Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Melanie Dent, author of romances

Melanie Dent is a prolific author of romances - romances with spice.

Here is what she has to say.

The Lynchcliffe series came about in the spring of 2010.  I was considering writing something as a tribute to my late partner, David, who died on 23/9/2008. I thought about how cuckoo chicks are never raised by their own parents and that got me to thinking about human “cuckoos” that are raised in another family because, for whatever reason, their natural parents can’t look after them. I thought about a time when childbirth related deaths were common.  I considered that the father of a child whose mother had died was unable to cope and his titled employers just happened to not be able to have children of their own.  Then I thought of the forthcoming Titanic centenary. What if the adopted child, now almost adult, lost her adoptive parents on the ship and was sent to live with previously unknown relatives? She would fall in love with the chauffeur but it would present problems as they both believe her to be a lady.

The ideas came thick and fast after that and I realised that one book was not enough to tell their story.  It became a trilogy beginning in 1891 when Margaret’s mother tragically dies and it takes us through turbulent times of the early twentieth century ending in 1920. It covers the tragedy of RMS Titanic, the First World War and the Spanish flu pandemic that decimated the population killing more people than died in the war. The trilogy covers themes such as murder, reconciliation, false allegations of indecent assault, marital infidelity, widowhood and twilight year romance.

Owing to the trilogy, ideas emerged for the stories of some characters prior to the trilogy which gave birth to the Prequels trilogy. Eye of the Storm: Lewis Franklin’s Story which covered, amongst other themes, suicide and illegitimacy. Divided loyalties: Lady Lynchcliffe’s Story deals with rape, sibling rivalry and estrangement.  I am currently working on the third volume Prescription for Romance: Hamish George’s Story.
I have also written Lynchcliffe: Seasons of the Heart and Lynchcliffe Passions: Erotic Stories. These are short stories.
I am also working on a new trilogy. Scenarios. These are books each containing three novellas set in a kind of Lynchcliffe parallel universe, offering ideas of how certain events in the main trilogy could have happened differently. I have completed 2/3 volumes and am working on Scenarios Vol III: Crossing the Line.

Most of my books are available as Amazon Kindle books and as paperbacks through Lulu.com.
I have had some success and managed to establish a small fan base which is more than I ever expected. Here are some links so that you can find me.
Amazon author Page              amazon.com/author/Lynchcliffe
Lulu author spotlight                      http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Lynchcliffe
Lynchcliffe Blog                                 http://lynchcliffe.wordpress.com/about

Written by Melanie Dent:


Monday, 17 September 2012

Clunes, book-town, Victoria, Australia

In the Western District of Victoria, close to Ballarat, there is an attractive small town called Clunes.  It is the first and as far as I know, the only, official book-town in Australia.

Copied from the Wikpedia reference:


The idea of transforming Clunes into a European-style booktown was first conceived and developed by Councillor Tim Hayes, Linda Newitt, Graeme Johnston and Tess Brady. Clunes held its first 'Booktown for a Day' event on 20 May 2007. Over 50 booksellers from around Australia set up shop for the day in the town's heritage buildings.
Renamed to 'Back to Booktown' a year later and to 'Clunes Booktown Festival' in 2012, the township now holds the event each year on the first weekend in May. With more than 60 booksellers, millions of books and 15,000 visitors, it has become the largest collection of books in any regional centre of Australia and the major Victorian regional book event.

There is now an annual book festival, which is growing every year.
Clunes Booktown Festival, 2013
4 and 5 May 2013
9am - 5 pm

Indulge in a weekend of book browsing amid the historic streetscape of Clunes.
Thousands of rare second-hand new, small press publications and collectable books on sale. Full details of program available March 2013
General festival enquiries
Festival Director
Other enquiries: booktown@clunes.org

It is held in autumn, the most attractive time of year for this attractive small town.

In Australia, most bookshops refuse to order books from online booksellers such as Amazon. This is a problem for people who are not willing to trust the internet with their credit card details, or the many in rural areas without good internet access who are simply not confident with using it.

