Changes in life

Well 2023 has had some unexpected turns so far.

We were fostering my great niece, but she decided she hated it with us and left. We’ve been dealing with the aftermath in a reasonable manner. We had been focussed on her but now we have to start focussing on us. Some days are just great and others are full of distraction and a bit of sadness that we couldn’t help her.

On the bright side, the renovations are mostly done. We had an electrician put a cable through a drain pipe and that made things interesting. All fixed now just getting the ceiling redone. I knew it was too much to tempt fate and fill all the holes in the ceiling and paint it-because just after is when it started leaking.

More good news is that I am writing again. Not much but I’m there. My head is in the space. I’m back at the day job three days a week so I’m not as free to just write when I please. We try to do us time too so on Thursdays and Fridays and weekends we try to take ourselves off somewhere for a break, to focus on us.

I’m also prepping for a big operation in May. I’m getting partial knee replacements in both knees. I have to cycle on the stationary bike (I hate it) and do exercise. I try to walk and pool walk as well. I don’t know what is going to happen to the back garden as it’s a mess and I can’t see me fixing that before the operation. I’ll be out of things for a few months at least.

My son and his wife and my grandson moved to Singapore in February. My son and his wife and been with us on an off for four months. I miss them and I’m hoping to go visit this year when the knees are up for it.

The biggest drag for the surgery is saving up for the gap fees. I’ll need at least $10,000 to start with. I have top private cover but the fund is limited to paying the difference in what Medicare refund and the Medicare schedule fee. So for surgery that could be something like $1500 Medicare schedule fee and $6500 surgeon’s fee. Then there is assistance surgeons and the anaesthetist, with the same issue with the Medicare schedule fee and what they actually charge. I am not really complaining because I have the luxury of choosing when I have my surgery and the fund pays the hospital fees.

The only other bane to my existence is trying to get a refund from Qantas. In October they made me pay twice for a fare because of some system glitch or we couldn’t get on the plane. I’ve been trying since then to get the money back. They keep saying I can have a refund in two weeks or six weeks or eight weeks due to back long then two weeks and it just goes on. I’ve complained to Qantas because you need to do that to complain to the Airline Customer Advocate (ACA). The new twist in the plot is that I have to ask Qantas to review my complaint before I can lodge with the ACA. Rolls eyes. Such annoying crap. Qantas don’t have anything to review. They said they will refund they just haven’t.

I’m saving the best news for last. I attend my graduation ceremony next week 30th March. I’m so excited. I have been conferred my degree. Yes it’s Dr Donna. But I’ve been looking forward to wearing that hat. I’ll post photos next week.

Currently listening to audio books:

The Unquiet Bones by Mel Starr (listening with Matthew and nearly finished. An unexpected buy and bought because I liked the name. It could have been a Audible freebie.

Remnant Population by Elizabeth Moon-usually while on my stationary bike. I’m enjoying it but it is a bit slow and indepth.

Marshlight by Joy Ellis, my guilty crime pleasure. I’ve read most of her other stuff and the Matt Ballard series is new to me and a bit different. Not quite murder, just intrigue maybe. The Dying Light that I just finished was interesting and bittersweet.


Here for the Right Reasons by Jodi McAlister and it’s a bit of fun.

Just finished The Rake’s Daughter by Anne Gracie-a fun Regency romance and Wraith’s Revenge by Keri Arthur, the latest installment in the Lizzie Grace series. Both read really quickly so read that as unputdownable.

Tomorrow provided nothing gets in the way of it, I will be going under the knife for two partial knee replacements. I think there might be power tools involved but I really don’t want to think about that.

I’ve been working on my fitness the last few months and have upped the exercise this week. I went for my last walk in the drizzle today and did my ten minutes on the bike. As a result, my knees in the lead up have been really good, enough to have me wake up in the morning on occasion and say I don’t need it. However, the last couple of days with the increase in exercise, my knees have been very grumbly. Anyhow, while it’s going to hurt for a while, I know it should get better over time. Also, with partial knee replacements I keep half my knee and that helps with recovery and even better stability. Tonight and tomorrow I must wash in anti-bacterial solution to reduce the risk of infection, particular the multi resistant kind. Matthew has volunteered to change the sheets! (must remind him).

