Monday, 20 October 2014

Another crime of the Catholic Church

I used to regard Ireland as a 'Western' country -  that is, reasonably civilised.  Oh, I knew they were backward in regard to the rights to abortion and even the right to use contraception.  But by and large, I thought the country reasonably civilised. 

I should have known better. Any country that is too heavily religious is likely to have areas where they are primitive and cruel - especially when it involves women's rights.  And Ireland is heavily Catholic.  Ever heard of the operation called Symphysiotomy?  Well, neither had I until it was on the Al Jazeera news yesterday.

Symphysiotomy - the breaking of the bones of the pelvis during childbirth in order to open it wider.  It's an alternative to a Caesarean.  The perceived disadvantage of a Caesarian is that it is risky to perform too many times - no more than twice, I was told in the 1980s.  And while sometimes they would allow a 'trial of labour' after a Caesarean, most doctors thought 'Once a Caesarean, always a Caesarean' the safer option.

BUT:  This would mean only a small family of maybe two or three children, and the Catholic Church thinks a woman should have as many children as possible, whether or not her health suffers. So in Ireland, especially in Catholic private hospitals, they sometimes did one of these vile operations instead - while the woman was in labour, and without permission -  or maybe they asked the husband,  though probably not mentioning the frequency of  side effects such as incontinence, chronic backache, and a limp.

About 1,500 symphysiotomies were carried out in Ireland between 1941 and 1987, and it is alleged that there were a few even later, one even in 2005.  Probably some women who had the operation never knew what was done to them.  

  The link below takes you to an article that explains further.
There is now an ongoing complaint to the UN - 
'SOS says the performance of symphysiotomy and pubiotomy constituted torture under Article 1 of the Convention Against Torture as severe pain and suffering, both physical and mental, were intentionally inflicted on women and girls, for reasons based on discrimination – but for the fact that they were pregnant, they would not have had these abusive surgeries perpetrated upon them.'
For more information, there are other sites:  
This one is to do with a law suit:
As part of the evidence, there was this argument for the 'defence.'

[a number of senior Catholic Irish obstetricians, including some Masters of the  National Maternity Hospital were] anti­ caesarean section.  The reason for that was apparently that a woman could only be expected to  undergo a relatively limited number of operations and it was assumed that she  would probably need to have quite a few of them because it was anticipated that  a woman was going to have a lot of children. If doctors were to perform  caesarean sections more or less as required, there would come a point at which  they would have to advise a woman that she should not have any more children and  that would lead to the consequence that she might be tempted to use artificial  contraception or she might even look for sterilisation or some other means of  preventing a pregnancy. This consideration or these thoughts were sufficient to  justify the doctors’ hostility to caesarean section. This led them to be favourable to symphysiotomy… [1]
 I'd convict the sanctimonious bastards on the evidence of that alone.  How dare they subject a woman to torture in order that she might bear more children for the church!

After effects:
Side-effects of Symphysiotomy
Permanent Backache
Difficulty in Walking
Extreme Pain
Bowel Problems
Psychological Effects

From this site -
For a personal account.  This woman did not know what had been done to her, look at this site:
Religion might be responsible for some good in the world, but it is also responsible for a great deal of bad.  This was just one of its crimes.



Friday, 17 October 2014

The fourth and final Shuki book

Announcing the release of the fourth and final book
of the Shuki Series:  'The Frost and the Sunshine'
Date released 17th October, 2014

The Shuki series started with 'Not a Man.'  This book won a place on the Editors' Desk on the Harper Collins Writers' Site, Authonomy, and had a favourable review by Harper Collins. 
‘Not a Man’ is an ambitious and insightful novel; it tells the story of Shuki, a young boy from the slums of Elbarada, a fictional area of Arabia, who is castrated against his will at the age of 10. Shuki’s journey is one of great trial but also incredible strength, courage, and determination, and as a hero, he is fantastic, evoking not only sympathy, but aspiration and reverence. I loved the fact that the operation which is supposed to prevent him from reaching manhood is the very thing that makes him strong and mature. The novel is written in a pared down manner; the narrative reminded me of the prose styling of Paulo Coelho: unaffected and matter-of-fact.  (this is the 1st paragraph only)

