Tag Archives: writing

The Month that was … March 2022

Autumn in Melbourne is truly beautiful at the moment. So where did those days in March go?

We had enjoyed a short stay in the Yarra Valley with friends. Just an hour away, it is Victoria’s premier wine country destination. We stayed at Meletos which is a little boutique hotel in the middle of the valley surrounded by vineyards and mountains. Highly recommended if you get the chance.

Events : Book Groups

I attended two book groups this month as a guest. The first group did my book, A Perfect Stone. Since I’d written this one four or five years ago, I was nervous that I might have forgotten some of it. After all when a book is done, I don’t tend to revisit it again. Luckily, I was able to handle the multitude of questions. Some even asking how and when I began my writing quest. I was amazed by the interest in what I’ve done so far. Curiosity about the writing process as well as the book itself filled two hours easily. I really had nothing to worry about.

The second group read my recent book, The Good Child. They were equally curious with their energetic discussion about the main characters, Lucille and Quin, what they felt for them, as well as the structure and process of how it had been written. Since this book is set in Victoria some of which is in the late 1980’s it meant even more to this group of readers who were very familiar with the actual events of that time.

I really enjoy attending book groups and am humbled constantly by readers responses.

If you’d like me to attend your book group either in person or virtually, let me know via my contact details.

Reading.

I haven’t read as many books this month but watch out for upcoming reviews during April. If you’ve missed any, check out my previous book reviews.

Writing

I have spent the month refining and working on the plot of my next novel, The Palace Hotel and am wondering if the title is apt. Another title I’m considering is The Barmaid and The Doctor after the two main characters, Ellen and Dana. Perhaps another idea I’m playing with is The Missing Cane Cutter or the Jilted Barmaid. Lots of options but The Palace Hotel is the working title for the moment.

Stay tuned for more on this new historical mystery story set in the cane fields of Far North Queensland.

Until next month…

My Book Anniversary

They say time flies but I had no idea how much until I began to look back to 10 March 2016 when I published my debut novel, Climbing the Coconut Tree.

My writing journey began two years earlier when I was inspired to write a fictionalised account of a double murder which occurred on a little-known place called Ocean Island. You can read more about how it started here.

What is Climbing the Coconut Tree about?

Set in 1948, eighteen-year-old Bluey Guthrie leaves his family in Australia to take the job of a lifetime on a remote island in the Central Pacific. Bill and Isobel, seasoned ex-pats help Bluey fit in to a privileged world of parties, dances and sport.

However, the underbelly of island life soon draws him in. Bluey struggles to understand the horrors left behind after the Japanese occupation, the rising fear of communism, and the appalling conditions of the Native and Chinese workers. All this is overseen by the white colonial power brutalising the land for Phosphate: the new gold.

Isobel has her own demons and watches as Bill battles to keep growing unrest at bay. Drinking and gambling are rife. As racial tensions spill over causing a trail of violence, bloodshed and murder, Bluey is forced to face the most difficult choices of his life.

I’m proud of my debut and in the years since, I’ve written and published three more books.

Out of Nowhere: A collection of short stories published in 2017

A quirky and delightful mix of short stories taking the reader into unexpected territory.

A Perfect Stone published in 2018

A sweeping tale of love and loss, an old man’s suppressed memories resurface after a stroke. He finally confronts what happened when, as a ten-year-old, he was forced at gunpoint to leave his family and trek barefoot through the mountains to escape the Greek Civil War in 1948.

The Good Child published in 2021

Rich in detail and epic in scope, The Good Child is a powerful novel of emotional and financial resilience, loss and unexpected friendship between two women.

So yeah, I guess I’ve been a little busy. No wonder time has flown.

The Month that was … February, 2022

Wedding bouquet of Australian native flowers

An exciting month of celebration for my daughter’s wedding. There is nothing quite like a big celebration in the middle of a pandemic which only serves to make it all the more special. In the week before we bunkered down to make sure a covid 19 case wouldn’t ruin things. It didn’t and all went well for a fun-filled day and more than a few sore heads the next day

Reading

I managed to keep my reading on track with the following books. Watch out for reviews in the coming weeks.

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Writing

I’ve continued to work on my manuscript The Palace Hotel – refining characters. Like my earlier novels, The Good Child and A Perfect Stone, this latest one is also an historical fiction with dual time-lines and dual characters. The time lines are 1948 ( I can’t seem to get out of that year) and 2000 with the female characters, Ellen and Dana. It’s a mystery with murder and mayhem so stay tuned.

