Survey Time!

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!


I’m writing this now while it is still fresh. It’s amazing what disappears from the memory when you are doing a lot of travel and sightseeing. I just finished my previous post and had completely forgot about Qibao, which was odd because it was interesting. Lucky there were photos to remind me to talk about it. It’s where Taamo tried to teach me to eat dumplings and I failed to learn. Apparently you bite the edge and suck out the juice, otherwise it squirts all over you. Guess who was grotty the whole time with stains down their front? Me! One thing I’ve noted here in China is that you don’t go hungry. Everywhere you go there is some kind of food for sale. Noodles, dumplings, all sorts.

Taamo took me for a walk locally and we had some street food for breakfast. Some vegetable rice buns, which look Pork dumplings at home but are filled with green vegetable and mushrooms. Then Taamo bought this pancake thing, with egg a few bits of onion, bbq sauce, chili and some crispy thing. It’s rolled up and you munch on it while you walk. It was tasty! We checked out the local English bookstore, where I bought a learn to speak Mandarin textbook as you do. One day she says! One day!

We found an out of the way place called, Books in Space. It was off the main drag and part of a house, sort of like a terrace house really. It was a cafe that had second hand books for sale for 10 RMB (about $2) and really good coffee. There was French music playing and it had a nice vibe. Very Western shabby chic I guess.

We also visited a new bakery called Lost Bakery and it had stuff in there to die for and boy I’d get fat if I could find my way back. So I’m staying away. The coffee was good and my apple tart was too.


Anyway, the tour. So Taamo gave me a few to choose from. I chose something that didn’t sound to strenuous. We went south to the Nanxi River Area. We went with Ok Deals tourist group. The group was smallish, around 30, laid back, but not slack. That meant we went where we were supposed to go when we were supposed to go but the itinerary was not excessive. Taamo reckons we went almost halfway to Taiwan. I guess he is right. (map Wikipedia commons.)

Image result for map Nanxi River

So bus and group were a okay! Six hour trip on the bus with two hourly stops. I was introduced to toilets in a big way. Squat toilets, bring your own loo paper and don’t flush it. Used loo paper goes in bins. Some of them don’t smell too good either. But livable.

We left at 7.05 am, not bad for a 7.00am start. Great scenery on the way. A long bridge etc. Mountains. Terraced rice fields, gardens everywhere. I saw sweet potato growing, taro, eggplant, green vegetables, potatoes and corn. Also persimmon trees with persimmons everywhere (Japanese kind I believe). Lunch was at 2.00pm but we stopped to visit an ancient village. This one the home of the head of the Chen clan.




Taamo took this one of a goat herder returning.


This is my shot using the panoramic function.


This is a close up of the roof tiles that I found interesting.


The food was very local. Lots of vegetables grown locally I guess. Some weird stuff too, but I tried most of it. I liked the tomato omelette, which turned up in most places. I’m thinking tomatoes grow locally too. Some thin slices of potato, gourd (winter melon?), fresh whole fish (I couldn’t eat that), rice cake etc.

The hotel where we stayed was out of the village proper. We had to be barged across by rope pulled by hand.


A few shots of the hotel. The rooms looked nice. The power was off. Some kind of trouble. The bathroom fitting leaked and the cleaning wasn’t quite the thing. Food was plentiful.




On the second day we went to a waterfall and mountain walk. Too many stairs and it was so hot. It also rained a bit.



On the barge.


The Dragon Waterfall.


Inside the waterfall cave. This had been extended by man. Quite extensive with temples inside etc.

Inside this part of the cave people could hire traditional costumes and take photos.


We walked up the mountain and found the source of the waterfall, and the former source of the waterfall.


Behind the dam wall




We sat under these rocks. We thought they might be Basalt.


At night there was a bonfire party. I didn’t hang for that but I did get to see some fireflies. Second night it was raining so they had a room party in the restaurant. The drinking, dancing etc went on till two am.

After the waterfall and lunch, we went bamboo rafting. It was wonderful. The rapids weren’t really rapids but you did feel the rocks bumping underneath. We had a very cool pilot/captain. Photo courtesy of Tour Guide Alice. It was so tranquil.


