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Monday, April 6th, 2009
Running The Sheep.

In Spain, they have the running of the bulls. In New Zealand we have running of the sheep.

Mention the small town of Te Kuiti and most New Zealanders automatically think of sheep. It might have something to do with the fact that the NZ Shearing championships are held there or the fact that David Fagan, a world champion shearer comes from Te Kuiti. They have a huge statue of a shearer in the town centre. Each year they host the annual running of the sheep. The run took place a few days ago, and they had a few problems this year. The sheep ran amok, leaping over barriers designed to protect the spectators. One woman was knocked out. Around 1500 sheep were released and only 400 crossed the finish line.

Here’s a Youtube from a previous year showing images and live footage plus some foot-tapping music. Enjoy!

When people think about sheep and New Zealand, they often start with sheep jokes. I couldn’t find any definite figures on the number of sheep in NZ, but the numbers have definitely declined in recent years due to a surge in dairy farming. I know my father used to have quite a few sheep but has scarcely any these days. My sister has a pet lamb (now fully grown) called Pandora who terrorizes our little dog every time she visits. Scotty knows to keep far, far away from Pandora. I had pet lambs when I was a kid and entered agricultural shows. I still remember my pet lamb, Belinda. She was a real champion.

Some sheep facts from An Encyclopedia of New Zealand 1966 for the historians among us…

– New Zealand’s first sheep were set ashore by Captain Cook on 20 May 1773.

– Rapid sheep population growth in the 1850s and 1860s was mostly attributable to permanent immigration rather than natural increase. In 1864 alone, 13,000 sheep arrived in Canterbury from Australia. Droughts meant that sheep could always be bought cheaply from Australia. Drought continues to affect Australian farmers and sheep numbers.

– The first shipment of frozen lamb and mutton sailed to London from Port Chalmers aboard the Dunedin in 1882.

What would you do if a sheep came charging at you during the running of the sheep?

Saturday, April 4th, 2009
Interview, Threesomes & Touch of Fire

Author, Selena Illyria is having a menage a trois week. I was really excited when she asked me to participate. Here’s the link for my post here.

I also have an interview over at D. Renee Bagby’s The Multiverse’s Archival Chambers

Pop back tomorrow to see if you’re the winner in my blog participation contest. Nothing like a little suspense!

And finally, check out Maria Zannini’s book coming to a store near you in May…

Buy TOUCH OF FIRE by Maria Zannini

Friday, April 3rd, 2009
Do You Hoard?

A news item caught my attention last night. On 31 July 2006 the Reserve Bank of New Zealand introduced some new coins. The 5c coin was made obselete, and they resized the 10, 20 and 50 cent pieces. I forget how many million coins they put into circulation at this date. I know it was a lot, but it seems a few million coins have gone missing.

The Reserve Bank are appealing for people to empty the jars of coins they collect and spend them so they go back into circulation. If people do this, they won’t have to spend money minting new coins.

According to the Reserve Bank the average person has two hundred coins on hand at once, and men are worse than women at hoarding coins. They empty their pockets and put the coins in a jar.

I have to say that I don’t hoard coins. I’m not one of the people who have two hundred coins hanging around. I use my coins to buy papers and milk, the odd ice cream, and I use them for bus fares. Nope, you won’t find stray coins hiding down the back of my couch!

What about you? Do you have two hundred coins hiding around the place? How is your partner with coins? Are you…gasp!!…a coin hoarder?

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009
Clever Inventions

Thursday Thirteen

I was thinking about inventions yesterday, and all the things I’m glad that some intelligent person or persons invented. Here are some of my favorites.

1. Hot and cold running water – I think one of life’s simple pleasures is a hot shower. I love being able to walk to a tap for a glass of water. I’ve done quite a bit of traveling in countries where people don’t have this luxury. Hot and cold running water is something that I never take for granted.

2. iPods – my iPod is the most basic sort you can buy, but I love it. I like being able to carry all my favorite songs with me where ever I go.

3. wheels – I love cycling every day. I love my orange and black bicycle. It would look pretty funny with square wheels and probably wouldn’t work very well either!

4. telephones – the ability to keep contact with friends and family all over the world is pretty amazing. Of course, sometimes the telephone is a PITA but on the whole, I think it’s an excellent invention.

5. chocolate – whoever managed to turn the cocoa bean into luscious chocolate has my vote.

6. ebooks – I like the immediacy of them, being able to download an ebook at any time of the day or night and the ability to take lots of books on holiday without breaking my back with a case of books.

7. washing machine – it makes washing day a breeze instead of an all day thing.

