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T is for Taniwha

T

I was brought up hearing tales from Maori mythology. Everyone in New Zealand knows of Maui who fished our country from the sea. One particular beast from the legends has always fascinated me, and that’s the taniwha.

The taniwha (pronounced tan-e-fa) is a Maori monster, a ferocious beast that ate naughty children and devoured warriors and other hapless people who found themselves in the wrong place. They live in lakes, rivers and the sea and some live in caves. Some taniwha are friendly—if the local villagers gave them regular food offerings—while others are plain nasty and kill anyone who crosses their path.

In 2002 construction on a highway in the Waikato region of New Zealand was halted because local Maori said the road works were disturbing a taniwha. The portion of road that was being improved was a bad accident site and it was said the taniwha was responsible for the high death toll.

In a Herald story, Dr Ranginui Walker said “like most cultures, Maori use mysticism to explain the inexplicable or grossly unlucky, like a branch falling from a tree and killing a man walking under it at that moment. Europeans might call it the hand of God, Maori might blame tipua, an evil spirit living in the tree. All beliefs require a leap of faith that defy rational explanation.”

The road building finally continued after consultation and negotiations between locals and Transit NZ.

Make That Man Mine

A few years ago, I wrote a taniwha shifter romance called Make That Man Mine. Here’s the blurb:

On her 25th birthday Emma Montrose decides it’s time to show bad boy investigator, Jack Sullivan she’s more than an efficient secretary. She’s a woman with needs, and she wants him.

Jack is a taniwha, a shifter, who requires women to satiate the sexual demands of the serpent within. Nothing more. Then work forces the reluctant Jack and ecstatic Emma undercover as a couple. Thrown together, pretence and reality blur generating hot sex laced with risk…

S is for Sky Tower

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Sky Tower is an Auckland icon, and the tower can be seen from all over the city. Here are a few facts:

1. The tower is a telecommunications and observation tower.

2. At 1076 feet (328 meters) it’s the tallest free-standing building in the Southern Hemisphere.

3. There are two restaurants and a cafe at the top. One of the restaurants is revolving. There are observation decks, and you can also bungee jump off if you want to get down quickly.

4. It took two years and nine months to build the tower.

5. The tower is built of 15,000 cubic meters of special high performance concrete, 2000 tonnes of reinforcing steel and 600 tonnes of structural steel.

6. The foundations go down more than 15 meters and are specially designed in order to spread the force load.

7. If the day is clear you can see the view for around 51 miles (82 kilometers)

Auckland city and harbor

Sky Tower

Do you like to visit the high spots in order to get a good view? Do you have a good head for heights?

(Sources: Wikipedia and Sky Tower website)

R is for Rugby

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Rugby season is in full swing in New Zealand, and I couldn’t be happier. Some call it our national sport. I call it inspiration since big, burly rugby players make great romance heroes. Our All Blacks are the current world champions. Women play rugby these days, and our Black Ferns are champions too. We also have a very good Sevens rugby team.

rugby

Here are some facts about rugby:

1. Our New Zealand team, the All Blacks, are the current world champions. It bears repeating!

2. No one is really sure when or where rugby truly originated but a popular story is that William Webb Ellis picked up the ball in 1823 and ran with it instead of playing to the rules of the game. It’s said that this act was the start of the modern game.

3. The rugby ball is oval in shape. Originally they were made from pigs’ bladders and a person blew them up. It’s possible to become ill from blowing up diseased bladders, so it’s lucky that this is no longer necessary!

4. The All Blacks always do the haka before the start of an international rugby match. See H for Haka.

5. The same whistle is used to start the opening game at each World Cup Tournament. It’s called the Gil Evans whistle, named after the Welsh referee who was in charge of the match between New Zealand and England in 1905.

6. A rugby match consists of two halves, which are forty minutes long, plus a 10 minute break at half time.

7. There are 15 players per team.

8. Players advance the ball by kicking it or running with it down the field, known as a pitch.

9. The first ever rugby game took place between Scotland and England. Scotland won.

10. The International Rugby Board (IRB), which was formed in 1886, governs the game. There are 97 unions in the IRB.

Have you ever watched a rugby game?

