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I’m back into PhD mode, currently working on the all important research proposal for my confirmation seminar. These confirmation seminars happen about a year in to the degree study and one can present (in theory) an indepth research proposal and get approval to do the PhD proper. It’s weird because you know I’m doing the PhD now, and I’ll be doing it after confirmation. It’s a formal part of the process to ensure I have something worthwhile to research now I have had a year looking into the research material. I get assessed and I get a drilling on my presentation and the topic. All good.

I’m at present beavering away at writing up the proposal and pulling together my literature review. It’s not quite structured properly yet but I’m getting there. I have really enjoyed the research part of this degree. Romance fiction, feminism, incomprehensible French philosophers are all so enthralling. I haven’t really been able to pull myself away from it to work on the creative work. But after the confirmation seminar in March, I will.

Part of my research, a very important part of my unique contribution, is the two surveys I am conducting at the moment (and when I do them this year, the selected in-depth interviews). I am surveying writers of popular romance fiction and readers of popular romance fiction. When I was putting the proposal forward for clearance the biggest concern from the bureaucracy here was how was I going to reach readers of romance fiction. These days that is easier than people think. I’ve read articles where the researcher couldn’t get sufficient readers to participate in their research. This was years ago before the big websites dedicated to romance, social media and even here the Australian Romance Readers Association (ARRA). I’ve had a really good response thanks to all those means, Smart Bitches Trashy Books, Dear Author, Twitter, Facebook, WordPress and ARRA (who have been awesome!). Authors have also been spreading the word to their readers. The response is so good that we could go for statistically significant for reader response so yes I’m still looking for readers of romance fiction. Please spread the word. Do the survey if you are a reader of romance!

The irony is that I’m sadly lacking in romance fiction authors responding to the survey, particularly in comparison to the reader response. I know there are thousands of romance authors out there. I am having trouble reaching them. Romance Writers of Australia has nearly a 1000 members, Romance Writers of America has over 10,000 members. You think it would be easy. But it’s not. I’m not a member of the Romance Writers of America for example and it’s not easy for me to wave the flag and say lookie here.

Not easy to reach popular romance authors, not easy to convince them to complete me lovely survey. Come on darlings, look over here. Look at my nice survey!

However, I’m not giving up. The survey continues.

See my previous post for details and links. HERE

me with glasses

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I am currently undertaking a PhD through the University of Canberra in popular romance fiction and as part of that study I have two surveys going.

I’ve got a great response rate so far but I need more. Yes MORE!!!!

If you are a READER of popular ROMANCE fiction can you help me out? The more readers who respond, the more valid the findings will be.

If you are a popular ROMANCE fiction AUTHOR your response to the survey will really help me out!

In both cases I’m after honest views.

Romance writers can be romance readers but I have questions on their romance reading  in the writer survey so you don’t need to do two surveys.

I think the survey can take up to 15-20 minutes to do.

It is mostly tick boxes but your free text comments are very valuable.

I am also going to select some people for a follow up interview only if the respondent is WILLING. There is space to indicate your willingness to be involved in this is the consent form. The consent form is the first part of the survey. I can only do follow up interviews a small number of people during 2017. NOTE; you can do your survey without leaving contact details if you wish. I won’t know who you are except for an IP address.

This survey is for my PhD, which is examining ROMANCE FICTION. Please help!

This is the link to Survey Monkey for Romance Writers

This is the link to Survey Monkey for Romance Readers.

Thanking you all in anticipation. Donna!

 

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Time seems to fly by so quickly these days. Some kind of inverse perception. When I was a child time passed slowly. Now, I can’t believe how fast.

I wish it would slow down.

For me, 2016 was an interesting year. Lots of changes in my life. I left the work force and started a PhD in Creative Writing. I had done my sums, and of course, things change so sums are often being trimmed and rearranged. Do I regret leaving work? Hell no! It was the best thing for me physically and mentally. Of course I miss the huge $ I was making but there was a cost involved. I’m content.

