Friday, November 9, 2007


Monday, September 3, 2007

Excerpt from my novel 'The Pirate And The Puritan' to be released at The Wild Rose Press on 28th September

Nothing could help her now. Perhaps if she swallowed her pride she could beg for mercy... Her mind caught the thought, beg for Mercy. Only yesterday she would have smiled at it. Today it was a meaningless play on words. Today she knew that to beg would accomplish nothing, except perhaps amuse the grim captain.

And how could she beg? Only by falling on her knees before him and holding up her hands in supplication. She could not speak, nor could she write down any plea. The slate that had hung at her waist since her eleventh year was gone. She had hit a pirate with it, broken it on his head. He had merely guffawed, pushed her aside and continued his slaughter.

In the past she had hit, not as hard, more men than one with it, men who thought that because she was dumb she could not carry tales of stolen kisses. This pestering had not lasted long, once they learned she could write. And now her slate was gone, though the small cloth bag of chalk and rag still hung from her belt of plaited worsted cloth. She could write on the bulkhead...

She heard heavy footsteps in the passage beyond the door and Jedediah came in with a wooden bucket of seawater, which he dumped on the table. He left without looking at her or speaking to her. However she heard through the door as he mumbled, of all things, "You needs a clean shirt."

He was answered by a cold sharp voice, which Mercy recognised. "More than a shirt."

She stood quickly and wiped the tears from her face with her bound hands. The captain would not have the satisfaction of seeing her cry.
Not yet. Her fingers trembled on her cheeks. She bunched them together in her skirt, straightened her shoulders and stared ahead. She saw, surprised, that the light through the horn windows was dim. The long terrible day approached its end, though that was no solace. Under the cover of darkness men did things they would not dare, in daylight.

But she decided.
I will live through this. I will not fight. I will not give him the added pleasure of subduing me. I will give him the least pleasure possible, by submitting. I will survive.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

And More...

"The Left Hand Of God" by William E. Barrett; he also wrote "Lilies Of The Field". I find him restful to read. As opposed to some who put my teeth on edge! Purely personal taste of course. Oh, the first book is early 1950s and the second was a movie in the early 60s with Sidney Poitier.

Science Fiction: "The Shrinking Man" by Richard E. Matheson. Very moving.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

More Favourite Books Just As I Threatened

I'm sitting in my 'library'. It should be a spare bedroom but we're old and only occasionally get a grandkid or visiting rellie needing a mattress on the floor. So it's my 'study' or 'library'. Wow, how cultured can you get? But there I was blogging on yesterday about favourite books, surrounded by them on all sides except the desk and window, and too lazy to get up and jog my ageing memory by looking around the shelves.

I adore ALL Georgette Heyer's 18th century and Regency romances. In fact, though there's few books I want to read more than once, I re-read Georgette completely every ten years.

Then there's "Clan Of The Cave Bear" and "The Valley Of Horses" by Jean M. Auel. They both kept me awake till 2 a.m. for several mornings while I experienced the adventure of reading them. My ambition as a writer is to keep other writers awake reading my books until the small hours.

Rudyard Kipling - maybe out of fashion but "The Jungle Books", "Rewards & Fairies", "KIM" etc. were a marvellous discovery when I stumbled across them. He's still a great writer and one of the masters of the short story. And do you know, I read in his biography that he wrote all his life to the column width of the first newspaper he worked on? His editors must have loved him.

"The Desert Column" by Ion Idriess. If you're not Australian you've probably never heard of him, or his books. It's a superb account of his days as a Lighthorseman in the Middle East in World War I.

"Softly Tread The Brave" by Ivan Southall. Another Australian, this time from World War II. This is the true account of the incredible service of two Aussie mine-disposal officers in England during those dark years. Leavened by dry humour.

"Joan Of Arc - Self-Portrait", compiled by Willard Trask from the Maid's own words at her trial. Rivetting. Read a good biography of her first, like Edward Lucie-Smith's "Joan of Arc."

"Seven Pillars Of Wisdom" by T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). Brilliantly written, a great adventure, occasionally harrowing. And if you can find a copy, read in tandem with Lowell Thomas's "With Lawrence In Arabia".