Watching

This will be a little controversial but I tried to watch Succession, I really did. I managed eight episodes and couldn’t take anymore. I’d heard it was well written, with great acting and was a black comedy. Maybe it’s me but I thought the dialogue was try-hard, repetitive and monotone. I hated each character and saw no development. Some of the business-practices seemed so far out of touch it was unbelievable. Yes, I know that it is satirical but I couldn’t buy into it at all. Take a look at Veep. Now there is best practice and I’m afraid Succession is just a poor cousin to that brilliance. Sorry to all Succession fans but it was not for me.

Until next time…

The Month that was … January 2022

Welcome to my monthly blog with a round up of what’s happened in my corner of Melbourne. I hope you enjoy it.

It was a shaky start to the year when my husband caught Covid-19 and I was forced to isolate in the same house. We, like many thousands, waited in long queues for testing and searched for non-existent rapid antigen tests. Fortunately, our house is big enough and he was accommodated in the back part of our home previously occupied by our children. And it wasn’t long before he was feeling better.

Isolating for seven days and caring for my husband did leave me time to concentrate on my next book, The Palace Hotel (a working title). I managed to finish the first draft and I can’t tell you how excited I am. Of course, as any writer knows that’s only the beginning not the end with relentless, editing and rewriting to come, but I’m happy the plot and characters are all worked out.

Isolating coincided with a long stretch of hot weather in Melbourne. Ruggs, our cat fell ill and we thought the end had come to her little 22-year-old life but she revived and is as energetic as ever.  Perhaps she caught covid?

I managed to read a few books and get a head start this year on my Goodreads challenge. I was disappointed that I didn’t reach my goal last year so have been conservative this year. Under plan and over deliver always makes me feel that little bit better. Reviews will come out in the next few weeks although you can check out my review for Lucky.

After coming out of isolation I was raring to go and headed out with my daughter to see Moulin Rouge. The vibrancy, energy and music was outstanding and well worth masking up to see it. If you haven’t had a chance, and live in Melbourne try and see it.

And in case you’re not aware, The Good Child has been out in the world since November 15, 2021 accompanying readers all over Australia. Here are two pics sent to me.

Photo sent to me by Alan Forsyth On a plane to Queensland
Pic by Andrew Richards A summer day in Mount Martha

Readers responses for The Good Child so far have been overwhelmingly positive. Check out reviews on Goodreads

Until next time…

Book Review: Smokehouse by Melissa Manning

Smokehouse is a book of linked stories set in southern Tasmania, more particularly, the region around Kettering and Bruny Island.

I visited this region only a few years ago and it’s a stunning landscape of rugged beauty. And Melissa Manning not only paints the landscape but she fully immerses the reader right into it.

“She walked down to the beach, sat in the sand throwing shells into the frothy swash of waves, and considered whether all of this might be a sign that it was a time to move on.”

The book begins with the title story Smokehouse Part 1 which is almost a novella about Joy, who with her husband builds a mud-brick home, a dream home away from the bustle of Hobart. Her new life begins to fracture and the consequences of her actions resonate not only on her family but within the small community around her.

“She had never expected to feel so absent, as though her identity had bled out into the fabric of their family. She longed to feel the margins of herself.”

The last story Smokehouse Part Two, set in Joy’s future, gives us a glimpse into her life as an older woman. In between are short stories whose characters link with the community or Joy’s life.

There was a lot I enjoyed. There is a tenderness in the tragedy and trauma. The reference to food brings joy and pain. “… she dished field mushrooms onto her side plate and ate them with her fingers, let the juices run own her chin and into her lap and tried not to think about the night to come. “

Each story is beautifully written and evocative. The characters are rich in detail and drawn so fully, you feel you know them, their pain, their joy and the problems they encounter. Manning treats the characters and the themes of grief, sorrow, health decline and loss with empathy and dignity.

I thoroughly enjoyed this and am not surprised it was shortlisted in 2021 for Queensland Literary Awards as well as Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards. It’s a stunning debut by an extraordinary author. Highly recommend this one.

New Book Release: The Good Child by S.C. Karakaltsas

We’re finally out of lockdown mark 6 in Melbourne and after three straight months I’m emerging into a social life and a little retail therapy.

