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Wednesday, February 20th, 2008
Inland Island: Karori Wildlife Sanctuary

During our recent trip to Wellington we visited the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. As the name suggests, it’s a special sanctuary for some of our endangered native birds. The 225 hectare site includes two dams that used to supply the city of Wellington with water. It was decided that the dams might break during an earthquake and a decision was made to lower the dams and use the area as an inland island. The first step was to fence the area with pest free fences.

Pest free fences, Karori Sanctuary

These fences stop possums, stoats, weasels, ferrets, rats and mice from entering the sanctuary. Once the fences were installed a pest-control plan was put in place. A year later all 13 major pests in the area were fully eradicated. Thousands of native trees were planted (the area was previously all in pine) and this planting continues. The long-term vision for the project is to return the area to its original undisturbed state and this will take around 500 years.

Some of New Zealand’s endangered wildlife has been released in the pest-free area including brown teal ducks, the little spotted kiwi, giant wetas, tuatara, stitchbird, North Island saddleback, weka, North Island robin and bellbirds to name a few.

On entry to the sanctuary staff checked my bag for mice, cats, rats and other pests. Thankfully, my bag was found pest-free! I know I would have been more shocked than anyone if a mouse had jumped out. We explored some of the many paths, pausing to peer through the treetops searching for birds.

Lower dam, Karori Sanctuary

We sighted saddlebacks and bellbirds, lots of tuis and fantails as well as some kaka (NZ variety of parrot). I’d never seen kaka up close so was fascinated to see them at the feeding stations.

Kaka, Karori Sanctuary

This photo shows two kaka. They’re a green parrot and blend in quite well with the trees, although they’re easy enough to spot because they make an awful screechy noise.

I would have loved to see a tuatara but since it was overcast they were all in their burrows, but we saw native fish and green geckos along with lots of our songbirds.

They also do a nocturnal tour where you can hear the evening song before the birds go to sleep and then go out hunting for the nocturnal kiwi. Maybe we’ll do this during another time. I’d highly recommend a visit to this sanctuary, if you’re ever down this end of the world.

Friday, February 15th, 2008
Windy Wellington

I’m off for a long weekend. Hubby and I are hitting Wellington, the capital of New Zealand and also Martinborough. Some of you might recall Lily and Alex from Never Send a Dog to do a Woman’s Job visited both places…

…which, leads in nicely to the fact that I’m the Spotlight Author at Author Island today. I’m giving away a print copy of Romancing the Alien.

How are you spending your weekend?

Thursday, January 31st, 2008
Character Traits of a Writer

Thirteen Writer Traits

This week fellow author Christine d’Abo mentioned The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Linda N. Edelstein. It contains all sorts of neat information and inspired by Christine’s post, I dragged it out of my bookcase.

In her book the author mentions traits of writers. Here are some of them:

1. Creates in order to heal old wounds in themselves.

2. Creative thinkers.

3. Sensitive.

4. Often drink alcohol, especially after forty.

5. Depression in younger writers.

6. Problems with anxiety and drug use.

7. Has to tolerate aloneness.

8. Has to let go of work.

9. Families with mental illness and creativity.

10. Higher rates of bisexuality or homosexuality. (there’s a note about a study done for this one)

11. Abstract thinkers.

12. Fear mediocrity.

13. Disregard routine problems.

As a writer I plain disagree with some of these, although it’s good to know I don’t need to feel guilty about drinking wine anymore. I think writers are articulate, imaginative, driven, fear rejection, respond well to chocolate, have great imaginations, are determined, hardworking, good procrastinators (at times) and can suffer from bottom spread.

I’m sure I’ve missed quite a few. What qualities do you think writers have?

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Tuesday, January 29th, 2008
Building a Villain

Playing to Win, the very first book I wrote is a romantic suspense. I’ve written many different genres since then, but one thing remains true. I love to add a suspense element and if I can sprinkle the odd body or two between the pages, so much the better.

Although a villain is essentially a secondary character in a romance, he or she needs just as much work during the creation process as the hero and heroine. There’s a trick or two I’ve learned to make a credible villain. I thought I’d share:

1. A villain doesn’t have to be really evil and horrid. The villain in a romance might be an old girlfriend, a brother or sister, a mother-in-law or the man living next-door. They can be a meddling friend who is trying to match make. You don’t need a high body count to make a villain. Villainy comes in many forms such as the ex-girlfriend intent on regaining the hero’s interest.

2. When you’re thinking about your villain, give him good points as well as bad ones. Make him three dimensional. If he’s a well-rounded character then he’s actually scarier because we, the reader, come to like him or we might see part of our own character in his makeup and empathize.

3. Think about having your villain mirror your hero or heroine actions. Give them a similar conflict but have them behave in a different way to solve the conflict.

4. Give your villains a good reason for behaving in the manner they are—in other words, good motivation for their actions.

5. Make use of the setting to enhance the villain i.e. cold or stormy weather or late at night. Every bit counts!

6. Take as much care when choosing your villain’s name as you do when picking a name for your hero and heroine. A good name can help make a villain.

How do you like your villains? Subtle or in-your-face? Who is your favorite villain in fiction? Are there any characteristics you like to see in a villain?