"Bugles And A Tiger" by John Masters. The experience of a British Gurkha officer in India before World War II. Another excellent writer, never wastes a word.

The stove is calling again...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Favourite Books

(I know the picture of my hydrangea has nothing to do with books, but my I.T. expert son has taught me how to add photos to the blogs, and I just stuck it anywhere!)
It seems obligatory for writers to tell everyone what their favourite reads are. Well, fair enough if you're interested - in which case, bless you! Writers of course, like the rest of the human race, come in all shapes, sizes, ages and their tastes and opinions are just as varied. Hmm, let me think.
First book that springs to mind is "The King Must Die" by Mary Renault. Came out about 1964. (I'm old.) Marvellous re-telling of the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur, no stuffy Greek myth style but an immediate and human story. The first reading of any good book is an adventure, but this one was a revelation. It was followed by "The Bull From The Sea" about Theseus's later life, and preceded by "The Last Of The Wine", about the war between Athens and Sparta. It helps to know a little of the background, but the stories stand alone.
I write romance so I'd better mention romance writers. Favourite Australian authors in the genre are Lindsay Armstrong ("A Difficult Man", "An Unsuitable Wife" and "An Unwilling Mistress") and Meredith Webber. June Monks's Country Sunshine is delightful. Favourite American is from the Eighties, Rebecca Flanders, I found her work very moving. British, Sally Wentworth, especially "Chris", which was deeply emotional. I'll remember more in time.
I've been a science fiction fan for fifty years. Favourite books in that line are Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Left Hand Of Darkness", just about anything by Arthur C. Clarke, the early works of Robert Heinlein, "The Gods Themselves" by Isaac Asimov, "The Dancer From Atlantis" by Poul Anderson (most of his work in fact), "Orbitsville" by Bob Shaw, most of Larry Niven's work including "Destiny's Road". I own an aged and battered anthology by Eric Frank Russell, who is rare in the genre because he can write stories that are both brilliant and funny: the book is called "Far Stars", and if you can find a copy, BUY IT.
Adventure. Unlike other girls I didn't much like girls' fiction, although L.M. Montgomery of "Anne of Green Gables" must be everyone's favourite. I liked Biggles - the pilot created by W.E. Johns, and my daughter loved them too. For adult adventure you can't go past C.S. Forester and the Hornblower series, though all his books tell great stories. "Brown On Resolution" and "The Gun" are my favourite non-Hornblowers.
Humour. I have a special admiration for those who can write it. P.G.Wodehouse who wrote the Jeeves stories is/was a master. Gerald Durrell injected it into most of his zoo-collecting stories, but I especially like his "Fillets of Place", (or Plaice), which is a compilation of several short and hilarious pieces. I gave it to a friend to read to cheer her up after she'd had an operation, and she almost burst her stitches laughing. And my all time favourite is "I'll Trade You An Elk" by Charles Goodrum, which must have been published in the late fifties or early sixties. His dad ran a zoo pre-war in Wichita, Kansas, U.S.A., and the best part of his side-splitting anecdotes is that they're all true!
What else? Oh yes, ANYTHING by Mary Stewart. Favourite is "Touch Not The Cat." And then there's M.M. Kaye, particularly "The Far Pavilions", which at nine hundred pages never became boring and I was never tempted to skip a word. Same with Colleen McCullough's "Morgan's Run."
And just about anything by Winston Graham, though his earlier work is a bit dated now. But his Poldark series is great (he's British) and "The Walking Stick" and "The Forgotten Story" are my favourite non-Poldarks. The Walking Stick particularly interesting because it's told in 1st person by the female protagonist. (It was filmed too, with David Hemmings and Samantha Eggar, in the Sixties.) I adore the way the man writes, so apparently easily, the stories just seem to 'happen.'
I'll carry this on another day. Right now I have to get tea ready. ('Dinner' in the U.S. or other civilised places like southern states of Australia.)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Apprenticeship Days (Years!)