I started the PhD with a vengeance–long days and it hurt too, but now I’m better at balance and I hurt less as a result. I actually felt good for many, many months and I was happy. I realise I can stay home and read and relax while studying instead of in a chair in the study centre everyday. I tried twice this year to get an APA and was unsuccessful, (APA is a stipend/grant for studying) and I have to give up applying now. It was a lot of work putting the application together. Hint do honours and you’ll be a shoe in, they are worth more than a Masters by coursework).  Now I have to look for part time work to fund me. I was hoping for some tutoring at uni but there are no guarantees.

One the writing front, I put out Argenterra in late April. It’s my epic, portal fantasy, that’s not dark (like Dragon wine) and is suitable for YA readers. It’s romance themed too. I thought I’d get the next two in the series out this year but that was a lot harder than it seemed to be when I thought it up. Book 2, Oathbound is with the editor (some delays there with editor moving house) and Book 2, Ungiven Land is awaiting one beta reader comments before being revised and sent to the editor. I’m thinking they will be out in the first half of 2017. I was so thrilled to get those books written. Finish drafting my first trilogy!!! (15 years in the making) Wohoo! Next year, when the books get published I’ll see how the hybrid, indie, self-publishing gig works for me.

Under the name, Dani Kristoff, I was published again by Escape Publishing, this time with Invoked. It’s the third and last book in the Spellbound in Sydney series. I thought this book was coming out next year so I was so happy to have it come out in December. I have one more book to write under Dani Kristoff and then Dani might retire. I enjoy writing the sexy paranormal books, but you have to have a big enough audience to make it worth your while and frankly, I don’t. I’m proud of those books. Invoked was the hardest thing I’d ever written. Nearly chucked it out. Rewrote it almost completely. It taught me a lot about writing. Although it is dark, especially compared to Spiritbound which was light and bright and lovely.

So for Nanowrimo I wrote another Space Pirate book. This time starring Opi, Rae and Essa’s mother. It’s fun and I like it a lot. I’m going to publish this myself.  Escape aren’t selling enough of the other books, Rayessa and the Space Pirates and Rae and Essa Space Adventures to acquire it. But I’m totally cool with that. I want to publish it myself. It’s a bit of light fun. I’ve kept it sweet level in case any YA readers happen on it, but it’s longer 55,000 words and features older protagonists and space pirates….

Also in December, I dusted off the draft of Deathwings, book three in the Dragon Wine series. I’ve booked it in with the editor that Momentum used for the first two books and I’ve got book 4 booked in too. So fingers crossed I’ll have them out in 2017 too. I have to meet the editor’s deadlines!!! Both books are mostly written. I had to dump about 10,000 words from book 4 and I did that over a year ago (then Phd happened). It was starting off too slowly according to beta readers. I have not written a word of the last two books  (5 & 6) and that will be my side project for the rest of 2017. Around other writing and the PhD and part time work if I get any.

I have three other books in completed draft form. Into the Dark Glass (YA fantasy) is currently with a skilled beta reader. It’s the most ready to go somewhere. Cold Soldier (SF Romance) – I haven’t touched this in nearly a year. Needs a new beginning and a revision. The Tainted Lady, my attempt a Regency romance needs a revised beginning and a revision then polish, then beta readers etc. Ruby Heart is still looking for a home but I’ve a mind to write Emerald Fire (the sequel) or actually finish writing it. Half written I think. I have a couple of other things started but may have to wait years before I revisit them.

I have my PhD novel to write too, which will get drafted during 2017. I think all this other writing helps me refine my craft so the PhD novel will benefit.

I have to prepare for my confirmation seminar in March so I’ll be busy with that in January and February and maybe before New Year. It’s my first piece of work that gets assessed and the foundation for the PhD. I will then be officially one year into the PhD too. My surveys that are part of the PhD are going great guns. Need more responses though.

