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Archive for July, 2010

The Big Red was a Winner

Camera Critters

Phar Lap

This is the skeleton of the champion racehorse, Phar Lap. Phar Lap, which is Thai for lightning in the sky, was a chestnut. He was born near Timaru, New Zealand in 1926 and died in Menlo Park, California in 1932 after eating poisoned grass. He was poisoned on purpose, and rumor states the mob was responsible, carrying out the poisoning to protect their financial interests. Shortly before his death, he won the world’s richest race, the Agua Caliente Handicap in California. He did most of his racing in Australia and loved to run at the front of the field. Nicknamed Big Red, he won 36 of his last 41 races.

Phar Lap’s skeleton is in the Te Papa Museum in Wellington, New Zealand.
His heart is in a bottle in Canberra, Australia.
His hide is in the Museum of Victoria, Australia.

Currently, his skeleton is in Melbourne, Australia (on loan) to celebrate the running of the 150th Melbourne cup, a race that Phar Lap won in 1930.

To visit more animal photos go to Camera Critters.

The Food Show Experience

Thursday Thirteen

I’m off to The Food Show tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it very much because food is one of my favorite things.

Thirteen Things About The Food Show

1. See, Taste, Buy: The Food Show is a bit like Christmas, a birthday and a giant dinner party rolled into one.

2. I get to watch some of the superstar chefs doing cooking demonstrations, including Josh Emett who runs Gordon Ramsey’s restaurants worldwide, Ray McVinnie who is a MasterChef judge down this end of the world, and others.

3. I have a chance to enter a contest to win an Electrolux fridge full of goodies to eat.

4. I’ll check out the Manuka Eggs, which are cold-smoked eggs unfused with a subtle, smoky flavor.

5. I’ll probably have a coffee, maybe one with the Heilala Vanilla syrup.

6. I’ll haunt the stall with artisan bread. They have new spicy carrot cake. Yum!

7. I might have a glass of wine. Heck, who am I kidding? I’ll have a glass of wine. Red, I think, so I can test the claim about the new wine aerator making red wine taste better.

8. I won’t be able to resist the fudge stall. Plain chocolate or flavored? Decisions. Decisions.

9. The Spice n Easy stall sounds interesting – packs of spices packed ready to use for specific dishes.

10. I won’t sample the mussels at the Omega Sea Food Stall, (Yuck!) but I might be tempted by a clam.

11. I’ll check out the Pomegranate juice stall. This is supposedly a wonderfruit used to lower blood pressure, fight stomach bugs and for its anti-ageing properties.

12. The Tasty Pot stall sounds enticing – ready made meals packed full of vegetables, whole grains, fresh herbs and spices and served in a tasty sauce. Hmmmm, healthy fast food…

13. I’ll go early to avoid the crowds and the people who use their kid’s pushchairs like dodgem cars. They run over your toes and don’t even say sorry. I don’t really like crowds.

Do any of these sound good to you? How do you like crowds?

No Problem, Man! by Lisabet Sarai.

I’m thrilled to welcome author, Lisabet Sarai as my special guest today. She’s discussing two of my favorite topics–travel and paranormal romance. I’m always ready to travel, be it virtual or the real thing. Add a little of the woo-woo factor and I’m hooked. So sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds of exotic Jamaica with Lisabet.

I want to thank Shelley for having me as her guest today. When I asked her what sort of topics she preferred for her blog, she suggested I browse through previous entries. One thing became immediately clear―she’s as much of a travel fanatic as I am! So I thought that I’d talk a bit about Jamaica, which just happens to be the setting of my upcoming release Fire in the Blood.

As I’ve shared in other blog posts, my husband seduced me in a Burmese restaurant with tales of his own international adventures. Jamaica was the first foreign destination we visited together. This was almost thirty years ago and I haven’t had the chance to go back, so readers should recognize that my impressions are a bit dated. Nevertheless, I suspect (from my research and reading) that the country has not changed that much, especially not physically.

We got a cheap deal on a package―round-trip airfare and a week’s hotel in Montego Bay. Actually, the resort where we were booked was a good ten miles outside the city. It had a lovely beach but was quite isolated from Jamaican culture. Fortunately, the tour was cheap enough that we felt comfortable using the hotel as a base of operations and making overnight excursions to locations elsewhere on the island. We also took in some tourist activities around Montego Bay. I recall a trail ride into the mountains above Montego Bay (brilliant blue sky, blazing sun, the smells of horse and growing things). I vividly remember a night-time swamp cruise that concluded with a party on an island―reggae music, dancing and lots of Red Stripe beer!

