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Archive for the 'Book Research' Category

The Scarlet Macaw #research #travel

One of seventeen species of macaws, the Scarlet Macaw is becoming increasingly rare. In Costa Rica, Central America, we visited the Natuwa Macaw Sanctuary where they rescue, breed, and release the Scarlet Macaw.

I was very excited at the thought of seeing macaws. When our tour around the reserve started, my anticipation turned to disappointment because the Scarlet Macaw and the Blue and Yellow Macaw were in a huge aviary. Not great for photographic opportunities, although their aviary is HUGE.

But it turned out the sanctuary releases some of their macaws. Some of these pairs have returned and nest in boxes placed around the grounds. The Scarlet Macaw come and go as they please and have been successfully breeding, adding to the population. These ones provided excellent photographic opportunities.

The sanctuary houses many other animals such as jaguar, sloth, deer and other birds. Many of the animals are recovered from poachers or rescued when the animal butts up against man encroaching on habitat. Our guide was passionate and knowledgeable, and I enjoyed our visit very much.

Scarlet Macaw

Facts about Scarlet Macaws.

Scarlet Macaw

1. They live in the rainforest.

2. Their beak is perfect for cracking nuts and seeds.

3. The male and female look the same with white faces, scarlet and yellow.

4. They live to around 50 years of age in the wild. In captivity, they are known to live much longer than this.

5. They are intelligent birds and are popular pets but can be quite aggressive.

6. They usually mate for life.

7. Both the male and female look after the young.

8. Their bright colors help them to blend in the rainforest.

Scarlet Macaw Pair and Nesting Box

Star-Crossed with ScarlettI spent ages watching the macaws and found them fascinating. Already, they’ve found their way into my upcoming release Star-crossed with Scarlett. The birds make an appearance in the story and, of course, there is the heroine’s name, which is Scarlett.

The Adorable Sloth

The Adorable Sloth

Before our visit to Costa Rica, my knowledge of sloths was limited to the Ice Age cartoons. I thought of sloths as adorable and a little clumsy but with a great deal of charm.

The Natuwa Macaw Sanctuary is a refuge for other animals as well as the Red Macaw, and this is where I had a close-up view of two orphan sloths.

Natuwa Sanctuary

Sloth

They are the cutest things, and I spent ages watching them.

Here are some facts about Two-toe Sloths:

1. Sloths are herbivores and eat mainly leaves. Their diet is low-energy, so they don’t move around very much.

2. Their natural habitat is the rainforest in Central and South America.

Sloth

3. They are called two-toed sloths because of the two claws on their forearms. In fact, all sloths actually have three toes!

4. Predators such as the ocelot, the jaguar, and eagles are their enemies.

5. A sloth sleeps for around 15 hours a day.

6. They spend most of their time hanging upside down in their tree.

7. They go down to the ground to toilet and usually do this around once a week.

8. They are excellent swimmers and enjoy the water.

Sloth

Sloth

Sloth

Sloth

Sloth

As I said, I loved the sloths. They are mega-cute, and I am determined to write a sloth into an upcoming romance. Watch this space!

A Research Visit to Barista Cats, Auckland, New Zealand

Barista Cats

These days, many families live in rental accommodation or high-rise apartments are unable to keep pets. Enter – a business opportunity. Barista Cats in Queen Street Auckland is one of the new cafes where animal lovers can go to have a coffee and get their pet-fix without having the responsibility of a full-time pet.

Barista Cats has fifteen cats who live at the café and mingle with the café patrons as they chill with a tea or coffee. All the cats are ex-SPCA cats, and all have had tough lives, so they lap up the attention and care they receive at the café. One is deaf while another is blind. One or two of the cats wobble as they walk or climb, but all are healthy and happy.

Barista Cats Cafe

A visit to the café must be booked online beforehand, and only children over the age of fourteen can enter the premises. They must be with a guardian.

Hi Cutie

A Barista Cat

On arrival, all visitors are introduced to each cat, and the rules are explained. The cats have loads of toys and different bedding, but most are happy to plop down and enjoy a stroke or two from their visitors.

Each session is one hour, and the café hosts special sessions with kittens. They also have yoga and movies several times a month. You get to do yoga or watch a movie with a cat on your lap.

Dinner Time at the Cafe

Want to chill out and destress? If you’re a pet-lover without a pet, this is definitely the place for you.

