Love Your Story

Juanita Kees Books

Today’s guest on the blog is MC D’Alton, author of Iron Heart, a steampunk novel written in collaboration with Melanie Page. MC is here today to tell us what it’s like to love what she writes. Welcome to Book Love, MC!

As a writer most of us are asked and answer the same questions all of the time. What inspires you? What do you do when you have writers block? And so on, and so on… But the question I’d like to answer today is, what is it like to write a story you believe in so much it haunts your every waking moment? For those of you who will read this blog and who are not writers, I sincerely hope I can convey the intense emotions and sacrifice that goes into any serious storytelling, whether it be a short story, or an epic novel which treks across space and time.

To me, the…

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Forgive me for Dying.


“It is devouring me from within, and I no longer have anything to feed it.”

Quote from a dying friend.

Unlike most monsters, this one was silent, unobtrusive, and when I least expected it, it pounced. I had no warning. No time to prepare. No army to gather for the fight ahead. In truth, there’d be a battle, but the war had already been won. The outcome decided in one foul wave of the universes wand.

Never the less, my parents and I decided to take up the offer of a maybe and perhaps. I fought back with every ounce of determined stubbornness. And with every pain filled breath, I willed the cannibalistic cells which had sprouted from the base of my spine, to die. I prayed and begged. I bargained and promised. But, it only mocked my attempts and continued its savage rampage.

It weaved its wicked tentacles around the bones of my back. Like a weed, the ever-hungry beast forced its way between my vertebrae. It crushed the nerve and drank of my life’s essence. Not satisfied, the mutated cells continued a painful campaign upwards and into my brain. Nibbling at my spleen and liver along the way. Greedily, it dug deep into every sane part of gray matter I owned and rendered me hollow and paralyzed.



I can hear the world, over there in the distance. The rattle of a trolley, the whisper of a nurse — just beyond the fog. What is left of my mind, swims to the surface of a drug drenched ocean and with a pang of regret, I realize I have lived to see another day.

Mom and dad refuse to give up. They’re convinced I’ll win the battle. But I lost months ago. A cold river of morphine rushes through my chemo-singed veins; the result of a diligent syringe driver. The drug works quick to numb my screeching nerve endings – those which are left. I’d sigh if I could, but the tube forcing oxygen into my lungs won’t allow for it.

The chilling narcotic pulls me away from the crumpled-up human I’ve become. I sink gleefully beneath a mist of oblivious relief. Only, this time, it doesn’t stop pulling. I slip… slip… slip, down a long dark corridor.

Elated, I relax, this is it!

My time has finally come.

Faster and faster, it whisks me away. I welcome death with open arms. A great whoosh and my body spits me out. I am born again, but not to life — rather as an echo of it. I look down. I can see my whole body. It is healthy and strong. I look up at the white ceiling which has become a tunnel of white light. I raise my arms toward the beacon, waiting to be drawn into it, but nothing happens. The heart monitor continues to proclaim my life in sharp, poignant beeps.

My body is still alive, but this is not living! My eyes follow a silver chord which connects my spirit to the shell of what I once was.

I lift up my head and shout, “This is not living! Why am I still here?”

A choir of voices, like a thousand chiming bells, echoes across my hospital room.

“They must first let you go.”



I follow the silver chord as it leaves my body a second and third time. The delicate strands, like fine strings of heavenly cobweb find their way to my mom and dad.

My parents sit quietly beside my bed. Mom’s tiny frame, huddled in a red jumper, faces the bed holding my limp body. There are dark rings beneath her eyes. Dad’s thick black mop has thinned and blanched, his skin no longer a healthy olive, but a tepid, spiritless grey.

Their vigil unrelenting. Waiting for the slightest hint of my miraculous recovery. They have sacrificed so much in this battle for my life. Mom even stopped painting.

“The supplies cost too much,” her justification.

I drift past the steel-framed bed which cradles my diminished form and come to stand by my parents. A sure, knowing wisdom unfolds inside me. A final gift granted.

I place a hand on each of their shoulders. The love that lies beneath their flesh reaches out, wraps itself around my fingers and solidifies the wisp which is me. Dad’s head slowly turns. His Adam’s apple bobs up and down. His pale blue eyes stretch and he stumbles out his chair. I can see the question in his eyes.

“No, dad, you’re not hallucinating.”

His hands grope for the bed rails behind him. Staring first at me, then at my dying body in the bed, then back at me.

