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I am back on campus after sick leave. I was AWOL for over a month but all good now. This has put back my PhD project timetable unfortunately.

I thought I’d provide an update on the romance survey. It is still running but I will close it off at the end of May as that is when I am scheduled to deliver my confirmation seminar and be confirmed in my PhD. It’s a formality I have to go through. Then I’ll be starting the interviews. So if you are interested in completing the survey you still have time as a reader or a writer. Links below.

Looking at Survey Monkey today I have received 682 responses from romance readers. That is absolutely fantastic. It’s an international survey and I’ve received responses from Europe, USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, UK etc. Brilliant. I’m so thrilled.

The number of skips. Skip are where respondents abandon a survey or skip questions or miss questions. I haven’t done the analysis yet on which questions were skipped so I’m only giving total numbers here. The skips for readers vary from 14 to over two hundred and some questions it’s about 184 skips. From a quick scan a lot of the responses that required the reader to type a response had the highest number of skips. Overall I don’t have a problem with the skipping. Romance readers have been very generous with their answers and there’s very little abandoning the survey before finishing it.

However, if you are a respondent on the reader survey and would like to send me your thoughts on the survey and any issues you had then they would be most welcome. Overall, it’s an amazing response. Either reply or send me an email through the contact page or use Twitter or Facebook.

Survey responses from writers so far are 377, which is also amazing and I’m very grateful for these. Also international and that’s been mind blowing really. Writers though appear to have difficulty with the survey with a very high number of skips and people leaving the survey.

From what I can see about 136 people just stopped the survey just after the start and I don’t know why. The rate of skips is fairly consistent so the real response rate is closer to 241.

Early reports from respondents indicated that they had tried to use the survey on the phone and had technical issues. Some of those skipping have come back in and completed the survey but as I’m no tech guru I don’t know.

If there was a reason you as a romance writer dropped out of the survey please let me know if you can. It will help me to understand what issues there were and if I can answer your questions then you still have time to participate if you want. The survey can be completed anonymously. I only ask for contact details if you want to be included in follow up interviews. I will not be interviewing that many people so I can’t say who will be interviewed as yet.

The first part of the survey contains the compulsory questions I must include as this is an authorised survey through the University of Canberra, complete with ethics approval. You need to agree to me using the data you provide or you will be exited from the survey at the beginning. All data will be kept in accordance with the University of Canberra’s data retention and privacy requirements. I will not be using any email addresses or contact details other than contacting those volunteering to be interviewed. The only info I see is the IP address, which I’m no guru so I wouldn’t know how to identify you. No unselling or stuff like that. This is entirely aboveboard. There is even a complaints process outlined in the information materials.

So help out if you can.

Let’s see if we can get the overall response over 1000! Come on. We can do it!

Romance READER survey  link to Survey Monkey. Here.

Romance WRITER survey link to Survey Monkey. Here.

 

Couple Love Beach Romance Togetherness Concept

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Just a quick post about an impromptu freebie. Opi Battles the Space Pirates is my latest SF romance that has been up on Amazon for a little bit. Normally $2.99 it is currently free. (for a few days only)

opibattlesthespacepirates

To celebrate getting the print version up and running, I’m also running a Goodreads giveaway. So enter to win one of three print copies.

If anyone is interested in a review that would be great but no pressure. Links below.

In other publishing news, I had a timetable set for different things and now it everything is converging! Eep!

The covers for the relaunch of the Dragon Wine series have not appeared and the artist has gone quiet. I’m sure I’ll hear something soon but!!!!. Then today I heard the edit of Ungiven Land is coming back. This is great news as I was hoping it wasn’t going to be delayed. The proofreading of Deathwings is delayed until the end of the month. The edit of Bloodstorm is put back ten days to the end of the month. By my reckoning everything is going to land at the same time. Best laid plans and all that.

If you see posts that sound like I’m frothing at the mouth later this month, then I probably am.

Link to free Opi Battles the Space Pirates- It’s light and a bit of fun. Link here.

Link to the Goodreads giveaway. The widget isn’t working. I’m putting the link here.

 

EDIT: The sale is now over. I’ll blog again when Opi Battles the Space Pirates is on special. To hear about it promptly sign up to my newsletter Wing Dust! Epic Fantasy or Dark Fantasy version. Click here.

Opi Battles the Space Pirates by Donna Maree Hanson

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Like most people I know I have a big to read pile. Some of my to read books are very old. There is no particular reason why I haven’t read some of them. It just happens. Mood. Other recommendations that send a book higher on the pile, new acquisitions etc.