Q is for Queenstown

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Queenstown is a tourist destination in the South Island of New Zealand. It’s the place where adventure awaits, and from here you can go jet boating on the Shotover River, skiing during the winter, fishing, do helicopter rides, go bungy jumping, ride on the Skyline Gondola, go wine tasting and try any number of scary adventure sports.

The town is built on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and is surrounded by mountain ranges called the Remarkables. The setting is just stunning as you’ll see in the photo below.

Queenstown-1

The area where the town is now was once a high country farm. When gold was discovered in the nearby Arrow River, Rees, the owner converted his woolshed into a hotel and things went from there.

Lake Wakatipu

I’ve posted about the legend of how Lake Wakatipu was formed. You can read it here. I’ve also used the Queenstown area as the setting for two of my Middlemarch books, Assassin and Cat and Mouse.

I like to keep my feet firmly on the ground, which means I enjoy walking and trekking rather than trying any of these adventurous sports like bungy jumping.

Are you the adventurous sort?

P is for Pavlova

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Here is a recipe for a very traditional New Zealand dessert. Pavlova is especially popular at Christmas time and our family celebrations always include a pavlova for dessert. Picture a huge meringue that has a soft marshmallow like texture in the center and a crisp outer shell, covered with whipped cream and garnished with fresh berries then you’re in the right ball park.

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© Colin Stitt | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Karen’s Mum’s Pavlova

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 dessertspoon cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 1 dessertspoon vinegar (malt)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 2 cups sugar (fine grained caster is best/super fine sugar)
  • 4 tablespoon boiling water.

Place all in a bowl and beat for 10 minutes or until folding in peaks. Line the oven tray with non-stick baking paper. Pile mixture onto baking paper shaping mixture into a round shape. Make the centre slightly hollow. Heat oven to 220c (425F) and when pavlova goes into the oven turn down to 120c. (220F) Cook for 1 hour. Allow pavlova to cool. Fill dip in centre with whipped cream. Cover with grated chocolate or fresh fruit (strawberries, raspberries or kiwifruit are yummy) and serve.

 
Comments: This recipe came from my sister-in-law, Sheryl, who is the family expert when it comes to pavlovas. She whips them up for most family gatherings, and there’s not usually any left over by the time we’re finished. My favorite topping is either passion fruit pulp or berries but the one in the photo is decorated with dried fruits and marshmallows. Your imagination is the only limit when it comes to topping a pavlova.

Note from my sister-in-law – I have been making this one for quite a while now. It is a bit easier than the one I used to make. – Just put everything in together!!

Note from Shelley – The pavlova is said to be named after the ballerina, Anna Pavlova. There’s much debate between Australian and New Zealanders as to which country invented the pavlova. Latest New Zealand research says it’s New Zealand so I’m sticking with that theory!

What is your favorite family dessert?

O is for One Night of Misbehavior

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Titles are hard things to pin down—at least I find them difficult, and I can ponder and panic about finding the perfect title for a book for weeks. Titles also don’t begin with an O, but bear with me.

Cinderella is my favorite fairy tale. I guess it’s the romantic in me, but I like the idea of a prince searching the kingdom for his special woman and finding her in the most unlikely place. When I wrote the book that became my first self-published title, I decided to take the tale of Cinderella and give it my own special New Zealand spin.

And that’s when my title problem rose up like a many-headed snake. I thought and wrote lists, I pestered my husband for ideas then promptly said, “no, no, no,” because none of them were right. For a long time I called my story One Night With Zorro, which I really liked, but I worried about the Zorro part of the title and copyright.

Then, one day it hit me—the perfect title.

One Night of Misbehavior.

Here’s the blurb for One Night of Misbehavior, my Cinderella inspired romance, which is set in New Zealand.

One Night of Misbehavior

He wears his scars on the outside. She keeps hers safe inside.

Charlotte Dixon ignores her stepmother’s edict and, in an act of disobedience, attends one of the social events of the year—a masquerade costume ball. Charlotte’s naughtiness escalates when she dances and smooches with a sexy mystery man. The night of anonymous passion that follows makes her yearn for a different life, but the next day she’s back to her dull routine of household management.

