Tag Archives: books

Summer reading

Best book ever

29601654The Summer That Melted Everything by debut author Tiffany McDaniel is my new Best book ever (for January anyway).

Some ‘Antarctic noir’ might have been a better choice while melting in Melbourne’s hot summer, but I couldn’t peel myself off the couch until I’d read the final page of this dark, gothic novel.

This book requires some willing suspension of disbelief, and I saw most of what was coming, but from a few pages in I was completely captivated by McDaniel’s stunning prose.

It’s a hell of a story (sorry, I couldn’t resist 🙂 )! It’s about what happens when prosecutor Autopsy Bliss (don’t be put off by the name like I was — that’s why it took me a while to get around to reading) invites the devil to the backwater town of Breathed, Ohio in the summer of 1984.

The Summer That Melted Everything is about family, redemption, love and evil. It made me cry, and at times I didn’t think I could bear the suffocating claustrophobia and aching sorrow — there’s not much bliss for the Bliss family that the story centres on. I’m not sure about the ending, and the book left me feeling shattered for sometime afterwards. Its images are still infiltrating my dreams.

Compelling, beautiful, brutal. If you’re looking for a cheery holiday read — this is not it.

Something old

xjane-eyre-popular-penguins-jpg-pagespeed-ic-lunfyo9spvJane Eyre | Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre is my current ‘bed book’. Unfortunately I often fall asleep and lose my page in my bed books. This one is so long — it’s going to take forever.

I avoided this classic when I was a teenager but felt compelled to give it a go after recently re-reading Wuthering Heights — which I adore — and was reluctant afterwards to leave the Bronte’s gothic 1800s world. Jane Eyre is quite different — obviously, I know; it’s not Emily — but I’m enjoying it. Slowly.

Something new

Confessions of a Mad Mooer: Postnatal Depression Sucks | Robin Elizabeth33152096

Confessions of a Mad Mooer was released at the end of last year. It’s a memoir about the author’s battle with PND and admission to a psychiatric hospital’s Mother and Baby Unit.

Confessions of a Mad Mooer is told with honesty and humour. The writing’s great, and it’s a compelling read about a widely misunderstood topic. Oh, and it also contains some hilarious parenting and cleaning tips!  

More info about Confessions of a Mad Mooer here

Something borrowed

1471987Tell Me I’m Here | Anne Deveson

Tell me I’m Here is Anne Deveson’s beautifully written, heartbreaking memoir about her son, Jonathan, who had schizophrenia. I borrowed it from my local library, and read up to the penultimate chapter. Jonathan’s death occurs in the next chapter — I read ahead to prepare myself, but still couldn’t continue.

While avoiding the last chapters, Anne Deveson and Georgia Blain (who I hadn’t realised was Anne’s daughter mentioned in the book) both passed away.

Tell Me I’m Here is still sitting on top of my TBR pile, with a book mark sticking out of the final pages. Now the library wants it back — I’ve already renewed it twice, so I can’t keep it any longer. Sadly, I don’t think I can finish.

Something blue

Mayan Mendacity by L.J.M Owen and The Light on the Water by Olga Lorenzo are on my TBR pile, but I haven’t started either yet. They both have beautiful blue covers.


Mayan Mendacity | L.J.M Owen


The Light on the Water | Olga Lorenzo







More of What I’m Reading can be found over on Meanjin’s blog.

What have you been reading this summer?

The P word

I confess to being a pantser who really wants to be a plotter. There are terrific books around about plotting — mostly written by screen writers — including Screenplay by Syd Field, Story by Robert McKee and Save The Cat by Blake Snyder. I really want to read them, and one day I will get around to it.

In the meantime, I follow a very simple, foolproof 🙂 method for planning my stories. [Just in case you’re somewhere out there reading this, Graeme Simsion, look away now!] It’s pretty much the same thing they’re teaching my daughter in grade Prep-2: you’ve got to have a beginning, a middle and an ending. Act one, act two and act three. Syd Field says: set-up, confrontation and resolution.