I remember picking up Garth Nix’s Sabriel. I had the trilogy for ages but hadn’t read it. And when I did, I was like…I could have read this and enjoyed this for years before now. I could have kicked myself. It was so good and I read all three books. I have Clariel too on the to read pile.

So for a while now friends have recommended Anne Bishop. Apparently she does dark and my Dragon Wine series is dark so just for research purposes I should have read at least one of her books. So after a recommend from the romance group lunch last Sunday I went into our house library and picked up a book I bought in 2005.

I met Anne  Bishop when she was guest of honour at Thylacon in Tasmania in 2005. Rowena and Marianne were trying to get her to suck her coffee through a Tim Tam and I was like…real Aussies don’t do that. She was a quiet lady. I bought her book and she signed it for me.

Wow. 2005. I looked at the price on this book, Dreams Made Flesh, and saw that I paid $29.99 for it. Back in 2005 I had money to burn so often spent hundreds on books a time and on DVDs whatever. My how times have changed. My how the market has changed. These days people quibble about paying $2.99 or $4.99 for an ebook. There weren’t many ebooks back then. I don’t exactly quibble about prices but I am much more careful about what I spend. I have a limited income now so $29.99 seems like a lot of money to me.

I am about half way through Dreams Made Flesh and it’s really good. I like her style, her complex world building, I like the romance to balance the darker elements. I’m so intrigued about the story that precedes this one. Dreams Made Flesh picks up after the Black Jewels Trilogy.

Today I got paid some royalties for Dragon Wine books so reinvested them in the Black Jewels Trilogy. Tada! So not only am I reading a to be read book that’s been sitting there for twelve years, I’ve ordered more. Apologies to Anne Bishop for taking so long.

Dreams Made Flesh

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I am so excited to bring you this interview.

I love science fiction and fantasy and I particularly love it when someone writes a story and plays around with the tropes I love so well. One of the things I’ve noticed is that books from diverse authors really bring a distinct flavour to genre. For example, Lukyanenko’s Daywatch or books by Alliete De Boddard, Isabelle Allende, Ken Liu etc.

I stumbled across JC Kang’s series in one of Patty Jansen’s regular newsletters ‘Ebookaroo’. I was so taken by the covers I had to buy one. Then I started reading Dances of Deception. Oh my…I’d picked up book three but didn’t realise and it was too late to stop and go back to book one so I kept on reading it.

I couldn’t stop reading it!

This series is a high fantasy with dragons, elves, dwarves, gods and the rest. But for me it had something different–an Asian-centric viewpoint, meticulous world building carefully woven into the story, a world with many cultures, each with their unique manners and approach to life well depicted.

It had political intrigue, trade issues, plausible economics, ninjas and romance. The magic in this world ranges from beautiful and delicate to blunt and hard. The characters were well drawn and three dimensional, each with a history and a complex set of relationships. (As I started in book three this is to be expected). My favourite characters are Tian, the secret agent/spy dude, who is probably most like a ninja, the princess, Kaiya, who has difficult but character-building adventures and Jie, the half elf handmaiden, come body guard.

Here is a graphic of my favourite characters. Thank you John!

3heroes

The baddie in this book is bad! Yet, there is a side to him that evokes some compassion, due to the curse of his people. I like how Kang sprinkles this hard race with sympathetic characters that lead you to believe that there is hope for change. I don’t want to spoil it for you so I’ll say no more.

Also, the interior layout is something special. Some lovely touches in the ebook.

This is definitely a five star read for me. Now my dilemma is do I buy the books in ebook or print?

John (JC Kang) dropped by my blog today and answered some questions. It’s a special day because Book four is launching today.

4book

  1. John tell me a bit about you, where you live and what you do for a day job.

I hail from the black hole of despair, also known as the Capital of the Confederacy. Actually, Richmond, Virginia, has since transformed from the urban blight of my childhood, to hipster haven and up-and-coming foodie capital of America. We probably have more craft breweries per capita than any other place in the world.  I’m an acupuncturist and herbalist, and also moonlight as a Wing Chun Kung-Fu instructor.

  1. What first interested you in the fantasy?

When searching for a BDSM club… no, wait, you mean fantasy fiction!  Yeah, just ignore that first part.  I must’ve been five, and my older brother read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe to me. It was my gateway drug to The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and then onto harder addictions like Dungeons and Dragons.