Before we left the area we went for the most amazing walk. These photos don’t do it justice. You lose the height impressions.

This is the view of the mountain/rock from the village. We walked to the river walk.







The goats near the bridge. This bridge was sealed off. My favourite parts? The bamboo rafting and the river walk, which was mind blowingly beautiful.

And finally I saw this at the hotel. A native, traditional raincoat?


That’s it for now. I’m having a home day and it’s wonderful. My sore legs can recuperate.

Waving from Shanghai.






Shanghai Dreaming

I’m going to break this post up. I didn’t post the Star Trek Expo photos so I’m going to try to do this. My next post will be from the tour to the Nanxi River area. Some breathtaking scenery there.

Shanghai appears to be a complex place, perhaps reflective of elsewhere in China. A juxtaposition of ultra new such as tech and the layers of old with the very traditional beneath. For example, in my country trip I could get 4G. I could get 4G in the tunnels beneath mountains. Internet and wifi are ubiquitous and used in ways we don’t even think about in Australia. We have QR codes for example but I’ve never used one. Here they are used all the time. But by contrast, if I go to Tharwa, just five minutes away by car from my home I can’t even get a signal, let alone 4G. We are way behind technologically. Maybe it’s our population level, maybe China has an advantage coming from behind and implementing tech and jumping ahead of us. The fact is our technical infrastructure is crap and our government is to blame. Look what they are doing with fibre optics in Australia. We have Turnbull saying copper wire is okay. Man, are we going to be left behind.

So what surprises me is not so much the electronic billboards in the metro with rapid refresh rates that allows you to see the image while travelling at fast speeds, or on the bus shelters or just about every shopping mall’s giant electronic billboards. That’s frosting. That’s a glimpse of a possible future in the West. Let’s take WeChat, China’s equivalent to Twitter/Facebook. Yes. I suppose it is monitored by the Chinese Government, but if you think Twitter and Facebook aren’t monitored by your own government then you are way wrong. There are apps that look for words and phrases. Nothing online is private. WeChat lets you create your own QR code. So you meet someone and you want to add them to your WeChat connections you can scan their code or they scan yours. You can link your WeChat to your bank and you can pay your bills, restaurant etc, just by using the QR codes. I haven’t linked that up because I’m not living here but I was thinking Wow. That’s awesome. On the tour there was a tour group WeChat so we got messages about breakfast and shared photos. You could pay for things to the tour company etc. Just wow. I mean WeChat is not useless like Twitter and Facebook, it’s like useful. I’m impressed.

So the Star Trek exhibition. We practically had that to ourselves. For this nine day public holiday people exodus the city and apparently the exhibition was in the ‘Ghost Mall’. The Ghost Mall is attached to the second airport (domestic?) and is linked via the metro. So we travelled on the metro to this place, then walked through empty corridors to the Ghost Mall where we found the Star Trek exhibition. It was like 80 RMB to enter. Cheaper on Weekdays. Apparently as Monday was a public holiday we paid 80RMB. Taamo used Alipay (I think that’s what he called it-The WeChat app.

Starting with Picard’s quarters and his uniform. You can’t see it but there is a wedding photo of Riker and Troi.

It wasn’t a huge  exhibition but wow. I loved the costumes. I’m trying to think which was my favourite. I’ve decided Kaiopaka and I’m going to cosplay it one day. I’m short and plump so it should work.


Kai Opaka!


A close up of Eric Bana’s coat, rogue Romulan?



romulan-costume-close-upClose up detail of Romulan uniform

There was an amazing Enterprise on display.



The transporter room was cool and covered in Tribbles.



Lots of models of weapons and ships, like DS9.




Then I stepped through a door and found the Bridge!!!! I was so excited I ran back to Taamo and said. There’s a bridge. While we were in there a bunch of Chinese fans dressed in uniform were mucking about in the other section. Then one walked in, saw the Bridge, and had the same reaction I did. She went squeeing back to the group and they all descended en masse and filmed themselves. It was cool to watch.

