re a girl,’ Angela said gently. Jasmine thought the statement wasn’t as obvious as it might be because while she was obviously physically female she had a masculine look about her. ‘but you dress boyish.’
‘I wish I was a guy,’ she said.
‘Why?’ Angela asked.
‘Things are easier for boys.’
Jasmine’s impatience won through. ‘Enough of this. What’s your name and why are breaking and entering our cottage.’
‘It’s not your cottage. It’s a holiday place.’
Jasmine waved her hands in frustration. ‘Okay, yes we’ve hired it. But while we’re here it’s ours. Now answer my questions.’
‘I was here first,’ she said.
‘What do you mean?’ Jasmine asked.
‘I was staying here before you arrived the day before yesterday.’
‘Not legally you weren’t. How did you get in?’
‘Through the window in there, of course,’ she pointed to the shower room. The room which Jasmine had thought was too small for anything but a kid to get through. In fact, she wasn’t much more than a kid.
Angela spoke softly, ‘Tell us why you were staying here. Why aren’t you at home?’
The girl snorted. ‘Home! Why I should I stay there? Damp hole and a drug-addled mother. That’s my home.’
‘Where is it?’ Angela asked.
‘Haverfordwest.’
‘That’s twenty miles away,’ Jasmine said. ‘What are you doing here?’
‘They dumped me here.’
‘They?’ Jasmine and Angela said in unison.
‘The guys that shoved me in their car and drove here.’
Jasmine’s eyebrows shot up. ‘Some men abducted you?’
The girl shrugged. ‘Nah, not really. They’d had enough of me.’
‘What do you mean, love?’ Angela said, her question hesitant as if fearing the answer.
‘Enough of pouring cider down my throat and fucking me.’
Angela gasped and Jasmine reached for the girl’s arm. ‘Do you mean that? These men were having sex with you?’
‘Yeah, that’s it. They took it in turns.’
Jasmine felt as though she was in her nightmare. She was back at the police station in their claustrophobic cubicle going through computer records and websites. How many times had she heard this story; a young girl being passed between older men, given alcohol or drugs and made to have sex with them.
‘No, it can’t be happening here too,’ Jasmine cried.
‘Doesn’t it go on everywhere?’ the girl said calmly.
‘Didn’t you say no when they asked for sex?’ Angela asked.
The girl laughed. ‘They didn’t ask. They just did it. Okay at first they were nice, gave me cider and some new clothes. I felt really grown up. Then they started to touch me up. Well, that’s fair enough isn’t it. You gotta pay for stuff. Then they wanted me to feel their cocks. I wasn’t in a position to say no, was I. There was four of them and just me. And I was woozy.’
‘This was a few days ago; before they drove you out here,’ Angela said, her face white.
‘Nah. That was months ago. They moved on to fucking since then.’
‘The same four men?’ Jasmine enquired.
The girl shrugged, ‘Them and others. They sort of passed me around, took their turns.’
‘But what did your family do about it?’ Angela said in an anguished tone.
‘I told you. I’ve only got me Mam. She’s out of it most of the time. They gave her some stuff to keep her quiet.’
‘What about school?’
‘I went most days.’
‘Didn’t the teachers wonder what was wrong with you?’
‘There wasn’t anything wrong with me. Except for a hangover now and then.’
‘But you were being raped by all these men.’
‘Yeah, well that’s normal isn’t. It’s what blokes do. It’s what girls are for innit.’
‘It damn well is not,’ Angela said. ‘You should have gone to the Police.’
‘Why? What would they do? Do you think I was the first and only girl these guys had? The fuzz couldn’t give a fuck.’
‘Some of us do,’ Jasmine said.
The girl looked at him with wide eyes. ‘You’re a cop?’ Jasmine nodded. The girl laughed and laughed and laughed.
‘What’s funny?’ Jasmine asked feeling as if she was missing something.
“A tranny cop! That’s a brilliant joke,’ the girl said through her continuing giggles.
‘They don’t know I’m trans,’ Jasmine admitted.
‘Oh, you’ve got a secret too. What will happen if the bosses find out about you?’
‘Let’s get back to you,’ Angela said. ‘If these men have been, um, using you, why did they dump you out here.’
The girl looked at Angela with sad eyes, sad that Angela should ask such a stupid question.
‘They got fed up with me.’
‘Bored with having sex with a minor,’ Jasmine said.
‘Maybe,’ the girl shrugged, ‘there’s always another little tart to fuck. But, the main reason was I made them do it.’
‘What did you do?’ Angela asked.
‘I cut my hair and started dressing in jeans and sloppy shorts instead of the little dresses they liked to see me in.’
‘Why?’
‘I thought that if I looked more like a boy they’d treat me like a boy.’
‘Why be a boy?’ Jasmine asked.
‘I told you. Boys have it easy. They get to give the orders, have the money and the girls.’
Angela spoke. ‘You thought that if you looked like a boy, men would treat you like a boy.’
‘I s’pose that was it. Stupid really. Didn’t go as I expected.’
‘Why not?’ Jasmine asked even though she thought that the girl’s scheme was wildly optimistic.
‘They knew I was girl, didn’t they, and some of them liked the idea of fucking me like they did boys.’
Angela let out a gasp as she realised the extent of the abuse the young boys and girls experienced. It was all too familiar to Jasmine and she felt sickened to be hearing it from the girl’s own mouth.
‘Is that what they did?’
For the first time the girl looked embarrassed. ‘Yeah. They hurt me. I lost it a bit.’
‘What do you mean?’ Angela said.
‘I hit one of them.’
‘What did they do?’ Jasmine asked, nervous of the expected answer.
‘Slapped me around. Not on my face of course, not somewhere obvious. Shoved me in a van with my clothes and dumped me out here.’

……………………………..to be continued

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