'Not a Man' was published in 2011, and now has an average rating of  4.31 on Goodreads,  with 30 five-star ratings. (5 stars is 'amazing' on Goodreads)  On, it has an average rating of 4.6 with 18 five-star reviews. (5 stars on Amazon is 'I loved it.')
It is currently rated 3rd on a list of 'Best Eunuch Books.'  (Goodreads) 
A couple of typical reviews (selected for their brevity)
I read this well into the wee small hours; I couldn't put it down. And what's more - the hallmark of something powerful and original - it has stayed with me. Shuki's story and the stories of the characters whose lives touch his are still clear in my mind a year later. That's quite a book!

Not a Man is a modern day masterpiece, and a future classic. Eloquently written, the author explores the controversial issues of sexual slavery, exploitation and abuse. Not a Man will bring tears to your eyes as you read about the very worst humanity has to offer, and the very best. Shuki is endearing, resilient, and intelligent. He's a character you can admire and cheer for.

 The book:
Shuki was a child of the slums, rejected by his family after he was taken for use as a ‘bed-boy’ by Hassanel Daoud, rich and powerful. He stayed with Hassanel rather than try and earn his own living by beggary or thievery. He would have run, though, if he’d known that he was to be castrated so that he would ‘stay beautiful.’ And after that, there was no point in running.

‘Not a Man’ is the story of Shuki’s rise from his lowly position to a man respected, an Oxford Graduate, and husband to four women whom he found starving.

 ‘The King’s Favourite’ is the story of his years with King Feroz. He rose to a position where he was able to influence the destiny of a nation.

‘To Love and To Protect’ is third in the Shuki series. Shuki Bolkiah has become an important person. His advice is valued by influential people in governments, not just that of King Feroz, but in other countries of Arabia. His wives would never be wives in anything but name, but there was Elei Daoud, who was his love. Elei wrote a book, with Shuki’s help. It was called ‘Thinking Jihad.’ Because of that book, Elei was shot dead.

 Shuki had made a vow early in his life, that he should never again leave it too late to run. It became apparent that even though he was no longer young, he was still in danger from the desires of men. But in a new place, where no-one knows him, he expects to leave that behind him. He moves his family to Australia, and this is where 'The Frost and the Sunshine' is set.


Shuki has a good life - his new home, his wives and his stepchildren, and becoming more important to him every day, young Zahu. It is hard to believe that Zahu could possibly want to stay with him when he is so much older. Surely one day, he will realise that a young woman has to suit him better than a middle-aged man.
And then Meriam comes into their lives - Meriam, daughter of Shuki's sister. Meriam, who looks so much like a youthful Shuki. She fascinates Zahu; she confuses him, and she tempts him. But she is not Shuki.
Meriam's baby is born when the frost lies heavy on the ground. But then the first rays of the sun come slanting over, and the countryside lights up. It is a promise - that bitter times might come, but one day, the sun will shine again.
'The Frost and the Sunshine' is available on most online sellers, as an ebook or as a paperback.



Thursday, 2 October 2014

So what books do you like to read?

What books do I like to read?  A friend asked me this yesterday.  It's a good question.  Up until a few years ago, I would have given the automatic answer of  'thrillers,' but lately, I find I tend to become bored quite quickly and look for something more.  I know I like a book whose main character I can identify with, and whom I like. I have little tolerance for dull books, even less for 'meaningful' (usually pretentious tripe)  and I don't bother with romance or anything else where the hero or heroine behaves foolishly.  Misery Lit, I detest, (memoirs usually featuring a dreadful childhood)   And biographies - usually boring.  Books that win literary awards - also usually boring.