  1. How long have you been writing? Did you always aspire to write fiction?

After I read the Dragonlance Chronicles, I was determined to be a fiction writer.  My first story was basically a rip-off of Dragons of Autumn Twilight based in my D&D world, with only the names changed to protect the innocent. Basically, my younger self didn’t have a unique idea in his head, and he gave up on the idea of writing fiction.

  1. You have a beautifully rendered story in Dragon Songs Saga. How did you about developing this world? What were your influences? Did you research? If so, what, how?

Twenty-five years after I went through rehab for my D&D addiction, I uncovered the world building materials in my childhood home.  As an adult, I had to laugh at what my younger self dreamt up (nice men who respected women) or otherwise plagiarized (impossibly beautiful women who like ugly guys). Still, there were some cool underlying ideas, and I spent the next week reimagining the world with those premises at the starting point; but taking into account trivial matters like gravity, supply and demand, and biology.

My biggest influences were the Civilization video game, Tolkien, Chinese Wuxia movies, and samurai dramas. And Jedi Knights. I can’t say I did a ton of research, but I’ve worked as a political analyst and economics technical writer, and watched a whole lot of TV (usually while I was doing economic analysis, which probably explains why I am now an acupuncturist).  During the writing process, I researched everything from the Latvian language to ancient Ethiopian culture (and that BDSM in my search history, it was purely research for writing).

  1. Why did you write the Dragon Songs Saga? (I’m wondering here if there is a dearth of Asian-centric high fantasy, or was it that you were sick of western-centric fantasies etc).

I had actually planned three books total, the first with a Western-oriented story which would recount a war between cursed descendants of the Sun God and humans who had mingled with elves in ancient times; and the third which would follow an East African sorceress, a Persian priest, and an Asian Indian “jedi” (I was serious in that earlier answer) as they discover the secrets of the world’s pyramids.

However, I settled on the middle story about an East Asian princess who could evoke magic through music, and her childhood friend who had become a ninja, as they try to escape from the aforementioned descendants of the Sun God. It wasn’t because I was sick of Western fantasy—there’s plenty of non-Western stuff out there nowadays—but rather because I had a strong background in Asian history and was too lazy to research the other two arcs.

  1. I think, judging from the world building and plot in your books, that you are a planner rather than a panster? Am I right? How do you develop a series of books like this, so rich with culture? Spill your secrets!

I’m a totally plantser.  After all, what was meant to be a single novel became a 4-book series. After I wrote the book you read, Dances of Deception, I went back and wrote the prequel, and then the sequel, and then  the prequel to the prequel.

As a whole, I have an idea of where I want to go, but sometimes (this will sound so stereotypical) the characters rebel against my machinations and decide they know what they want to do better than I do; and sometimes get an idea and have to retrofit it into earlier parts of a story.

For example, Tivaralan has three moons. One of my earlier readers thought I shouldn’t use Earth’s hour system, and I realized one of the moons, which has an orbital period of one day and never moves from its spot in the sky, would go through all its phases in that day. People on the planet would naturally use it to tell time and for direction.  Another moon was large and blue with an orbital period of 44 days; but later, I read an article about a Super Saturn, J1407b, so I turned that blue moon into a planet and moved its orbit way out so that its shape would change over the course of 2 years.

  1. Who are your favourite characters in the Dragon Song Saga and why?

I am a total narcissist, and since my characters all embody the best aspects of me, I can’t decide.  Kaiya, because she has a heroic spirit. Tian, because he is smart and handsome. Jie, because of her quick wit. And Chen Xin for his modesty.   In all seriousness, though, my favo(u)rite would be Tian’s brother, Ming, who is something of a flamboyant buffoon.

  1. What made you decide to Indie Publish?

I actually had a R&R out with an agent on Book 1, but after a brush with my own mortality–

  1. Brush with your mortality? That sounds serious! What happened?

My friends made me watch Fifty Shades of Grey, and at the end, I wanted to shoot myself.

10: So why indie publish?

I realized I could die any time, maybe before I got representation. Even then, the entire revision process would take a year or two, and who knows, maybe no publishing house would take it. In the meantime, I had 4 books which had been critted, revised, beta read, and revised again. Basically, they needed a professional edit and covers.

All that said, I didn’t know the first thing about marketing, so I first released Dragon Songs with different covers and titles which suggested YA Fantasy Romance.  I was attracting readers who wanted to see Kaiya fall in love with the dragon, not vanquish it.  I just rebranded starting this year.