Close to the start of your beginning (set-up) you need to have an inciting incident — the event that kicks off the whole story (Cinderella’s invitation to the ball; the three little pigs refuse to give in to the wolf’s demands; a giant shark kills a swimmer on Amity beach). Towards the end of your beginning you need to have a plot point — another incident, which changes the direction of the story and propels it into the middle (confrontation).

Towards the end of your middle (confrontation), you need to have another plot point, which again changes the story direction just before your ending (resolution).

Your ending (resolution) should contain a climax — the highest point of tension, the big moment your story’s been building up to the whole time (Cinderella tries on the glass slipper; the third little pig confronts the wolf; water-phobic Sheriff Brody faces the giant killer shark). The climax should be related to the inciting incident.

Too easy? I wish.

plotting notes

I find Syd Field’s Paradigm Worksheet helpful for planning my beginning, middle and ending.

Once I have my story foundation in place, I like to use Nigel Watts’s eight point story arc as a tool for building up the structure.

Watts’s eight points are:
1. Stasis
2. Trigger
3. The quest
4. Surprise
5. Critical choice
6. Climax
7. Reversal
8. Resolution

You could read Watts’s book, or take a look at this Daily Writing Tips post, which explains the basics of the eight point story structure.

The Hero’s Journey is another narrative outline worth googling or reading about.

Once I’m pretty sure the story-house I’ve built is not going to fall over (and even if it does, I can always make repairs, additions or renovations), I start writing. From here, I let my characters take the car (mixing metaphors, I know!) and drive the story where it wants to go, and I adjust the plot accordingly. For me, character is as important as — if not more important than — plot.

Some wise words from Graeme Simsion, plot guru: Plotting vs Pantsing — Why I’m a Plotter | Graeme Simsion

And finally, my favourite storytelling rules:

The naming of books

It’s a matter far more difficult than cats. However, my cat’s name is Little Bear, so …

How is it that I’ve had around three years to think of a clever, catchy title for my second book, but it’s come down to a last-minute panicked rush to decide on something? Aaahhh! I can write a 70-80K word novel, but I can’t come up with a few words for its name.

My book did have a working title: Dead in the Water. It’s a jokey title, but you won’t get the joke until chapter two. I’ve chickened out at the last minute, fearing it might give readers the wrong impression that it’s a hard-boiled detective story or a comedic mystery (and some reviewers too much ammunition).

A similar thing happened with Please Don’t Leave Me Here. It was always Skin The Sun to me, but that’s a song lyric so it could never be used. It became Come As You Are (I got it into my head that it had to be a Nirvana song)just before a non-fiction book about women’s sexuality was released with that title. I considered About A Girl, but there were too many books around with ‘girl’ in the title. At one stage I called it Dumb, which would’ve been unfortunate as I had a bet that if my book was ever published I’d get the title tattooed on my arm. Eventually, a writer friend came up with Grunge, which I thought was perfect. My publisher disagreed and he chose Please Don’t Leave Me, which I disliked at first. So he did the two-option close with me (reverse psychology?): Please Don’t Leave Me or The Grunge Factor? At some stage, an editor suggested adding Here to the end of the title and somehow that sounded so much better. The book grew into its name, like children do, and now I can’t imagine it being called anything else.

Naming my children was a similar matter. Reece was Baby Chandler until the last minute. Jaime was almost Pearl. And Paige was going to be Peri, right up until I was sucking on ice cubes in recovery after a C-section and noticed boxes of things called peri pads on the shelves. I’m still not 100% on what peri pads are, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have wanted my child named after them.

Gray_book_questionSo, any name suggestions for my next book baby?

_ _ _ _ is set around the Gippsland Lakes. It is a story of broken people, a broken marriage, and trying to break the cycle of mental illness. It delves into the darkness beneath the surface of fear, betrayal and revenge, and is ultimately about survival and starting anew.


I’ve finally moved on from Gould’s Book of Fish, and this week I have a new BEST BOOK EVER: Rocks in the Belly by Jon Bauer. It was published in 2010 and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get around to reading it.

There’s a quote from Bookseller & Publisher on the back cover: ‘Rocks in the Belly is both a masterpiece and a very challenging piece of writing … With this beautiful novel, Bauer teaches us the meaning of “too little too late”, with an ending that is sure to bring a tear to even the most stoic reader’s eye.’

