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I look at myself lately and I think I’m doing a lot of fiction writing recently, or I seem to be. Fair enough I’ve just come out of a holiday break where I took two weeks off from the Phd. This week I have been head down on the Phd and I put some time in last week too. I have my big moment to prepare for-The dreaded confirmation seminar that I talked about yesterday.

So what am I doing writing fiction or appearing to write fiction?

Last year I finished drafting a trilogy. My first completed one if truth be known. Book two was mostly written so I was tidying up, revising etc. Some parts were rewritten after beta reader comments. Book three was a 50,000 word basket case so technically I did write that book like last year almost from scratch (130,000 approx.). Book two is with the editor. Book three I’m going to revise after beta reader comments (next week actually) and then put in the edit queue. Right now I’ve finished revising Dragonwine Book 3 and it’s waiting for its slot for its editor and currently I’m restructuring book 4, which required some revising, rewriting as I went. I still have a bit to do, but the restructure is complete (I cheated I put the last bit in this morning). Oh and I wrote a 50,000 word novel in November for NaNoWriMo-which needs to be revised (when?!!!).

Now I don’t want to give the impression that I’m slacking off on the PhD because I’m not. Nor do I want to give the impression that I’m some kind of writing machine. I’m not that either. While I’m not too much a stickler for routine, I have been aiming to do an hour a day while working on Dragonwine Book 4. It’s written, I’m just plaiting the narrative threads together different to how I originally drafted it. It was a draft and it’s drafty. Man I don’t think I’ve read book 4 for seven years or more. I’m also revising, polishing as I go. It will need another run through too.

I’m spending my day on the PhD writing this damn proposal and researching and running my surveys and hassling writers etc. I’ve been going home and vegging in front of Netflix for hours (the heat mainly)  and then I put my hour in on the MS before I go to bed. I’m not usually so good at doing this. I’m marking this on my calendar this year so I can gauge how consistent I am. Technically, I could put more time into writing when I get home. I don’t want to overdo it on the computer due to RSI and arthritis issues so I’m pretty good at sticking to the hour. I’ve been at the computer at Uni most of the day too.

When I’m mostly reading, I can spend more time writing fiction. Reading takes place not at the computer you see. Sometimes it happens in bed or on the deck. I usually take a day off on Friday’s to write fiction (and do housework) and that gives me a good go at things. As Matthew is busy writing at the moment I’ve also spent some weekends, say Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon on task. Two Dweebs in adjacent offices pounding on keyboards!

I also have a backlist of works that I can either revise, write sequels for etc. I have to prioritise! So I don’t consider them to be new writing as such.

As well as the PhD this year I want to start on Dragonwine book 5 & 6 to finish this trilogy too. I don’t even have notes for this so it will be all new work! Approximately 170,000 words I estimate. However, I also have to draft my PhD novel and that takes priority. Lucky I touch type!

I probably look like I’m doing a sweep out of my brain, getting these stories out of there and onto paper. I also see it as me refining my creative practice. Finishing a trilogy presents many challenges and each time I work on one I’m learning about my craft. I can’t write as much as I want or work on as many things as I would like while doing the PhD.  That constriction will last for about two more years, but I can manage to do some stuff, particularly if the damn thing is already drafted. I also need a part time job because I have no support for my living expenses. I’ve thought about this and writing is my part time job. I hope in 2017 it will bring in some dollars but I am hoping that I will continue to progress as a writer as well as learn more through my PhD.

What is really doing my head in is the edits. They are coming! Over 400,000 words of edits. And I’ve set myself up for four book edits in the first part of the year. That work load I will have to be careful of. Then as they are going to be self/indie published, I have the dreaded laying out to do, proofing etc, which takes time but isn’t too hard. Covers to source? Egads. 2017 is going to busy.

The message is I guess is that even an hour a day can get you somewhere.

Below are the covers for the Silverlands Trilogy. The only set of covers that I’m organized for. Damn.

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Recently, I was offered the opportunity to drive to Victoria and pick up a collection of Mills & Boon books. These were Grace’s books, her romance collection. Grace died about a year ago. This collection consisted of six 80 litre tubs of Mills & Boon. I couldn’t even lift one of these tubs. They are like gold to me for my PhD studies of feminism in popular romance fiction.