Advertising tycoon, Ash Marlborough is about to set a private investigator on the trail of his nameless princess when she waltzes right into his place of work. Charlotte is shocked to meet her masked man in the flesh, and even more perturbed when he asks her out on a date. Despite craving another night of sexy loving, she doesn’t have time for a man, not when she wants to reinvent herself and grasp a new, improved life with both hands. But Ash knows what he wants, and he’s determined to win the heart of his princess. Let the dance of seduction commence.

Warning: Contains a conniving stepmother, selfish stepsisters, a grandmother with fairy godmother tendencies and a sexy masked man who is willing to face them all for the love of a good woman.

What is your favorite fairy tale? And authors out there, do you have trouble with titles?

N is for New Zealand

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Although I enjoy traveling and exploring the world, New Zealand is my home country. Here are some facts about New Zealand:

1. We are an island country – North Island, South Island and Stewart Island – in the south western Pacific Ocean.

2. Our capital is Wellington. It is the southernmost capital city in the world.

3. Our population is around 4.5 million.

4. Our temperatures, on the whole, are mild and we get a lot of rain. There’s a reason for all that clean green!

5. We love our sport. Golf is very popular as is rugby, netball, cricket, fishing and soccer.

6. We have the longest place name (still in use) in the world. Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamatesturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwenuakitanatahu. This is a hill in the Hawkes Bay region and it means the place where Tamatea, known as Landeater, who was also a man with big knees, slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, and played his flute to his loved one!

7. No part of New Zealand is more than 128 kilometers from the sea.

8. The Maori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa, which means land of the long white cloud. That rain again!

9. New Zealand does not have any dangerous or poisonous animals or insects, but we have a lot of interesting birds including our flightless kiwi. See K is for kiwi.

10. We are a member of the Commonwealth and Queen Elizabeth II is our Queen. The Governor General represents her here in New Zealand.

We have a great country – come and visit!

M is for Middlemarch

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Middlemarch is a small country town in the South Island of New Zealand. A few years ago I happened to catch a special interest story on our local news. The town of Middlemarch had a shortage of women of marriageable age. In order to attract more women, the town decided to hold a ball.

This idea struck me as brilliant and a good plot for one of my stories. My erotic romance series Middlemarch Mates was born—a series of twelve romances that feature a community of black leopard shapeshifters who live and love in the country town of Middlemarch.

Middlemarch

Middlemarch Cafe

Middlemarch1

ScarletWoman200x300

Emily Scarlet’s husband left her for his secretary and died in a car accident—all on the same day. Now, six months later, Emily has emerged from her chrysalis of painful memories. And to prove she has what it takes to attract a man, she’s determined to experience one perfect night of passion.

Feline shape shifter, Saber Mitchell has a problem with his four boisterous younger brothers. They’re out of control. It’s too late for him, but he hopes to get his brothers mated and settled, and the ball is the place to introduce them to marriageable women.

Unbridled sex is the last thing he plans on, but one glimpse of Emily Scarlet changes his mind. Sex with her is a necessity. They dance. They make love.

One thing is clear—a single night isn’t enough. Saber must have her for his mate, but Emily isn’t so easy to convince…or trust.

Take a visit to small town Middlemarch today Winking smile

L is for Lorde

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Any music lover out there has probably heard of Lorde, the young New Zealand singer who is doing phenomenally well on the world stage. Since the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are currently visiting New Zealand, my choice of which of Lorde’s songs to feature was easy.

Here is Lorde singing Royals.

 

What type of music do you enjoy listening to?

K is for Kiwi

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The kiwi is New Zealand’s national bird. In fact, the New Zealand people are also known as kiwis.

Here are some facts about the kiwi:

1. The kiwi is a flightless bird.

2. Kiwis live in pairs and mate for life.

3. They are mostly nocturnal and live in burrows.

4. They can live for between 25 – 50 years.

5. The kiwi has nostrils at the end of their beak.

6. The kiwi has one of the largest egg-to-body ratio of any bird. They’re huge!

7. The male kiwi does most of the egg incubating.

8. There are five different species of kiwis.

9. The kiwi is vulnerable to introduced pests and numbers have declined. The populations are carefully managed to ensure the bird doesn’t become extinct.

10. It’s our national icon.

bigstock-North-Island-Brown-Kiwi-Apter-37200184

Have you seen a kiwi before?