Saturday, 30 March 2013

Trevanian's Leap.

Trevanian's Leap - the next Penwinnard Story.

Many cultures in many times have had manhood ceremonies for their adolescent boys. Penwinnard has its own culture, its own customs. And while the staff know that the tradition of jumping from Trevanian's Point into a rock pool far below is foolish and dangerous, the tradition continues.

I have only written 15,000 words of this story so far, but have already been working on the design for the back cover.

It used to be that the ones who'd achieved the feat had a special little picture in their room, but the group in 2010 look for something more - a tattoo on their shoulder.  A full dozen 'winnards' wind up with the tattoo on the right shoulder, and are very proud of it - no matter how foolish others think they are. It is, of course, illegal for those under the age of eighteen to have tattoos. It doesn't stop our boys.

Images of falcons for these series of books
kindly provided by photographer, Greta van der Rol.

Look for the first two Penwinnard books on Smashwords: 


or on Amazon:

Release date for Trevanian's Leap, September 2013.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Australia's first female Prime Minister

Written 23rd March, 2013.

Australia’s first female Prime Minister

(note that I have not made a study of this, this is just the impression gained by a member of the public only informed by the media.)

Julia Gillard became Australia’s Prime Minister after Kevin Rudd lost popularity. I always thought his problem was a direct result of his attempting to introduce an extra tax on the profits from mining, which naturally, very much annoyed certain powerful people. So there was a meeting, Rudd was deposed,  and Julia Gillard took over as Prime Minister. There was a lot of talk about Julia stabbing him in the back, but I had been under the impression that this sort of nastiness was the usual form when leadership changed within a party – Bob Hawke did it to Whitlam, and then Paul Keating did it to Hawke. Quite the usual thing.
So Julia was now Prime Minister, and the mining tax was watered down so far that the mining magnates were apparently willing to allow it through.  That was some years ago. It has recently come to light that the amount of money made by this tax has so far been very low indeed, so the opponents of the law won while appearing to concede.  

So then there was an election and the Labor Party went to the polls with Julia as its leader. The vote was such that neither major party had the members to form government, and over the next several days, there was a lot of frantic talks with each party trying to get the support of enough of the independents and of the minor party, the Greens, to form a government.

Labor won – just, but Julia had to promise the Greens to bring in a Carbon Tax. (because of Global Warming and all that.)  This was a major broken promise – she had promised that there would never be a Carbon Tax under a government that she led.   

There was a second broken promise that was made much of in the media. One of the independents was determined that an absolutely mad law should be introduced to limit gambling – the ‘Pokie reforms.’ Julia promised him the law in exchange for his support. But the law was just so obviously stupid, and when it was dropped,  (or actually very heavily amended)  there was an outcry about another ‘broken promise.’ It never seemed to occur to anyone that politicians should not be doing this sort of a deal in the first place – and it was an incredibly stupid law. So Julia was branded ‘Liar’ though I really do not think that she has ever lied more than any other politician.

The Vitriol:

This image from Wikipedia

The vitriol directed at Julia Gillard has been far more than I have ever seen about any Prime Minister. Nasty jokes are spread about, especially on facebook. Has it every occurred to the people who spread these that they are acting as pawns for the Liberal/National Party  -  the Opposition?  Maybe it is they who make them up -  as witty as possible so that they spread. It has become fashionable to say how dreadful she is.  There was an interview with an Opposition leader that was carefully positioned in front of a placard that called her a ‘Bitch’ – she is far too often being called a bitch.  The poison seldom seems to do with her politics, and is very often, personal.

So just recently there has been another leadership challenge – one that failed, one that resulted in accusations of double-crossing and the resignations of several senior figures in the Party, and one that was completely unnecessary. Now they are talking about an early election.  The election had already been set for September this year, 2013. Surely the haters could wait just another six months. It appears certain that Labor will be overwhelmingly defeated.

And Yet:

Julia Gillard, in my opinion, has been a perfectly adequate Prime Minister. I don’t agree with her Carbon Pricing scheme, but the hatred she now appears to have generated does not appear to be anything to do with her political decisions.

Could it be that she is a woman? 

Could it be that certain people just cannot bear that we have a woman leader?  Within her own party, she has continually struck disloyalty.  One can be a magnificent potential leader,  but to lead, one needs others to follow. Julia Gillard never had the support she should have been entitled to.  It is a credit to her that she has maintained her dignity and composure in the face of such provocation. She will be remembered as a failure. I think it a tremendous shame. I do not know how much of that failure is because of the resentment men hold for a woman leader.  I think it could be a substantial factor.

When will Australia have another female leader? 

I  don’t know, but it will not be soon.