I have finished sending out the links to the thesis to those who romance writers and readers who participated in the survey and left their email addresses. So if you didn’t receive one your email might have bounced etc. However, drop me a line if you feel you missed out.

I’m about to do a bit of writing for a bit, now that I have done some admin. I’m packed up for hospital in the morning. Here’s me on the stationary bike this morning.

Other things to look forward to is travel later in the year.

When it rains it pours they say.

I’ve just submitted my first short story submission in years. I wrote a bloody short story! And I enjoyed it. Yay me. I am still a writer. You may think what the hell she’s published books and stories what is she talking about.

Well if you don’t write for a bit or you are finding it hard to engage, which I have done, you don’t feel like a writer much. In my case, I started thinking you were a writer and now you’re just in limbo. However, I had never considered giving up willingly at all. I just felt like I wasn’t doing what I should to be a writer.

I watch way too much crime series on streaming services. Hello, Vera! Broadchurch, Midsummer Murders etc. And for the pandemic years, which aren’t really over, I have been very confined in my taste for viewing and reading too. Thank god for Audibile I say.

I’m scheduled for knee surgery on Monday and may be unable to write during May. I’ll be on sick leave from my day job too. However, I must admit that I have had ideas running around my head. This is a good sign. Now I just have to be more devoted and methodical to the act of writing. Now that the short story is done, I can get back to other projects, of which I have many.

Better get back to it. I just needed to virtue signal about actually achieving something.

Mailing out links to my thesis to survey participants is taking longer than expected. However, I’m now sending via Gmail BCC in groups of about 50 each, instead of one at a time when I get the chance.

My outlook/iinet would not let me send more than 25 emails in an hour, which was annoying and caused more work. I cannot use my newsletter service because of double opt in requirements.

So far I have sent links to 155 romance writer participants and starting yesterday with the BCC on Gmail 169 to romance readers. I’m getting quite a few bounces, mostly from the romance reader participants. I think this is to be expected as these details were provided in 2016 and 2017.

I have many hundreds of emails to send.

Another annoying thing. I developed a template, then corrected the template, but somehow in many cases the template message with typos went out. I’m sorry about this. I feel very stupid and actually can’t work out how that happened. For those getting the error free email you are one of the lucky ones.

As a rule of thumb, romance writers are downloading more than readers. However, I won’t be able to distinguish between the groups from now on as I’m sending to both groups at the same time.

If you participated in the survey and haven’t received a link in a week or two, then feel free to email me for it.

I am very grateful to the survey participants for their generous support and thoughtful survey responses. Thank you.

I’m totally against rewriting books because the modern eye might find something offensive. A book is a cultural artefact and it takes up elements of the writer’s life unwittingly and altering that distorts the cultural artefact, destroys it.

I like reading older books that need footnotes or endnotes to provide a modern contexts for a mention or an expression of something. As a reader I’m interested because it reminds me how things have changed and are changing all the time.

A major thrust of my thesis is how romance novels, the oft scorned Mills & Boon from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, contain elements of feminism because that it was one of the huge cultural changes of the time. Discussions about women working, women as mothers with careers, child care, domestic violence, rape, equal rights, equal pay…or even just the fight of a woman to be respected for what she could do and not what she looked like.

I think we need to look back at literature (I include genre here) to get a glimpse of the fears, the culture, the life (fictional and otherwise) that existed then.

Where would we be without Austen and the middle class obsession with getting a husband and society’s constraints? Or Dickens, whose work does contain anti semitism in depictions of characters. To erase that, erases the evidence that society was anti semitic.

Literature can chart how society changes because it inherently captures elements of the author’s habitus, their hopes, fears, experiences intermingled with their fiction.

I’m rather fond of a footnote.

I am in the process of emailing out links to the thesis to the romance writers and readers who participated in my research. However, I have to do it manually a few at a time. I sent a whole bunch out this morning and if I have time this afternoon and tomorrow I’ll send more. However, with over 700 people who left their email addresses, it’s going to take me a while. I’m not quite 10% done.

For those of you who have had a chance to look, I’d welcome any comments you might have positive or negative of the analysis. Feel free to email me or leave comments on the blog.

I finally collected my testamur from the university of Thursday. It wasn’t in the folder I received on graduation day. Good thing too as they had to adjust a date. My academic transcript covers my whole uni life, starting with Graduate Certificate in Professional Writing (Editing) in which I earned two Dean’s excellence awards (2011 and 2012). I think switched to a Masters in Creative Writing (but believe me first class honours is best for scholarships). And then finally the Phd in Creative writing commencing 2016.