We took a bus eastward to Ocho Rios, famous for its waterfall. Jamaica Ochos Rios That side trip also included a tour of an old plantation, buried in the forest. I remember the sense of the past hovering over those quiet ruins. The country has a bloody history. Britain, Spain and occasionally France all had commercial interests in the island, with its rich soil and strategic location. Slaves labored to produce sugar, coffee and other valuable commodities. Frequent revolts led to draconian responses from the Jamaicans’ colonial masters. Fugitive slaves called Maroons waged guerrilla warfare from the inaccessible, jungle-clad heights.

Later in the week, we traveled to Negril, the westernmost point on the island, where sheer cliffs of lava rock plunge into the turquoise sea. These days Negril has been developed into a major tourist destination, with five star resorts and so on. At that time, it was quite remote, with a couple of thatched roof bars looking out over the ocean and a few simple cottages. After more than thirty years of travel, to every continent except Australia, I still recall the scenery and atmosphere at Negril as extraordinary.

In addition to our sightseeing, we also met some local people: an American woman (whom I’ll call Jill) who was making her living as a performer (dancing with a live boa constrictor!), her Jamaican boyfriend and their social circle. We had the chance to hang out with Jill and her guy in their simple two room house made of concrete blocks, near the railroad tracks in Montego Bay. They didn’t have much, but their whole attitude was laid back. There was always music playing. There was always the scent of ganja in the air. No one seemed to worry about the future. “No problem, man,” was the response to every concern.

Fire in the BloodI started writing Fire in the Blood in response to a call for Halloween vampire stories. I wanted to create something really different. Almost all my stories are set in specific locales―atmosphere plays a big role in setting the scene for me. I thought back to our long ago trip, the sparkling sun of Jamaica and its dark history, and decided that a Jamaican vampire might be just the thing. When the publisher read the resulting tale, they asked me to expand it into a stand-alone book, which will be released on August 16th. The book is all fiction, of course, but it incorporates snippets of my own experience: a trail ride into the mountains, a ruined plantation, a naked midnight swim in the volcanic grottoes of Negril. I like to believe these contributions make the book more vivid. I hope that my readers will agree.

Here’s the blurb for Fire in the Blood
M/M/F vampire erotic romance from Total-E-Bound.

Maddy and Troy hope that a carefree vacation in tropical Jamaica will re-ignite the passion in their five year relationship. On a scenic mountain trail ride, Maddy’s horse bolts and carries her deep into the jungle. Injured and lost, she is saved by a seductive giant of a man whose mere presence kindles unbearable lust. By the time she understands his dark nature, it is far too late for her to escape.

Bitter and alone, Etienne de Rémorcy haunts the forest around the ruined plantation of Fin d’Espoir. He has sworn to never again taste taste human blood, but when slender, raven-haired Madeleine begs him to take her, he cannot resist.

Troy is hugely relieved when Maddy makes her way back to their hotel after her ordeal in the mountains. But he finds her greatly changed―fiercely passionate in bed, restless and disturbed at other times. The tall, elegant stranger he meets on the beach holds the key to her transformation―and soon has seduced Troy as well. Even Etienne’s most potent magic can’t extinguish the fire in Troy’s and Madeleine’s blood.

You can read an excerpt here.

Fire in the Blood goes on sale Aug 16 at Total-E-Bound


LISABET SARAI has published six novels, two short story collections and dozens of individual tales. She also edits the single-author charity series “Coming Together Presents” and reviews erotica for Erotica Readers and Writers Association and Erotica Revealed. Visit Lisabet online at Lisabet’s Fantasy
Factory and Beyond Romance.

Do you have any questions for Lisabet? Have you visited Jamaica before? Do you like vampires?

Hey! Out of My Face!

Camera Critters

This is another photo taken at the Royal Sydney Easter Show. I made a beeline for the alpacas, because I think they’re so cute. The sentiment wasn’t returned. This one didn’t want me anywhere near him.


To visit more animal photos go to Camera Critters

A Sea of Suspicion and Marine Biology with Toni Anderson.

My special guest today is Toni Anderson, a marine biologist turned writer. After my recent cruise, I’m fascinated with the sea, and I begged Toni to tell us a little about marine biology as well as her recent release, A Sea of Suspicion.

