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Archive for the 'Book Research' Category

Dartmoor, the Mysterious National Park

Dartmoor Scene

Dartmoor, the first national park in Britain, was formed in 1951. It’s a large open area famed for its moor, the bogs and stone tors, and wild ponies. Around 33,000 people live within the park and many others visit to experience the wilderness.

Man has farmed, mined the stone, lived and visited the Dartmoor region for at least the last 12,000 years as evidenced by stone circles, ancient bridges and other monuments.

Since the area has been inhabited for so long there are hundreds of tales involving ghosts, both evil and benevolent. Piskies or pixies, fairies, witches and wizards also live in Dartmoor, so it’s not good to travel through the moors after dark—not if you value your life.

During more recent years, tales of the beast of Dartmoor—a big black cat—have become common. There have been numerous sightings of big cats, but so far no one has definitive proof of one residing in the park.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle set his Hounds of the Baskervilles in Dartmoor, and it’s said he was inspired by ghostly tales of black dogs haunting the moors. Here’s one of the many ghostly tales of large black dogs.

A stagecoach with two female passengers was traveling from Tavistock, which is the largest town in the area. All of a sudden, the driver started whipping his horses, and when the passengers called up to him to slow, he pointed at the large black dog galloping alongside the coach. It was the ghostly black dog.

When I was deciding where to set Mistress of Merrivale, I wanted a place that was wild and potentially dangerous. The bogs and the isolated parts of the moor fit my story needs nicely. I added in a mention of ghosts and set a murderer loose. Understandably the locals become very nervous and start to glance over their shoulders and cast blame.

I chose Merrivale for my setting within Dartmoor, but my village is different from the real one since I took liberties and made it much larger. I added shops and made the church bigger. I also added to the population for the purposes of my story. In truth, the real Merrivale has an inn, a few houses, a chapel and a nearby mine, and thank goodness, they don’t harbor a murderer!

Would you be willing to walk alone at night in Dartmoor National Park? Why or why not?

Sources:

http://www.legendarydartmoor.co.uk/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/england/sevenwonders/southwest/dartmoor/

Dementia: Mistress of Merrivale

 

Mistress of MerrivaleIn my release, Mistress of Merrivale, the heroine’s mother has dementia. Since my story takes place in the 18th century she hasn’t been diagnosed, but as the writer I know she has Alzheimer’s. It’s a silent disease in which the family suffers just as much as the person who is experiencing the illness. I know because my father has dementia. It’s sad watching someone you love losing connection with reality.

Dementia happens when there are changes in the structure of the brain. These physical changes might affect memory, the way a person behaves, their personality, their emotions and the way they think. There is no cure, and the symptoms gradually become worse.

Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia in our society. It was named after German Alois Alzheimer, a psychiatrist who first described the condition in 1906.

There is no single factor that has been identified as the cause of Alzheimer’s and it’s thought that the disease is a combination of factors such as age, genetics and environment.

Some facts:

1. 35.6 million people have dementia worldwide (2010)

2. In America there are more than 5 million people with Alzheimer’s.

3. It’s the sixth leading cause of death in America.

4. 1.1% of the population in New Zealand has dementia and 60% of these are female.

5. Most of the caregivers are largely unpaid. In fact according to stats in 2012 15.4 million family and friends provided 17.5 billion hours of unpaid care to sufferers.

In Mistress of Merrivale, Jocelyn is determined to find a protector who will accept her mother with her strange behavior and quirks. Jocelyn’s sisters want to send their mother to Bedlam, but she refuses to send her mother to a hospital. Instead, she hires a woman to tend to her mother and does her best to keep her parent happy and safe.

Of course everything is not as it seems, and there is murder afoot at Merrivale…

To read an excerpt check out the book page for Mistress of Merrivale

Roll Over! Beds & Bedrooms Through History

Black and Blue Master Bedroom

The other day I picked up a copy of IF WALLS COULD TALK, an Intimate History of the Home by Lucy Worsley. It’s a fascinating read, full of all those small social details that we often don’t hear about when we’re reading about history.

Here are a selection of things I’ve learned about beds and bedrooms.

1. Medieval people led more communal lives than us. At night they would sleep in the great hall, glad of the safe place of rest. The hall reeked of smoke and body odor, but it was safer than sleeping outside.