Along with the rest of the world, I’m processing terrorist attacks, the US election, Brexit, war in Syria, Australian bloody politics and views on refugees, deaths of fav actors and musicians. May we weather these things and find 2017 a better time to live in. Highlights, Jane Austen Festival in Canberra, RWA Conference in Adelaide, Shanghai visiting my son in October and presenting a paper on Twitter poetry in November. Also, I am standing for GUFF ( Going Under Fan Fund), which is a fund to send people from Australia to Europe from SF conventions or a European fan to Australia) and there are some great candidates this year all vying to get to the SF World Con in Helsinki in August. (link below)

Downside some work injury related stuff that I won’t blog about until resolved. Worst thing ever!

I’m still addicted to Twitter and Facebook. I’m the world’s worst gardener, besides the Dweeb and I totally failed at sending Christmas cards this year. I’m pleased to say that this year  for me Christmas isn’t about excess as it usually is. My two daughters are vegans and we are having a small gathering this year so less meat, less waste, less money spent. I kinda feel good about that. I will miss my son, who is in China and two of my grandchildren and their mother who are in Perth this Christmas.

Most of all I want to say, I wish you well and happy and prosperous this Christmas, end of year, New Year. I am grateful for my health, my wonderful family and friends. My excellent partner Matthew (the Dweeb) and for those of you to interact with anywhere in the world and on the internet.

Maybe I’ll see some of you at the ARRA convention in Melbourne in February.

 

More info on GUFF

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Since my previous post I’ve mulling over the so-called ‘passive’ heroine in romance novels. The stories I mentioned that didn’t have passive heroines in the previous post are fairly recent, say from the 1990 onwards. Also, the heroine I believe must be considered in context. The heroine in the Barbara Cartland novel discussed was an historical heroine. Would that account for her apparently passivity? Maybe. Then I thought of Georgette Heyer’s work and thought not so.

I have a weakness for Georgette Heyer’s Georgian/Regency romances.(Heyer died in 1974 so her works are much earlier than 1990s)  They don’t have sex scenes all, but they evoke a period in time reminiscent of the great and wonderful Jane Austen. A fantasy world, I suppose, with particular tropes. (I am equally weak at the knees for Scottish historials with Lairds in them. Totally non-realistic. Yes, I know it’s all fantasy, right?).

So four books that I have been listening to on Audible a lot lately are, Venetia (abridged), Sylvester (abridged), The Quiet Gentleman and the Grand Sophy. I have lots of Heyer’s books in print, but these just happen to be on my Audible account and I replay them a lot. Venetia and Sylvester are read by Richard Armitage. Enough said. He does a brilliant job. Those two books got me breaking my Audible rule. I set out not wanting to buy books on Audible that I own in print. I confess I spanked myself thoroughly when I broke the rule, but you know…Richard Armitage!!%$$$###???

Then I decided I didn’t like the abridged books, so I bought The Quiet Gentleman (almost romantic suspense) and The Grand Sophy because they were heaps longer and I could go away into another world while driving long distances.

I thought about the heroines and about whether they were passive or not. There is definitely a spectrum here. Sophia Stanton-Lacey is the strongest, least passive and positively feminist heroine, in some regards. She is the centre of a whirlwind. The first time I read this book I quite missed that it was a romance, or meant to be. I had to read it again. I missed something. It’s quite a wonderful satire. Now more recently listening to it many times. I can’t  count them. I’m weak. What can I say? Sophy stands up for herself. She locks horns. Charles her cousin gets quite riled with her. He is probably the most aggressive out of the heroes in these four novels. Mind you he has to be or he’d be pulp on the bottom of Sophy’s shoes. I could go into the plot a bit more but why spoil it for you. Just read the damn thing or listen to it.

Venetia on the other hand has lived a very retiring life. She pretends to be passive but she’s got steel in her, resisting the boring neighbour who wants to marry her. She falls in love with a rake. Who might be a libertine but is not overly aggressive. They form a lovely friendship until they are separated by interfering relatives. But when she finds out about her past, which has been kept for her, she just goes for the goal. She makes the rake propose to her, against his will. I wouldn’t call that passive.