And yet with the exception of Mis Lit, I have enjoyed individual books of every kind.  I recently read a biography, for instance, but it was Tony Windsor's biography.  Tony Windsor has played a vital part in Australia's politics  and is the single politician that I would happily call honest.  (Retired now, which is a loss for the nation, though, no doubt, a gain for his family.)

And that book was very interesting.

 These days, I like most to re-read my old friends from my own library.  So many old friends - series, often - the Poldark books, The Hornblower books - Horatio Hornblower is such a well-drawn character,  the Whiteoaks of Jalna.  So many others. 

My very first favourite book would have to be Enid Blyton's 'The Faraway Tree.' I remember my mother reading it to me, so I must have been quite small.  And later, I found it again, and again I thought it so special - magical.

Some books do have magic. The Silver Brumby books by Elyne Mitchell.  I wish I still had those original copies - there was a battered blue one, hardcover, and it had long lost its dustcover - 'Silver Brumby's Daughter,' I think.

I have since purchased new copies, just for sentiment, though I can still enjoy a book written for children.  There is no need to deny enjoyment just because one is all grown up now.

            Books were far less plentiful when I was a child.  I read everything I could lay my hands on then, though I remember my mother being a little horrified with one particular one - 'it has a lot of sex,' she said. I scarcely noticed - I was reading it for its story -  something about a racing car driver and his life, the dangers and the romances. 

Whatever my mother read, I read as well -  Neville Shute,  Arthur Hailey, James Michener,  the Boney books by Arthur Upfield. Many of those I have since added to my own permanent collection.

 And then in school we had to read books.  How poor must the choices have been, and how poor the teaching!  For me, reading was like breathing, but the books we were set...  The best were mediocre, the worst atrocious. It has left me with a lasting distaste for any book labelled a 'classic.' The worst of all was one by James Joyce - 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.'  What conceit he must have had to think that anyone would be interested in such things as his liking for masturbation!  I remember being surprised when the teacher explained that girls also masturbated. At that age, I scarcely knew what it meant.  Too advanced for us?  No, I would say far too sordid for us.  It started, as I recall, 'When you wet the bed, first it is warm and then it is cold.'  How not profound!

It was about that age, early teens, that I started reading Ian Fleming's James Bond books. That is what gave me my sex education - that and an encyclopedia, though when I first looked up 'erection' it only spoke of things such as putting up a building.

Thrillers, all sorts. I liked them in first person, and I liked plenty of action.  By the time I was working and earning money, there were certain authors whose new books I would always snap up.  Desmond Bagley, Gavin Lyle, Alistair MacLean.  Some of the books I have in my collection are the same ones I bought when I was in my early twenties.

At that same age, I began reading some very deep books that I have not looked at for many years -  feminism, sociology, psychology, War and Peace.  Economics, even, though that was a struggle even then.

I read a lot of Science Fiction around then as well, even some Dennis Wheatley books - horror.


I was seldom interested in romances, though I very much enjoyed the light romances of Georgette Heyer.  I loved the humour.

And then, much later, after a failed love affair, I had a sudden and short-lived interest in period romances - 'bodice-rippers,'  though the only ones I still have are by an especially good author in that genre - Kathleen Woodiwiss.

 I tried Mills and Boon once, a book by the most famous author and almost the creator of the genre - and oddly I cannot remember her name, or even whether she is still alive. I think she might be, as her death would be news.  She was supposed to complete something like a book a week.  But the book I read was appallingly bad, and I was quite sure that the hero was blonde in one chapter, and dark-haired in the next,  though I never could be bothered trying to re-read and find out for sure.

Anyway, I never tried Mills and Boon again.  The only such light romances I have read since are those written by friends.  My chief objection to those is that the heroine is always depicted as intelligent, but yet does the most stupid things.  Usually, the plot relies on her doing stupid things.