Military MenI enjoyed my visit, and some of my experience will go into my current, as yet unnamed work-in-progress, which is part of my Military Men series. Watch this space!

Background Research: Meet the Alpaca

Background Research Alpaca

Love at first sight. That was me and the alpaca. “If we ever purchase land, we’re getting alpacas,” I told my husband.

Fast forward quite a few years, and I still don’t have any alpacas. Some of my characters, however, do own alpacas.

Facts about farming alpacas:

1. They’re closely related to the llama, although they’re not as large.

Alpaca at Sydney Royal Show

2. They are grazers. While they can survive in harsh conditions, they do better with quality pasture or hay.

3. Fencing suitable for sheep works for alpacas. While they don’t tend to jump, if they’re stressed by for example a dog, they’re very capable of leaping over a fence.

4. They should have trees for shade.

5. They require fresh drinking water.

6. Shearing takes place once a year, usually during the spring.

7. Most alpacas are shorn while lying down. They are shorn on one side and turned over to complete the shearing.

8. Alpaca fleece is soft and durable and highly prized.

9. Alpacas come in many colors—white, fawn, brown, gray and black. Their color does not usually change as they age.

10. They are usually fairly disease free.

11. They make good pets although they don’t generally enjoy being held, especially on the head.

Chocolate Brown Alpaca

12. Alpacas do not usually bite or kick, but it can depend on the individual animal.

13. They do, however, spit. The spit is regurgitated or recently chewed grass, and it’s normally stinky.

14. Alpacas are herd animals and do better with company. They can be run with sheep or goats, but they prefer other alpacas for company.

15. Gestation is 11.5 months. The cria is around 6 – 8 kilograms at birth and stay with their mother for around 5 – 6 months.

16. They seldom have twins.

17. High quality breeding alpaca can be very expensive.

Alpaca

Stranded With EllaDillon Williams from Stranded with Ella farms alpacas. Ella, the heroine of Stranded with Ella is learning to spin. She wants to spin alpaca fleece rather than sheep’s wool.

Stranded with Ella is book 4 in the Military Men series, and can be read as a stand-alone.

Background Research: Black Moon Dragon, a paranormal romance

Black Moon Dragon, my New Zealand-set romance, contains dragons or taniwha. In this particular book, I’ve used more Maori mythology than usual and terms that are perhaps unfamiliar to those who live outside New Zealand. I’ve solved this by including a glossary with links to a Maori online dictionary for those who’d enjoy hearing the proper pronunciation.

One scene in the book contains a powhiri, which is the ceremony performed to welcome visitors onto a marae. A marae is a meeting place. Sometimes the collection of buildings around a courtyard where the meetings take place are also defined as a marae.

This video below describes a powhiri and it is an excellent depiction of what a visitor might expect when they visit a marae.

Black Moon DragonBlack Moon Dragon is the third book in the Dragon Investigators series. It is due out on 21 May.

Her life has taken a turn to Crazy Town. She has caught a weird disease. Now, this scary big dude is offering help. There’s trouble here somewhere, right?

Available wide. Get your copy here: https://books2read.com/u/38xWa6

Interview with author Anya J Cosgrove #paranormal #witch

Interview Anya J Cosgrove

Today, I’m excited to welcome Anya J Cosgrove to my blog. Anya J Cosgrove lives in Québec with her husband, her beautiful son, and two mischievous cats. She works as a veterinarian by day. What would Buffy do? Kick ass!

Hi, Anya. I understand you’re a new author. Please tell us a little about yourself and what made you decide to start writing.

Hi, Shelley! Thank you for having me on your blog! I’ve published my debut this January, but I’ve been writing stories ever since I was fourteen. I started with fanfictions websites and the like but decided a few years ago to get serious about it and researched self-publishing. English is my second language, and it took me nearly ten years when I switched from French to English to get good enough to write an entire novel.

Your blurb for Shadow Walker includes this snippet. A love triangle to die for! Heart-pounding suspense, two sexy, mysterious men, and a strong-willed, snarky heroine. Nothing stays black and white in a world full of shadows. This sounds awesome since I love the tension a triangle brings to a romance. What did you find was the hardest thing about writing a love triangle?