A tear? A tear! I bawled from about halfway through until the end. Powerful. Moving. Confronting. Beautiful. Original. Amazing writer. MUST read.


CMwm1gLUYAAcgfJMy book launch speech:

I started writing books when I was about five years old. Now after — I’m not going to say how many years — I’ve finally got one published! This is a dream I thought would never come true. I even made a deal with my kids that if I ever got my book published, I’d be so happy I’d get the title tattooed on my arm. Unfortunately, kids never let you forget anything. But, back then it wasn’t called PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME HERE, which Graeme [Simsion] pointed out would be a tattoo that could save my life if I was ever in an accident.

I wrote most of PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME HERE between the hours of 5 and 7a.m. My kids were little, I was studying Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT and running a small business from home. It was crazy, but the early mornings were pretty much the only times I had for writing. Thank you to my family — Greg, Reece, Paige, Jaime and my mother, Pam — for putting up with me and for their patience and love.

Thanks Greg for supporting and encouraging me to do the RMIT course, and for holding my hand and making me press send to Scribe.

Thank you Reece for writing those glowing reviews on Goodreads, and other websites. Sorry for being mean and making you take them down because you haven’t really read the book and won’t be doing so until you’re 18.

Thank you Paige for helping me overcome my fear of seeing my books in shops, by standing in the new releases section of Dymocks in Collins Street with a copy of PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME HERE in your hand and shouting up at me, ‘Oh my God is that Tania Chandler who wrote this book’, as I tried to escape up the escalator.

And thank you to my little Jaime for your early morning cuddles and writing advice.

I have a list of other people I’d like to thank.

Tania and HenryThe first, of course, is my publisher Henry Rosenbloom for believing in my book enough to publish it, both here and in the UK. Henry was also my amazing editor, and I loved every minute of the editing process — something I haven’t heard many other writers say. Henry had this lovely, gentle, diplomatic way of phrasing things. Instead of saying ‘you need to delete this bit because it’s crap’, he’d say something like: ‘Can you imagine the book without it’ or ‘Don’t worry, it’s all about polishing a very good book, so that it shines even more.’ He never told me what to do; he’d let me figure it out for myself. And if I had a good enough reason for wanting to keep something in, he’d let me keep it. But then I’d usually get back to him with something like ‘you know that thing you said about past-perfect tense, or the Coroner’s report, I think maybe you were right’. And, damnit, he was always right.

Tania and GraemeAn extra-special thank you is to Graeme Simsion. Coach, mentor, inspiration. I was extraordinarily lucky to have such a clever, generous person to turn to whenever I needed advice. Graeme was brilliant at identifying things that weren’t working, but, unfortunately, he wouldn’t tell me the solution — like Henry, he’d make me work that out for myself. Which is the best kind of advice you can get. Although, there were many times I wanted to kill him for his advice, which was often brutal and always, always, always meant more hard work. I’m glad I didn’t because I never could have written PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME HERE without him.

And to Fran Willcox. Thank you for all your great advice and your encouragement when the chips were down, which was quite often. Writing, as you know, is not easy. I can’t wait to see your book finished.

I would also like to thank:

Everybody at Scribe. I’ve been overwhelmed by their amazing support.


  • Bridie for publicity and for helping to organise tonight.
  • And thanks Amanda, Marika, Sarina and Steph and everybody else who helped with the book.
  • And to Jenny Grigg for the awesome cover design

And thank you to my first readers for their generous feedback on early drafts:

  • Anne Buist
  • Felicity Clissold
  • Nancy Sugarman
  • and Baia (Tsakouridou)

My writers group for all their great advice:

  • Amy Jasper
  • Danny Rosner Blay
  • Allison Browning
  • Meg Dunley
  • Krysia Birman
  • and Mark Brandi.