But there are always exceptions, and one exception are the Angelique books. The heroine still acts foolishly on occasion, and yet she is depicted as capable and intelligent. Like most of my old favourites, they are old books, most published in the 1960s. But there are real stories here, real adventures, and the historical background, as far as I can tell, is accurate.  There had to have been some first class research to produce these books, so maybe calling them mere romances is doing them an injustice.

When my boys were in their teens, one read a lot of Fantasy, the saga type, all long books, always in series, usually of at least seven books, and often more. I caught the Fantasy bug from him, I still have his old books, and they are also good for re-reading. 

 But now.  What new books do I like now?  What books would I buy if I saw them new in a bookshop? 

Books cost a lot in Australia, a new book around $35 to $40. It's why I seldom buy new books.  There was one yesterday, though - a new Wilbur Smith. I like Wilbur Smith, though his books vary - some close to genius, others far too macho.  This one is called 'Desert God.'  All the same, if it had not been on special, ($20)  I would have left it there. I would have done as I usually do, wait until I came across it in a second-hand store or maybe a book-swap place.

And there was a surprise for me not long ago.  A book on one of those bargain baskets you sometimes see at a newsagency - $3.47, I think, something like that.  Not a genre I have bothered with in the past, but it sounded intriguing  -  fantasy/romance/erotica, I suppose one could call it. 
'Slave to Sensation' by Nalini Singh.
In a world that denies emotions, where the ruling Psy punish any sign of desire, Sascha Duncan must conceal the feelings that brand her as flawed. To reveal them would be to sentence herself to the horror of 'rehabilitation' - the complete psychic erasure of her personality . . .

I am often lured to books that speak of mind powers.

And that book, I enjoyed so much that I bought a dozen more of the series at full price, before I became bored with them.  There was an intriguing developing background story, but the books became repetitive, each one with a great deal of erotica writing within, that I don't particularly mind, but it was beginning to slow the actual story down too much. I'll probably never know when the ruling Psy finally get overthrown. They gave me a great deal of enjoyment all the same, and I have kept them, and will, no doubt, one day, read them again.  Maybe I'll even buy the final few.

For good books are like that.  They can be brought out, dusted off, and you can renew an old friendship.

So what books do I like?  Maybe I just like books.  There is no need to limit oneself to 'liking' only one genre.

It is a bugbear of mine, this modern idea that first, a book has to fit within a certain genre, and second, that genre then has rules that you are supposed to follow.  How utterly boring, and how it must dampen creativity. A book should take you where the story goes. It should not have an artificially imposed  'structure,' it should not have 'rules' of the genre, it should be just a story.  The argument that one has to fit a book into a genre to make it easy for a bookseller to arrange his shelves?  How can a reader discover books he didn't know he liked unless the divisions are broad - maybe fiction, non-fiction, fantasy and children's.  They are all the divisions a bookshop needs.

Here are some suggestions of good books that you, the patient reader of this post, might like to check out.  My rules are that they must be from my own collection, no two books of the same genre, and no book that I have already mentioned.

