Adventure into Romance with Shelley Munro
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Saturday, June 19th, 2021
Cape Reinga, NZ – The Northernmost Point

Shelley at Cape Reinga

Last weekend, Mr. Munro and I visited Cape Reinga, a place I’d never gone to before. Cape Reinga is at the northern end of the North Island of New Zealand, and from here it’s possible to see where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean collide with currents going in different directions.

I’ve mentioned Cape Reinga in an earlier post, and it has cultural significance for the Māori people.

Lighthouse at Cape Reinga

Sign Post at Cape Reinga

Cape Reinga

The drive up to the cape offers some lovely views, but the road is twisty with countless turns and many one-lane bridges. The nearest town is Kaitaia, which is more than 100 kilometers south. Since it’s winter down this end of the world, everything was very lush and green. I enjoyed my visit to the far North very much, and I now have a bubbling book plot–an addition to my Dragon Investigator series featuring taniwha shifters. Watch this space!

Sunday, June 13th, 2021
Southernmost Spot in the South Island, NZ

The southernmost town in the South Island of New Zealand is Bluff. Bluff is also the place to catch a ferry to Stewart Island.

Shelley at Bluff

Sign Closeup

Before COVID struck, I’d hadn’t had a chance to visit this far south. Since we couldn’t travel overseas, we decided to explore some of the parts of New Zealand we hadn’t had time to visit. Here is a photo of me (Shelley Munro) in Bluff, plus a close-up of the sign.

Saturday, June 5th, 2021
Fantastic Tools for Writers

These days there are many tools available to help in the writing of a book. Here are a few that I use and recommend. Some of the tools overlap, and I don’t always use everything in the intended way. I adapt my usage to suit my needs and writing habits.

1. 4 The Words https://4thewords.com/

I’ve posted about 4 The Words before since I use this to write my first drafts. This is an incredible community where the writing is gamified. You set goals and battle monsters while traveling through different territories. Discovering this online writing game has genuinely helped me to get down my word total every day.

2. One Stop For Writers https://onestopforwriters.com/

This is another tool I’ve mentioned before. From the thesauruses to the plotting and planning tools, there is plenty to help a writer structure, plan worlds and characters, keep timelines and map their stories.

3. Plottr https://plottr.com/

While I’m not a plotter or an outliner, I still need to have a basic framework before I start writing a new story. I use Plottr to do this and keep track of my characters and story bible. Check out their free trial if you’re a serious plotter because this is a fantastic tool.

4. Fictionary https://fictionary.co/

I’ve recently started using this editing software to analyze my scenes and try to knock my work into better shape before sending it off to my editor. Check out the Fictionary channel on Youtube as well. They have heaps of helpful advice when it comes to editing your work.

5. ProWriting Aid https://prowritingaid.com/

I use this grammar and style check during my editing stage and find it very useful. While I don’t always follow the suggestions, this helps me battle wordiness and other bad habits that can creep into my writing.

6. Grammarly http://www.grammarly.com/

Another grammar checker that I use in conjunction with ProWriting Aid. It checks grammar and style, and this app helps me with my comma problem. I have improved in this area tenfold!

While I use other tools, these are the ones I use regularly and, as such, recommend. Please note that they are all paid tools, but each has a free trial for the user to figure out if this product works for them. Do check them out!

Tuesday, June 1st, 2021
Antarctic Icebergs

Icebergs are chunks of ice that have calved off glaciers and ice shelves. They vary in size from small to large enough to sink a ship. The Titanic, for example.

New icebergs are white while the older ones are blue or sometimes green. An iceberg comprises fresh snow and compressed ice. The light hits the iceberg particles and bubbles and is bent and scattered. If there are lots of bubbles, all the light scatters before it gets absorbed. If there are no or few bubbles, the red light gets absorbed and the blue light escapes the iceberg, making us see a blue iceberg.

During our time in Antarctica, we saw lots of icebergs, some of which dwarfed our ship. We zipped around some of the icebergs in zodiacs to get up-close views of them. The blue ones were my favorites.

Our Ship and Iceberg

Le Soleal, our ship, is dwarfed by this beautiful iceberg, and they can be much bigger!

Blue Iceberg

A beautiful blue iceberg.

Zodiac and Iceberg

We did a zodiac trip around the icebergs and checked out the wildlife and birds that lazed on the different icebergs.