8. BBQ – nothing tastes better than a BBQ meal, eaten outside on a beautiful night.

9. computers – a computer makes writing so much easier. I can’t imagine what it must have been like typing a manuscript on a typewriter or by hand.

10. dishwasher – hubby and I didn’t have a dishwasher for a long time. When we moved to a new house, a dishwasher was part of the package. We’d hate to be without it now. It was hard to go back to handwashing dishes when it broke down. We arranged for the serviceman pretty quickly!

11. airplanes – I like to travel. I like it best when I’m on the ground but a plane comes in handy to get from point A to B.

12. muffins and cakes – when it comes to food, I’m always fascinated by how people discovered various food combinations. I know many were discovered by mistake, but some combinations just don’t seem obvious at first. I’m so glad blueberry muffins were invented.

13. Internet – I can’t imagine life without the internet for both my writing, for learning new things and for meeting new people and keeping up with friends and family.

Which inventions are you thankful for?

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009
A Surprise Present

My husband came home with a surprise present for me last night. There was no occasion – he just turned up with a present. I thought it was chocolate when I started to open it, but it was a Pandora bracelet. I’ve been eyeing the bracelets for months but thought they were too expensive. It’s sterling silver and very pretty. You buy the bracelet and add the charms as the budget or occasion demands.

My husband and I don’t do presents for birthdays or Christmas. Since our birthdays are a month apart we usually buy something we both want or have dinner out. Sometimes he’ll bring me home chocolate or a bottle of wine if he knows I’ve had a bad day. This bracelet was a complete surprise, and I was really touched. Lots of brownie points :grin:

How do you handle presents in your family? Do you have memories of a special present that you really loved or maybe hated?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009
Character or Plot Driven?

I’ve been in the writing cave again today and doing some heavy-duty thinking about the story I’m plotting. I took a bit of a break to write a post for Selena Illyria for her menage a trois week. While I was writing my post, I started to think about character driven stories and plot driven stories.

A character driven story is where the characters drive the story. Whatever decisions they make direct the course of the story, and at the end of the story the characters should have changed and grown in some way.

A plot driven story is where the events unfolding in the story direct the characters’ actions. At the end of the story, the characters are not necessarily changed or different.

Romances, by their very nature, tend to focus on the characters and their journey.

When I first started writing, I tended to write a plot driven story. I like action and lots of things happening, and this showed up in my writing. Over time I’ve noticed this has changed with my latest release, Leticia’s Lovers being more character driven.

The Nocturnes I’ve been reading recently are very much plot driven, although there’s a character driven element to the stories as well. If you enjoy paranormal stories and haven’t tried the Nocturne line yet, there are some great reads waiting for you. I highly recommend Patrice Michelle’s Scions series (for a different take on vampires and werewolves) and Rhyannon Byrd’s Blood Runner series.

Do you prefer character driven stories, plot driven stories or a combination of the two?

Friday, March 27th, 2009
How Many Characters Are Too Many?

I love reading series and books about families or groups of friends. I enjoy secondary characters, especially the ones who bring humor to a story and lighten what would be an otherwise dark book. Secondary characters sometimes help show the hero or heroine in a different light, give us a new perspective and make our main characters seem more multi-faceted to the reader.

A secondary character shouldn’t overshadow the hero or heroine. If they’re that interesting, give them their own book.

A secondary character should have a specific purpose in driving the plot forward. Sometimes they provide important information for the reader and the main characters.

There shouldn’t be so many secondary characters that the story is overwhelmed. Sometimes a secondary character can do double duty, allowing the writer to get rid of one of their cast of characters.

I’m a big Sherrilyn Kenyon fan, but in some of her books I struggle with the sheer number of characters. I can usually get my head around the main characters and the other Dark Hunters who make an appearance. Add Acheron and Simi and I have no problem because they’re my favorites. It’s the casts of Gods and Goddesses who get me confused.

I’m also a huge fan of Lorelei James’ western contemporaries. I emailed her after reading one of her books and told her I loved her latest release but had she considered doing a family tree? I was getting dreadfully confused trying to keep the family characters straight. Several of them have Christian names that start with the same letter of the alphabet, as is tradition in the area where Lorelei sets her books. She ended up adding an awesome family tree to her website. Here’s the link so you can see her family trees.

With my Middlemarch Mates series, I’m currently working on book nine. I’ve been thinking about doing a family tree for my website. I don’t have any problems keeping my own characters straight, but I’m not sure how my readers are faring. If you’re reading my series, do let me know what you think about a family tree.