'Tim' by Colleen McCullough.  Genre?  Women's fiction, maybe?
'Tomorrow, When the War Began' by John Marsden.  YA.  7 in the series.
'Clan of the Cave Bear'  by Jean M. Auel.  Genre?  I don't think it fits into any genre.  6 in the series, though the last few were not nearly as good as the first two.
'Simon's Choice' by Charlotte Castle.  A thought provoking book.  Again, it doesn't really fit into a genre.
'The Crystal Cave' by Mary Stewart. The story of Merlin, 4 in the series.
'The Sunbird' by Wilbur Smith.  Action.
'Riders' by Jilly Cooper.  'a multi-stranded love story'  it says in the blurb,  but I liked the story of the horses as much as the stories of the riders.
'The Power of One' by Bryce Courtney.
'Bonecrack' by Dick Francis.  There are numerous books by Dick Francis, a few not so great, but most of them, I have read again and again.  Thrillers.
'The Misery of Christianity' by Joachin Kahl,  probably very difficult to get these days.  Non-fiction.
'Phantom'  by Terry Goodkind,  fantasy, a series of around a dozen.
'The Persian Boy' by Mary Renault,  the story of Alexander the Great as told by his eunuch slave.
'The Exiles'  by William Stuart Long, (later revealed as Vivian Stuart.)  Australia's history, fictionalised and developing into almost a family saga. At least a dozen in the series.
'The Population Explosion' by Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich. First published in 1968 when the world population was 3.5 billion. It was said to have been 'discredited' though I forget the reasons.  But now our population is 7 billion, a doubling in less than fifty years.  So many problems we are having now - war, poverty, refugees, the destruction of nature reserves and the extinction of animal species, the pollution of our atmosphere -  and the root cause of  every one of those problems is that there are too many people.

I've digressed,  but I think I've reached the end of my list anyway. So many good books, so many old friends.

And there are my own books.  Well, naturally, I like them. Two more will shortly be released - 'The Frost and the Sunshine',  the fourth and final of the Shuki Series,  and 'Lionel's Wedding,' a Penwinnard Story.

The Penwinnard Stores are not a series as such,  more of a series of stories, though they are all set at Penwinnard Boys' Home (fictional)  and they feature a lot of the same characters. They are fine for reading as standalone stories. 

'The Frost and the Sunshine' could also be read as a standalone. I have moved Shuki to Australia, an area I like very much. This book is interesting in that I range forward for 30 years or so, and what I have found rather eerie, is that too many of the forecast events are coming true.  Read it and see.  It is already available as an ebook, but only, so far, on Smashwords.

And if you have read to here, you deserve a reward. 
To get 'The Frost and the Sunshine' free,  use the  Coupon Code: VG83C,  
but only until October 27, 2014.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

How old do you need to be to write a good book?

It takes time to become an author. It is not for lack of  technical skills, but that you will write far better books once you have experienced a few decades of adult life.  One still has to do research in order to avoid errors, but you know so much more than you did at eighteen, you’ve lived more, felt more, been more.  It all helps make for a better author.  (The eighteen-year-old I once met online who thought she was already a genius, will, of course, disagree.)


When I was around eighteen, I decided to write a book.  It was a failure, not for standard reasons of inadequate perseverance or insufficient knowledge of spelling and grammar, but rather, after just a few pages, (poorly typed on foolscap paper)  there was such a delicious ending that I simply could not resist it – such irony.

  There is no need for anyone  to read it, but just for myself, I am going to reproduce it here, and  looking far more polished  than when I was just eighteen, and hammering away at a type-writer.   