Blue Iceberg

Another blue iceberg.

Lazing Seal

Some of the local fauna lazing on one of the smaller icebergs.

Champagne on the Zodiacs

We finished our zodiac tour around the icebergs with a glass of French champagne. The perfect end!

Sunday, May 23rd, 2021
A New Cover For Middlemarch Shifters, My Plan B

Last month, I decided it was time for a new cover for MY PLAN B, book 11 in the Middlemarch Shifters series. This book features an older hero and heroine, and I’m thrilled with the end result.

My Plan B by Shelley Munro

Here is a short excerpt from the book:

“I’ll follow her,” Jacey volunteered. “You said that the logical place for her to stay is in the holiday cottages. Why don’t you two go back to the vehicle and bring my clothes?”

Leo gave a decisive nod. “If she glimpses you, she’s more likely to assume she saw a dog. If she sees me, Saber and the Feline council will get pissed because a sighting might spark rumors of black cats again.”

“You’ll pick me up near the holiday cottages?”

“Yes,” Leo confirmed.

“See you there? Henry, you’re taking Geoffrey?”

“Yeah. I’ll whistle for him once you’re closer to her.”

“Plan,” Jacey said, and seconds later, he sneaked from behind the schist in his wolf form, every sense focused on the orange-blossom woman. Behind him, Henry summoned Geoffrey, had a whispered exchange with Leo before the pair, too, shifted to animal.

Jacey used the available cover, a few longer clumps of grass and smaller schist rocks, to creep closer to the woman. The scent wafting from her filled his senses, filled his thoughts with unexpected ideas of seduction. He wanted a clearer view of her face.

She scanned the panoramic view in front of her, her gaze flitting over him. Jacey dropped and froze in position, praying she hadn’t glimpsed the paleness of his belly and chest. As a youngster, his fur had been a glossy black. These days, a fair amount of white decorated his belly and chest. In his human form, his hair and stubble when he didn’t shave was silver.

His heart pounded, a fraction faster than normal, and he frowned as he absorbed the information. Strange. Something in this human woman pulled at his senses and drew him. Part of the reason he’d volunteered for this job. Curiosity and the urge to regain his balance.

The woman stood and shoved the white pad—a plastic bag—into a pocket. Her coat and winter gear still hid her identity and shape, giving him peekaboo glances of her profile and flashes of blonde hair, but her scent…
Jacey breathed deeply, his wolf and his human part wallowing in orange blossom. Now that less distance separated them, there was an underlying earthiness to her aroma. A familiar wolfish scent. No. That made little sense. Another wolf would have scented them, become aware and likely bristled at their intrusion into her solitary state.
No, the woman was human.
This imaginary mystery scent was a puzzle to fill his mind with business. He liked puzzles.

She walked with her shoulders hunched, her head bowed. She sniffed and dragged a hankie from her pocket.

He couldn’t see what she was doing, but seconds later, she thrust the hankie back into her pocket and hurried along a narrow path that wound through a stand of native bush. Or at least, Henry had told him the trees were native to New Zealand. Their pungent scent made him want to sneeze.

The path turned, and he glimpsed her face as he followed. She swiped the back of her hand over her eyes with an impatient sigh, knuckling away moisture.

The woman was crying. Ah. That accounted for her absently snapping photos. Her mind lay elsewhere, treading in misery.

Sympathy engulfed Jacey. Empathy. He’d wanted to cry for Henry’s loss, for his son’s obvious pain. Without a second thought, he let out a doglike whine.

The woman’s head snapped up, her shoulders tense, even beneath the heavy jacket. She whirled around, and he glimpsed her blotchy face. The woman was older than his first guess, possibly ten or fifteen years younger than him. Blue eyes like his. Blue eyes swamped with unhappiness.

He whined again, trying to making himself smaller and more doglike. A handy skill. He wagged his tail, wriggled his body. Without taking his gaze off her, he inched closer and tried not to scare her.

“Hey, boy.” Her soft voice caressed, even though it held a layer of tears. “Do you belong to the farm or are you lost too?”

Read the blurb and another excerpt. Check out Plan B!