  1. What’s ahead for you fiction writing wise?

I’m currently working on four projects, all which relate to the Dragon Songs series: a 1st Person, Single POV YA version of Songs of Insurrection; An episodic serial which follows the dragon, Avarax, who is stuck in human form and has to learn how to play nice with other humans; A story which takes place a thousand years before Dragon Songs, which recounts how the First Dragon Singer sings Avarax to sleep; and Book 1 of the series with the aforementioned Sorceress, Priest, and Jedi as they learn about the pyramids (I know, it sounds like the start of a bad joke, with a worst punchline).  Jie from Dragon Songs will also play an important role in that story.

Thank you so much John. The story about you and your novels are so interesting!

What are you waiting for people! You should buy these books!

Book One, Songs of Insurrection, Blurb

Only the lost magic of Dragon Songs can save the realm. Only a naïve girl with the perfect voice can rediscover it.

Blessed with an unrivaled voice, Kaiya dreams of a time when music could summon typhoons and rout armies. Maybe then, the imperial court would see the awkward, gangly princess as more than a singing fool.

When members of the emperor’s elite spy clan uncover a brewing insurrection, the court hopes to appease the ringleader by offering Kaiya as a bride.

Obediently wedding the depraved rebel lord means giving up her music. Confronting him with the growing power of her voice could kill her.

Looks like these books are only available on Amazon. Free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Buy link here.

Book Two, Orchestra of Treacheries, Blurb

The mightiest dragon threatens the world, and only the power of a Dragon Song can vanquish him.

Two years have passed since Kaiya rediscovered the lost magic of Dragon Songs, yet the power of her voice is untrained. Potential suitors see her as a stepping stone. One ruthless cousin would rather step on her gravestone.

Not one to get walked over or buried, Kaiya is holding out for the exiled foreign prince who inspired her to sing. The only one who appreciates her abilities more is the world’s last dragon, Avarax, and it’s not because he enjoys a good song.

Raw and unproven, she finds mentors in unlikely places. An elf courtier. An ancient healer. A martial arts master. And an evil sorcerer. She’ll need their guidance to survive the final showdown between a girl finding her voice, and a dragon who has no intention of being fooled a second time.

Buy link here.

Book Three, Dances of Deception, Blurb

An invincible empire threatens to invade Cathay, and only a Dragon Song can ensure peace.

After vanquishing the Last Dragon with the power of her voice, all Kaiya wants is a quiet life of anonymity. Instead, the Emperor sends her to negotiate peace with the aggressive Teleri Empire.

The critical mission reunites her with her childhood friend Tian, now an assassin-spy who loathes killing. He is no longer the adorable, gullible boy from her memories, any more than she is the adventurous, sweet girl from his. Instead of rekindling nostalgia for a youthful innocence they both yearn for, their reunion ignites a mutual hatred.

When the Teleri Empire breaks off talks, Tian must help Kaiya escape. Orcs, Ogres, and enemy soldiers stand between them and home, and their volatile relationship could get them captured… or killed.

Buy link here.

Book Four, Symphony of Fates, blurb

Kaiya escapes her ordeal at the hands of the Teleri Emperor, only to return to a homeland beset by enemies on all sides, and crumbling from within.

As a teenager, she quelled a rebellion with the Dragon Scale Lute. As a young adult, she vanquished a dragon with the power of her voice.

Now, robbed of her magic by grief, Kaiya must navigate a web of court intrigue to save the realm before it falls. Only she can lay claim to the Dragon Throne on behalf of her unborn sons—whether the father is the lover who perished rescuing her, or the hated enemy who killed him.

In the final story in Kaiya’s saga, she must rally a nation, repel invaders, and prove to the world why her family alone holds the Mandate of Heaven.

This book is live today.

Buy link here.

Here is a link to John talking about YouTube.

BTW I’m on the hunt for some more diverse fantasy and science fiction so expect more.

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Just sharing a snippet from Opi Battles the Space Pirates. The book is only available on Amazon and Amazon Unlimited for the moment.

The Blurb

Ms Opeia Gayens, head of AllEarth Corp, has a problem—her company is rotten with Space Pirates. She wants to get rid of them once and for all. An unexpected invitation to dinner challenges her plans to be the bait that will draw the nasty pirates out. It’s been forever since she’s been on a date—just been Opi. Somehow, Owain McDevitt, mild-mannered, potato farmer from the planet Islay 2 is drawn into the intrigue. Yet, no one is who they seem, least of all Owain McDevitt.

opibattlesthespacepirates

Chapter One

Explosive Personality

 

Opeia Gayens was having a bad day. She was tired, oh so tired, and a wee bit cranky. Running AllEarth Corp had its highs and its lows. So far today had been one of the lows. And it wasn’t getting any better. Not only had her daughter, Rae, just told her that she didn’t want to join the company or want her inheritance, this executive interview with Jors Finksy had taken a bad turn.