There was some VR consoles at the end of the exhibition, not Star Trek specific. We didn’t try them. There was, however, a poster for Star Trek, Beyond, 3D at the Imax. We were cool let’s do it, alas it wasn’t playing at the Imax so we consoled ourselves with a trip through the Ghost Mall and food.

This poster is up on billboards around the place. Taamo won’t take me because he said he won’t understand it. I have dubbed this movie, Chinese Elves. Maybe one day it will come out in the West.chinese-elves

We also went to a place called Qibao, a watertown. All the other tourists decided to go there too so it was my first taste of crowded in Shanghai. Again we took the metro. It was sunny and hot. I got sunburned.

Here are a few shots.



This one will give you an idea of the crowds.


This one of the river/canal.



In Shanghai

Just a quick blog post from Shanghai. I don’t have a lot of photos to show you as my phone is having issues with my son’s computer.

Firstly, it is hot and muggy. As it is a week of public holidays it hasn’t been too crowded mostly. By mostly I mean when we go to tourist things like The Bund then it is crowded, but probably not normal crowded.

My son lives is a lovely little apartment in a tree lined suburb. Apparently it is is a trendy area. He has aircon. Grin!

Today we are going shopping. Tomorrow we are going on a tour for a couple of days to the coast about six hours drive away.

My grasp of the lingo is not good. I can barely manage xie xie (thank you). The food has been awesome. Yesterday we had Vietnamese and much nicer than the Australian version. We went to a poshy modern Chinese cuisine place called Lost Heaven and it was fab. So was their bakery, Lost  Bakery. We’ve also eaten at an American diner in the French concession-bloody awesome food. Yesterday we tried some street food. Yummy!

Also of interest is the amount of tech here. There is WeChat, the Chinese version of Twitter, and you can use that to pay for things using a QR code. Pretty amazeballs if you ask me.

Now for some photos.img_6828

People’s Square on the walk down to the Bund.


An example of some of the architecture along the People’s Square


The Peace Hotel, near the Bund.



View from the Bund


Electronic billboard. Can’t remember the name of this area.


This mall was near the Bund and it blew our minds. It was huge. It is not even one of the largest malls  here. It had curved escalators and a roof motif that mimicked the sky and Iron Man.


The only other photo I’ve managed to save to this pc is this pic of the Jinjian Temple which isn’t far from here.



This morning I probably had a dose of culture shock. I blame this on the horror-type movies we watched last night. I’m not normally into the gruesome. Caught up with Horns (based on  Joe Hill’s novel, which I own but haven’t read). Daniel Radcliffe did an amazing job. A really unusual tale too. Pretty awesome movie. I don’t think it had a cinema release in Australia. The other was a pretty riveting watch called. He Never Died or something like that. Available on Netflix. I really should have watched something light before bed as the book I’m reading is a bit dark too. But I’m fine now. My son made crepes and coffee. Anyway I’m off to do  some shopping for some cooler tshirts for this trip.







My son is working in Shanghai and I’m popping over for a visit. I’ll have to get up early, my least favourite part, but I’ll arrive tomorrow evening.

This will be my first visit to China. My son says it is still warm and muggy. Different from here which is rainy and chilly. I’m looking forward to chilling with my son. Apparently there is a number of public holidays this coming week so we will just hang out. He works in games development.

On the writing front, I had thought to get Oathbound off to my editor and Ungiven Land to beta readers but I was derailed by a piece of bureaucratic bullshit that gave me a nice dose of anxiety and the need to seek legal advice. I’m feeling better now, but I don’t think I’ve recovered my equilibrium. I’ve not touched my writing and have buried myself in Lois McMaster Bujold (Komarr and A Civil Campaign) for the last couple of days. This is probably a nice sanity space and Bujold writes to well and I love the series. I will learn something I hope.

I should get back to packing and try to decide whether I should take my laptop and work over there.

It is my great pleasure to interview, Debbie Phillips, the president of the Australian Romance Readers Association (ARRA) one of the most organised and efficient organisations I have ever dealt with. They run a biennial conference for readers (with writers) of romance, as well as the annual romance reader awards, surveys of romance readers, signing events, author high teas, local area romance reader lunches and the list goes on. They are awesome. So if you like reading romance you should consider signing up to be a member. It’s a modest fee. And if your fancy goes to meeting other romance readers then you should head to Melbourne in February 2017!!