2. Medieval people who held jobs within the manor would sleep in their place of work. e.g. laundry maids would sleep in the laundry and the kitchen lads would sleep next to the fire in the kitchens.

3. A bed during medieval times usually consisted of hay stuffed in a sack, hence the saying hitting the hay.

4. A big bed would be shared, sometimes with strangers. Customs and etiquette developed regarding the communal bed. Families would lie in order of birth. If guests came to visit and stayed overnight, the father and mother would sleep in the middle of the bed between their children and strangers to prevent any naughtiness during the night.

5. The lord and lady of a manor would sleep in an adjoining room called the chamber or solar. It was a multi-function room but it usually contained a wooden bed.

6. During Tudor times the four-poster bed was the most expensive item in the house.

7. Tudor four-posters had bed strings on which the mattress sat. These would sag under the weight of the bed’s occupant and required constant tightening. This is where the expression, “Night, night, sleep tight.” comes from.

8. Housewives would accumulate lots of bed linen, enough to last a month so that laundry only needed to be done once a month. I’m glad I’m not responsible for the laundry!

9. During the 17th century bedrooms were on the upper floor. They led off each other, which meant the owner of the first bedroom had people trooping through all the time to get to the rest of the bedrooms. That would make for a restful night…

10. Corridors appeared toward the end of the 17th century, which meant the Georgians started to treat their bedrooms as more private spaces than those people of earlier ages. Their bedrooms were used as social rooms where they received special friends, conducted business and study.

11. During Victorian times privacy became paramount. Even husbands and wives had separate bedrooms and bedroom activities were confined to sleeping and sex.

12. Bedclothes consisted of many layers of sheets, blankets and eiderdowns until the 1970s and the introduction of the duvet. I, for one, am glad of this invention. Bedmaking takes mere seconds each morning.

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad I get to have a modern bedroom with my own bed. Sharing it with hubby—no problem. That seems minor when I think of those medieval great halls!

What does your dream bed/bedroom look like?

It’s All About Family

ShelleyMunro_MyScarletWoman_200pxAll the Middlemarch Shifter stories are set in my home country of New Zealand. I didn’t start out to write a series. In fact my aim was to write a paranormal story featuring black leopard shifters. But it soon became obvious that the brothers I’d given Saber Mitchell, the hero of My Scarlet Woman, weren’t there for decoration. The Mitchell brothers were a close-knit family, and all of Saber’s brothers wanted their time in the spotlight. Then there is Emily, the heroine of My Scarlet Woman, who will turn into quite the matchmaker as the series advances. Her presence in the Mitchell family helps to shape many of the Middlemarch Shifter stories.

At the start of My Scarlet Woman, Saber Mitchell is tired of his younger brothers creating chaos in the town of Middlemarch. They and their friends are always getting into trouble. And I mean always! Saber is starting to worry about gray hair and his sanity. Finally the town elders hatch a plan to hold a singles ball. They figure they’ll do a little matchmaking. A few good women will settle the troublemakers right down. But oops! Saber gets caught in his own trap. One glimpse of Emily Scarlet and Saber is toast.

Ten Things About Family According to Mitchell Law

1. Younger brothers exist for the sole purpose of driving their older brothers crazy, and big brothers are excellent targets for teasing.

2. Family members love you warts and all and know exactly which buttons to push to create chaos.

3. Brothers are the best when you need someone in your corner.

4. Big brothers change once they get married—for the better.

5. Sisters-in-law aren’t so bad, especially if they can cook.

6. Try to avoid sisters-in-law who want to make everyone else as happy as they are.

7. Expectation from family members can be tough.

8. Beware matchmaking sisters-in-law. It bears repeating!

9. Family is always there for you, no matter how big the problem.

10. Family is everything. Family rules.

I’m the oldest in my family, and my two younger siblings used to drive me nuts. Now that we’re adults things are much better! Which order do you come in your family? Do your siblings drive you nuts?

Mush! Dog Sledding Mendenhall Glacier #travel

JuneauDogSledding

This was my trip highlight. We flew by helicopter to the top of the Mendenhall glacier and then went sledding. Amazing! Absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to do it again. This is hubby saying hello to one of the sled dogs.

Romance on a Shoestring

The hero in my current work-in-progress has money problems, and his marriage is suffering because he is working such long hours.

A romantic date

Sometimes it’s difficult to make a dollar stretch to cover necessities, let alone having enough to spare for romance. But that doesn’t mean romance needs to take a back seat. Here are some ideas to keep the romance alive that won’t hurt the budget.