Sylvester features Phoebe, who runs away when she thinks she’s going to be forced to marry Sylvester, a duke, who snubbed her. I wouldn’t say she was feisty exactly but she’s very unusual and when they are thrown together her magic explodes. She laughs at the duke, tells him what she thinks (a bit like Margaret in North and South) and she’s quite clever. They have an accord. Sylvester is not aggressive at all. He’s a gentle man, but very capable of fixing mishaps. Phoebe also has courage and gets into scrapes trying to do the right thing, to right the wrongs she has done.

In The Quiet Gentleman there is no aggressive hero. He’s so laid back, he’s almost effeminate. In fact, he doesn’t think much of Drusilla at all. She’s quite plain, short and plump. She isn’t trying to win him either. There’s is a slow and gentle coming together.Drusilla is practical and also quite determined to prevent, St Erth being murdered. It is really quite interesting really. I have listened (as well as read) this story and I don’t know when the transition occurs. It’s just a slow warming of him to her. Apparently he’s so gorgeous he was out of her league in the romance stakes and yet…without trying in any way to fix him, he falls for her. While Drusilla seems a bit laid back, she rears up at the end and tells them all what’s what. I don’t consider Drusilla passive, but realistic. This story is also an excellent satire and Heyer is great with her character descriptions. What a gifted writer.

So I don’t think historical heroines in romance novels are passive either. Of course, there are some. But don’t say they are all PASSIVE. You’re wrong!

If you are a romance reader or writer, please consider taking my survey. It’s for my PhD on Feminism in popular romance fiction. Just click here for more details.

 

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I’m back on the PhD with a vengeance lately. This means I’m reading some academic papers that get me angry with their generalisations.

‘the ideal heroine in a romance is passive…’ Mary Ellen Ryder

‘Romance’s generic requirement that the hero should be volatile in his affections and sexually intimidating…’ Doreen Thierauf

These are throw away lines in articles that have some good in then but the stuff mentioned above makes me scribble ‘bullshit!’ in the white space.

Ryder in particular made me growl this week.I get strange looks from other PhD candidates. Ryder read some Barbara Cartland. Each to its own I suppose, but her greatest flaw was saying that because Cartland published 24 books when she was 93 she obviously wrote to formula…’which means that examining just one of her books should reveal a great deal about the whole romance genre.’ For godssake, the whole fucking genre, really? I wouldn’t say one book from any author would allow me to talk about all their works, let alone the whole genre.

Her actual analysis of the text was really quite interesting but why put that tripe at the beginning of her paper?  And it was a gothic bloody romance to boot.

I pull my hair out and shout why, why, why?

Luckily there were some good articles, like from Mairead Owen and possibly Laura Struve (I’m still pondering it). I guess I’m learning to be critical. Step one for me.

Also, I find that when academics talk about Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey they lose their shit when it comes to romance. They may be blockbusters but that doesn’t mean they are the typical romance novel.

Actually, I don’t think there is a typical romance novel. There are key features of a popular romance novel but I won’t go into that. Others like Pamela Regis have already done that.

My current fiction reading though has run counter to what these people are saying about passive heroines and violent and volatile heroes. I’m reading some vintage, retro if you like, Amanda Carpenter. I’ve mentioned her before in past posts. The Great Escape (1984) and The Passage of the Night (1990). (Amanda Carpenter writes as Thea Harrison these days.). These book are examples of her early works. She’s a damn fine writer and I think has a great mind to boot. I can certainly tell she had the chops for paranormal writing in those early days. (I’ve read four of her books so far. They have been very different from each other!)

(possible spoiler)

The Great Escape features a 17 year old protagonist. She’s an heiress, unhappy but quite clever. She escapes from her guardians and is pursued by a PI, whom she outsmarts. In this book, she drugs the PI, she punches him, she seduces him and then after they fall in love, she gives away all her money without consulting him once about it. She hates the money. It defines her too much. If this book had been published later, I suspect it would have been a romantic suspense because someone is trying to kill the heroine.