I married Arthur when I was eighteen, and by the time I was twenty-nine we had four kids. I remember reading an article by an art critic some years ago in which he addressed a woman painter. He said her work was very promising; she told him she was soon to be married; he said, "Don't breed", and when she took exception to that he said, "See you and your work in fifteen years." That's something women are stuck with, the biological role. In these days it's considered possible for a female to have both a family and a career (at the cost of exhaustion!). However in the fifties and sixties a life outside her family was not an option for most mothers. A social expectation, but a pressure nonetheless.
In my biog with The Wild Rose Press I say "I took thirty years off writing to raise my family". Of course it wasn't that simple. I scribbled intermittently but kids and hubby and house had to come first, and I'm not the efficient sort of person who can slot in time for herself on a regular basis. I had to develop some common sense for a start - I went from being a voracious reader and a day-dreamer to the completely unfamiliar roles of wife, mother and housekeeper. But that was what was expected of women then, and anything else was 'selfish'. My husband, bless him, didn't criticise, but he worked hard and needed support. So during those years I not only filled the domestic roles but unofficial ones as his unpaid secretary in business and nurse during his illnesses. (He'll hate me mentioning that, he's of the generation that considers male illness a weakness.)
So, by the time our daughter, the youngest, married, thirty years had passed. I did start to scribble seriously then, in pencil, in longhand, on paper notepads. Those first efforts are lying around my 'filing system' (several plastic boxes) somewhere, and one of these days I'm going to have to dig them up and see if I can do anything with them. I DID get those articles I mentioned published (one in another magazine is about the difficulties of being a short wife with a very tall husband). I DID get a short science fiction story and an s.f. poem printed in a s.f. fan magazine. No payment, though the chap who put it out sent me a copy of "The Lord Of The Rings", which I'd never heard of before. (This was in 1975, and the book sat on my shelf for 27 years before the first movie came out, when all my children suddenly wanted to borrow it at once!)
I DID attend a couple of creative writing courses, which did my soul good but didn't propel me into professional status. Then between '92 and '96 I wrote - first drafts in longhand, second on a portable typewriter, third (and I thought final), on an electric typewriter - six books. I didn't know a darned thing about markets, so joined the Queensland Writers Centre. The last two books had been romances and QWC are rather 'literary-ily' oriented, so they kindly directed me to a romance writers group.
Through the group and one particularly helpful member, Waveney, I was pointed to Romance Writers Australia and became a member. RWAust run a marvellous program called the Isolated Writers scheme, which links geographically challenged authors to mentors with some experience. The scheme at that time was in the kind, encouraging and enthusiastic hands of Meredith Webber, who writes wonderful medical romances for Harlequin Mills & Boon. She paired me with Adrienne, and Adrienne turned out to be the editor I had always needed. I knew my writing wasn't 'professional' yet had no idea why. Adrienne showed me, with endless patience, support and very gentle constructive criticism. In fact she was too gentle! In that situation the mentor is of course careful not to hurt one's feelings, but I needed someone behind me with a whip! Bless her, she was responsible for my first romance being accepted, we are good friends and she continues to support my work with enthusiasm.
But the story did not end there! It's a hard road to the final print. The book was accepted by a small firm and the owner/editor required changes, polishing, all that sort of thing. I did it all, and corrected proofs (galleys) for the first time in my life. She had it listed for publication, but lo and behold, was unable to continue with her business, which was sad because she had been a great help to several new writers. She didn't leave the book in limbo, but sent it on to another small publisher, one with a more aggressive approach, in Sydney. Who ALSO required changes. That done, I corrected another set of galley-proofs, and the book was actually released in Australia in 2002. Wow! I wrote another for that publisher, but unfortunately, though it had been intended for release in 2004, the new publisher also was unable to establish her business permanently. Which all goes to prove, sadly, that Australia with a population of 20 million, is not able to support a specialist romance publisher.
By this time we had moved to a small country town where we knew no one, but it happened to be fairly in the middle of where our children and grandchildren lived. And at the beginning of 2005 a Writers' Group was started locally by our dear assistant librarian Michelle. Among our members are Tony and Jan, who are published, and Nelma and Dave, who are self-published, (and it's criminal that two such talented people aren't professionally accepted, because they both write brilliantly.) There's also Marion, who has written one book, some poetry and is working on two more books, and some folk who want to write their memoirs, and several other talented souls. That they all live in this rural area, ( Brian moved to Cyprus and keeps in touch!) is indicative of just how many and varied are the rich resources of any community. We have a ball at meetings, we support each other and it's greatly satisfying to have folk around who know what one is on about.
And now one of my older books has been accepted by The Wild Rose Press, after travelling the world by post for many years to publishing houses in the U.K. and the U.S. It's a historical romance called "The Pirate And The Puritan" and will be released as an e-book on September 28th, and in print form in the U.S. in January '08. Hooray, I have (almost) arrived.
I'm glad I had my children before I had a 'career'. They are all great people and successes in their own fields. We get on well with their spouses and the grand-children are a treat, a bonus, and our two little great-grandchildren are jewels. And having a family is a learning and maturing experience like no other. It develops your character, to the point where I would recommend any career girl to have kids first. Of course in this world that isn't always possible, but women have had to wrestle with this problem for years and work out their own solutions. I believe firmly that now as I become older (golden wedding anniversary in two years!) I am a better writer because I have learned more about people, about motives, about the world. What an education! Priceless.