Further note made 12th June, 2013.

It has just come to light that in March, a Liberal fundraiser dinner used a menu that included nasty personal remarks about Julia Gillard - for instance:
 'Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail - Small Breasts, Huge Thighs  and a big red box.'

Can anyone imagine remarks like that made about John Howard, Paul Keating, Kevin Rudd? 

Usually, it is difficult to tell when someone is being put down because they are female rather than because they are disliked. This time, they have betrayed themselves. The nastiness aimed at Julia Gillard is misogyny.  The lack of support she has received from members of her own party, is also misogyny.  Julia didn't have a hope from the start.

Correction made 15th June 2013:
It appears that the menu was never used. But poor Julia can't win. She is now being criticised for the timing that it came to light, the implication being that she engineered it as a political ploy.


26th June, 2013, when an election for 14th September had already been called, there was another leadership ballot amongst the ALP. Julia Gillard was defeated by Kevin Rudd. So there ends the saga of our first and maybe our last female Prime Minister.

For myself, I'm so absolutely disgusted with the lot of them that these coming elections might see my very first donkey vote. I want to put them all last - the ALP for their stupidity in continually undermining their own leader, the Coalition because I just don't like them, and the Greens for their tendency to adopt lunatic policies. My only hope is that a reasonable independent will have a go - I reckon this might be a real opportunity for independents to find themselves with a win. So many of us are just so fed up with the major parties.  The only ones to come out of this past hung parliament with any honour have been the independents.

My books can be found on several online retailers including Amazon and Smashwords.
And a special offer for anyone who has read this far - 'Not a Man.' My first and best book, can be had free up until 16th July, 2013, by going to Smashwords and using this Coupon No: QF25E.


Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The third book of the Shuki Series now available

The third book of the Shuki Series is now available as an eBook and as a paperback. There are now three Shuki books.  They are available on Smashwords, on Amazon, on Barnes and Noble and on several other sites.

Smashwords:  ebooks only:

To buy on
or Amazon UK: 
ebooks and paperbacks are available on Amazon.

This series centres on the life of Shuki Bolkiah - modern day eunuch. It starts with the novel 'Not a Man' The book has had overwhelmingly positive reviews, but often with the warning that it is an intense book, hard to forget.

From boy of the slums to Oxford Graduate. This is the story of Shuki Bolkiah, modern day eunuch.

"Not a Man' is set in an unnamed country of Arabia. Shuki is aged ten, and a 'bed-boy.' His master wants his beautiful boy to stay beautiful, so arranges for him to have 'a small operation.' This traumatic event changed forever the life of a clever, determined boy.

Shuki learns to manipulate his master. He learns to read and write, he gets his master into the habit of giving him large sums of money, and he makes friends with the master's sons.

Shuki becomes more beautiful with every passing year. His master becomes more possessive, more jealous, and Shuki is guarded. When his master takes him to England, he escapes and starts a new life with the money he's saved. He is fifteen.

Compelling reading, 6 Jan 2013
Elle "Elle" -Amazon Verified Purchase
This review is from: Not a Man: The Story of Shuki Bolkiah: 1 (Paperback)
Not a Man is as much an exploration of the consequences of unimaginable beauty as it is a story of unimaginable horror. Set against a vivid international backdrop that veers towards fantasy but never so far as to be unbelievable, it tells of Shuki, a beautiful young boy castrated as a child on the orders of his master to keep him that way. The characterisation is superb, no one is completely good nor evil, and Shuki himself is stoic, tenacious, intelligent and at times downright Machiavellian, but never a victim and importantly, never unlikeable.

A unique premise handled with both confidence and compassion. I would recommend this.

The second book is 'The King's Favourite.'

It was the greatest scandal that Oxford University had ever known. The culprits were the scions of the rich and famous, even of Royalty. The trials went on for years, and the story of the modern day eunuch spread, his beauty and desirability extolled. Shuki Bolkiah was unaware of the full extent of his notoriety, though he knew not to show his face in England, not for fear of unwanted advances, but because reporters were such a problem. He now lives in his own remote home, overlooked by his beloved mountains, and protected by the Daoud family of Naelahin. He has his family, his studies, and is respected. He has come a very long way from his origins.

          Feroz was viewed as a puppet king. Just sixteen, yet he is the all-powerful monarch of a country in Arabia. When an important and complex trade deal hangs in the balance, his Chief Councillor bargains an extra concession to keep his young king happy. Added to the details of the enormous payment promised was the reference to ‘other considerations.’ Shuki’s freedom is traded away by his own country. At the age of twenty-six, he is in the position of a bed-boy again.