I was curious about the origins of the organisation so I asked Debbie to answer a few questions.

So, Debbie, how did the Australian Romance Readers Association start and when?

ARRA was established in 2007 to organise the first Australian Romance Readers Convention. That was our sole purpose at the time. Since then we have incorporated the association and have added other events to our activities.

It all started with a discussion on an online loop, where Maggie Nash suggested Australia should have its own romance readers convention. Other members of the loop thought that was a great idea and we set up an expression of interest form and set it out through our various networks. Then came the amazing moment when we received an email from Sherrilyn Kenyon saying she’d heard about the idea and could she come. (Umm, yes!) After that there was no turning back.

How long did it take for your membership levels to reach a critical mass?

Not long at all. We started out with just 16 members—the committee organising ARRC09—and by the end of 2009 we had over 120 members. Our membership today sits at 341. (Donna: OMG! that’s so many. So Fab)

Why is the Australian Romance Readers Association important to readers of romance? What does being a member do?

Other than the obvious benefit of the events we host each year, ARRA also provides a place where readers can find other readers (and authors) who share their interests. We have an online members loop where we chat throughout the month about what we are reading; we have a monthly newsletter that is jam-packed with articles and news about romance fiction; we have an active blog with regular articles from authors and publishers, with giveaways as well. We also have active groups on social media.

Being a member of ARRA means you are supporting that community. We have taken the $20 membership fees from our members and turned them into an enormous enterprise that is getting attention from around the world.

In addition to the biennial conventions we host a signing each August in conjunction with the Romance Writers of Australia conference. Taking advantage of the opportunity presented by so many authors in one place has meant we can keep costs low and offer a unique opportunity for local readers to come along and meet authors and get books signed.

We have also hosted special events with authors like Julia Quinn, Karen Rose and Maya Banks when they visited Australia. Being able to do that is something really special for both readers and authors.

What made ARRA decide to run biennial conferences? What is special about these conferences?

With the growth of online communities and social media Australian romance readers were able to see all the fun readers have at the RT conventions in the United States. For most readers a trip to RT was something they would probably never be able to afford. So we decided to establish our own convention here in Australia. We move it around the country to make it more accessible to readers.

They’re special because they’re total immersion in romance fiction for an entire weekend. You get to meet and chat with authors and readers for two whole days (longer if you come to some of the optional social events). And even better, it is a judgment-free zone! Everyone there gets your obsession with reading romance and you will not see a single eye roll.

Where have these conferences been? Can you give me some highlights of the guests you have had?

We have had the most amazing guests!

The first convention in 2009 was held in Melbourne. Keynote speakers were Stephanie Laurens, Sherrilyn Kenyon, MaryJanice Davidson, Dianna Love, Susan Grant and Liz Maverick. (All these speakers very generously paid their own expenses, so we could afford to have six keynotes!) There were also another 40 authors at the convention.


Sherrilyn Kenyon (L) and Dianna Love (R) with reader Lami, ARRC09


Back row: MaryJanice Davidson, Liz Maverick and Susan Grant; Front row: readers Pamela, Carrie and Sarah, ARRC09

The next convention was ARRC2011, held in Bondi. Our keynotes were Anna Campbell, Nalini Singh and Cindy Gerard. There were another 40 authors in attendance as well.

In 2013 we hosted the convention in Brisbane, and keynotes were Anne Gracie, Kristan Higgins and Rachel Vincent. Our author numbers had jumped to 60 by then.


Nalini Singh, Anne Gracie, reader Willy and Keri Arthur, ARRC2011


Kristan Higgins, Rachel Vincent and Anne Gracie, ARRC2013

Last year we hosted ARRC2015 in Canberra. Our keynotes were Helene Young, Sylvia Day, Victoria Dahl and Kelley Armstrong. There were an additional 90 authors at the event, our biggest yet.