Finksy held out a hot pink, round object about the size of a tennis ball that looked suspiciously like a plastic explosive. ‘This is a bomb,’ he declared, waving at her. ‘I’m going to take you with me.’

Opeia let out a sigh, moved her knee to key her distress alarm. ‘That,’ she said, ‘is rather counter-productive.’

It had been a run-of-the-mill ethics appraisal. Obviously, the testing regime designed to filter out space pirates, or those likely to be suborned by space pirates, was more stressful than she anticipated for her employee to take such drastic measures.

Jors had standing-on-end, spikey, white hair and his red, sweating face sported puffy cheeks and very pale eyes. His burnished-silver body suit hugged his plump frame in a less than complimentary manner. Not the sort to bring a bomb to a meeting.

Her security chief, Mueller, was going to get an earful for his team letting this incendiary device through the screening procedures. It signalled a lapse that wasn’t acceptable. She eyed the bomb. It had no discernible controls or wires or lights. It looked like a lurid, ball of soft, mouldable plastic that a child might play with.

Finksy stood up suddenly, waving the ball around. Instinctively, Opeia leant back. Where was her security team anyhow?

‘You were going to dismiss me from my job. It’s all I have…’

Opeia blinked. She hadn’t been about to sack the poor fellow, but that outcome seemed inevitable now.

Distracted by security taking their time, Opeia was taken by surprise when Finksy thrust the bomb into her face. Instinctively, she slapped his hand and the bomb flew up. She leapt for it in case it would explode on impact. She caught it with one hand and with the other, punched her terrorist under the chin. The man wasn’t expecting it and went down.

Letting out a breath, she had one second of relaxation and then she noticed the bomb started to sweat in her hand and was slightly warm. Leaning down, she said into her intercom, ‘Polly where the hell is security!’

‘Oh? We thought you’d triggered it by accident.’

‘I have a bomb in my hand and an unconscious executive who will come around very soon. Get the team in here now.’

Polly didn’t answer but in about thirty seconds her door slid open. ‘Don’t move,’ the lead security guy said. ‘Smithy, get up here with the analyser.’

Opeia swallowed and looked slowly down at her hand. ‘Geez.’ Bubbles appeared on surface of the ball. There was a chemical reaction going on. The hot pink bomb was definitely giving off heat. Why had she tackled for the bomb anyhow? Was she insane?

Smithy, face covered in a shock proof shield, aimed the pointy end of the analyser at her. ‘Plastic explosive. DNA key.’

‘Can’t you get a bin or something. I don’t want it going off in my hand.’

Smithy backed up, head titled on the side. ‘Containment possible,’ he spoke into the mic.

A rumble from the back of the door and a trolley came in, bearing a two metre by two metre metal box.

Smithy keyed a small panel. ‘Now, mam, a drawer will slide out. Quickly place the device onto it and back away. It will shut rapidly and should contain the blast.’

Opeia looked up. ‘Should? Great.’

From the bottom end of the metal box, a square door opened up. It could hold a basket ball-sized object. With lips compressed, Opeia bent her knees, bringing the bomb closer. The bubbles on the surface of the bomb resembled boils now. The heat it gave off was starting to burn her palm. Carefully, she placed her hand near the bottom of the box and started tilting her hand to allow the ball to slide off.

Finksy sat up suddenly and shook his head. ‘Stop!’ he said. Opeia jerked her hand with surprise. The bomb dropped. She snatched her hand back. A security guard charged forward tackling her to the ground to shelter her with his body. The drawer shut with a snap. The containment box jumped and a loud boom sounded from inside. From where the little drawer had retracted, the metal had melted and fumes were rising.

The guard levered himself off her. ‘Pardon me, mam.’ The label on his hazard gear gave his name as Muri. He offered his hand and assisted her to stand.

‘Thank you, Mr Muri.’

Another security man came up and sprayed her hands. The burning stopped as the spray cooled her skin.

Two burly ones grabbed Finksy. They brought him in front of her.

Her hands were red and the skin had started to peel. Compared to what could have happened. No hands. Or no body. She had come off lightly. ‘Mr Finksy. I am sorry to have to tell you but you’re fired…and under arrest.’