          As he told his stepson years later, “Sometimes things happen, and the only choice you have is to accept it, and learn to make a life anyway.” Shuki has no choice, and he makes his life anew in a country not his own. As he’d risen from the position of replaceable bed-boy when he was a child, now he has to do it all over again.


Review by: Debbie Bennett on Sep. 08, 2012 :
The continuing story of Shuki, a modern-day eunuch. Sold by his own country to be a slave to young king Feroz, Shuki never forgets his childhood "family" and yet finds contentment and even love in the strangest of circumstances.

This sequel to Not A Man is again rich in characters and detail, dragging you into middle-eastern culture with all five senses. It positively reeks of authenticity, with hints of the world political events of the late 20th century anchoring the story. Yet again McRae doesn't shirk from the day-to-day details of Shuki's life - from political adviser to the king and all the court intrigue that entails - to the king's sexual preferences and his obsession with Shuki.

A powerful and addictive read that kept me up late for two nights.

The third book in the series:  'To Love and To Protect.'
A story of life and of love.

Shuki is home, and enjoying being home. He loves his wives and he loves his children. And Elei. Elei is his chosen love, not Feroz. He may have grown to love King Feroz, but he never took the place of Elei.
To the Daouds, he is someone special, theirs to love and to protect, as their father, the Old Master Hassanel, laid down in his will.
To Shuki, the Daouds’ home is his home, though he does not regard himself as belonging to anyone - or maybe to Elei, as Elei belongs to him.
He is fond of Hasquitri’s children, the girls and the boys. The girls, at fourteen, are of marriageable age, and are closely chaperoned, protected. They are still permitted to ride when suitably escorted, and Shuki makes a point of riding with them. Alone among the men, he knows what it is to suffer under too much protection.
           The boys have a full life, learning about their father’s businesses, travelling, enjoying the hunting and the shooting and the riding. But when young Zahu becomes aware of just exactly what he is, the relationship becomes a lot more complicated.
A review taken from the writers' site, Authonomy.

Yet again, just wonderful. I know you were worried about Zahu being so much younger . . . but I think it works. I just felt bad that Shuki and Elei had so little time together. A very nice look at the world of the women as well, I shudder to imagine how it would be to actually live in such conditions. Sessha

Friday, 15 March 2013

Suicide? Or a rational decision?

It is not clear to read so I'll repeat a few of the more significant sentences.

* Dr. McKay said men over 75 had one of the highest age specific suicide rates in the country.  
* Dr. MacKay said anxiety and depression could be successfully treated, but this meant access to appropriate mental care, which was often not available for older people.
* Professor Alemida's research, which surveyed 21,290 people aged 60 to 101, found almost 5 per cent acknowledged the presence of suicidal thoughts.

And then the article talks about various strategies to reduce the incidence of suicide, such as 'facilitating the development of supportive and meaningful social networks.'

Throughout the article, it assumed that thoughts of suicide are irrational and the result of a sick mind. Nowhere is it acknowledged that when life becomes a tedious and painful chore, it could be far better to die.

This - * Professor Alemida's research, which surveyed 21,290 people aged 60 to 101, found almost 5 per cent acknowledged the presence of suicidal thoughts. 
Probably, far more than 5% had considered suicide as an option when the time came,  but by the time a person is 60,  they know perfectly well that admitting to 'suicidal thoughts' would be taken as a sign of mental illness rather than a rational response to the circumstances.

I very well remember being in a Nursing Home visiting a resident, and seeing a young nurse trying to tell a tiny, skinny, bent old lady that she should stand by herself because she was pregnant and trying to lift her might harm the baby.  The old lady was pretty deaf as well as everything else, and I do hope that she did not get the message that she should be feeling guilty. That poor old girl might have weighed something around 6 stone - not very much. Most of us are a lot more substantial. What a horrible thought that we can be abused because we can't do enough for ourselves. Yes, death is better than that.

But what if the nurses are really, really nice?  What if the nursing home residents only know kindness? 

What if you can't see very well, can't read at all, can't hear very well, can't keep yourself clean, can't walk, dribble when eating -  the home can be the best in the world, but old, old age is crippling, humiliating and usually painful. And by the time anyone reaches that stage, it is past the time when they can organise their own suicide.

Being dead is a lot better than being like that. In the current legal climate, the choice is to take your own life while you can, and there are still some things to be enjoyed,  or leave it too late and die a miserable, protracted death.

My deepest wish is that by the time I am in those circumstances, I can organise a kind and gentle death for myself without getting anyone else into trouble.  Our dogs and cats have that. Why can't we?

I do not dread death. It is nothing  - just the end of life.  I do dread the helplessness of extreme old age.  Being able to end life when I choose  -  why, then there would be nothing to dread about old age.