But some second-hand bookshops will order for you - especially if you happen to be in Clunes. 

So if you want my books, don't know me, and don't have internet access (in which case you would not be reading this)  have a wander around Clunes and ask if anyone will order it for you. 

Eunuch Books

Eunuch Books

There are so few books of fiction that have eunuchs as the main character. Since I wrote one, I became interested, and have a small collection. They are nearly all historical, a few are very good, others are mediocre. There are also a few books (mostly ebooks) that are very poor indeed.

Of the more important ones that I’ve collected, my favourite is ‘Cry to Heaven’ by Anne Rice. It is about Tonio, a boy who was born to wealth and influence, but was put out of the way by turning him into a Castrato – a singer. While a brilliant book,  the author, Anne Rice, found her real success with books about vampires.

Then there is Mary Renault’s ‘The Persian Boy.’ Again historical, it features Bagoas, a Persian boy made a eunuch and presented to Greek Alexander, conquerer of most of the known world.  

Wilbur Smith has a novel that is written in the first person by Taita, a eunuch. ‘River God.’ Like all of Wilbur Smith’s books, it is an adventure written with enormous colour and excitement. It is set in the times of ancient Egypt. Taita is revisited in a later book, but that was a plot that only a man would be likely to think of. Taita regains his genitalia and somehow manages to ‘sex’ a witch to death. Unlikely in the extreme and maybe the product of male fantasies. Brilliantly written, of course. Wilbur Smith is a great writer.

There are some detective stories that feature eunuchs as the detectives, also historical. There are the John, the Eunuch series, which I do not have, though I’ve read a couple, and The Janissary Tree, by Jason Goodwin, set at the time of the Ottoman empire. But these are primarily detective stories, the eunuch part being very much secondary.  

‘Memoirs of a Byzantine Eunuch’ is by Christopher Harris.
The only one set in modern times that I know of is ‘Eunuch’ by Len Lustgarten.  But the hero, Mohammad Nasser, does not stay a true eunuch. Instead he is given hormone treatment, and winds up a very sexual creature. The novel involves a cloned son.
So books that feature a true modern-day eunuch? Well, I only know my own – ‘Not a Man’ and its sequel,  ‘The King’s Favourite.’  There are two yet to be published in this series of four.

My conclusion:

Out of the very limited selection of eunuch books, these three are the best:
Mary Renault:  'The Persian Boy,'   Anne Rice, 'Cry to Heaven,' and M. A. McRae, 'Not a Man.'


The reason that Wilbur Smith's 'River God' does not make the cut is that the story is not really about Taita, although he tells it. (It is written in first person.) 

Good books about a modern-day eunuch?

Just mine, the stories of Shuki Bolkiah.
Look for them on Smashwords and on Amazon, ebooks and paperbacks.
Not being all that conceited - it is just that I know of not a single book other than mine that has a eunuch as the main character and is set in modern times.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Characteristics of the true eunuch – research

Characteristics of the true eunuch –
the results of my research and my conclusions

Some years ago, I had my pet dog desexed. He sulked for a few days and then forgave me. What choice did he have? I started wondering how a boy would react in the same situation. And so was born Shuki, a half-starved child from the slums of a city in Arabia, who was taken by a rich man who changed his life. Shuki Bolkiah, clever, cunning and courageous, became the hero of two published books, and with a third and fourth on the way.

    ‘Not a Man’  and ‘The King’s Favourite’ 
are published and can be bought on several online sites.

It was not easy to find information on eunuchs – mostly because true eunuchs - that is, normal boys castrated before puberty - are very rare. This is as it should be. It would be a terrible thing to do to a young boy – a mutilation even worse than many African and Arabic cultures do to their unfortunate girls.
In any country with a decent health system, if a boy is castrated because of accident, disease, or abnormalities with his testicles, he would be treated with hormones in order to give him as normal a life as possible. They are therefore not true eunuchs. If there are any true eunuchs out there, they are not talking.
A side note: castration is removal of the testes. It is not necessary to touch the penis to make a eunuch, and those men who have had their penis removed for whatever reason, are not eunuchs unless there was also a castration.