How do you decide who to invite as keynotes?

We ask our members who they would love to meet and then we compile a list and make our way down it. For every convention we are in contact with probably a dozen authors before we lock in our keynotes. All the authors we speak to are excited at the thought of coming to Australia to meet their readers, but unfortunately for some it just isn’t possible at that particular time. Authors are busy people! The list of authors who have regretfully declined our invitation is just as start-studded as the authors who have been at our conventions!

ARRA also gives out readers awards. When did these start? Are they well received?

The first awards were held at ARRC09. We hadn’t planned them at first, but when we saw the enthusiastic reaction to the convention we decided to establish the awards. Authors and readers alike love them. We hold them each year. In convention years the awards dinner is part of the convention. In the off-convention years we hold the awards dinner as a standalone event in Sydney.


Inaugural award winners: Anna Campbell, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Melanie Milburne and Stephanie Laurens, ARRC09

Can you tell me a bit about the conference coming up in Melbourne? I understand you have a guest coming via Skype!

Next year ARRC2017 will be back in Melbourne, and our keynotes will be Kylie Scott, Courtney Milan and Kristen Callihan. And of course there will be some 80 romance authors from around Australia.

Yes, we are thrilled to say Thea Harrison will be joining us for a Q&A. She had accepted our invitation to be a keynote speaker, but then realised that her health would preclude the very long trip to Australia. That’s when we decided to try a Skype session for the first time. If it goes well that will really open up the possibilities for the next convention.

If anyone is interested in more information on the convention, they can find it here. There’s a link to buy tickets as well.

What is included in the conference fee?

The conference fee includes entry to all the sessions over the weekend. Delegates can choose from a number of panel sessions throughout the weekend (see the program here). It includes morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea on both Saturday and Sunday. There will also be a special screening of the documentary Love Between the Covers, speed dating sessions, the chance for a special morning tea with an author host, an epic signing event, and of course our keynote speakers. Another highlight will be out gold tickets, which 21 lucky readers will find in their goodies bag when they register; these tickets entitle them to a private lunch with one of the keynotes.

In addition to that, there are a number of optional social events over the weekend that are ticketed separately. Readers can meet authors ahead of the convention at a High Tea on the Friday, or join us for the wind-down lunch cruise on the Monday. On Friday night there are welcome cocktails, followed by a trivia night, complete with popcorn and ice cream. On Saturday night they can join us at the fabulous awards dinner.

Are readers able to meet authors at the convention as well as hang with other romance readers?

Yes! Throughout the weekend readers have the chance to meet and chat with all the authors. Whether mingling at the cocktail reception or enjoying the awards dinner, you could well be sharing the evening with your favourite authors. During the day you can sit in on the panel sessions, chat with authors and readers during tea breaks, chat one-on-one with authors at the speed dating sessions, and then catch up with them at the signing as well. The whole weekend is about authors and readers hanging out and chatting!

Do you have any tips for romance readers and writers on how to meet?

Don’t be shy! Everyone there loves romance fiction just as much as you do, and they can’t wait to talk to someone about their favourite authors and books. (In fact, some of the authors are just as shy as some readers, and they are all absolutely lovely! So don’t be intimidated.) All it takes is “What are you reading at the moment?” to get a conversation started.arrc2017-banner_700


You can find ARRA here: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Thank you Debbie! Your answers were great. I had no idea all that was going on in the background. I’ll be there in February, but now I’m thinking after conference cruise? Why not?


Yesterday, just by happenstance, the ability to lose myself in a story and the loss of my university access cards, I finished drafting Book Three of the Silverlands, Ungiven Land. 8,000 words yesterday. I was knackered. I haven’t pulled one of those in ages. (A massage, hot pack,  hot shower, more hot pack was required to recuperate).

It’s not finished per se. I have to tidy the draft up a bit before sending to beta readers. There is probably a few talking heads and some scenes that need to be moved around plus other tweaking. I was fairly pumping out the words and the scenes unraveled in my head. I get all excited near the end and I plough through. I think I read in the same way. Also, I lost track of time. Didn’t eat dinner. Didn’t prepare dinner. Looked up and Matthew was home.