Euthanasia.  It should be free, easily accessable, and, of course, legal.  In surveys, there is a consistent result of around 80% in favour. Why then, can we not have it?  It is needed.  It may be suicide, but it is not the result of depression and mental illness, it is a rational and reasoned response to circumstances.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

In praise of Smashwords

I would like to encourage all buyers of ebooks to make their first choice Smashwords or any of the booksellers they supply, like Kobo and Barnes & Noble  (Nookbooks) .
The problem that I have with Amazon is not to do with their tendency to delete legitimate reviews, or anything to do with their customer service, which I have found actually rather good, but because Smashwords pays me.
I understand that Amazon will use direct credit for British or American authors,  and only after $10.  Not so for we Australian authors. For us, we have to earn $100 in American dollars before they send an archaic cheque - and then you have an additional fee to get it into correct currency. But also, to get paid for the numbers of books you sell in the UK, you have to make the equivalent of over $100 there, and the same in Europe.  They can't even combine the amounts! 

Amazon must make so much money from the interest of all these accumulated amounts that never quite reach the $100 threshold.

Smashwords is so much better. You get paid after just $10,  and into a Paypal account.  I sell a lot more books on Amazon than I do from Smashwords, but if I count my earnings when it arrives in my account, then I have only had from Amazon what my first publisher sent on. 

So from now on, I am going to use Smashwords as the first choice to buy from, and and I'd really like as many as possible to do the same. I'm tired of earning money that I never see.

My books on Smashwords:

The threee books of the Shuki Series

and the two (so far)  Penwinnard Stories.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

What price a child's life?


What price a child’s life ?

This is what they always say when they introduce some stupid new law because a child somewhere, died. The latest is a plan to enforce windows that will only open around 10 cms so that children will not use their beds as trampolines and then fall out of the open window. It seems to me that it’s rather foolish to put a bed that close to the window to begin with. The child himself must learn responsibility, not to mention the mother. But no, rather than expecting the parents of children to exercise a little common sense, they’d rather penalise everyone who owns a building with more than one story. The current argument is not whether they should impose this cost on innocent people, but whether it should be on all buildings or only on new buildings. And have they considered that making it more difficult to open a window could make it more difficult to escape a fire? Just another typical knee-jerk reaction.

The laws for swimming pools are the worst, of course. It seems to me that parents of small children should simply not live in houses with swimming pools. It is not the responsibility of anyone but the parents to ensure that your child stays away from my fenced backyard. And is a swimming pool so uniquely dangerous? What about beaches, lakes, rivers, duck-ponds, and fish-ponds?  I think the difference here is that Councils or government would have to pay to fence those off, while it’s fine to target innocent householders with draconian regulations. And besides, it’s a ridiculous thought to fence off every shore-line, every river, every duck-pond or water-hole.  

It is the nature of a child to explore, to play, to play actively and to master his body by active play. It is the only way to learn what he can do and what he cannot do. Modern children though, are not allowed to do what is in their nature.  When I took my pre-schoolers to the primary school for a familiarity session, the waiting mothers casually allowed their children to play on the play equipment. It was what it was for. I was appalled to discover later that the poor school children were only allowed on it when supervised by a teacher, and that was rare. Children these days are not allowed to climb trees, not allowed to wander, not allowed to light bonfires, not allowed to play near water…  And then the poor kids are made to feel bad because they play computer games too much and get too fat.

Children will have accidents. They must not be wrapped in cotton wool. They must be allowed to play and explore, and there is no valid reason why householders should be put to ridiculous trouble and expense to try and keep every child from getting into trouble.  

These school children are being taught to surf.

Active boys are the heroes of my Penwinnard Stories. They have free access to a beach.

This next part is just an ad, so ignore now if you choose.

Look for my Penwinnard Novels
or on Amazon or on other bookselling sites. Available in paperbacks or ebooks.




Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Importance of Cats.

A frail old lady lives alone. This is what she wrote.

The district nurses thought she should not allow the cats in - they might trip her and then she'd fall. Or maybe they'd scratch her, and then there would be weeks for that old, frail skin to heal.

Others thought her foolish for spending money on catfood when it was only strays that she befriended. And besides, she fed them too much, so they became too fat.

And I thought her foolish because she conscientiously scrubbed each empty can clean for recycling, when her skin could be so easily torn by the jagged edges. 

But those cats were very important to her. She has none now. She is in what they call a 'hostel' -  what is really a nursing home, but a lot nicer, and for not so high-care patients. Even though it has been widely recogised that cats and dogs make lonely people happier, there is a rule against them. But she does have people around her, and she is looked after.  Just that it would be nice if there were a few cats around.