It seems so long ago now.

I don’t feel exceptionally clever for doing all this. My passion for writing drove me and once awakened a passion for learning stuff! I feel a sense of accomplishment and I proved my stamina!

You see, I left school at 15 years old, mid way through the Australian Year 10 or in my time 4th form. I don’t think I knew what a Phd was at that age. There was no encouragement to study, broken home, dysfunctional family, lost teenager looking for love. And life sucked pretty much really at that time. I wanted to go back to school but my itinerant lifestyle meant I couldn’t, nor could I get support from my mum to help me either. Later on in life, I was in NZ and I tried correspondence around age 17 and that was a bit hard. Later again in my early 20s I did my school certificate in NZ part correspondence and part night school. I had babies then and that was when I first had to idea to write. Unfortunately, young kids, feeling like I wasn’t smart enough I gave up that thought. I studied university entrance in NZ and got accredited. That meant I didn’t have to sit exams as my work was good all year. That was correspondence and it was great really. Three kids under five meant I had to be organised. I did maths in the morning because my brain was fresher and then physics in the afternoon. History and English in the evening if I could, around cooking etc. My husband at the time didn’t like me studying at night but I read my history stuff anyway while watching TV with the family.

I moved back to Australia, divorced and studied my higher school certificate (years 11 & 12) in a condensed year. I could have done fewer subjects and got a better score but that was a time limited thing, whereas the full school certificate was mine forever, and with young kids I didn’t know how long it would take me to get into uni. I was offered a place in arts at Uni of Sydney, but I wanted Economics. At this time in my life it was soul searching time, do I move to Canberra or Newcastle and go there or enter arts and try to switch in a year? All my supports at that time were in Bondi, so I went into arts and worked my butt off to get into economics. I did get into economics and I also studied Japanese and Spanish languages as additional subjects.

The point of this recounting of my education is that I wanted this education, I wanted it for reasons both ego stroking and economic reasons. I studied economics to get a job and, hence, a better life for my kids and me. I achieved that, despite setbacks, such as the introduction of HECS in my first year and then a recession when I graduated. No dream jobs available and being an older student not much opportunity at the time. My passion though was for the arts but with my limited time frame and supporting three kids, I didn’t have the luxury to pursue my passions. I had to to turn down honours too, offered because I was pretty good at tax law in the day.

The other unusual thing was I studied for my economics degree with opposition from many family and friends. It’s weird I know but people I loved and trusted tried to talk me out of going to uni. They saw no value in it, thought I would fail, waste my time or whatever. For me, though, study was the key to unlocking my life. I had low self esteem, achieving academically helped with that in many ways, I ended up earning well and putting my education to good use. Although I must say when I worked in the audit office I had imposter syndrome and kept meeting highly intelligent people and wondered what I was doing there. I also had imposter syndrome when I started the Phd. Although I’m told that’s normal.

It wasn’t until I was entering my forties that I thought about what I really wanted to do, which came to me in a traffic jam, and that was to write. And not long after I started writing.

I can’t tell you if the Phd in Creative Writing made me a better writer. That remains to be seen. The two books I published last year were written before I started the Phd. I think I look at the world differently and I’ve certainly been on a journey, life and study and genre over six years.

I will say that I’m satisfied with what I’ve done and how I have clawed my life into a semblance of something it could have been, if things had been different. Now coming up to my 63rd birthday, I feel content. I’m also glad it is done too, but I sense there is more out there in my future. I just need to focus and go for it.

Moral of the story. Go for it? Pursue your dreams. Value yourself.

Yesterday, I walked across the stage as Dr Donna Maree Hanson. I had the gown, the hood, and the Tudor bonnet. I did not look as debonair as I was expecting but it didn’t matter because I was excited and happy. It’s been a long time coming. The pandemic played havoc, not just with me, but with staffing at the university which meant the last part took too long and it was very frustrating.

Rituals and ceremony are fascinating things. The permeate our lives-marriage ceremonies, funerals, graduations. For me, it was a closure thing. I didn’t have to do it, but I so wanted to. I wanted a moment to remember, to celebrate and share with my family. Not all my family unfortunately.