But damn. I got the story out. I did it. I finished my first trilogy. (picture me hands in the air, dancing on the spot) I have written in series format before say for the Love and Space Pirates series (I want to write another one) and under Dani Kristoff I’ve finished the third book in the Spellbound in Sydney series. But a trilogy is a whole new ball game. You start out thinking what’s going into those three books that make up the ONE story and time and lack of note taking can seriously derail that.

As an aspiring writer, I had lots of advice about whether to write the whole series or just the first book. The prevailing advice was don’t invest in a series you haven’t sold. So I devoted myself to a number of first books in series hoping to sell them. Lucky for me I also did writers’ retreats where I could devote myself to writing for two weeks. And in the past I had drafted second books or parts of books. I have 153,000 words of the second book (or second two books) in the Dragon Wine series btw.

That may be good advice, on the other hand, if you haven’t got notes and it’s a big complex story and you do sell the first book, the pressure would be immense. I’m not a fan of working on one book for ten years. I’d rather work on ten books over ten years. It’s all learning and I love ideas and exploring story and genre. If I had my time again, maybe I would have at least drafted the remainder of the trilogies I worked on while it was all fresh in my head and concentrated on selling the first one. It would have made this year easier.

You may recall that The Silverlands Trilogy is my self-publishing/indie publishing investment. Argenterra came out in late April. That book had been revised and edited etc many times over many years. Basically, the crafting of a load of crap into something worth reading over 15 years. I hope so!

Book Two was drafted but probably only ever a tidied draft. It was a much better draft than Argenterra was originally as I had progressed as a writer. No one had read it except me. I’m about to do a final revision, tweak and polish before sending it for an edit. You might ask why I haven’t already done this. Well, I was working on book three. I had thought I had 50,000 words of the third book written. Gah! I did but the words were shit. They had to be rewritten and most of it chucked out. I was in despair. Somewhere around 70,000 words the draft felt like it was coming together. Now at 121,000 words I’m pretty pleased. It’s done. The story works…well for now .Beta readers may bash me in the head.

This probably doesn’t answer the question. Why work on book three when two was waiting for a revision? Because finishing book three allowed me to work out all the kinks and to see if it was going to work before I went back to book two. I could still change things in book two before I set them in concrete by publishing it. Rescue a character who had sunk beyond redemption, for example. Set up things in book two that I had brought to a head in book three. I guess it’s a form of cheating. But hey, it worked. This is probably why I’m advocating writing the whole series in one go. Why I wish I had. But my best advice is just write what you want, how you want. I figure this book three is better than any I envisaged say ten years ago. Totally much better. I’m a better writer than I was. Ideas just smashed together well this time.

This week and maybe part of the next I’ll be tidying it up ready for beta readers. Then I’ll be back on book two, Oathbound.Now I’m ready to push forward. I believe the next two books will come out pretty close together. I have the covers. I just need the edit. I do my own laying out and book packaging. The cover layout I get help with. Technically I could do that I just have to buy Photoshop!

Then I guess I’ll get serious about marketing. My main goal so far has been to get reviews of Argenterra while I’m working on the other books. Reviews will help me if I want to do some paid promotion, such as Book Bub. If you read Argenterra and liked it please leave a review somewhere. It helps!

What have I learnt so far? I already knew writing well is hard work. Self-publishing/indie publishing is hard work if you want to do it well, but it has bells on. I’ve been stressed. I’ve had sleepless nights. I’ve invested my capital in my indie publishing gig. I have not spent time in promoting or whatever magic these successful indie writers do. My hat goes off to them. But I will when I get these books out.

The other thing successful indie writers do is they keep writing and keep producing. It sounds exhausting. I mean I do that too, but it’s driven by what stories interest me and my own creative practice. Maybe I should be more business like in my approach.



Buy link for Argenterra, Book One-Silverlands

Print copy from Book Depository here

Amazon.com Here

Amazon.com.au Here

Kobo Here

ibooks Here

Print (Amazon.com) Here.

Print elsewhere. Available from Createspace and Ingram Sparks.