“What is it, Clyde?” Mum asks, jolted from her silent mourning.

Unable to speak, he points. Mum looks my way and freezes.

“Sweet Jesus!” She clasps her mouth.

Unlike Dad, she slowly stands and pushes the two plastic chairs to the side. Her hand reaches toward me, shaking and unsure as she touches my face — I can feel her!

“Mum.” My voice breaks as her love for me soaks my very being.

Dad, is still unable to utter a sound, but his gaze is brimmed with hope. I reach out to take my parents hands between my own. It’s so good to feel their warmth. I stand a few moments longer allowing the glow of their love to give me strength for the next part of my journey. The hardest thing I’ll ever have to do in this life, must be done now.

“You have to let me go.”

Mom shakes her head; her indigo eyes a waterfall of sadness. I grip their hands tighter.

“It’s over mum,” I nod toward the sickly husk in the bed. “It’s my time.”

With the sense of finality looming, my dad recovers his composure and grabs my shoulders in his large workman’s hands, “We can’t lose you, Rosie! Please, we are nothing without you!” His deep voice trembles in pain. A river of invisible tears stream down my cheeks. I scrape together my courage.

“Daddy, I love you, please let me go! It hurts too much to stay. You and mum will be okay without me, please don’t lose what you have. It’s the love that you share, the love that brought you two together that made me, and that same love which you must always keep. Without it, you will lose me – forever.”

Their shoulders hunch in despair, as they nod reluctantly. We share one last embrace, the three of us. Dad’s arms locked around his two girls for all of time. Mom smiles, lips quivering. Dad, without looking away from me steps back, reaches for the machine which keeps my body breathing and my blood flowing, and flicks the switch…. The finality of his action echoes through our united hearts. They slowly fade from my sight, but are never far from me. I see them sometimes, when I take a moment to glance down. It is good to know they have once again found happiness.

Never fear death, embrace it as the next step in the eternity of the soul.

The last words I ever heard her say.

To Write is to Bleed, is to Grow, is to Heal.

I needed some reminding.

MC D'Alton


So yesterday I picked up my manuscript to do another round of edits.
It read like the day I accidently broke my mom’s favorite vase.  Staring back at me was a gaping wound, a black hole if you will. A problem with my Main Character and the plot. How did I miss this? Why didn’t I see this with my other edits?

The only difference, I can fix this, the vase however….

I suppose that is why we do SO many edits and then some more. Now, it’s a huge re-write for me. It’s all a part of the learning curb, painful, but so it is.

One thing I do know and what I want to remind all of you of, is that this writing thing is hard work.
We who sit and dream and build worlds out of nothing are the makers of magic. But magic comes with a…

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I may not be Australian by birth, but I take ANZAC day and all other days celebrating our fallen men and woman very seriously. I realised last night that I always focused on our fallen men, but there have been woman too. Woman who have sacrificed, died, fought and defended our free way of life. I dedicate this story to you, Warrior Woman. Again, this is not meant to offend, only to honor.

Sophie’s gaze ran up and down the long bronze list bolted onto the memorial. On the last tablet, not quite near the end, but close enough, she found them.

Corporal James Stewart.

Lance Corporal Cassidy Newman.

Lance Corporal Shamus Bailey Wilson.

The names on the plaque stared back at her with a cold, hard accusation.

“I should have brought you home,” her words soft as the breeze whispering off the ocean.

Retired, Royal Australian Navy Pilot, Lieutenant Sophie Murray, swallowed back the pain. It hurt to stand, but she refused to sit. It hurt to be out here where all and sundry could stare at the melted skin which was her face, but she’d not let those Digger’s down a second time.

It was an unusually hot April morning out at Beachmere ANZAC memorial. The small beachside town where three of the diggers from the 4th Battalion, who were on her Chinook helicopter, had grown up.

It had been a simple mission. Fly in, drop the troops and supplies, collect those bound for leave and fly out.

It was supposed to be a relatively safe airspace, over friendly territory – but relative had turned out to be, well, relative. She’d pulled every trick in the book, but the three RPG’s launched at once had proved an impossibility.

“Come love, the service is about to start,” Max her beloved husband and best friend urged.

It had taken months, if not years to accept he would not desert her. She didn’t deserve him. And still, after five years of rehabilitation and psychiatric assistance, it was hard to allow him to touch her, but Max stayed. His love for her swam in those big brown eyes, his loyalty unlike any she’d ever come across. She’d told him many times to leave, to find happiness somewhere else, but he’d refused.