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This collection is so exciting for me. So many books. I had so much fun just looking at what was there, discovering. Grace’s collection as originally larger, but some were given away before they ever came my way. However, what I did get held amazing variety.

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Grace’s friend, author Lisa Ireland, told me she didn’t know Grace was a such a huge romance reader until after she died, but her family were well aware. Lisa said that Grace had a wicked sense of humour and a quick laugh. And she was determined. She defied her diagnosis for a very long time.

This collection spans the mid 70s until 2012-13, with lovely gems from the past with lots from the future. I believe Grace loved books, her books as much as I cherish this collection. I hope I’ll get to read them all. I believe Grace grew this collection because she loved the genre, loved reading and a bit like me, a bit of a hoarder. The hoarding baton has passed to me.

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Her brother John said of Grace.

What can I say about Grace Fastuca? How to sum up her life? Grace many Aunty a universal word. The fun Aunty, the wise Aunty. Whether you were or weren’t family.

Grace didn’t judge anyone. Many people have said how she helped them be a better person and this wasn’t just about staring death in the face. It was about taking a person a face value. Not talking down to people, really hearing what they say. About being in and making the most of every moment.

Ten years ago Grace was told she had six months to live and would miss her 40th birthday. So what did Grace do about that? She organized a very memorable 40 minus 3 party to be enjoyed with family and friends.

When Grace wanted to enjoy moments away from the hustle and bustle she went to Anglesea. Nothing can be said that will do justice to the connection she felt for the area, not to mention the amount of Mills & Boon books she bought at second hand stores there.

Grace knew as much about your life as you wanted her to know and vice versa. She was and will continue to be a great inspiration to everyone who knew her.

Grace was one of the funniest people I have ever known. As time passes we all realize how much we miss her laughter, her voice and her ability to cut through it all.

Everyone deserves an Aunty Grace.

Thank you Grace for this lovely collection which means so much to me. I must say that this collection complements the one started by Doreen Watt, from a gift of a selection of retro Mills & Boon to start my reading, which was augmented by Lifeline Book Fair purchases again assisted by Doreen. And also a collection given to me by Debbie Phillips, mostly of Silhouette romances. It is also amazing!

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It took me a few days to sort through this amazing collection. First I just had to look and get excited as I looked at each one. Touched it, wondered over it and then reached for the next one. Then I started roughly sorting the books.

IMG_6500There were many double Harlequin Mills & Boon and I just didn’t know how to file these as they were two different authors and there were so many books. These found their way back into the tubs for later sorting. Then there were a handful of non-genre books and single title books that were more historical romance. These I’ve put aside. I filled one tub with medical romances as I’m not focusing on them. Matthew argues that I should look at them too. I might just not now. Not enough shelves for starts. Then I put them in alphabetical order. I found books from authors I knew about but didn’t have books for. I found I had piles of books from particular authors who I didn’t know but where obviously quite popular, like Sara Craven, Sandra Kendrick, Anne McAlister,  Lindsay Armstrong etc. I also gained a few from authors I did have books for like Charlotte Lamb, Robyn Donald, Daphne Clair and Penny Jordan. My collection of these authors has expanded.

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I had just collected two new book cases so the books went straight in there. My lovely partner, Matthew, lugged the books inside. To my surprise I found them in the lounge and then I was a lost woman and all my plans for the day went out the window. Although they don’t all fit in the shelves atm.

I had to take a break from the sorting as it was physically demanding. All that crawling around on the floor, squatting, crouching, leaning over etc. I scored some Helen Bianchin and then I realized that she was an author I read when I was 19 when living in New Zealand. When I looked through the books I  saw that I had that book. THAT BOOK! And then when I looked up Helen’s bibliography I realized it was her first. It is a great book too. I love it. So I lay back on the couch and read The Willing Heart by Helen Bianchin, then Vines of Splendour and a more recent one, The Marriage Arrangement. I do note though as I’m collecting books in Australia, that there is a bias towards Australian and New Zealand authors. No problems there.

In amongst the Mills & Boon were some older Harlequins, and quite a few Silhouettes. These I have merged with my Debbie Phillips collection in the other book cases. I think there’s a thousand books there. I don’t know. But it’s awesome and the collection will be put to good use in the PhD reading and for enjoyment and my hoarding genes are well aligned.

