It is said that one cannot write a decent book without writing a million words first.
Well, I managed well over two million words before I wrote a book that I deemed worthwhile.
It is an unusual book that fits no genre. There were favourable words from legitimate publishers before I had an offer from one.
That first publisher turned out to be a disaster. When I first saw the book in paperback form, instead of being thrilled, I was horrified and very angry. I thought I had done my homework - acquaintances that had been published by him previously only had good things to say. But the all-but-immaculate manuscript I had submitted was now riddled with introduced errors, and I was mortified.
Well, he made corrections until the presentation was acceptable, but all the same, we parted company. The quality of that book, republished, and the several afterwards, have been satisfactory.
Sales of that first book have never sky-rocketed, but trundle along even without any great effort at promotion. I don't actually know where the sales come from. I am only pleased that they do.
That was 'Not a Man,' first published in 2011.
The idea of the boy eunuch started when we had our beloved young dog desexed - what most responsible owners do. Our dog sulked for a few days afterwards, but then accepted it. After all, what choice did he have?
It started me wondering how a boy would accept the change. What if he had no choice? What if he had no home to go to? What if taking revenge or even leaving the master would have him starve?
And so was born Shuki, a bright boy from the slums of an Arabian city. Shuki was a beautiful boy, and the reason for the castration was that he was to 'stay beautiful.' He was a bed-boy.
The book was not set in ancient times. The illegal operation was performed in 1972. In some countries, there is still slavery, and some of those slaves are turned into eunuchs, even today. Sadly, it does happen. That part is not fiction.
The book excited some controversy when published, as the castration of a boy is such a wicked thing to do. And yet, oddly, it is becoming more and more common, except that the castrations are not meant to create eunuchs, but to pretend that the boy is 'really' a female, and the nonsense that he was 'born into the wrong body.'
It does not work, of course. No matter the hormones, a boy or man cannot turn into a woman. It is odd that, not even a decade ago, 2011, castrating a boy was viewed as a horrifying crime. Now it is called 'affirmation therapy.'
But back to my book, a work of fiction.
Shuki is an engaging character. "The character of Shuki is naive and wise, complex and empathetic," as one reviewer said.
People fall in love with Shuki. I fell in love with him myself, couldn't bear to leave him, and so there are now three more books in the series.
And these are the Shuki books. It may be a series, but they can be read individually. Each one has a satisfactory conclusion. I detest books than end in a cliffhanger. None of my books end in cliffhangers.
In the final book, 'The Frost and the Sunshine,' Shuki moves from his home in Arabia. He is looking for a more peaceful life, and he finds it in Australia.
I made his new home in NSW, between Uralla and Armidale, though they go by different names in the book. The photograph above was how I imagined his home, even though it was taken a few hundred miles from Armidale.
Then came the Penwinnard Stories. These are not a series as much as a series of stories as each is complete in itself.
The first story starts with Bob. He escapes a very bad situation, and he has to hide, as there are those who would not hesitate to kill him if they knew he was still alive. He finds himself in a Boys' Home called Penwinnard.
I set it on the coast of Cornwall, and the beach there becomes as much a part of the stories as the boys, so full of life and spirit.
Bob is a character in each of the six stories, but is not the main character in most. In the second, we meet Sid, in the third, it is Frank, and then Stevie and the fifth features the full-of-character Mutty.
In the sixth book, we return to Bob, and find him a 'happy-ever-after' conclusion.
The next book I have written is entirely different.
It is called 'The Death Mother' and it started with a dream. I started the novel with that same dream.
'It was a dream that began it, not just the dream, but the feeling that went with it - the feeling of an enormous love and compassion. I held the poor, poor, skinny old lady in my arms. I held her with love, and she felt no pain from all of the sore spots and all of the aches that go with an old, old body. She weighed nothing at all, and I held her so gently. She needed to die. She needed to leave the body that was only a burden for her. It had been so long since she'd been young and free. For years she had yearned for an end to the suffering. She wanted to endure no longer.