It might look like I’ve spent my days reading and reviewing other people’s books, but in between I’ve been slowly and methodically and sometimes haphazardly writing another historical fiction novel.

It’s taken a little over three years and any writer will tell you that it’s hard work even with a pandemic to distract in between.

The cover was done by the brilliant, Anthony Guardabascio from Continue , and doesn’t it pack a punch of vibrant colour?

About The Good Child:

The Good Child is a compelling story of two very different women: 72-year-old Lucille, with a hidden tragic past, and 30-year-old Quin, whose ambitions lost her everything.

Everyone hates Lucille for what her son Tom, did and she can’t blame them. He’ll probably go to jail. She’s to blame too — she ignored all of his faults perhaps even encouraged them. She never wanted him in the first place. But that wasn’t her first mistake. She’d ignored her grandmother’s warning that if she married the man she loved, her life would be a disaster. She was right too.

Now Lucille’s on a train with no money and no home. All she’s left with is a blind overprotective love for her son, but even that is now pushed to the brink as she comes to terms with her actions and those of Tom’s.

Quin worked for Tom and knows exactly what he’s done because she helped him do it – she turned a blind eye to the corners he cut and the lies he told. Now, she’s lost everything and it’s her own fault. She wants revenge.

Then she meets Lucille on the train and finds herself facing her past and her future.

Rich in detail and epic in scope, The Good Child is a powerful novel of emotional and financial resilience, loss and unexpected friendship.

First Reviews

And the first reviews have started. Check out this lovely 5 Star review for The Good Child 

The Good Child is available on Amazon.com or Amazon.au

Book Review: No Friend but the Mountain: Writing from Manus Prison by Behrouz Boochani



This is a book every Australian should read. But I warn you that it’s a hard one to get through. It’s confronting and uncomfortable, mostly because each of us will feel complicit in allowing our various governments to treat our refugees so badly.

It’s not meant to be a literary masterpiece, instead the writing is a remarkable stream of consciousness smuggled out by text from Manus Island where Boochani was held prisoner for five years. That in itself is an incredible accomplishment deserving of our time to read and absorb every word.

We, Australians have known it as the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre or the Manus Island Detention Centre and after reading Boochani’s account of what life was like, it’s actually worse than any modern day prison – it’s more like a concentration camp.

Boochani relays everything about his experience, and his observations are insightful and confronting. It’s a commentary of humanity under duress and he paints a painstaking and brutal picture in both narrative and poetry. He and other refugees endured cruelty, hardship and tortuous conditions designed to bring them down. What makes someone want to flee their home and take a hazardous boat trip to a place they hope will give them a better life? It’s only someone truly desperate. Yet these refugees were used as pawns in a political plot from which there was no escape.

“We are hostages – we are being made examples to strike fear into others, to scare people so they won’t come to Australia. What do other people’s plans to come to Australia have to do with me? Why do I have to be punished for what others might do?”

This book is more than a description of what life was like for Boochani. It’s an academic analysis of the Australia’s border system described as systematic torture which he labels as the Kyriarchal System.

“The term Kyriarchy was first used by radical feminist theologian Elizabeth Fiorenza in 1992 to describe intersecting social systems of domination and oppression… the term also captures the way the intersecting systems are perpetually reinforced and replicated. This important aspect connects the prison with Australian colonial history and fundamental factors plaguing Australian society, culture and politics. “

You may agree or disagree with Boochani’s analysis but it’s thought provoking. There are numerous examples cited which breached basic human rights, particularly freedom. Use of the telephone was limited, food sparse, communication with the outside world non-existent, disgusting sanitary conditions, and nothing to do.

“A few people were able to get hold of a permanent marker and draw a backgammon board onto a white plastic table. They began to play, using the lids from water bottles as counters. Almost instantly, a group of officers and plain-clothed guards entered … crossed out the game. They wrote over it in bold letters, “Games Prohibited’.”

It was a very difficult book to read during the time of our own lock-down. Then I read a tweet dated 27 March 2020, saying the following: “the refugees being detained at the Mantra Hotel are not being given any soap. ABF (Australian Border Force) said they can apply for it in writing and would take 14 days to approve. “

Don’t we all put our trust in our governments that they will ensure people will be treated with fairness, respect and dignity? This book tells us not to count on it.