I found the whole thing a boost to my morale. I dressed up. I put on make up. I felt good. Yay me.

At moments like this I am expected to thank people who helped me. I have an extensive thank you in my thesis, but that’s not as easily seen or read. My supervisor was Associate Profession Tony Eaton, AKA Anthony Eaton, award winning author of SF and F and he propped me up when I was down, guided me when he could, challenged me and made me prove my points. He also was a great mentor for my novel component. It was a challenge that Tony wasn’t an expert on romance fiction, but he did his best as he is the genre guy and he asked the amazing, indomitable Dr Jodi McAlister to be on my supervisory panel. Jodi was a godsend from the romance academia perspective. Thank you Jodi. My second supervisor was Dr Jordan Williams and she was very good value when she had to mind me when Tony was away. She gave me some great feedback on my thesis and chatted to me and helped me refine my arguments.

However, it was Tony who zoomed with me every week and fortnight during the peak of early pandemic lockdowns and fear and who kept me going, listened to my ideas, encouraged me, He worked hard with me to drag, pull, push over the line. During that time I had no will to write anything, no creativity, I was blown up by a cannon ball of pandemic fear and family chaos. What really touched me though was Tony was feeling similarly. He was finding it hard. He had family, a job, PhD candidates and lectures and marking and he didn’t give up on himself or me. So thank you Tony for fighting the hard fight.

My partner, Matthew Farrer, was always quietly supporting me with love and advice and money too. My children who supported me and were proud of me, even if at times they didn’t get what I was doing. The romance readers and writers who I’ve met, the ones who participated in my surveys, thank you all.

People ask questions about being a Phd candidate. What’s it like? Why? What do you do? It’s a long process, years. For me even longer that the normal because I took a year off, I went part time and so on. I can’t deny there was a time about a year and a half in that I wanted to give up. There were so many other distracting things to do-like write books, devote myself to publishing and promotion. But I had completed a survey of romance writers and readers and I owed it to them to do the work, the analysis and so I did.

Most of the time you are working on your own when you do a phd. I can only speak here about my creative writing Phd experience. Other disciplines are different I think, particularly if you are on a science research team. At first I had to learn to read academic articles. I think those first days I struggled to read one in a day. First you have to find them, then read them, then work out if they are relevant (the abstracts help). Then in my case my brain got accustomed and I could read two, three or four in a day. You need to work out a way to keep track of your articles because if you want to quote from them or paraphrase from them, you need to be able to lay your hand on the reference, check the wording (I failed a lot at this) or even wave them about and say ‘But they say so!’ Meanwhile, all this stuff just accumulated in my head. Then, there was the creative piece which is linked, inspired by or part of your research topic. For a long time my was a general area Feminism in popular romance fiction. By the end, it was Romance as a bridge to understanding changing gender roles in society. One thing I really enjoyed when I could be on campus was participating in campus life. I tutored in creative writing among other things. I loved being part of the student’s journey, encouraging them, sharing with them the pros and cons of being a writer. The pandemic killed that for me though as I was a sessional and it was a rubber band snap off into the no more tutoring scrap heap, like a lot of us.

Any enough blabbing and more photos.

Matthew Farrer, my partner and me
The robes from behind.

My thesis is currently available for viewing at the Uni of Canberra research repository. Here.

I’m thinking of publishing the thesis and the novel component so it may not be available forever. I will start emailing survey participants who requested a copy with the link to my thesis over the next couple of weeks.

It’s 2023 and I haven’t written a word. I want to but things are complicated. I seem to be lazing my way through hot summer days, focussing on housework and cooking and listening to audio books.

I’ve started writing out a chore list so we can divide up the chores so I don’t feel like it’s all up to me. My partner does his bit really but there are things that don’t get seen so writing them up helps. I’ve also written up what’s important to me…mostly but there are always things I leave out and have to add in and then my list is just too long. How can I focus on everything I want to do?

For instance, I need to get fit and healthy and lose weight. Guess what’s not on the list? I want to walk more, go to the pool and eat better and that requires I put it on the list. I need to squeeze that in the list and my life.

Obviously not everything needs focus everyday. Craft can be once or twice a week, maybe. Looking at my assessment of what I do that I like and I spend lots of time on family and social media so something has to give. Add to that, I’m resuming work so even less time than I have now.

If only we could lengthen the days, stretch out the hours, turn back time, whatever.