Inexpensive Ideas to Keep the Romance Alive

1. Write a love letter to your sweetie.

2. Make a special romance pack. You could include a special music playlist, a candle, bubble bath or scented lotion, massage oil.

3. Turn on some romantic music and  slow dance together.

4. Take a picnic to the park and play on the swings.

5. Watch the sunrise or sunset.

6. Swap babysitting services with a family member or friend. Make a nice dinner at home, watch a movie and enjoy the togetherness without the kids. Christen every room in the house…if you catch my drift.

7. Read a sexy romance together

8. Make an at-home dinner special with candles. Add soft, romantic music.

9. Go for a walk in the countryside.

10. Sit outside on a nice evening and star-gaze.

11. Surprise your partner with a lunch date during the working week.

12. Kiss before you part for the day—a proper kiss that will make the pulse-rate pound!

Do you have any other suggestions for my poor cash-strapped hero?

Burano, the Colorful Venetian Island

During our visit to Venice we caught the vaporetto (waterbus) to nearby islands Murano and Burano. Murano is well known for glassmaking while Burano is famous for lace.

My favorite of the two was Burano with its colorful buildings.

Burano Buildings

Some of the buildings alongside the canal.

Burano

Laundry Day

And it’s laundry day…

Burano

A local on the canal.

Mask Stall

Colorful masks ready for carnivale…

Now tell me – if you could paint your house any color you wanted, which color would you choose? I vote for pink Smile

Venice, the Romantic Destination #Travel

In a walk down memory lane, and because I’m planning to use a Venetian setting in an upcoming book, I was looking at some of the photos we took during our visit. Venice is a romantic city, and my favorite thing to do whenever I have a chance to visit is to wander and explore all the tiny back streets. Getting lost is part of the fun, although if I’m with hubby we’re seldom lost. He has an excellent inner GPS.

Here are a few photos of Venice:

St Marco Square

This is a view of the Doge’s Palace and the entrance to St Mark’s Square taken from the cruise ship as we arrived at Venice.

Venice Market

Regular visitors already know how much hubby and I love markets. These hot peppers caught my attention because they look like bunches of flowers. The market in Venice is amazing.

Bride and Groom, Venice

This bride and groom were having their wedding photos taken, just off St Mark’s Square. What did I tell you? Romantic.

Doge's Palace and Bridge of Sighs

This is a view of the Bridge of Sighs, which connects the palazzo with the prison. This photo was taken from the cruise ship. During our visit, we did a tour of the Doge’s Palace, which we pre-booked. Along with the palatial rooms, we saw the secret rooms where the “worker bees” hung out. We stepped through an ornate door from the palace proper into plan rooms that were very simply furnished. Photos weren’t allowed, but it was still very interesting, the contrasts between the two halves amazing. It was like stepping into another world. We also walked across the Bridge of Sighs and saw Casanova’s cell—the one from which he escaped. I highly recommend this tour, if you ever visit Venice.

Canal Traffic

The canal traffic was constant. Small ferries, barges loaded with cargo, baggage boats heading to hotels, gondolas, ambulance and fire boats. It’s amazing sitting at a cafe and watching the world pass by…

Canal traffic

More canal traffic.

Palazzos

The canal view of some of the old palazzos and gardens. Some of them are beautiful and I can only imagine what they look like inside. Maybe next visit…

Looking through the photos again has given me some great ideas for my story. I can’t wait to get writing.

Have you visited Venice?

Peanut Butter and Cat Burglars @CarinaPress #Romance

The Benefits of Peanut Butter by Shelley Munro

Most people think of peanut butter as a sandwich spread or maybe an ingredient in cookies. I like peanut butter on toast. My husband loathes the stuff and refuses to eat it. Peanut butter, according to him, is only fit as an ingredient for Bella’s dog biscuits. Our puppy Bella certainly doesn’t make any protests about the peanut butter.

Cat Burglar in TrainingWhile I was going through the editing stage of my contemporary mystery romance Cat Burglar in Training, I came upon a comment from my wonderful editor, Deborah Nemeth. She wrote, “Why didn’t anyone hear Eve (our cat burglar) break the window when she entered the building?”

“Heck,” I muttered. “How should I know?”