All my RMIT classmates and lecturers, especially Michelle Aung Thin. I learned so much about writing from you. I have a little black notebook in which I’ve transferred every single word of advice you ever wrote on my work in classes. And whenever I get stuck I look back over these notes. Not that I completely understand everything you wrote, which is probably because I’m not as clever as you, or it might just have something to do with you handwriting. There’s one piece of advice that you gave that I’ll always remember, and that was: If you’re ever lucky enough to meet with a publisher or agent etc., whatever you do pretend to be normal (I’m trying!)

Thank you also to Carmel Shute and Sisters in Crime for their support.

And last, but definitely not least, thank you to Jenny Green and Emma Viskic for their support and comfort in the final stages of giving birth to my book.

At the end of my thank yous, I was going to read Chaucer’s Go Little Book poem, but I was too worried about translation and mispronouncing it, so I wrote my own farewell and good luck note to my book:

I don’t know where you came from, why you chose me, or if you existed inside me for some time before I gave you life.

You were never easy to live with, but every day I nurtured you.

As you grew, I grew. I learnt so much about myself from writing you.

Some mornings I couldn’t wait to see you at 5.00am and some times I felt like deleting you, but I never gave up on you.

Leonardo da Vinci said: ‘Art is never finished, only abandoned’.

I will miss you and I’m scared of what could happen to you out there in the world, but it’s time to ‘abandon’ you, to let you go.


Twas the night before publication

I started writing books when I was about five years old. Now — after, I’m not going to say how many years — I’ve finally got one published. Publication was a dream I never thought would come true …

That’s the opening of my book launch speech. My dream has come true; I got what I wished for. So how does it really feel? Well, I have this lump at the back of my throat, I feel like I’m constantly about to vomit; and I thought I was getting a cold, but it’s actually some kind of stress-related allergy.

Publication of your book is a bit like your child leaving home. There’s nothing you can do except hope they’ll be OK out there alone in the world.

Go, Little Book (by Geoffrey Chaucer)

Go, litel book, go litel myn tregedie,
Ther god thy maker yet, er that he dye,
So sende might to make in som comedie!
But litel book, no making thou n’envye,
But subgit be to alle poesye;
And kis the steppes, wher-as thou seest pace
Virgile, Ovyde, Omer, Lucan, and Stace.

Writing ‘Please Don’t Leave Me Here’

PDLMH COVERI wrote most of Please Don’t Leave Me Here between the hours of 5 a.m and 7 a.m. My children were small, I was studying and running a small business from home, so the early mornings were pretty much the only times I had for writing.

It’s hard to pinpoint where the story idea came from. I had this vivid, cinematic image in my head of a serpent tattoo breathing on somebody’s back — I think that was the first thing I wrote, even though I didn’t know who it belonged to at the time. Around the same time, for some reason, I was flicking through my old journals. I came across an entry from the day Kurt Cobain was found dead. I was surprised by how different my memory of that time was compared to what I had written on the actual day in my journal. It made me think about the memories we hold and how they become skewed over time.

The memory of Kurt became an important part of the story. I was also inspired by music, art, books, objects, smells, dreams, snippets of conversations overheard on the tram …

Please Don’t Leave Me Here started as a short story that explored whether or not people ever really change — with age, circumstances, relationships. What remains constant and what shifts? It became a very long two-part short story (part one set in the present and part two set in the past). Still it kept growing, like rice pudding — it always wanted to be a novel.

Ernest Hemingway said: ‘Writing is rewriting’. It’s true — once I had a cohesive draft I rewrote it and rewrote it and rewrote it. And then rewrote it again. And again …

I had a lot of help while writing Please Don’t Leave Me Here. I was lucky enough to have some very clever people around me (a couple of published authors, my writers group, RMIT Professional Writing and Editing lecturers and classmates) who generously gave honest feedback and advice, which was sometimes tough to hear. A lot of tears went into writing this book! Many times I threw up my hands and said I was giving up. But I never could.

Although some parts of the story felt like being in somebody’s nightmare, other parts felt like ‘going home’ to a childhood place. I drew the scenes set in Brigitte’s grandparents’ house from memories of my own grandparents. I loved all my characters (even dreadful Eric Tucker). I also loved the editing process, and felt sad the day the proofs were finished because it meant finally letting go of the story.