“We made a vow, and I love you more than I love the air I breathe. To desert you would be asking me to carve open my chest and leave my beating heart on the sidewalk.”

Today, five years on, she was strong enough to attend a dawn service. To look those families in the eye and apologize for the fact she’d never brought their sons and daughter home.

The Chaplain stood at the foot of the obelisk and opened his small bible. Its black, leather cover frayed and wrinkled from years of use.

“Good morning all, today we gather here…”

Sophie’s mind drifted, like a bird floating on the warm air currents, back in time. To a place where no bible, prayer, or God had been present to save, forgive, or bring peace.

Screams echoed and failing turbines whined. An RPG had hit the tail of her  CH-47. Her feet desperately worked the pedals. She leaned back using her body weight to help steer the collective throttle and cyclic as they tumbled out the sky. She’d managed to send out a single Mayday.

A sensation of complete freedom and of absolute fear invaded her insides and knocked the air from her lungs.

The fall back to earth was like watching a film frame in slow motion. Clouds of burning fuel puffing past, flailing arms, legs and gear bouncing around the inside of the Chinook. Every cell in her body reverberated, her brain shifted, blood vessels burst and bones shattered like cheap, china dinner plates flung against a wall, as the helicopter connected with the solid desert floor.

Her face burned, her left eye lost its sight, the flesh of her left arm, shredded and the bone pulverised.

Fear and pain drenched with yowling and leaking aviation fuel overwhelmed any senses not rattled by the crash. She called for help – but all the instrumentation was dead or smouldering. She dragged herself from the pilot’s seat. They had to find cover and quick. Whoever had shot them out of the sky was close by and would be here soon to make sure their mission was successful.

She and two other diggers managed to pull the injured into a cave. Her arm throbbed and the skin on her left cheek and neck, burned like a hundred bonfires on Guy Fawkes. She left a Sergeant and his shell-shocked Corporal with what supplies they could salvage and what ammunition they could save.

“You can’t go back Lieutenant, they’re dead and you’re injured.”

She ignored the Sergeant’s plea. She couldn’t leave them there, the three diggers who hadn’t survived. Everyone was to return home, whether whole, broken, or in a wooden casket; no one got left behind.

She’d pulled the first digger out of the wreck when the butt of a rifle connected with the back of her skull.

Six months she’d spent in a hole. An old dried up well in the middle of nowhere was what she got to call, bed and toilette; only dragged out with a rope when they decided it was time to question her. Fists pummelled her face, her back and her belly. Knives sliced her legs and red hot cigarette butts were pushed in to the soles of her feet – but she’d stood her ground, had given them nothing, not even when they’d used her for fun.

A digger regiment on patrol had found and rescued her.

All the pain, all the nightmares, all the clawing herself back up to the light, meant nothing. Her people had managed to rescue the survivor’s days after they’d been shot down, but not the dead. Three diggers lay buried beneath alien sands between the mangled, decomposing shell of the Chinook; all because she’d failed to bring them home.

The Chaplain closed his little black book as the sun appeared above the watery horizon across Moreton bay. A bugle player lifted his brass instrument to his lips. A man, two heads taller than her Max, came to stand beside her.

“We’ve never blamed you Lieutenant. What you sacrificed, what you gave, can never be put in words or material value. Cassidy knew this. Like me, it was her passion to serve her country. To make the world a safer place for everyone else. I honour your service and dedication, as I do hers. I might never hold my baby girl in my arms again, but, I find solace in the fact she died for us to have this,” he spread his arms to take in the beautiful day.

Sophie turned and faced the man. His black hair streaked with silver at his temples, a crew cut told her he was ex-military. His eyes as blue as the autumn sky above, drowned in his loss. His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed his grief. He did not flinch as he looked down at her scared face, but smiled and placed a hand on her shoulder. She did not pull away.

The Last Post echoed from the bugle’s bell. The mournful, eerie tune surpassed the barriers of day-to-day existence. Its evocative wail pushed beyond religion, colour, class and circumstance. It was the people’s anthem, with notes which heralded the fallen. Music with which to farewell the great warriors. A tune ingrained forever in the many broken hearts, for the sacrifice made by those who died, and those forever lost.

“Today is a good day,” Sophie clasped her husband’s hand.

Max looked down at their hands and up to his wife, “Yes, it sure is.”








First Crush




First Crush


I was in Grade 10. It was a day like any other when Mrs. Jolly came to stand in the front of our class with the new kid.