 

 

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A fun part of my PhD is reading romances. Mostly I’m concentrating on retros–1970s and 1980s but I want to read up to and including current titles.

The President of the Australian Romance Readers Association (ARRA), Debbie Phillips, gave me four boxes of books. These were mostly Harlequin Silhouette novels from the late 1980s and early 1990s. I’ve read two so far.

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Then I unpacked the books!

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And then I didn’t have the heart to put them back in the box so I bought some bookshelves for them. (I’m not supposed to be doing that being frugal. Alas, the savings were attacked!)

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I’ve read one cowboy romance by Lass Small called No Trespassers Allowed and I enjoyed that a lot. I even sniffled a bit at the end. It wasn’t feminist but it did discuss gender roles and was almost entirely told from the male perspective. I noticed I have about 5 more of Lass Small’s titles. She’s deceased now but published a lot in her life time.

Cherokee Thunder by Rachel Lee was published in 1992/93 and is from the Silhouette Jasmine imprint. It appears to be slightly longer than the traditional category romance. I’m sure someone can tell me all about that line. I’ve not read Rachel Lee or heard of her before. A quick look on line tells me she is still writing and is using the same setting, Conard County. And she’s won awards etc. I’m not surprised.

For someone reading with an eye for feminist or social issues in these book like I am, there was heaps in this book to interest me. It’s main theme is domestic violence and the secondary theme is racism. There was also some discussion about being a working woman, being independent, being a wife and mother and liking housework. The kind of book this is-set in a small county in Wyoming- being a house wife is a natural aspiration.

I’m not sure how politically correct the half-Cherokee character/heroe, Micah Parish, is but I found him to be represented in a very positive way.This is a character who is solitary, cut off from family, both his white and his First Nation side. He is honorable and emotionally amoured and very gentle.  I ‘heart’ him very much.

Faith, the heroine is a battered wife. She’s not ordinary, run of the mill, battered wife either. She’s seriously battered, stabbed, brutalised…you name it and her ex husband is a crim and an ex cop and a psycho!. Six months pregnant and her ex has even tried to carve the baby out of her. Seriously, scary, stuff!

She’s the frightened kitten, small, petite and hurting. Micah is a big man and he’s got a soft spot for strays. She may be battered but with his caring way, she’s able to find her spirit and over come her timidity. Never though is her abuse trivialised. It is discussed throughout that she’ll have flashbacks (she does) and that it will take time to heal.

As I read this I could see that there could be other stories in this setting. There were some interesting male characters but I haven’t looked up to see if this was a first or a third in a series.

Faith in her reminiscence about life reflects that she’s been betrayed. She was brought up to be a wife and mother and all she got was  abuse. Her stepfather had conditioned her to have low self esteem and told her she deserved a beating. The representation of the abused woman in this story was very accurate to my mind. It takes someone very special to help her. And man does Micah do that.  As I read this I was thinking this is really good. This would make a great movie.

The story seemed to me to be predominantly from the male point of view, except it wasn’t. It was a shared point of view, slipping between Micah and Faith within scenes. It was smoothly done. The only other time I’ve seen this style was in Cory Daniels The Last T’en. It is certainly different from the pseudo omnicient/weird quasi from the male perspective that some of the other retro Mills & Boon had. (apparently before the 1980s they couldn’t use the male PoV)

What I loved about this book (and being a victim of abuse myself) is that it’s so positive. The message here is that there not all men are the same. That even a big, hard man can be tender and kind. It’s such a powerful message. I know Micah is a constructed male. A hero drawn from a woman’s imagination. But I can’t understand how something like this can be denigrated, the way romance fiction, is generally denigrated. It’s a healing story. So there are so romantic foibles-some things the hero says a man probably never would, but still…

I recall JD Robb’s In death series and I remember being so impressed that (Nora Roberts) discussed child abuse in the story line. The unspeakable trauma that the main character, Eve Dallas, went through as a child is revealed slowly over the series and I was so heartened that she discussed that topic. It’s not a nice topic but it happens and it’s important.

I’m still at the beginning on my retro reading. It’s been an interesting and enjoyable experience so far.

Cherokee Thunder was a touching tale. Thank you Rachel Lee for the lovely piece of fiction.

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