So in this 1984 story, the heroine is not passive and has agency.

The Passage of the Night is also very interesting. The heroine kidnaps the tycoon hero at gunpoint, she drugs him and then takes him to a mountain top in Vermont. The reason she has kidnapped him is to save her sister, but the hero isn’t anything like her sister said he was. He’s angry at being kidnapped, of course, but he is never aggressive or violent. He chops wood continuously to ‘sublimate’. He’s not going to have her charged. He voluntarily stays with her and then she flies him back because she can’t justify her actions anymore. She’s a helicopter pilot and plane pilot and her family has a bit of money. She’s also loyal and brave.  He’s on seven figures. She sees his life and doesn’t like the long hours etc. She doesn’t demand he change his lifestyle but she’s walking out until he sorts his priorities. In the end, he gives up his job.  I think that about reverses the tropes.

I’m not done with the Carpenter read through yet. It’s fascinating.

Other fiction reading, Full Moon Rising, Keri Arthur. I’m sorry. Riley Jensen kicks butt. It’s urban fantasy on the’ boil the coffee over’ end of the spectrum but mmm…not much passivity there.

I’ve started rereading JD Robb’s …In Death series. I’m on book five so far (it’s been a week?) and there’s no sign of passivity there.

The In Death series is harder to peg. It’s futuristic urban fantasy with romantic elements or romantic suspense or just SF crime with romance. The heroine and the hero are the same couple all the way through (very well done by the way) and for me the series discusses child sex abuse all the way through, even peels it back to a very stark and dark root that makes me blanch. But I applaud JD Robb for doing it (JD Robb is Nora Roberts btw) and I think she’s brilliant.

In my reading of retro Mills & Boon, there are occasionally passive heroines and other times not. I’ve not read everything. No one will be able to. I’m not as well read in romance as people I know, but I know enough not to generalize about it.

But I’m happy to get angry at people who do and blog about it…maybe…

 

BTW I still have my survey going for my PHD study. If you write or read popular romance fiction, please check out my survey. I’d really appreciate the contribution. See blog post here.

Articles cited

Owen, M, Re-Inventing Romance: Reading Popular Romance Fiction, Women’s Studies International Forum, Vol. 20. No. 4, pp.537-546, 1997

Ryder, M. E, Smoke and mirrors: Event patterns in the discourse structure of a romance novel, Journal of Pragmatics, 31 (1991) pp. 1067-1080

Struve, L, Sisters of Sorts: Reading Romantic Fiction and the Bonds Among Female Readers, The Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. 44, No. 6, 2011.

Thierauf, D, Forever After:Desire in the 21st-Century Romance Blockbuster, The Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. 49, No. 3, 2016.

 

 

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Now that I’m back from Shanghai, I am back on the ball with the PhD.

An important part of my research is obtaining the views of romance readers and romance writers. I have been working on these surveys for a few months and they are ready to launch.

Now there are two surveys: one for romance readers and one for romance writers. Please use the correct link!

Yes. Romance writers can be romance readers but I have questions on their romance reading  in the writer survey so you don’t need to do two surveys.

I think the survey can take up to 15-20 minutes to do. I do it quicker but I’ve been looking at it many times. So do allow some time.

I am also going to select some people for a follow up interview. There is space to indicate your willingness to be involved in this is the consent form. The consent form is the first part of the survey.

This survey is for my PhD, which is examining romance fiction. Please help!

This is the link to Survey Monkey for Romance Writers

This is the link to Survey Monkey for Romance Readers.

Thanking you all in anticipation. Donna!

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It’s been an interesting week of romance reading for me with two totally different books. One that triggered me and the other that blew me away.