Wednesday, May 19th, 2021
A Visit to Grytviken, South Georgia

The island of South Georgia was first discovered in 1675. It was named Roche after Anthony de la Roché, the ship’s commander who found the island. In 1775 Captain Cook made the first landing, renamed the island after King George III, and it subsequently became a British territory.

The first whaling station was founded in Grytviken in 1904 by Norwegian Carl Anton Larsen. Grytviken was one of seven whaling stations on the island and the largest. During the summer months, from October to March, up to 300 men worked at the station.

By 1960 whalers had depleted the area of whales, and the station became unviable. Grytviken closed in 1964. Much of the equipment and several ships still lie where they were left.

These days, Grytviken is a popular stop for cruise ships. There is a museum, a shop, and a post office, and the cemetery here is the last resting place of the famous explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton.

Rusted ships at Grytviken

Old Rusted Ships.

Equipment for the Processing of Whale Blubber

Old Storage Tanks

Some of the Local Residents

View of Settlement

View of Grytviken Settlement and the Locals

A view looking back toward Grytviken with some of the locals.

Shackleton's Grave

Frank Wild

Sir Ernest Shackleton and Frank Wild, his friend, are both buried in the Grytviken cemetery.

Shop and Post Office

The shop and post office do a brisk trade with the tourists.

The Church

The church.

Shelley

A pic of me exploring the area beyond Grytviken. As you can see it’s very barren and craggy. I loved our visit to Grytviken, and it turned out to be an inspiring one, because I used the settlement as the setting for my recent release. While it’s difficult to travel to South Georgia, try an armchair visit and check out Snow Moon Dragon today!

Saturday, May 8th, 2021
A New Book in the Dragon Investigators Series

Yay! At long last, I have a new addition to my Dragon Investigators series: Snow Moon Dragon. My trip to visit Antarctica and the island of South Georgia gave me the inspiration for this story, but as always there is also a touch of my home country New Zealand.

Here is the cover, designed by the wonderful Kim Killion at Killion Publishing.

Snow Moon Dragon

The blurb:

Love is a curse but also a blessing…

Dragon shifter Nyree Wirihana escapes an abusive relationship and travels to the far-flung island of South Georgia for a fresh start. No more dating for her. She’s finished with men. Instead, she’s content to work and explore the island while photographing the cute penguins and seals.

Dragon shifter Tāwera suffers from a curse, and for hundreds of years, he has lain in a rock pool with no hope of escape or revenge on the brother who turned him to stone.

A chance encounter changes everything, and suddenly Nyree is experiencing unique problems. Dragon problems. Romantic problems. Her peaceful man-free life becomes complicated, then danger strolls into her sanctuary and the situation becomes so much worse.

You’ll enjoy this dragon romance because it contains a sexy tattooed warrior from the past plus a strong heroine who has regained her mojo and isn’t afraid to kick dragon butt and face threats head-on. Sit back and enjoy the sensual sparks.

Snow Moon Dragon is available for pre-order from your favorite online store, and releases on 18 May 2021.

Saturday, May 1st, 2021
Meet the King Penguin: Ten Facts About the King Penguin

One of the things I was most looking forward to seeing when we visited the Antarctica region was the penguins. Penguins are fascinating birds, and I never tired of seeing them or watching their antics.

A king Penguin Colony

Facts about King Penguins

1. They’re the second-largest species of penguin.

Close Up of a King Penguin

2. They weigh up to 15kg and grow to around 3.1 feet in height.

3. It’s estimated there are around 2 million breeding pairs, but some say there are far more than this.

King Penguins on the Beach

4. The largest colony is found on the island of South Georgia, although they also live in Antarctica and on the south coast of Argentina.

5. King penguins eat fish and squid.

6. Penguins have two chicks every three years, and their varied breeding season means that there are always a few chicks within a colony.

A King Penguin Chick

7. The penguin chicks have wooly brown coats before they molt and the adult feathers grow. Early explorers thought they were a different species of penguin.

King Penguin chicks and adults in the background

8. King penguins don’t make nests but carry their eggs around in a brood patch.

9. King penguins will change partners for each breeding season.

10. Leopard seals hunt the adult penguins while the skua bird attacks both the eggs and chicks.

Source: Cool Antarctica

King Penguins on South Georgia

Some of the many King penguins on one of South Georgia’s beaches.