Okay, I do have a short story to my credit recently. It's called Lily's Captain and it's available at The Wild Rose Press. Their website is and I write as Mary Clayton. Why, you ask, not write under your first name, Monya? Because, dears, I'm keeping that name for science fiction!

Lily's Captain is set in Australia, hence the place names. I live in a small town in the very large state of Queensland. But Lily's story could happen to any woman anywhere. Love lost, grief, a new love - but is it new or a love regained?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I'm a Writer, Now

I decided to be a writer soon after I learned to read. About age six. I just LOVED stories, still love a good story. At age eleven it occurred to me I'd better start doing something about it. I wrote a story. Can't remember the gist of it now, but the word 'Mystery' was in the title. It was about a deserted house not far from ours, and there's nothing more fascinating to children than empty, closed up houses. And this one could not be entered in any way, darn. Then at thirteen I thought I'd better actually try to SELL my fiction. I sent a story to a women's magazine and I don't remember that one either, but I kept sending them for years. In those days if they considered the story warranted it they'd send back a kind critique. A lot nicer than a standard rejection slip.
Yet I've never yet had a story published in that magazine. Fiction, that is. They did publish a factual article on their 'Reader's Story' page in the early 1980s, and a letter. The article was about the (internally) burnt-out house my husband and I bought cheap, cleaned, painted and renovated ourselves for a family home. Oh boy, I'll never forget the soot... The letter was a page long agreement with an idea proposed by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Probably tongue in cheek but it would work - the way to cut road accidents is to make it mandatory for everyone to paint their name, address and phone number on the sides of their cars!
Then when I was fifteen I won first prize in the local Eisteddfod short story competition. Never mind the story, I was very young. But the prize was a certificate and thirty shillings. I badly needed a new pair of shoes but I bought a book, "Gallipoli" by Alan Moorehead.
From sixteen to eighteen I did a correspondence course in creative writing. It took that long because I was working as a clerk in an office in town during the day and we lived on a farm outside of town. Which meant Dad, who also worked in town, drove me, my two brothers and sister in each morning (one brother working, one at school and sister at school), leaving at seven a.m., which meant getting up at six. Poor Mum always had to call me several times. She'd already been up to milk cows, I'd been awake half the night trying to do my assignments by the light of a kerosene lantern, in longhand. Later my grandmother gave me an ancient typewriter but I couldn't use that in the bedroom I shared with my sister, who is ten years younger. SO it was a slow process, but my tutor was wonderfully encouraging. And I kept sending stories to that darned magazine.
On Saturdays I'd sleep in, then spend the afternoon ironing my clothes that Mum had washed by hand the previous Monday. This was the 1950s and remember, we had no electricity. So we used a petrol iron, the kind you see in museums with a nifty little petrol tank stuck on the back. You lit it with a match... And the clothes I ironed were 50s fashions, full starched petticoats and full skirts. Now I'm old I never iron ANYTHING. I maintain I have better things to do, like writing. My family and friends accept me crumpled or not at all. Thank heaven for synthetic fabrics, I say.
I'll continue this fascinating diatribe another day! I seem to have wandered off the subject a little. All right, a lot.