First up was Haunted Dreams by Charlotte Lamb (1995). This is a Harlequin Mills & Boon and British author. This book had a lot going for it, particularly as the hero had a checkered past and the book discussed the conditions of the poor in Mexico, the picking over of dumps and the exploitation of kids. It also featured domestic violence. The hero’s father had been a drunk and violent towards his mother and him and his siblings. All this boded well for me, despite the fact that the heroine was very young (half the hero’s age) and virginal etc. Yet she had some depth to her because she had nursed her dying mother and then rejected by her father after he married straight after her mother’s funeral.

Ambrose (great name!) is a banking man and makes money. Emilie works for her grandfather and is essentially his heir. All well and good. I don’t normally like to do spoilers but hey, this time I have to.

This book triggered me, right at the end too. I had trouble reconciling this so I have come up with the notion that the book is flawed. I know Charlotte Lamb churned these buggers out and maybe she didn’t think this one through, because there were some perfectly good opportunities to make it work out better. OMG! I can’t believe I’m being critical.

Firstly there was a burglary. There was a good setup for this burglary I thought. Emilie had been given sapphires and diamonds for Christmas and the evil cousin was jealous and avaricious and even asked if they were insured. The description of the burglar could have been a woman I thought, but no. It was only an excuse to get the hero to stay over the night. Now random things do happen in life, but in fiction well not so much…not with the potential there to make it work in the story. So the burglary  was a minor inconvenience, even though the cousin was a thief!

Then there was the strangulation of the heroine by the hero and the words something like ‘I’d rather kill you than let another man have you’. That’s my trigger. This happened to be, not a strangulation, but a bashing with words similar to this. However, triggered as I was there was a way to pull back from the abyss and Ms Lamb missed that too. She plunged straight into the abyss without a yell.

Do you think in the emotional resolution to the story that the hero would be remorseful, that he would pledge on his life never to touch her again in that way, that it was his horrible background that made him an abuser etc. No. Not a bloody word.

The heroine was upset because he didn’t trust her. She didn’t want to get back to him because he’d refused to believe her. What the actual…??? He sees the bruises says something like I can’t begin to apologise but she says sweet FA. Surely to god, there’d be some request for a promise never to hurt her again or she’ll leave him. No. The bloody violence is not discussed, other than a thin apology. Sorry. That book sucked monkey balls. Well the resolution did.

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Then we come to Flashback by Amanda Carpenter (1984). Mills & Boon published in London by an American author. I had this book by me because I’d loved her Cry Wolf story about an artist. It was so emotionally intense that I wanted to read another one to see if that was similar or Cry Wolf had been a one off. Luckily I scored one in the Grace Collection. Funny thing was I reading either a book or an academic article that said Flashback was an amazing anti-war book. So that was it. I dived in. I was also trialing my new data gathering tool that I can hand write while reading for later input into a spreadsheet or database.

This book was amazing. It blew my mind. It is not your average Mills & Boon and even using Pamela Regis’s barriers to analyse it, I found it hard to pin down. It seemed to break all the usual tropes over the head with beer bottles.

I won’t spoil this one but I will note a few features. It has a foreword by the author. This is an unusual feature for the time. It expressed sentiment about the loss of life in war. So clearly the author’s intention was to have an anti-war message.

My premise in reading category romances is that they try to depict reality. Doreen Watt set me straight on this. Before Harlequin Mills & Boon brought in all the lines, the Mills & Boon were one line. I’ve found some stories that would be more intrigue than straight romance. There was one where the protagonists remembered their past lives.(Charlotte Lamb’s Dying for You). Well Flashback features a telepath. Yes, you saw correctly. A bloody telepath. This is probably why it was really hard to identify any barriers to the hero and heroine getting together. They were linked telepathically and it was an intense and emotional story. Amanda Carpenter writes very well and I’m glad to see that after having a break she came back to writing as Thea Harrison and she writes paranormal romance. I have to check her out. She’s snared me!

So this story doesn’t feature another woman to make the heroine jealous. She lives with her mother and is very close to her. So she’s not an orphan caught in the hero’s web of sex and intrigue. She lives almost as a recluse. The telepathy drives the story. There is no sex scenes. It’s so damn intense it doesn’t need them. I think I need to measure my blood pressure after reading it. And what happens to the heroine in the end. Jesus. Mary. And Joseph!