The Amateur Detective

The dark, slender young man smiled with supreme satisfaction. He now had enough evidence to take to the police, to use to convict the brothers. In happy conceit, he reflected that they had finally tackled someone who was not easily defeated. In his investigations, he had met others of the victims of the extortionists. They had all worn that look of defeat, they had admitted themselves impotent when faced with the unpalatable fact that there were another type of people in the world, powerful people, who could squash them, break them to their will as easily as others would step on an ant.
Chris was happy – too young and inexperienced to view with much apprehension the possibility that the criminal brothers knew of his investigations. Before, he had had only suspicions and hearsay to show to the large sergeant whom he had seen.  Surely now, he would be more impressed. That man’s inadequately concealed amusement had rankled, and caused him to become suddenly stubborn and to find within himself an unsuspected aptitude for ‘ferreting,’ as he put it to himself. He had gone on to find proof of his suspicions, but, even so, it had been a lighthearted game to him. He even felt a twinge of regret that it was time to turn his attention back to the humdrum business that was his work. Still, it was an achievement. Again, he gave his spontaneous grin as he sealed the envelope that held the proof to send the Renkin brothers to jail for a good long time. He put it in his hidden safe, ready for the morrow’s confrontation. He hoped it would be the same policeman.
There was a sound at the door.
“Come in,” he called, “The door’s open.”
Still he felt no twinge of apprehension.  Living in complete security all his life, accepting his easy living and general popularity as his due, he knew very little of the darker life that only rarely impinges on the consciousness of the ordinary man.
But when he looked up to find himself facing two guns in the hands of two slightly weary looking men, cold-eyed men, even he could not fail to feel alarm. For a moment he simply stared, incredulous, suddenly realising how absurdly stupid he had been. He knew himself to be an intelligent sort of a person, he found no difficulty when matching wits with any of his acquaintances. Now, looking into those faces, he knew himself to be completely, abysmally out of his depth.
After that first revealing moment of shock, his defences took over. His face was impassive, betraying nothing of his fear and desperate determination not to be taken. Because now he remembered the tales of brutality and sheer sadism of the Renkins. Obviously, he thought, his brain now moving fast, they wanted him alive, at least for the present, or he would already have been dead.
The smaller man jerked his gun in command, silent but quite unmistakable. Rather stiffly, he moved in the direction indicated, where he was instructed to put his hands against the wall in the classic position for a bodysearch. Finding him free of weapons, they spun him around, roughly , but not brutally, and again, the gun commanded. Out into the hall he walked, whirling as he entered and attempting to slam the door on the two gunmen. But he hadn’t been quick enough, even for the moment it would have taken for him to flee. Instead, he picked up the heavy, long-stemmed ashtray and swung it around in the same movement to catch the smaller man, first through the door, hard on the upper arm, causing him to swear, and, more importantly, to drop his gun. Lifting the ashtray again, he brought it down hard on the place where the man’s head had been half a second before. The other man was in the room now, too, but the young man ignored the menace of the pointing gun, still attacking with the ashtray. An admirable weapon, he thought confusedly, Better than the guns which they were obviously afraid of using, probably for fear that the shot would be heard.
But the sharp crack of the .22 went unnoticed by anyone outside the apartment. The huddled figure of what had been a goodlooking and popular young man did not stir as one of the gunmen nudged his head with his foot to show the small wound, fair in his forehead.
Casually, the two men let themselves out of the apartment, and drove unhurriedly away. The orders had been to take him alive, but only if they could do it without inconvenience. Christopher Haywood had been marked for death for some days.

So now I am all grown up, and have eight books to my credit.  The little story above was to have been a full sized novel, a thriller.  But it wound up only 785 words because I simply could not resist the irony of the ending – that he thought they were not going to kill him…     And then they did.

My books now:


Thanks to Jack for allowing me to use his image.
 The Penwinnard Stories, four of them.  These are the stories of boys in a Boys' home - their mischief, their liveliness and their aspirations.  These are, in the main, light-hearted novels and quite short, the longest only 92,000 words. (348 pages)  The background of many of the characters is of abuse and neglect, but this is background. These novels are not about child abuse.

And then there are the Shuki stories. These are the novels I am most proud of. 'Not a Man,' especially, has garnered some very good reviews. The fourth and final book of the series is due for release on the 17th October, 2014. 

 'The Frost and the Sunshine.'


Shuki has such a good life now - his new home, his wives and his stepchildren, and becoming more important to him every day, young Zahu. It is hard to believe that Zahu could possibly want to stay with him when he is so much older. Surely one day, he will realise that a young woman has to suit him better than a middle-aged man.
And then Meriam comes into their lives - Meriam, daughter of Shuki's sister. Meriam, who looks so much like a youthful Shuki. She fascinates Zahu; she confuses him, and she tempts him. But she is not Shuki.

Meriam's baby is born when the frost lies heavy on the ground. But then the first rays of the sun come slanting over, and the countryside lights up. It is a promise - that bitter times might come, but one day, the sun will shine again.

 Find my books on online booksellers such as Smashwords, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.