Up until that moment, I had never noticed boys, at least not in the way all my friends did. To me boys were smelly, foul-mouthed irritations, yet he was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen.

Our skinny teacher introduced him. Her shrill little voice echoing across the classroom, “boys and girls, this is Bruce Stein, our a new pupil, fresh from the Cape.”

The class greeted him in their sing-song way kids in school always do, “h-e-l-l-o Brruuucce.”

He was promptly shown to a free desk on the far side and told that his textbooks would be ready by the next day for collection. As he made his way to his seat our eyes met and he smiled. An explosion of heat rose up my neck and colored my cheeks a bright shy red.

He stood a head above all the other boys, with dusty blonde hair and big caramel eyes. For a boy who was great at everything from school work, to cricket, to swimming, and making most of the girl’s legs turn to jelly, he was rather humble. A boy so unlike the others of his kind, who always strutted around with puffing chests and a thing to prove.

The ruling bucks in our grade soon realized that it was in their best interest to befriend the new guy, instead of exercising his rite of passage through hazing. A pleasure most new kids would suffer.

I knew it was more than just his sturdy form and broad shoulders that intimidated them. He owned a silent presence which spoke volumes. Grown and wiser, I now realize it was a mark of leadership.

Unlike other boys, he had no need to fight and stomp his way to the top of the food chain. Although if need be, I was sure he would win any scrap. He would just stand and watch in silence, his stoic presence drawing the wild ruffians closer until they all orbited him like the moons of Jupiter.

There is a hierarchy in school — we all know and understand this from an early age. The diva clique with their shallow souls and snide comments balanced precariously on the top. The left overs sprinkled along the tiers below according to their looks, clothes and personality deficits, till one came to the bottom – the nerds – me and other losers.

If you’re lucky, you’re left to your own devices and make a good friend or two. If not – you will be shunned, picked on and relegated as a bottom feeder. If you have more than two brain cells, you make sure to befriend the mirror lovers. Whether it’s by doing their homework or with continual praise of their plastic beauty, this will earn you their grace and shelter you from the worst of the bullying. I didn’t much mind the extra homework, that and the fact that Shelly Parker – Queen Bee, who lived just down my street, rode to school and back with us each day.

Maths was my other enemy. Numbers teased and mocked my simple gray matter. I was deep in thought, failing to grasp the solution to the figures scribbled on Mrs. Ryan’s blackboard when a strange sensation ran up my neck. That funny tingling feeling one gets when you’re being watched. I looked to the side and was stunned to see Bruce looking straight at me! He smiled and moved his fingers in a small wave. I looked behind me, making sure it was me he really was waving to.

He was! Again, I blushed. Not a sprinkling of rose across the cheeks, but a full on lobster red rash. His smile grew into a flamboyant grin, which reached his eyes bringing it’s caramel hue to a swirling honied glow. He stood up and asked Jessica Smythe, who sat at the desk beside me, if she wouldn’t mind swapping. And so grade nine’s popular guy came to sit at the table beside me. Jessica almost fell flat on her face obliging him. Braces glinting merrily from the broadest smile I had ever seen on her pimply face.

“Hi.” His newly-broken voice, smooth and deep greeted me.

“H-Hi,” I replied.

“I was wondering,” he said, motioning to his book as he spoke, “do you think you’d be able to help me with my math? I am not very good with numbers.”

My heart sunk and flew at the same time.

He wanted my help —  mine! The quiet, mousy girl no-one ever saw. Then I remembered that I sucked at math. Looking down at my fumbling hands on the scribbled white page I said, “I don’t think I can.”

“Why?” he asked.

I turned now and looked straight in those big beautiful eyes. “Because, I suck at math. If it were any other subject…”

He laughed softly and my body stiffened waiting for him to call me a retard. Instead, he gently touched my hand with his larger one. Pure white lightning ran up my arms and hit me in my solar plexus.

“No. Please, I am not laughing at you. It’s just, I don’t care, help me with any other subject then, please. I am sure I need help there too.”

Was he playing me? Apparently, the question was written across my forehead.

“I am not setting you up. But you seem to be the nicest, funniest girl here. And… Well, I just thought we could get to know one another.”

With genuine sincerity painted on his face, I no longer doubted my new friend’s intentions.

“I thought maybe next Saturday your mom could drop you off at my house. We live on a farm not too far out of town. My folks would be there so we won’t be alone. Also, we have a new pony and I’d love to show her to you.”