Anyway, read Flashback.

Thea Harrison released her titles again with Samhain. Here is a link to the book. Here.

Also check out Thea Harrison. Here.

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I can’t believe it is six months already.

I’ve been at this gig for six months!

Do I miss work? No.

Do I miss the money? Yes, a bit, but not as much as I thought I would. I keep telling myself I will get a part time job, but I’m not desperate enough yet.

Do I miss my work mates? Yes, I do. The social scene at uni is different. You come to the study centre and you study. Occasionally you chat to people. It takes time.

As a PhD is self-directed research it can be difficult to judge your progress. If I sat around at home and did nothing, then I’d have the guilt meter out. But I’m on campus usually four days week and if I don’t then I’m working from home. If I consult my guilt meter it’s pretty good actually. No falling into the red zone there.

Actually, I’m just getting to the part of my study where I’m calming down. I won’t call it slowing down. Looking back I can see I approached this PhD like a bull charging a red flag. I was anxious. I was stressed. I was working like a maniac at times, dreaming up papers in my sleep. There was so much to know and I wanted to know it all. But that’s been settling down now for a few weeks.

I think there came a point that I thought I can do this. I can understand. A bit earlier than that I knew I had to dial it back as I couldn’t sustain the pace over three years. I was studying on my day off. Technically my day off is my writing day. My fiction not related to PhD writing day. It also doubles for catching up with friends day, which means I usually don’t get to write much when I do the social thing.

I’m enjoying it though and it can be absorbing. Some days on campus, I look up and see the time and think what am I doing here at 6.00 pm? Then I scurry home.

I’m coming up to my six months study. I am going to be doing my introductory seminar next week. That’s where I get to stand up and talk about my research topic, methodology and my creative project. I think my supervisor is optimistic that I won’t flubber, blubber…splat. This is a compulsory seminar, but it is not assessed. I have a bit of work to do before my first year is up as I have to do my confirmation seminar. Yes that’s right. I can be booted. I can’t see that happening but you know I have to get things up to scratch.

I’m heading for the Romance Writers of Australia Conference in Adelaide this week. We are driving down because we’ve not driven to Adelaide before. We are driving over two days. I’m doing a signing there. Waves! There is an academic stream for the conference. I put in for a paper but didn’t get chosen. Apparently there was an over supply of papers. But I believe it is a truncated stream. I am putting in a paper for the conference proceedings. Well I will. I’m just waiting on some final comments from my supervisor. I’ve been working on this paper since March. But as it is my topic area, none of it’s wasted. It was probably a good way to get across the topic, having that paper to write.

When I get back from Adelaide, I’ll be reorganizing myself. I want to start working on my creative project. So far I’ve thought about it and drafted a short outline. However, I think I have to write it and see if it works, then change it if it doesn’t. This is a fiction piece I’m giving myself time to draft. I think I might have mentioned it will be SF with romance. The other task I have to complete for my confirmation seminar is my literature review. I still have stuff I need to read, most stuff I will read two or three times before I’m done. Then I have to read romances! This means dividing up my time so that I get things done. I like to be flexible of course, but still…Would you believe I’ve been tidying my desk today? I’m sorting my journal articles into alphabetical order and putting flags on them as to why I think they are important. I feel saintly and so unlike me. I think it’s because I’m treading water. I’ve done my prep for the seminar. I’m heading to a conference and I’m waiting for comments on a paper so I can send it off.

I also have a romance readers survey and a romance writers survey as part of my PhD and it’s ready to go. Give me a hoy if you want an invite. I’m going to kick that off in September post introductory seminar.