Thanks for having me on your blog, Shelley. Shelley wanted to hear a little about my previous life as a Marine Biologist and how it connects to my writing, so here we go…

I was born and raised in the old-fashioned, land-locked, rural English county called Shropshire. Every summer my family would take off in their old Ford Anglia (6 of us in all) and we’d go camping at Black Rock Sands, Porthmadog, North Wales. My dad helped us to trawl through the rock-pools at the base of the cliffs and spawned (pun intended) a lifelong love of the ocean and its elusive inhabitants. Career choice seemed like a no-brainer when I spotted ‘MARINE BIOLOGY’ in the UCCA handbook. I headed off to the University of Liverpool who had a field station on the Isle of Man (now sadly closed :-( ) where me and my Honours class spent our final year. It sounds kind of idyllic? A whole year on an island studying marine life with like-minded people? It sounds romantic and idealistic.

It wasn’t.

The Isle of Man is smack-bang in the middle of the Irish Sea and is one of the windiest places on Earth. I spent most of the time in fleece, Gortex and welly boots, my hair frizzed within an inch of a 1970’s afro. It wasn’t romantic. It was cold, wet and claustrophobic. Thirty students living in one another’s pockets for nine months made it an oddly lonely experience as we all worked hard to get our degree. My then boyfriend couldn’t label his limpets for his Honour’s Project so I foolishly said I’d do it for him (having small nimble fingers), which meant endless 5:00 a.m. starts to catch the low tide (I am so not a morning person). My own Honor’s Project died over Christmas which cut the experiment a little shorter than anticipated.

Sea of SuspicionIt should have put me off science for life, but I guess I’m contrary because I was completely hooked on that type of smelly, slimy, destined-for-failure research. I headed off to the University of St Andrews, Scotland, and began one of the most fun and emotionally rewarding periods of my life. I spent 4 fantastic years in the Gatty Marine Laboratory, working my proverbial backside off, partying when time and money allowed, before graduating with a Ph.D. at the age of 25.

Marine Biology requires a practical disposition where you aren’t afraid of blood, guts, stinky smells (usually seaweed) or big men in woolly jumpers. Things wriggle, jump and escape (even when dead). Stuff gets spilled. Illegal aliens come into the lab using false credentials and spread seriously nasty chemicals around like talcum powder. Personalities clash and explode, people use one another, cheat, bitch, moan, despair, comfort, love. People come from all over the world to collide in a melting pot of human drama. It’s awesome!

I loved research. LOVED it :-) . I went on to the Institute of Aquaculture, Stirling, where I had the best boss ever, and then onto Canada. It allowed me to meet the most wonderful people while chasing fish around the world. But when I had kids I realized I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t put everything I needed to put into research and have enough left over for babies. Science isn’t a nine-to-five sort of career. So I pursued another dream of mine, to write, and I knew I had to set a romantic murder mystery in the Gatty Marine Lab.

That story, SEA OF SUSPICION, was just published by Carina Press :-D


Marine biologist Susie Cooper traded her life in America for a dream job on the rugged Scottish coast. Now all she lacks is the right man to start a family with. After their first meeting, she knows sexy Detective Inspector Nick Archer isn’t what she’s looking for. He’s the type of guy whose idea of commitment is staying the whole night.

Nick has returned to St. Andrews for one reason only—to fulfill his vow to find his wife’s killer. Relentless in his twelve-year quest for justice, he has no problem using Susie to get close to his primary suspect: her boss. But the passion between them smolders, and as it ignites, Nick finds himself torn between his past and his present—with Susie.

When one of her boss’s students is murdered, Nick’s investigation draws Susie into a web of madness and betrayal. They will have to learn to trust each other if they’re going to catch a killer…and come out of this alive.

Read an excerpt of Sea of Suspicion here

Available from Carina Press and all other ebook stockists.

Thanks so much for having me, Shelley—any questions welcome :-) . By the way, SEA OF SUSPICION has its own Facebook page and I’ll be running another contest there in the next week or so. For travel adventures check out my blog

CONTEST: Either ask Toni a question about her book, writing or marine biology or tell us about your favorite beach destination and you’ll go into a draw to win a download of Sea of Suspicion. We’ll draw the winner tomorrow.

Feelin’ Blue

Thursday Thirteen

Blue is my favorite color, and since I returned our foster dog to the SPCA today, I’m definitely feeling blue. I figured I’d go entirely blue for this week’s Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Blue Things

1. Blue Suede Shoes – a rock ‘n roll number first recorded by Carl Perkins in 1955.

2. Blue whales – the largest known animal.

3. Sky – there’s nothing prettier than a clear blue sky on a summer’s day.

4. Sapphires – my favorite gemstone.

5. Blue moon – when two full moons fall during the same calender month, it’s called a blue moon, hence the saying, once in a blue moon.