Anyway, I’ve done one task today and that’s order books for the ARRA signing in February. Next, I need to book some flights.

Better get to it.

The lead up to the New year was full of good intentions. I was going to set goals. I was going to do an overview of my year. I was going to send a newsletter and going to write and all of that is in the land of good intentions and no action.

I’m writing this blog post now because I’m waiting for the household to get ready to go to Ikea and Costco and it’s past midday. All I’ve achieved this morning is picking apricots so that I can make jam before the birds eat them. We haven’t even gotten around to netting the tree. I’m a little tired myself as I did a road trip yesterday to Culcairn to visit my friend and her family. Waves to Sharyn. However, with EV charging and wait times I did not get home until 9 pm and I left home around 8 am. However, I did get to listen to most of Solace House by Joy Ells and read by my favourite reader, Richard Armitage. It’s a new crime novel with Jackman and Evans, set in the Fens of Lincolnshire, where one of my great, great, great, great grandparents originated.

My Phd is done. I’m now Dr Donna! I am graduating in person I think in March but the university couldn’t tell me so it could be April. I’m heading back to my day job in February so I’m conscious I have less than a month left of my half pay leave. I’ve been on fostercare leave and I needed every day of it. I’m transition to normal leave next week. Fostering a teenager with issues has been hard but we love her heaps.

I have print copies of Awakening finally. In my original order for print copies I accidentally ordered copies of Argenterra. Lesson is don’t order books when distracted or without glasses. I need to order more for the signing in ARRA Sydney and Melbourne. That’s coming up fast. I need to book flights and high teas etc. Julia Quinn of Bridgerton fame will be a guest at the Australian Romance Readers Association Romantic Rendezvous. Link. I’m signing in Sydney and Melbourne. This also means I’ll be selling books! I have two new books out. Awakening, SF romance and The Changeling Curse, the sequel to The Sorcerer’s Spell under Dani Kristoff. I’m really looking forward to hanging out with the romance gang as they are so welcoming.

Other than printout the structural edit copies for the Phd novel, Sihem, I have not touched it and that’s quite important on my to list. I also need to make my exegesis available to survey participants, which is also high on the to do list. I also need to research publishers to put in a proposal to publish my romance reader and writer data so that it is more accessible. Gah!

So to finish off I’m happy to report that Maeve, the kitten, is getting on with the huge Gin our cranky old man cat. Matthew sent me this picture yesterday. He found them like this when he got home from the mall.

I hope you are all enjoying your January and finding the time for repose or fun. I need to get ready for Mabel’s birthday. My grandbaby turns 4 today and I’ve been tasked with cake making.

Christmas is done and New year is looming. I feel like it’s been a mad rush to get 2022 over. Pandemic! Renovations! Phd Thesis! Bad knees! Fostering a now 13 year old. Christmas! What a year!

I went for a walk early this morning before it got too hot. I let my mind wander and think about what I want for myself from now. I figure I need a planner with goals. Okay so I know that’s not going to last. Me with a journal with a ‘to do’ list. Right? But even knowing I’m not very consistent, I feel I need to think about how to get the most out of my day, work out my goals for writing, health and life and try to fit it all in. I’m thinking a planner/journal is how I can attempt that first step. Otherwise I walk around with all these things in my head, like a heavy sack of regret, because I haven’t done half of them or have only half done them.

We’ve broken the back of the renovations. A few little things to do. There’s the total ruination of our backyard…can’t really call it a garden and my half done garden beds and free floating pond that never got installed. There’s craft. I’ve got a quilt I was trying to finish in June and it’s still there waiting for me to finish it off. Sigh. It will get done. I just can’t do it all at the same time, no matter how my brain thinks.

That’s the other thing. Something weird happening with my brain. My memory is shot. I mix up words. Matthew thinks it’s just stress but I worry it is something more sinister. A brain scan a few years ago tells me I’m ok. I was worried then too obviously.

This year I have my Phd novel to edit and prepare for shopping around. Another Jemima Hardcastle novel, Amber Rose, to write. There are other projects but they are the two main ones.

I go back to work early February. I’ve been on foster care leave and I needed it. My son has been here with his wife for a few months before they head to Singapore to live but he leaves early February too.

Did I mention we have a wee little kitten? Gin our big cat has finally softened towards it but now we are a two cat household. She’s a joy.