Snow Moon Dragon, book 4 in the Dragon Investigators series, is coming out soon. Snow Moon Dragon is set on South Georgia and King penguins are mentioned a time or two.

Saturday, April 24th, 2021
A Visit to South Georgia Island

South Georgia is a small island in the southern Atlantic Ocean. It’s a British territory, and the island’s nearest neighbors are Antarctica and the Falkland Islands.

Until I visited the region in early 2020, I’d never even heard of South Georgia. Now I know what I missed out on! South Georgia is a nature lover’s paradise and will be forever linked with Sir Ernest Shackleton, the great explorer since Grytviken is his final resting place.

It’s not an easy place to reach, and we visited as part of our journey to Antarctica. My upcoming release, SNOW MOON DRAGON, is set mainly in South Georgia.

Our first stop was Fortuna Bay. We went ashore via zodiacs and watched some of the thousands of residents. The air is so crisp and clean, although you do get a whiff of penguin poo. It’s quite a unique scent, but I didn’t mind the aroma. I was too busy checking out the local characters.

Fortuna Bay, South Georgia

This is the view of the bay from our ship, Le Soleal, which is part of the Ponant fleet.

Seal pups hanging out on beach

We saw lots of Antarctic Fur seal pups. They hang around on the beach and in the shallows, playing together and waiting for Mum to come home. They’re cute and very curious. It was very hard not to get too close since they seemed to have no fear of the two-legged creatures wearing bright orange coats.

King Penguins

We visited Fortuna Bay to see the King penguins and see them we did. They are magnificent birds. On land, they can be clumsy, but they are graceful blurs of speed in the water. Very difficult to get a photo of a speeding penguin!

King Penguin

A close-up of one of the handsome penguins. They are striking with their yellow coloring.

Penguins and glacier

The scenery is gorgeous, despite the lack of trees. Grasses and lichen stud the lower slopes while craggy peaks, some of them covered in snow even during the summer, tower above. In the distance is the König Glacier.

König Glacier

A close-up of the glacier at Fortuna Bay.

King Penguin colony

This is a photo of the King penguin colony at Fortuna Bay. It’s said there are over 7000 pairs that make this area their home.

King Penguins

Several of the King penguins strutting their stuff with our ship in the background. Access to the area is limited to one ship and a maximum of one hundred people ashore at the time. We took care to clean our boots and make sure our clothing and footwear were free of foreign seeds and anything that might harm the pristine environment.

Boot Cleaning

Boot cleaning in action. This also helped limit the “penguin pong,” but after a day ashore, we’d all leave our boots outside our doors. The passages continued to hold the penguin fragrance!

Snow Moon Dragon will release on 18 May 2021.

Sunday, April 18th, 2021
The Mysteries of Vegemite

Vegemite

I was doing a final read-through for Snow Moon Dragon, my next release, and I realized I had my characters eating toast and vegemite for breakfast. In fact, quite a few of my characters like vegemite.

Here is the excerpt:

Aware of Nyree’s impatience, he drank his coffee and ate the last mouthful of toast covered with something black called vegemite. It was salty and bore an interesting flavor, although he’d liked the peanut butter better. He stood. “Should I do the dishes?”

I grew up with Vegemite as a kid, as did many other children from New Zealand and Australia. I still eat vegemite on my toast.

So what exactly is vegemite?

Vegemite is a dark spread (blackish-brown in color) made from yeast extract leftover from beer production. It’s flavored with spices and vegetables and was developed in Melbourne, Australia, in 1922 by a chemist called Dr. Cyril Callister. Vegemite is rich in niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, and folate. It doesn’t contain sugar but does contain salt and gluten.

Most Australians and New Zealanders use vegemite as a breakfast spread. One of my favorite edible delights is toast with vegemite and avocado. Yum!

As children, my mother used to make us Mousetraps for an after-school snack. This consists of slices of bread, spread with vegemite and covered with grated cheese. These are then put under the grill and toasted until the cheese melts. Also delicious!

Vegemite is an acquired taste. It’s salty, and it’s best to add it sparingly to toast rather than liberally, something some of my American friends have learned the hard way. * grin*

If you’re interested in trying vegemite, you can order it from Amazon.

Spreading the iconic Australian spread vegemite on to a slice of fresh bread.

Shelley’s note: This is way too much vegemite for my liking. I prefer about half this amount.