But millions of animals are castrated every year, and humans are a part of the animal kingdom.

Owners of dogs are urged to castrate their male puppies in order to reduce possible aggression, eliminate embarrassing sexual behaviour, reduce the desire to stray and to reduce the numbers of unwanted puppies.

Male cats are routinely castrated. The normal behaviour of a tom cat includes marking his territory with an odour offensive to human noses, wandering in search of females, and mating and fighting behaviour tends to be not only noisy, but outside bedroom windows in the early hours of the morning.

Male pigs, cattle and sheep are routinely castrated unless wanted for breeding. It reduces aggression and it means that they grow fatter and more tender to eat. The meat of a bull, a ram or a boar is supposed to have a strong and unpleasant flavour, unsuitable for eating. 
Male horses are routinely castrated. It makes them more amenable to training, it reduces aggression, and it makes them less likely to be distracted by the scent of a mare. It is quite rare now that a stallion is used as a riding horse. For dressage however, such as the famous Spanish Riding School of Vienna, stallions are preferred for their greater muscularity.

If humans are like other animals, then castration before puberty would virtually eliminate sexual behaviour, it would reduce aggression, and the normal muscular development of a boy at puberty would not occur.
It would not make him more intelligent, though at times, he could certainly appear more intelligent, for instance at school when he takes notice of the work instead of the girlfriend.
It would not make him more attractive, except that the appearance of boyhood is preserved for longer.

What we do know about eunuchs.
The voice:
The pre-adolescent voice is preserved. This is not the voice of a woman or a girl, but something different. A boy sounds different from a girl, just not as different as a man sounds different from a woman. It is well known that in olden times, boys were often castrated in the hope that they would become famous singers or at least able to earn a living as a singer. The most well known are the Castrati of Italy, though it has occurred in other cultures and at other periods of history as well. It is rumoured that some present-day male singers make use of chemicals to try and preserve their soprano or tenor voices, and some choir boys are heart-broken when their voice breaks and they are no longer wanted in the choir.
Eunuchs do not develop hair as mature men and women do. They are not hairless – children have a thin covering of body hair, just that the growth of hair on pubis and in armpits would not occur, and certainly not the facial and chest hair that men grow. In later life, they do not show male pattern baldness. 
There is an opinion that a eunuch grows far taller than a normal man. Evidence for this is that there are old descriptions of Castrati being very tall. It is supposed to be because the places where growth occurs, especially in legs and arms, (the epiphyseal plates) do not seal over until later in life, so that the individual grows taller than normal.
But we can look at castrated dogs and cats and cattle. If they grow taller than usual, it is only by a small amount. I did find a note that a gelding was likely to be an inch or two taller than a stallion of the same blood, but I have not seen anything else. A picture of a Chinese eunuch shows him as a small man, neither tall nor fat.  
When a boy goes through puberty, his shoulders broaden, his genitals become bigger,  and he gets bigger as well as taller. His muscles develop and he becomes a lot heavier than a female.  There is a growth spurt – that is, a period when he grows very fast.
A eunuch? Maybe something between a boy and a girl. These are my conclusions – that he would remain looking like a child in some ways – hairless, without bulky muscles, there would be little growth of genitals and there would be a gradual increase in height and weight rather than the growth spurt that most boys experience.  
In the reproductive years, both men and women smell different than they do in childhood and in old age. This is because of the pheromones that are produced by the body. Pheromones are all to do with sex. It is very likely that a eunuch would not produce pheromones as an entire male does, and so would have much less body odour.
Does a eunuch want sex? A male animal that is castrated late sometimes continues to show sexual behaviour – a gelding might mount a mare, for instance – it is sometimes referred to as being ‘studdy.’  A mature man who’s been castrated for medical reasons might still be able to make love with his wife, but more usually, he cannot and feels no desire to do so.
Animals that are castrated early do not appear to feel any sexual desire at all, but a human male knows about sex, could easily wish that he could indulge, and could look for it. Of the few eunuch books that I’ve read, at least half speak of eunuchs having very active sex lives – with men and with women, even taking an active role. Some say that eunuchs were greatly desired because they could last longer than a normal man and satisfy many women.
I feel this is extremely unlikely, and has more to do with fantasy than reality. If a true eunuch could achieve an erection, it would be likely to be neither very firm nor very long-lasting. And why would a eunuch bother trying if he does not have the need?
In my opinion, the books and short stories that have a eunuch as some sort of an untiring sex-machine are the product of fantasy, not reality.
Later life: Eunuchs are said to grow small breasts – gynecomastia, and are often obese. Testosterone is the male hormone. In the absence of that, there would naturally be a tendency to a more female shape, including the tendency to lay down fat. 