The hardest thing was for the heroine not to appear too casual or too annoying. It’s a fine line when the heroine is unsure which one to pick. As the author, I want the sexy drama to unfold without the heroine being mean/feeble. In Vampire Diaries, it was very well done, but Elena was clearly with Stephan at the start and stayed with him for a long time, so it’s different.

Shadow Walker is a slow-burn romance. How would you define a slow-burn romance? What made you choose this type of relationship for your novel?

I love slow-burn romances. For me, it means the sex/physical stuff isn’t at the center of the relationship and is delayed. My trilogy is action-packed, and there are plenty of twists, but it does take longer for the characters to rip each other’s clothes off. I love to see the attraction and drama unfold— to revel in the uncertainty and longing that comes with waiting. But I think the longer you wait, the more explosive and incredible the ending must be, and I worked hard to do my characters justice.

Ask any author, and they’ll tell you writing is hard work. What do you like most about writing a book? What part of the creative process makes you want to tear out your hair? *grin*

I don’t plan everything, so I love to discover the characters and the story. Sometimes, they take me somewhere entirely different than what I originally thought.

I’m a slow writer, so it takes me months to write a book. I write all the good stuff first, so by the end, I get stuck with some scenes. I’m working hard to increase my speed and efficiency and not keep all those difficult scenes for the end.

I understand you have a free story called Lost Boy, which is the prequel to Shadow Burn. How do readers get their hands on this?

They can get it free through my newsletter (and can unsubscribe at any time.)
http://bit.ly/anyaslair

What is the best place for readers to learn more about you and your upcoming releases?

My newsletter: http://bit.ly/anyaslair
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnyaJCosgrove/

Shadow Walker Here is the blurb:

A newborn witch is hunted for her blood. Two smoking-hot brothers teach her how to survive. Can she unravel their dark secrets?

Demons. Magic. Fear.

I never believed in witches until I became one. I thought monsters existed only on television screens. I was wrong. And naïve.

Thom Walker saved me, but I don’t trust him. His brother Liam is one of them. A demon. He almost devoured me.

Desire. Secrets. Forbidden love.

Witchcraft isn’t easy, and my sparring sessions with my two saviors/jailers are distracting as hell. My feelings must be laid on ice before I end up dead. And I need to find out if I can actually lose my soul, or if it’s a weird metaphor.

Liam says I should embrace the darkness. And the darkness is coming…

A love triangle to die for! Heart-pounding suspense, two sexy, mysterious men, and a strong-willed, snarky heroine. Nothing stays black and white in a world full of shadows.

Purchase Shadow Walker (available in Kindle Unlimited)

Behind the series: Dragon Investigators Series and the Moon Titles

Dragon Investigators series

When I wrote the first book in the Dragon Investigators series, the story was for an anthology, and the book had a different title. It was a fun one-off that I enjoyed writing since it was set in New Zealand and I made a foray into Maori mythology.

A few years later, I started thinking about Hone Taniwha who was one of Jack’s co-workers and a friend. Blood Moon Dragon was the result of all that thinking. At the end of the book, I left Hone’s cousin Manu in a difficult predicament, which took a bit of consideration and more pondering. Recently, I wrote the third book in the series, Black Moon Dragon, and it is due for release on 21 May 2019.

The moon plays a big part in my Dragon Investigators series, hence my choice of titles. Before I started writing I had no idea there were so many types of moons. I know better now.

Here are the definitions for the types of moons I’ve used in my titles:

Blue moon – a blue moon occurs when there are two full moons during a calendar month. In Blue Moon Dragon the hero Jack’s control is tested during the upcoming blue moon.

Blood moon – this occurs when the moon is in eclipse. The moon’s orbit places it behind the Earth and in Earth’s shadow. The Earth’s atmosphere bends light into the shadows. The blue colors are scattered until only red remains, so we get a blood moon. In Blood Moon Dragon the blood in this romance is literal rather than an eclipse of the moon.

Blood Moon

Photo by Robert Wiedemann on Unsplash

Black moon – this occurs when there are two new moons during a calendar month, and this is relatively rare. In Black Moon Dragon our hero and heroine are both experiencing new things, which made this title perfect.

What’s next? Well, I’m not sure, but there are lots of other moons to choose from.

A wolf moon, which the tribal Indians named because wolves called during January. Source: Farmers’ Almanac.

A snow moon, which occurs during February when the full moon lights up the snowy panoramas.