The containment box was wheeled out. The security team followed, along with Finksy who was quite verbal in his resentment. When they left, Polly buzzed. ‘Chief Mueller for you.’

‘Send him in.’

‘He’s not actually here, sorry. On comms.’

Too chicken to face her. Damn the man. Walking to her desk, she keyed her comms. ‘Mueller what the actual?’ she yelled at him. He opened his mouth and kept it open. ‘Nobody responded to my distress alarm and how did that goddam bomb get through screening?’

‘Ms Gayens…Opeia…’

‘Don’t try to sweet talk me.’ Mueller’s bull dog face loomed on the viewscreen.

‘I won’t. The bomb was a new type of material,’ he rushed on before she could interrupt again. ‘We had rumours of it being in production but our screening wasn’t calibrated. It is now.’ He let out a breath. ‘The non-response is a bit more difficult to explain.’ He ran his fingers through his short cropped hair. ‘It had been reported to me that you accidentally set off your distress alarm seven times in the last month. My men advise that you were pretty pissy at them for the repeated interruptions when they responded as per procedure.’

Opeia nodded, recollecting the mayhem. The distress switch had been relocated to under the desk so she could call for help without anyone knowing, unfortunately she kept bumping it. Her annoyance at having important and confidential meetings and video conferences interrupted had been quite strong and verbal. May have involved threats too. She chewed the inside of her cheek. ‘Put the location of my distress alarm back on our regular agenda. I don’t want to be left vulnerable like that again.’

‘I’ll tighten security measures.’

‘No! Goddam it Mueller! They are so tight already.’ As it was she hardly saw normal people. Her children were exempt from the security procedures but not anyone else. At times it was a tad embarrassing. I hope the cavity search wasn’t too uncomfortable, Mr…

‘But not tight enough. Today is a good example.’

‘You’ve explained today. It won’t happen again.’ He opened his mouth to protest but she raised her hand. ‘Your hand to hand training came in useful.’ She thought this would divert him.

He growled. ‘Ms Gayens you aren’t meant to tackle people with bombs or grab the devices yourself. May I remind you that you could have died if it had been another type of bomb?’

‘I know. I’m sorry. I just reacted when he thrust the bomb in my face and no one had come to help.”

He let out a sigh and rubbed his hand through his hair. ‘I see.’

Opeia thought she could wrap this up with another diversion. ‘Say, can you send me an update on that bomb material. DNA triggered you say? Let me get across that.’

‘Very well. Done and agreed. The information will be sent to you by the end of the day. My advice is that you should not have ill effects from holding the bomb except for some superficial burns.’

She held up her hands. ‘I got that part.’

‘Although I wish you hadn’t tackled the man and taken it.

‘I know. I don’t know what came over me. Spur of the moment—panic. It was entirely stupid. It won’t happen again.’

Mueller grunted and she keyed off. Turning to her handheld, she entered in the information about Finksy’s dismissal and sent a memo to her personnel manager to start new recruitment activity. Then she slumped across her desk. She was sick to the bone of this. Over it. That’s why Rae’s message had gutted her. If she wasn’t doing this for her daughter why was she doing it? Essa, her other daughter, had already bailed a year ago.

Sometime later her office door chimed. ‘May I come in?’ Polly, her personal assistant, asked as she poked her head through the gap in the sliding door. Polly was a few years younger than Opeia and had such an easy going personality that Opeia thought of her as a friend. About five foot five, trim with a pixie-like face, she was a trendy dresser and was forever ribbing Opeia about her penchant for pantsuits for business or shapeless coveralls when travelling on space cruisers. Polly argued they marred her beauty, where Opeia thought they hid a multitude of sins, like a peach shaped butt, well-rounded belly, largish breasts and generous thighs.

‘Sure, Pol. What is it?’ Opeia sat up and self-consciously tugged at the tunic top of her pale lemon, pantsuit. The material was self-cleaning and wrinkle proof. What could be easier?

Polly raised her eyebrows and pursed her lips, then let out a sigh before continuing. ‘I have a priority-keyed message for you from someone called,’ she looked down at her handheld. ‘Owain McDevitt.’

‘Who?’

Polly sighed. ‘Owain McDevitt.’ She scrolled through the page on her handheld. ‘McDevitt Enterprises. You completed the takeover of his transport companies last year. All the official paperwork is completed.’

‘Refresh my memory. What did I do to him, actually?’


Intrigued? You can buy or download Opi Battles the Space Pirates here.