I continued with my edits, filing the problem away to mull over while I walked the dog. I returned from walking the dog none the wiser. Did Eve risk being heard and simply break the window, or did she open it with some handy-dandy tool from her cat burglar tool kit?

Eve is new to the job of cat burglar, taking over from her father who is unable to scale trees and walls because of his arthritis. She knows the basics but is definitely still finding her feet.

Yikes! How on earth is she going to enter the building? How am I going to fix this?

In the end I googled, and surprisingly, there was an answer.

Peanut butter! Who knew?

Here’s a brief excerpt from Cat Burglar in Training, showing how Eve managed to beat the problem without alerting the owners.

I scaled the wall in no time, stubbornly ignoring the pain in my arse. A ledge, a few inches wide, provided a place for me to collect myself. With a deep breath, I pulled a spoon and a jar of smooth peanut butter from my pack and plastered a thick layer on the window pane. Next, I retrieved a tube of cardboard cut to size—well, a fairly accurate guesstimate—and carefully pressed the cardboard to the peanut butter. A sharp tap with my hammer cracked the glass, but the sound was minimal. I replaced my tools in my pack, placed the glass-covered cardboard aside and reached through to open the lock. My entry via the nursery room window was clean and professional.

There you go. Problem solved. That’s how to enter a building without alerting the inhabitants.

What is your favorite use for peanut butter? Do you like it, or are you like my husband and avoid it at all costs?

Cat Burglar in Training is currently available for 99c at some retailers.

Purchase at: Carina Press| Amazon | All Romance eBooks | Nook| Koboicon| iBooks US|

Lucien St Clare, The Spurned Viscountess @CarinaPress #historical

Meet the hero from The Spurned Viscountess, a historical romance set in 1720 England.

Lucien

Name: Lucien St Clare

Title: Viscount Hastings

Age: mid-twenties

Appearance: Tall, over six foot. Long dark black hair. Mahogany brown eyes. Tanned skin since he spends a lot of time outdoors. His face is scarred, the puckered scar running from his left eye to his jaw.

Hangouts: He currently lives at Castle St. Clare in East Sussex, England. Prior to this, he lived in Italy, near Naples on the Bacci estate with his wife, Francesca.

Reason for the move: Fragments of his forgotten memory have started to return to him, memories that place him in England. He can’t remember much about St. Clare at all. Yep, he has nasty amnesia.

Reason for staying: Someone from the area murdered his wife and their unborn child. He’s desperate for revenge.

Big problem: The Earl of St. Clare expects him to go through with an arranged marriage to Rosalind, a small English mouse of a woman.

In Lucien’s words.

“Everyone tells me my name is George, that I’m the long lost heir, Viscount Hastings. I could leave and return to the Bacci estates in Italy, but I burn for revenge. Those bastards who murdered my wife and unborn child must pay for their crimes. Someone called Hawk ordered her murder. It seems a coincidence there’s a Hawk operating the smuggling ring—too much of a happenstance in my opinion. I’m investigating, looking for clues, but meantime I have to deal with my new wife. She’s small, blond and reminds me of a mouse. I tried to put her off the idea of marriage to me, but she was set on the marriage.

She’s not very good at following orders and I’m forever running across her in places I told her not to visit. Trouble is her middle name. She’s stubborn, frustrating, irritating and she’s getting under my skin. I find myself thinking about her at the oddest moments…”

The Spurned Viscountess Blurb:

The Spurned ViscountessShe must marry him.

Cursed with the sight and rumors of witchcraft, Rosalind’s only chance at an ordinary life is marriage to Lucien, Viscount Hastings. She doesn’t expect love, only security and children of her own. Determined to go through with the wedding, she allows nothing she encounters at the gloomy Castle St. Clare to dissuade her.

He wants nothing to do with her.

Recently returned from the Continent, Lucien has no time for the English mouse his family has arranged for him to marry, not when he’s plotting to avenge the murder of his beloved Francesca. He has no intention of bedding Rosalind, not even to sire an heir.

Dark secrets will bind them.

Though spurned by her bridegroom, Rosalind turns to him for protection when she is plagued by a series of mysterious accidents and haunted by terrifying visions. Forced to keep Rosalind close, and tempted into passionate kisses, Lucien soon finds himself in grave danger of falling in love with his own wife…

Currently on sale for 99c at some retailers.

Purchase at: Carina Press| Amazon Kindle| All Romance eBooks| Kobo| iBooks| Nook|