How many secondary characters do you think are too many in a story? What do you like most about secondary characters? What do you think about family trees? Do you like having them as a reference when you’re reading a book?

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009
Video Blogging with Catherine Bybee

My special guest today is author, Catherine Bybee. For a few months now, Catherine has been posting videos on her blog about various writing related subjects. I thought video blogging was a great idea and asked Catherine if she’d be willing to do a special blog for me about the video blogging process. Catherine is a star and produced the following video for me. She’s also visiting today and is willing to answer any of your questions. Over to Catherine…

About Catherine Bybee ~~ Her first erotic short story, Kilt Worthy, will come out sometime later this year for the Scarlet line at The Wild Rose Press. Her full length mainstream time travel romance, Binding Vows, is due out December 4th 2009. This will be available in both e-book and print. Her werewolf novella, Soul Mate is due out in fall of 2009 with Red Rose Publishing.

You can find Catherine on the web here, and see her other video blogs on her blogspot here.

Do you have any questions about video blogging?

I’m guest blogging at Maria Zannini’s blog today. I’m talking about dogs and writing. Here’s the link. I’d love to see you there.

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009
Body Parts

I’ve been researching body language recently. It’s a fascinating subject, and I’ve learned all sorts of interesting things.

The Definitive Book of Body Language by Barbara Pease has a section on the things men and women first notice about prospective partners.

Butt, Breasts or Legs?

When it comes to men and favorite body parts, they normally fit into three categories—breasts, butts or legs. This is all tied up with reproduction, believe it or not.

1. Butts – men find rounded, peach-shaped buttocks the most attractive. Female primates display their buttocks when they’re ready to mate. It shows they are receptive and available. Human females display their buttocks all the time, and this gives the males the impression she’s available. Women also store fat in their buttocks for breastfeeding and as an emergency food storage in lean times.

2. Breasts—they serve as a sexual signal. Men are attracted to cleavage.

3. Legs—long legs are a non-verbal signal telling a male a woman is sexually mature and capable of childbearing. Men like high-heels because it gives the illusion of fertile looking legs.

Chest, Legs or Butt?

Masculine body parts trigger a women’s sexual response as well.

1. Chest—a wide chest tapering to narrow hips allows a man to lug heavy weapons over long distances and to carry home their kills. (always handy, I think!)

2. Small, tight butt—a tight, muscular butt is necessary to make a strong forward thrust that’s needed for sperm transfer during sex. A man with a flabby butt has problems with this and tends to through his entire body into the thrust. Not comfortable for his partner.

3. Hips and muscular legs—symbols of masculine power and endurance. Long, muscular legs allow a man to run swiftly, chase and hunt.

Interesting stuff, huh? I tend to check out a man’s butt—don’t tell hubby. I had no idea I was thinking about forward thrusting at all. Really! No idea at all…

If you’re looking at a person of the opposite sex, which body part do you check out first?

Friday, March 20th, 2009
Romance and Infidelity

Yesterday my post was about flaws and faults in heroes. One flaw I didn’t mention in my post was that of infidelity.

Infidelity is a real hot button when it comes to romance readers. Some people have experienced infidelity in real life, and betrayal of this nature isn’t something they want to read about for relaxation. Personally, I don’t think romance and infidelity fit well together. I mean how can a book be a romance if it’s about infidelity? It doesn’t seem right at all.

One of the writers I use to critique with said up front that she wouldn’t critique or work with me on any story where one or both of the characters were unfaithful to each other. It was a hot button for her.
If a plot does use infidelity, it usually happens off stage and is part of the hero or heroine’s back story. Or it’s a subplot that occurs in the life of a secondary character.

For example with Scarlet Woman, the first book in my Middlemarch series, my heroine was in a bad marriage where her husband was constantly unfaithful. He cheated on her several times. Just before the start of the book, her husband had died in a motor vehicle accident along with his current girlfriend. Her husband’s death was the impetus she needed to make some changes in her life. She wanted to have some fun and met Saber Mitchell at the Middlemarch Single’s ball. Things went from there. Of course, her husband’s infidelity made it difficult for her to trust Saber and to take a chance on their relationship.

Despite my thoughts above about romance and infidelity, I’ve been toying with using infidelity as part of a plot for a book that’s been swirling around inside my head. I know if I go ahead, I’ll have to give my character excellent motivation and try to make my character sympathetic to readers. A tall order, which is making me hesitate about using this particular subplot. I’ll have to give it a lot more thought.

What do you think about infidelity and the romance genre? Would you read a romance where one of the characters was unfaithful? Can you think of any romances you’ve read where the hero or heroine is unfaithful to the other?