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Some people may think writing a book is easy. Maybe writing a trilogy isn’t too hard. And that fantasy stuff? Why it’s all made up so what’s the problem? Anyone can make stuff up.

Ahhh…I’ve finished a trilogy and it was a challenge. I thought they were easy before I finished one. Now I know it’s damn hard work. Also, I started The Silverlands more than fifteen years ago. I know so much more now than I did then but it’s hard to go back and change things so you have to be happy with what you have and what you can achieve within the limitations of your original vision.

But the map? I always had a drawing of Argenterra but a wise person once said to me back in 2003-That’s not a map! And proceeded to tell me all the things that were wrong with it-scale, place names, the size of a lake etc.

Through the years I worked on the Silverlands series and on Argenterra, the imagined land. I thought about the landscape and what is going on with the magic in that land. How did it get there? What does it do? What does it all mean?

To cut a long story short, with the excellent assistance of Russell Kirkpatrick, (@insanemapboy), I have a map. It was hard work. I think I drove Russell to the brink of madness. I’m sure he wanted to throttle me. Yet, he dragged me kicking and screaming into a better understanding of maps and I listened. So now there is the map of Argenterra, taken from my scribble and drawn into perfection. (as perfect as it is going to get). The ebook is not going to show the map well. The print book maybe. So I’m putting it here for you all to see. You won’t see the tears, the sweat, the anguish, the retro fitting. I mean I literally moved mountains and changed the course of rivers to bring you this. Something I envisaged so long ago and now here looking awesome.

Final Map Argenterra

And, yes, it was Russell Kirkpatrick that told me my map wasn’t a map way back in 2003, when I was a babe in the woods. He sent me on a path to better understanding. Thanks Russell.

I have put the map with the series description under MyBooks! Link is here.

 

 

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Time flies! I meant to write this post when I got back but with one thing and another it got delayed.

I had a fab time. It is such a shame there will be no more reader conventions. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Australian Romance Readers Association will come up with in future because they are badass organisers.

So for a romance writer at a reader convention there are these things called swag or loot where writers give stuff away. It can be corny condoms, chocolate with flyers for books, post it notes, pens etc. A lot of it can be personalised. Often it will just be on a general table. When I went to RT Convention in New Orleans authors and publishers had to pay to put their swag in a special room, where readers could go in and take what they want. So as I knew this was the last convention I thought I’d go for the swag giveaway.

My book Opi Battles the Space Pirates was meant to be out. First, I was going to give away print copies, but I didn’t get the cover in time. Then I didn’t get the cover in time to give away Ebooks. So in the end I copied the Ebook (without cover) to USBs and included them in the loot bags.

Ten lucky people got the swag with the book on a USB stick. I had another six bags with general loot. Cautionary tale, don’t put the chocolate hearts in until after you have driven from Canberra to Melbourne as the chocolate will sweat in the heat. Other than packing, that was my preparation.

On the way down and on the way back I stopped at my favourite place, Benalla Art Gallery. This is a picture of the view from where I ate my lunch!

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So what was different about this ARRC? This is my third convention attendance and this time it was in Melbourne at the Rydges in Exhibition Street. Great location and great hotel. Always a good start.

I signed up for the extra-curricular activities, such as the high tea at Zumbo’s and the cruise but my first foray into meeting readers was in the lift. I spoke to Tiffany (waves to Tiffany) and asked her if she was there for the convention. We talked favourite genre on the way up in the lift. She reads paranormal and I write it. So good start. Good on me for being friendly and actually saying hi! to someone. I’m an extrovert but I don’t always find it easy.

Next up was saying hello to whoever was around while waiting for the bus to the high tea.

Keri Arthur called me over, then CS Pacat was there. Say hi to these talented and lovely authors!

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I don’t have a photo of her, but a few minutes after this photo was taken, Debbie (chair) introduced Courtney Milan to us and we hung together for the bus ride (ended up being a life dare to ride that thing) to Zumbos. The high tea was amazing. I’m trying not to put on weight so I figured there were parts of the high tea I could skip. No! I couldn’t. It was all different and peculiar and amazing. The food gave everyone something to talk about. I sat next to Keri Arthur, opposite Cat Pacat and with Courtney Milan, but even better I had eight readers on my left side and I got to talk with them all. Here’s the test. Can I remember all their names?