 

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It is coming up on the first six months of my PhD. A friend said that studying/researching for a PhD is an apprenticeship. It’s about learning to be an academic. Once the PhD is achieved there’s more work ahead if academia is the choice of occupation. Or more accurately, if one is lucky enough to get to work in academia afterwards. The message I get here at Uni is there is little work for PhD candidates after awarding of the degree and what jobs there are go to those who are known etc. Mine PhD is in creative writing so year… This is rather depressing really.

Coming from the public sector where in principle jobs are gained on merit, I can’t help react to the idea that it’s not the same outside of the APS. However, I try not to think about it and just get on with the work. Maybe that’s a skewed point of view. Anyway, I enjoy the work, or the research if you please. Perhaps I have faith in people. Perhaps I don’t know what my long term plans are. Perhaps I don’t believe what people say…

So, I have probably rabbited on about this paper I’ve been working on for months now. Yes, it has dragged on and on and on until I think I’m going to go insane or that the paper development, commentary/edits etc will never end. Not doing things right the first time feeds into my internal ‘I’m not good enough motif’. Lucky for me I’m also very persistent and somewhat driven. I have an excellent supervisor who doesn’t let me off the hook. Finally I think there is sunshine on my horizon.

My paper started off with everything I’d found to date about my topic. All shoved in there with big waving banners. Nothing given too much depth. Like a bit of jumping up and down at the beach and saying look at this castle I made before the wave comes in and washes it all away. That sort of thing…

Then my supervisor comments on the paper. In fact it’s an infestation of comment boxes. There’s something not quite right with my structure, he says. Perhaps I should thin it out a bit… so something along those lines.

I chuck out bits of the paper like flicking lint across the table and watching them fly off into the wind. Next go, mmm still not quite right with the structure. Perhaps I should just talk about three or four books in more detail. Perhaps I should reread them…do deeper textual analysis. (I then read some papers on textual analysis). This time I get the scissors and cut the paper like a string of paper dolls, a concertina of vague shapes snapping back and forth. I have to build it up again. I’m told not to throw anything out but start a new document. All that stuff is good, just not in this one paper.

I return to my key texts and start the process of really examining them, taking notes and figuring out how they work and how the issues are discussed within them. It takes heaps of time.  I’ve also continued researching books and journal articles, adding more and more to the critique of romance and feminist critique of romance and anything else that I find interesting about romance. I read  books, thank you Laura Vivanco and Pamela Regis.

Then I find I have a big, huge, lengthy paper that is well over my maximum word limit. I’m struggling with the structure. I’m working late on the paper at uni without even realizing it.  Crazy!

So I know I have to restructure the damn thing. It’s too long and definitely unwieldy.

My supervisor is not available for structure rescuing and nor should he be. I know I can do it. I need distance. I read a paper on Untamed by Jodi McAlister and the structure is so straight forward, bam, bam, bam. I look at my paper. I stop wailing and pulling my hair and think-you can do that. It’s possible. Go with your gut instinct.

I take the paper home with me on the weekend but I don’t look at it. I need space. I go to a funeral and find I’m not up for working on it. All good I say. Distance and thinking is what is required. I talk to my daughter about the paper and about structure generally. Then I go into uni on Tuesday and just do it. The need to cut helps me. I cut things and try to keep it focused. I rearrange, put funny headings everywhere, try to make it flow into a new form. To me I think I’ve done it. I’ve improved it. I’ve focused it. I’m getting the idea.

I realise I am learning. I have been told by the other PhD candidates here at Uni that the first paper is the worst. It’s my first attempt at putting the research, part of it at least, into words and for others to see it. I feel my mind shifting gears. It doesn’t mean I won’t have structure issues again, but I probably won’t quail as much as  I did this first time.

So yesterday I sent the paper off to my supervisor again. It will need a careful read and some tweaking but… My supervisor said the structure was better…I got positive vibes!!! I’m so excited by this. It’s not world domination (there are no spreadsheets involved) and it’s not the cure for cancer but it’s my paper….yay!

Okay so maybe I should calm down…but I am an apprentice. The apprenticeship grind is long. But maybe there is a small improvement in me right now.me with glasses

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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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