Attraction to men.
There are historical records of eunuchs being particularly desirable to both men and women – ‘a strange allure’ one source said. If a pretty boy is castrated for the purpose of sex as in some cultures, he might well be more alluring than a normal boy as he grows. There is also the fact that he would stay looking like a boy for longer, and some men are attracted to boys. But there is no evidence at all that a normal boy castrated before puberty would develop the kind of allure that I have described in my hero. This is pure fiction.

My stories: what I have used and what I have ignored.


For the most part, my hero, Shuki, shows the characteristics as described. He does not mature as a normal boy matures, his voice is not the voice of a man, and when in his twenties, he does show the characteristic of small breasts.
There is no growth spurt, but he grows taller gradually. He stays slim. A factor in that could be because he was half-starved as a small child, but also that he is very conscious that he could be prone to becoming fat, and so takes care to eat lightly and exercise daily.

I have shown Shuki as very attractive to men – even to men not normally homosexual, and not normally attracted to boys. In his home country, there is a tradition that has never quite died – that of having a boy for sex, a wife or wives for children. It is natural that men in this culture, seeing this beautiful boy, knowing of his role as bed-boy to the Master, would think of him as a sexual object and want him in that way.

Then he goes to England. There are still some men who find him attractive, but most do not. Most don’t even think of it.
He goes to Oxford, and lives with the score of men in ‘Laurence Hall.’ (fictional.) A couple of them try and seduce him. The idea spreads, and it becomes a sort of a competition, a game. More become interested. Shuki is attractive, certainly, but the rape that spells the end of his stay in Oxford and results in the death of his best friend, is because the men spent too much time thinking about him. It was not that he so irresistibly attractive – rather that they talked themselves into finding him irresistibly attractive.

Thus my books, ‘Not a Man,’ and ‘The King’s Favourite,’  plus the two yet to be published.
There will be four in the series.


Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Shuki Series

The book, 'Not a Man'  and its sequel, 'The King's Favourite'  are available as ebooks and as paperbacks.  Look on sites such as Smashwords, Barnes and Noble and Amazon - just $2.99 for the ebook, 
around $16.50 for a paperback.   

 These fictional novels are about Shuki Bolkiah - a eunuch.

Look at previous posts for further information. These books are collecting some very good reviews.

The Penwinnard Stories

The Penwinnard stories are set in a Boys' Home in Cornwall. The first is called 'Angel No More.' The boy featured in this story calls himself Bob. He is desperate to leave his past behind, but there are the ones left behind. He cannot forget Bakker and Renard and Cherub and the others.  

And then there is 'You Gotta Have Manners.'  This is the second Penwinnard story, and features Sid, aged eleven. Sid wants a family and is willing to work for it.

'Angel No More' is to be released in October (Samray Books.) 

For a time I had hoped that the second story could be released at the same time, but it does not appear likely at this stage.

 Bob, Dallas and Simmo, Summer, 2009.

I have chosen a partularly beautiful spot as a setting for Penwinnard - Penwinnard is fictional, and the nearby village, Ryalston, is also fictional.  The nearest large town is Falmouth, which, of course, is not fictional, but a very attractive town on the South Coast of Cornwall.

Penwinnard, shown on a foggy morning.

The dogs, Elsie and Jessie, shown with one of the big boys.