First up was Tiffany who I met in the lift, then Amanda (we became buddies), Yanna (also became a buddy) oh oh…Barbara?, then ???, the Melissa and Melanie….oh I was so close. It’s on the tip of my tongue. Anyway it was so much fun. I talked all manner of science fiction and fantasy as well as romance reading across the table, sharing our faves and also picking up new recommendations. Melanie I knew from Canberra. She’s a librarian and she had already encouraged me to read McMaster Bujold’s Vorkorisgan series. My fun moment was when Courtney Milan realised she was sitting next to CS Pacat and she had a fangirl moment. That must have been very cool for Cat! (hahaha).

Then it was back to the hotel, where there were a few close shaves in the bus. Glad to be still living, we went off to get ready for drinks. I really did go over my limit. More on that later. Got to talk to heaps of people. Got to chat with Kristen Callihan, but I didn’t know who she was. (she gave an awesome talk by the way!) PS I stole this photo from Yanna on Facebook.

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Then came the Trivia Quiz. That was hard. I was tipsy. I snaffled Melanie and Melissa and Amanda with us writers. It was hard. We did well in the movies, abysmally elsewhere. We won Ice Magic topping for our ice cream. We also won Tim Tams. In the end we resorted to making up answers. Being silly was the fun part of it. We didn’t win either.

Next day the conference started. One of the really cool things I did and I think other conventions should steal this idea was author speed dating. (I keep writing hot dating but that just boggles the imagination). Ten authors, ten readers, four minutes each!  It was great for author/reader interaction, which is sometimes hard to do even at a reader convention. I got to give away nine of my goodie bags. I was so pleased. One reader didn’t show. It was a great way for readers to discover new authors too.

Later that day was the book signing. It took place in Bobby McGees nightclub and it was an interesting venue. The prize for the most startling attraction to her table goes to Wanda Wiltshire for a shirtless man with wings. The poor man was freezing but you know it worked! The photo below is from my signing table. I gave away the rest of my goodie bags and sold a book. Woot! Sorry no picture of the bare-chested man or is that fairy?

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I also went along to the Harlequin drinks and had a very interesting conversation with Narelle Harris, who talked about her slash Holmes/Watson book, called A Colonial Boy (I bought the book later). Thank you Harlequin!

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Next big thing was the ARRA Awards dinner. I sat at the table with the most awards. Keri Arthur won for her section and Anne Gracie won about five awards. I really should have taken a photo with Anne and her collection. It was amazing.I sat with Anne Gracie at the signing so I can understand how much that support from readers means to her. I did snag a photo of Keri though.

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Melissa and I went into the bling off. Melissa should have won. She made her outfit but she needed to flash her sequined bra to bring it off. Kate Cuthbert co-judge offered to send her a prize. I wore my amazing Bollywood-type shoes I bought on a shopping expedition with Keri Arthur in New Orleans. Below is Melissa and below that my shoes.

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Yanna and Amanda came over to take a snapshot of us in our finery.

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On Sunday, I chaired a panel on Feminism versus Romance. At the end of this post is a link to a post about that panel. Renee Dahlia took what looks like incredibly detailed notes. I was nervous as all hell. I’d left my computer at my friend’s place in Melbourne, thinking that I wouldn’t be writing then remembered it had all the stuff for the panel on it. Anne Gracie kindly chatted to me in the dealer’s room beforehand. I was pacing. She also had a print out of the questions. Handy!

I thought the panel discussion went well. I’m usually good at public speaking but I did feel nervous. The panel itself was so interesting and right on my PhD topic area. Thank you to the lovely authors, Erica Hayes, Anne Gracie, Amber Bardan and Bronwyn Parry for a great discussion.

After the panel I fell into a heap. I got to hear Courtney Milan’s guest speech and Kristen Callihan’s which were so worth it. I missed Kylie Scott’s which was a shame but I was busy doing other stuff. It was a sad goodbye at the end of the convention. The team really do organise well and there was masses of food and the hotel room was great.

I should give a shout out to my roommate, Catherine Evans. She was fun to hang with and so quiet. We had some fun midnight discussions and she drinks as much tea as I do.

So the convention was over but there was more. Yes, a river cruise and it was in a Tramboat. Very cute little thing. I got to hang out with my mates, Yanna and Amanda and we also had breakfast together. I’d been out for dinner on Sunday night and ate way too much and spent an uncomfortable night so was not feeling the best. But their company cheered me up.

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And that was that. A lovely weekend, great weather. Lovely people. Thank you so much ARRA for a great weekend. Edit! A shout out to Pamela Diaz for great MCing and her general sweetness.

A pic of me taken by Amanda. Drinking tea as I do.

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Notes to Feminism versus Romance panel discussion. Here.

Hugs!

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