This was the most I had ever heard him speak and it was all being said to Me. My eyes quickly ran over the class and I couldn’t help but puff my chest as I took in the jealous shocked gasps of all the kids. I nodded, smiling bright and no longer blushing.


We had many wonderful times together as innocent children and eventually as the years crept along and we grew, so too did our friendship as it evolved and matured. But like most, we eventually moved on and walked our separate paths.

That was over twenty-five years ago… I wish such a gentle soul was the first crush of every girl. He unknowingly laid a standard down, to which I would measure the strengths, weaknesses, and personality of the man I would one day choose.

I can only hope I lived up to his.




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To Write is to Bleed, is to Grow, is to Heal.



So yesterday I picked up my manuscript to do another round of edits.
It read like the day I accidently broke my mom’s favorite vase.  Staring back at me was a gaping wound, a black hole if you will. A problem with my Main Character and the plot. How did I miss this? Why didn’t I see this with my other edits?

The only difference, I can fix this, the vase however….

I suppose that is why we do SO many edits and then some more. Now, it’s a huge re-write for me. It’s all a part of the learning curb, painful, but so it is.

One thing I do know and what I want to remind all of you of, is that this writing thing is hard work.
We who sit and dream and build worlds out of nothing are the makers of magic. But magic comes with a price. A price I know we are all willing to pay. We are the masters of our universe. We are the alchemists with the ability to tap blood from stones. The conjurers of great things.

I have always written. As a little girl, I would write small books and Photostat/copy them on my father’s Xerox, then hand them out to my friends at school. I would lose myself in worlds filled with unicorns and funny faeries. I spent hours in trees and gallivanting through the bush with my imaginary friends.

I probably would have grown more as a writer back then had it not been for a silly teacher and her hatred of me. You see, I have a learning disability. Back then that meant you were stupid and shunned, ignored, labeled. I was told I was unteachable and so never received the foundation most kids do when it comes to learning the basics such as grammar, sentence building etc., etc. I even experienced a period of hysterical deafness to block out her constant negative badgering.

So when, a few years back, I retired from nursing and decided to return to storytelling and writing I had to re-teach myself. Let me tell you this; it’s not easy to educate an upside down brain. To ask it to remember the basics of comma use and sentence structure. It is not as simple as buying a book on grammar and punctuation then reading it and, voila! You know everything there is to know.

No, it’s a hard slog.
It has taken me three years of writing every day to get to where I am now. And still, I have a far way to go.
Trying to reconfigure a brain which digests the information it is fed very differently from ‘the norm’ is no easy task — but it is do-able.

At first, I thought I had to follow the rules exactly to the point and if I could not or did not I would never be a writer. I was under the illusion, that to be a writer, I had to write in perfect prose. I had to be accepted by all, I had to be published, make money, win prizes….

Then I discovered a safe haven, a place where I could grow, learn and nurture this delicate gift. A writing forum like no other. But my baggage was dragged along with me. When I first used to post my work and a friendly writer would point out issues, I would feel so guilty for posting writing which contained errors or poorly constructed paragraphs. Then I realized that that was what I was there for. I did not have to feel guilty or stupid or inadequate.

Now, I live for reviews, because they are given with kindness, given in the form of a sturdy bricks with which I am building my writing skills.
I have since come to acknowledge there is SO much more to writing than I thought. Yes, without the technical stuff it does not always work, but just because I battle to get it right does not mean I am not a writer, does not mean I will never be published and does not mean I won’t be a success.

There are these awesome people who understand and love the technical stuff — editors. Their mystical wands of fixing up what needs fixing are fantastical. I love editors!

I now know that I do not have to squish myself into this box of ideals which determines whether you are a writer or not. No, I have never fit in any of the boxes constructed, nor do I want to. I have always enjoyed bending the rules. Twisting them to suit me, that’s what being creative is all about.
Basically, I want to remind all us writers, we are good enough.

Write, always write. Write when you don’t win the competition. Write more when someone turns your dream against you because they fail to see the beauty of your creation. Write when it hurts so much you fear your heart and brain will burst open and write again when you know you’ve got a good thing.

The forum (the online writer’s group) is the best thing that has ever happened to my writing. We, the every single one of us, the newbie and the magnificent, the procrastinator and the ever inspired are what make us all better writers.
A short while ago when I hit a bad low with my writing many writers rallied around me. It was good to know I was not alone — neither are you!
Thanks to a special writer who sent me this….