6. You can have a blue – in this case it’s an Australian expression that means you have a fight or disagreement.

7. Smurfs – are funny little blue creatures who have a whole franchisee going on.

8. Blue jeans – my favorite apparel.

9. Ocean – you can go sailing on the deep blue sea.

10. The Na’vi in the movie Avatar are a pretty blue.

11. Blue mood – when you’re feeling a little depressed.

12. Blue man group – a theatrical group that performs music and comedy.

13. Blue Danube waltz – a romantic waltz by Johann Strauss.

Do you like blue? Do you have any blue things to add to my list?

The Hohokam Indians and CAPTIVE SPIRIT with Liz Fichera

My guest today is fellow Carina Press author Liz Fichera. She’s here to talk about her wonderful historical romance, Captive Spirit and the inspiration behind her story. Don’t forget to check out her trailer and comment to enter the draw to win a copy of Captive Spirit!

Inspiration can come from the strangest places.

I forget where I was when I learned about the Hohokam Indians but I most definitely remembered the history behind Phoenix’s original inhabitants. It stuck in my brain like a seed. And it’s also what inspired me to write my historical romance novel, CAPTIVE SPIRIT.

Captive SpiritYou see, around 300 BC, people from the ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures traveled north to settle in the desert valleys formed by the slow moving Gila and Salt Rivers in what is now known as Arizona in the American Southwest. They existed peacefully as farmers and master canal builders until around 1500 AD when their population vanished for reasons unknown. The Pima Indians called these people Hohokam, “Those Who Have Gone.”

Now, that just begs for a story.

Why would a thriving population in the rugged Sonoran Desert—with upwards of around 50,000 people at its peak—all of a sudden vanish into thin air? Why would people abandon masterfully built canals, some reaching 10 miles long and still in existence today, and plentiful crops like cotton, corn, beans, and squash? The Hohokam Indians abandoned their pithouses, their ball courts, their ceremonial burial grounds, their whole lives. Why?

There are some cool photos in the CAPTIVE SPIRIT book trailer on my web site, particularly of ancient petroglyphs, some of which were taken minutes from my home in Phoenix. Maybe the Hohokam were trying to leave us a message? It still intrigues me that they once existed in the spot where my neighborhood now sits.

Of course, there are all sorts of theories why the Hohokam Indians vanished—famine, war, internal strife, drought, disease, floods, climatic changes, migration with other tribes—but no one can say with certainty what happened. One thing is certain: The mystery continues, teasing storytellers like me.

CAPTIVE SPIRIT contains all of the things I love to write about—Native American characters, legends, epic themes, suspense and, of course, a love story. Here’s a short tease:

Sonoran Desert. Dawn of the sixteenth century.

Aiyana isn’t like the other girls of the White Ant Clan. Instead of keeping house, she longs to compete on the Ball Court with her best friend Honovi and the other boys. Instead of marriage, she daydreams of traveling beyond the mountains that surround her small village. Only Honovi knows and shares her forbidden wish, though Aiyana doesn’t realize her friend has a secret wish of his own…

When Aiyana’s father arranges her marriage to a man she hardly knows, she takes the advice of a tribal elder: Run! In fleeing, she falls into the hands of Spanish raiders and finds herself being taken over the mountains against her will. Now Aiyana’s on a quest to return to the very place she once dreamed of escaping. And she’ll do whatever it takes to survive and find her way back to the people she loves.

* To read the first chapter of CAPTIVE SPIRIT, click here.
* To see more photos of the Sonoran Desert and Hohokam petroglyphs, check out the CAPTIVE SPIRIT book trailer and don’t forget to crank the music.

About Liz:

Liz Fichera is an author from the American Southwest by way of Chicago. She likes to write stories about ordinary people who do extraordinary things, oftentimes against the backdrop of Native American legends. When she’s not plotting her next novel, you can find her on Facebook or her blog, discussing writing, books, hunks du jour, LOST reruns or the best brands of chocolate. Her debut historical romance novel CAPTIVE SPIRIT is available from Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and wherever digital books are sold. Please visit her web site because it can get real lonely in the desert:

Anyone who leaves a comment or asks a question today will be entered to win one free digital copy of CAPTIVE SPIRIT. The winner will be announced tomorrow.

I Have A Mushroom Farm.

We went to the Farmers’ market last week. We haven’t visited for a while and there were some new stallholders plying their trade. One of them was selling fresh mushrooms and small mushroom farms in buckets. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at growing mushrooms so I purchased one straight away.

Mushroom Farm

This is my mushroom farm on the day I purchased it.

We keep the farm in the lounge because it’s the warmest room in the house. It only needs a misting of water every two to three days and needs to be kept out of draughts and excessive light.