There are pink moons, worm moons, harvest moons, frost moons, super moons. I’ve discovered loads of inspiration for the future and rather fancy working a frost moon into a story because I like the sound of a Frost Moon Dragon.

Watch this space…

A Visit to the Tui Brewery – Yeah Right!

During our recent trip we visited the Tui Brewery in Mangatainoka. It was a lunch stop, and of course, we had to try the beer.

According to legend, in 1889 a man called Henry Wagstaff stopped on the banks of the Mangatainoka River to make a cup of tea. That cup of tea was the best cup of tea he’d ever tasted, and right there and then he decided that with such great water, this would be the perfect spot to build a brewery.

So he did.

Beer is still brewed at this spot. Fine beer. I know because I’ve tasted it.

While the beer is tasty, the Tui Brewery is famous for something else—their tongue-in-cheek advertising. The woman responsible for the cheeky ads noticed how many people were saying, “Yeah, right.” and she decided to use this in the Tui advertising campaign. Some of the billboards are controversial, others are plain funny and all of them use Kiwi humor.

Tui Brewery Sign

We arrived just on opening time at 11.00 a.m. I was really disappointed to discover the brewery closed. We turned the car around and when we drove back, it was magically open. I obviously didn’t check the opening hours properly!

Tui Brewery

One of the Yeah right signs. This one is right outside the brewery.

A Factory Close-up

Mr. Munro at the bar

We had a drink and a meal. Both were delicious.

Yeah, right!

A view of the iconic Tui Brewery

A view of the iconic Tui Brewery

Trips and tours through the Tui Brewery are very popular. They even do a trip on a steam train, which might possibily make an appearance in one of my upcoming romances.

The Story Behind: Military Men – Innocent Next Door #romance #research

Before I published my first book, I wrote a story called Summer in the City. The heroine was a country girl and funnily enough, her name was Summer. She was a trainee librarian, and she moved to Auckland for further training and to get away from her overprotective family. I knew she came from the country, but I wasn’t sure where Summer and her family lived.

I consulted a map and finally decided on Eketahuna because I liked the name and the way it sounded. For the uninitiated, Eketahuna is north of Wellington. As I mentioned, it’s a country town, but I’d never visited the place before.

The story featuring Summer is available now as Innocent Next Door, the first book in my Military Men series.

I’ve always meant to write more stories in this series, and earlier this year, I had the spark of an idea for one of Summer’s brothers.

Two weeks ago, Mr. Munro and I flew down to Palmerston North, hired a car and drove down to Eketahuna. I took lots of notes and photos and the new story is percolating away inside my head. Like many of our country towns, Eketahuna is smaller than it used to be, but one thing that delighted me is that the town still has a library.

Here are a few photos of Eketahuna

Kiwi - Eketahuna

Wild kiwis live in the Eketahuna area so there are lots of Kiwi signs.

Eketahuna Township

The township of Eketahuna. A sleepy little town!

Eketahuna - Kiwi

More kiwis!

Eketahuna Church

The Anglican (Church of England) church.

Surrounding Countryside

Beautiful countryside surrounds the town of Eketahuna.

Check out the books in the Military Men series:

Book 1 – Innocent Next Door
Book 2 – Soldier With Benefits
Book 3 – Safeguarding Sorrel
Military Men Box set – featuring books 1 – 3

Dogsledding, Churchill, Manitoba, Canada #travel

During our visit to Churchill, we spent a morning at Wapusk Adventures, the largest dog sled kennels in Canada.

The owners are passionate about their dogs and sledding, and I found the owner’s talk both interesting and inspiring. After learning about the dogs and the sport of sledding, we got to meet the dogs and do a mile circuit with a team of sled dogs. Fun times. After our sled ride, I had to purchase a T-shirt to add to my collection. I am now the proud owner of an Ididamile T-shirt.

If you’re ever up in Churchill I recommend a visit to Wapusk Adventures.

Watch for Mushers

Some of the local signage…

Dogs

The dogs knew that some of them were about to go for a run. They barked and jumped around trying to grab attention. It was the doggie version of pick me! Pick me!

Shelley and one of the locals

Me with one of the locals.

Time for a sleep

I didn’t get picked. I think I’ll have a snooze.

Hubby and I with our dog team

This is hubby and I during our sled ride. So much fun!