And I gave her that. That body in my arms, weightless, feeling no pain for the first time in years. And she died. I gave her that. She died, and I carefully put her back in her bed and covered her. She was finally gone, finally free, finally without pain. Love. Compassion. And I freed her.'
So it is a story of old people in Nursing Homes who yearn for release.
She describes herself - 'Just a very ordinary, middle-aged lady. Grey-haired, a worn face, and my own beginning aches and pains, the sign of what was to come, the trials that old people endure every day.'
Shirley declares herself an atheist, but it is like a god sometimes declares himself in her story. How could she bring about a death without the intervention of something more powerful than herself?
In some ways, this could even be termed a religious book, even if not precisely Christian.
'The Death Mother' is quite a short book, less than 60,000 words.
My most recent publication is this one.
But don't worry. Since it really is very, very, very boring, I made only one copy and that is for me.
All my books, (barring the boring one) are available from online booksellers as ebooks or as paperbacks from online booksellers such as The Book Depository, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords and Amazon.
And since I really am very proud of it, I am going to finish with a review of 'Not a Man.' It is not the whole review. I deleted a couple of 'spoilers.'
'Outstanding for its originality and depth, M.A. McRae’s Not a Man is an amazing work that will transport you to a foreign world. It will let you experience a lifestyle and culture that is most likely vastly different from any with which you are familiar.
'This is not a story for the faint-hearted. If you read to escape to a fantasy world where heroes are gallant, heroines are beautiful and spoiled, and endings are always happy, you may not enjoy it. If you are reluctant to face the reality of man’s inhumanity to man, or to recognize that some people enjoy sex in a way that others regard as perverted, it may shock and distress. If you struggle to recognize that those whose beliefs, moral standards and lifestyles many in our civilization abhor are, nevertheless, real people capable of kindness, compassion and love, it may enlighten you, but also disturb you.
'I recognized immediately I began reading that M.A. McRae was no ordinary writer. She has the ability to draw the reader into the story – to bring her characters and settings to life in the readers’ mind. She has a knack of portraying characters a reader may want to despise for their unpalatable behaviour in a way that compels you to understand and forgive their foibles and admire their better qualities. The people she describes are a product of their culture. We may not approve of aspects of their lifestyle, but we are drawn to understand how they came to be what they are and to appreciate and applaud their efforts to be empathetic and charitable.
'I wanted to hate Hassanel: a man who could arrange the castration of a child for his sexual pleasure. I wanted to find him vile and repulsive in every way. But I got to know a man for whom this conduct was an acceptable part of the culture in which he had been raised and educated, but who had the capacity to genuinely care for Shuki and want to protect him.
'Shuki found his way into my heart. The little boy from the slums who so feared a return to abject poverty that he would agree to an operation he feared, believing he could arrange his escape before it was done, used his charm and guile to secure his own future and to help his suffering family.
'This book is confronting, but M.A. McRae handles sex scenes tactfully and with respect for readers. Her characters grow and learn, gradually realizing the illogical cruelty of customs such as casting women out as punishment for being victims of a man’s criminal act and the dreadful long-term consequences of castration. We experience the pain and suffering of a eunuch. We share his fears. We grieve with him over his inability to experience sexual pleasure and to anticipate marriage and fatherhood. At the same time, however, we are shown the unique beauty and gentleness that results from castration before puberty. We are helped to recognize the compelling attraction some men feel to a beautiful eunuch. Their behaviour may disturb us, but we are unable to resist the urge to sympathize.
'Not a Man is not light reading. It’s a heavy-weight and gut-wrenching tale that will alter your perspective on sensitive issues and your view of the culture and lifestyle it describes.
'This is an impressive and memorable work by an author with impressive talent, and one I recommend to readers with confidence that it may shock, but it will never disappoint.'