Here’s one of the mushrooms. Mr. Munro said I needed the kiwifruit for a size comparison. We’ve eaten about three of our mushrooms so far, and they were delicious.

The bucket is meant to produce mushrooms for 6 – 8 weeks under ideal conditions. It’s been very cold here but there are actually some tiny pinhead mushrooms appearing. At one stage we thought we were only going to end up with five mushrooms.

Do you like mushrooms?


Camera Critters

There’s a lot of waiting around at a show. Waiting for the judges to come by…waiting for dinner…waiting…


This photo was taken at the 2010 Sydney Royal Easter Show. To visit more animal photos please go to Camera Critters.

Consent to the Cowboy with Abby Wood

My special guest today is fellow Carina Press author, Abby Wood. Abby is here to tell us about her recent release, Consent to the Cowboy. This is another book I’m looking forward to reading and one that is locked and loaded on my Palm reader. I’m thrilled to have Abby visit today, especially since she’s talking about some of my favorite things–rodeo and country fairs.

Thank you for having me here today, Shelley. It’s a pretty exciting time around my house lately. Not only has Consent to the Cowboy been released at Carina Press, but it’s also county fair time in my part of the country. To celebrate, I’d love to give away a copy of my book to one lucky person who leaves a comment today.

For me, county fair means rodeo time! These are small time rodeos where town favorites compete for the championship. Year after year, we attend and cheer on our favorite rider. From barrel racing, calf ropin’, bull ridin’, and team ropin’, every highlight of the rodeo draws a big crowd. Heck, if two hundred people show up, that means almost the whole town attended. We start’em young too. Our four year olds are sat atop the back of a calf and let loose within the ring. We grease up pigs and encourage our children to go catch their dinner.

Consent to the CowboySpirits run high, beer flows fast, and words take on more meaning. It is the one chance to meet with your neighbor who lives five miles away and get caught up on how their crops are growing, how many heads of cattle they are planning to run through the winter, and to catch up on the local gossip.

Behind the fencing, personal bets are taking place. Although, that’s not what we call it…it’s bartering. I’ll give you one goose for three laying hens if O’Reilly wins the next round! We always come home with new animals. Gotta watch out for some of them seasoned farmers though, they’ll hoist a mean rooster off on the innocent adults who have just begun their journey into country livin’.

The rodeo also means a stressful time for the women. We find out who is the best cook, the best pie baker, and who canned the most over the summer. We brag about how many nights we stayed up listening to the lids popping on the dill pickles sitting out on the counter, and we’ve sworn our man not to utter a word about the steak we burnt last week. Bad news like that stick in other women’s memories for a long time and you’ll forever be asked to bring a jello salad to the next potluck. You have to earn the right to bring a main dish, ya know.

I’ve attended quite a few fairs. Some are more centered around carnival rides, entertainment, and businesses trying to sell their products. I really enjoy them, but it’s the small local fairs that feel like a family reunion and gathering spot for the neighbors that I love the most.

Do you go to any fairs in the summertime? What kind of fair do you have in your area?

In Consent to the Cowboy, the first chapter takes place at a small town rodeo. You can read the first chapter of the book here.

Here’s the blurb for Consent to the Cowboy

Surrounded by beer-swilling, skirt-chasing cowboys her whole life, barmaid Daphne Norris has no intention of ever settling for any of the men in her Podunk hometown. So when bronc rider Will Hanson sends shock waves to her core with just one glance from his striking green eyes, no one is more surprised than her.

But Will is no ordinary cowboy, and he can see that Daphne is no ordinary small-town girl. He can sense in Daphne the quiet strength and devotion needed to satisfy a man like him, a man who needs to be on top, in every aspect of his life.

Daphne hasn’t ever succumbed to her submissive desires before, and Will awakens her in ways she never imagined. While she’s not prepared to give him her heart, she agrees to Will’s offer of three days of intense pleasure, and then she’s walking. But Daphne falls hard and fast, and now she has a decision: return to a normal life, or give up everything for Will…

Purchase Link

Multipublished author Abby Wood lives in the Pacific Northwest. A huge animal lover, she enjoys the many animals on her farm and the wild ones that roam the forest. In her free time, she loves to ride motorcycles, garden, go fishing and play tennis. She loves to write stories that allow readers to escape into a brand-new world.

You can find out more about Abby at, visit her Facebook page at and follow her on Twitter at @MsAbbyWood.

Contest: Don’t forget – Abby is giving away a copy of Consent to the Cowboy. Just answer her question and one commenter will be chosen as the winner.