November is usually a good writing time for me. The taxes are done. I’m gearing up for Christmas so I usually have that impetus to get things done before December hits. I can take that 30 days to focus and write.

Many years I wrote during November and I didn’t register for NaNoWriMo. I got into the spirit of the thing. Until recent years where I’m much more likely to register. I don’t always make the goal. A couple years I baulked, usually do to workload in the day job. I have partial drafts of books. One is a contemporary romance– at least so far. I’m tempted to put in a ghost or a vampire, but basically it’s a truckie story. The other partial I have is the sequel to The Sorcerer’s Spell, called The Changling Curse. I haven’t got back to it to finish it. There are a number of reasons for that. That I already have too many draft novels that need to be crafted, revised and polished is the main one.

So this year, I signed up for the NaNoWriMo thing. I hadn’t done any planning for the novel. November just sneaks up on me. Anyway I had this idea in my head for a year or two that I wanted to write another Love and Pirates story, this time about Opeia Gayens, the mother and head of AllEarth Corp.

I started drafting. I got 5000 words down but then I had to stop. I had to work on another novel, getting it ready for beta readers. I thought I’d just come back to the NaNoWriMo project. I ended up nearly losing two weeks but I did go back.

It’s quite hard to write a story without enough ideas. Sometimes they just come to me. So I started drafting and I was thinking this is a bit lame, I’m not sure where I’m going with this. I had that break from it (nearly two weeks) and reviewed the 5000 words I’d written to get me back into the story and went to bed. But obviously my subconscious was worried about the story because I had this amazing, comical scene unfold in the early hours of the next morning. I got up really revved, thinking this is it. And the resolution of this scene would skate me near to the end of the story. I was back on board. I had to write a lot to catch up, because I was way behind. But I didn’t let that worry me. I was on a roll.

This is the part that I love. Being so revved so in the story. I call it the zen zone where the creativity is sparking in the brain and the story cascades like it’s being downloaded. I walk around in a daze, send notes to myself as little ideas come to me. The ideas are flowing and writing 5000 words over the course of the day seems natural and easy. This is the buzz I live for. This is the orgasmic flow that is, lets face it, better than sex.

Often after experiencing the zen zone, I think I’ll never get it back. These days I know I can. Usually I get into the zen zone on  a writer’s retreat. This time I managed it at home, between uni, grandkids and other stuff. I caught up. I wrote 50,000 words! A complete story. I’ve even tinkered with some of those words. It’s a short novel, but longer than Rayessa and the Space Pirates and Rae and Essa’s Space Adventures.

Now the first cut is done, the harder work begins. Crafting the story I wrote. Opi Battles the Space Pirates is a SF romance. The most difficult part of a romance for me is writing the characters to sufficient depth. I’m queen of plot in comparison. My books tend to be plot heavy. The challenge now is to find out who Opi is and craft her better than she is now. I’d like to do that now rather than later…just in case it goes in the too hard basket.

NaNoWriMo for me then is not so much about how much I write, although I do find having a goal makes me sit at the computer longer than I really want to. I am an obsessive, goal oriented over achieving ADHD woman so that probably makes sense that I respond to a word count goal. But more than that it’s about writing, getting into the zone, giving myself permission to write and ignoring the housework and the DVD watching etc. Over 30 days you can achieve a lot. NaNoWriMo just reminds me of that.

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.


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.



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.