Thursday, January 24th, 2008
2008: The Year of the Potato

Thirteen Things about Potatoes

Last weekend when I visited the Botanic Gardens I discovered 2008 is the year of the potato. You learn something every day. :grin: So, in honor of the humble potato:

1. Potatoes were first “domesticated” or cultivated in the Andes thousands of years ago. They had hundreds of varieties including a frost-resistant one.

2. The potato derived its name from the American Indian word “Batata”. It was introduced to Europeans by Spanish conquerors in the late 16th Century.

3. Potatoes were not initially accepted in Europe. Some people thought they caused disease.

4. In 1845 and 1846 the potato crop in Ireland was devastated by fungus. The potato had become a major food to the Irish causing the “Irish Potato Famine” which caused many Irish to immigrate. The population of Ireland decreased by nearly two million between 1847 and 1851.

5. The potato is the second most popular food in America, beaten only by milk products.

6. The average American eats over 120 pounds of potato a year.

7. One Medium Potato (150 grams or about 1/3 pound) contains 110 Calories, 3 grams of protein, 23 grams of carbohydrate, 0 grams of fat, 2710 mg of fibre, 10 mg of sodium and 750 mg of potassium.

8. A potato contains 80% water.

9. Potatoes are related to the tobacco and tomato families.

10. Antoine-Auguste Parmentier was a 18th century agronomist who convinced the common French people to accept the potato as a safe food. (They thought it caused leprosy.) He used reverse psychology by posting guards around potato fields during the day to prevent people from stealing them. He left them unguarded at night. So, every night, the thieves would sneak into the fields to steal potatoes.

11. Mr. Potato Head was born in 1952 and was also the first toy to be advertised on television.

12. Instant mashed potatoes (dehydrated potatoes) were introduced commercially in 1955.

13. Marie Antoinette wife of Louis XV was known to wear potato blossoms as a hair decoration.

And a final one – my favorite way to eat a potato is baked in its jacket, served with Greek yogurt and ground black pepper. Hey, I’m on a cutback so I will fit my clothes for Nationals, otherwise I might have said sour cream and butter!! What is your favorite way to eat potatoes?

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Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008
A Potager Garden

When we first moved to our current house the section was bare, and the soil consisted mostly of clay. After throwing around some ideas we decided to design a potager garden.

A potager is French and it’s a raised bed garden, normally for vegetables and herbs. Hubby built three box squares out of timber and filled them with good quality soil. We made a decorative path between them so it’s easy to plant, water and harvest and not long ago, Mr. Munro planted a hedge of shelter trees because it seems to be windy where we live.

Mr. Munro spends hours out in the garden and periodically, I have to go out an inspect his latest improvements and crops. This year we’ve had fresh potatoes, lettuce, zucchini, red onions, leeks, green beans, basil, radishes, beetroot and the tomatoes are starting to ripen. It’s so handy just wandering out to the garden to pick whatever vegetables we’ve decided to have for dinner.

Here are some photos of Mr. Munro’s garden:

Mr. Munro's garden

Mr. Munro's garden

Mr. Munro's garden

I have to confess I’m a bit tired of zucchini but I’m really enjoying the green beans and can’t wait for the tomatoes to ripen so I can make fresh tomato sauce to have with pasta. Do you grow your own vegetables? What do you grow? And if you don’t have a garden, what is your favorite vegetable to eat?

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007
A Surplus of Bananas

Banana Cake There’s a surplus of bananas in our house this week since Mr. Munro brought quite a few hands home last week. I love bananas but for me they have to be on the green side in order for maximum enjoyment.

Once they ripen, in my opinion, the only thing they’re good for is cooking – either banana cake or banana muffins. I made banana muffins the other night and they were delicious.

Tomorrow, I’m going to make my favorite banana cake.

Read the rest of this entry ?

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007
A Military Man

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Military Reads

I hadn’t read a military romance for ages but the other day I just had the urge to pull one from my to-read pile. I’m also going through a Western themed splurge so I’m definitely thinking alpha male! Here are some of my favorite reads with military heroes.

1. Cullen’s Bride by Fiona Brand – a Silhouette Intimate Moment by a New Zealand writer.

2. Forget Me Not by Marliss Melton. This is the book I pulled out of my to-read pile. It’s the writer’s first book. Wow! I enjoyed it so much I’ve ordered the rest of her backlist.

3. On Danger’s Edge by Lise Fuller. This book won a RT Reviewer’s choice award.

4. Suzanne Brockmann – It’s hard to choose from Suzanne’s books. One of my all-time favorites is Letters to Kelly. It made me cry.

5. Lora Leigh – I’m a real fan of Lora’s so I’m adding her Navy Seal series to my list. The first book is Dangerous Games. Actually Amazon says this is book 2 so I’m slightly confused.

6. Kiss and Tell by Cherry Adair. I read this book ages ago and have been a Cherry Adair fan ever since.

7. Seven Days to Forever by Ingrid Weaver – another Silhouette Intimate Moment

8. Catherine Mann with her Wingman Warriors. Anything, Anywhere, Anytime is one of her books.

9. Denise Agnew writes great military heroes. Try Primordial.

10. Eye of the Storm by Maura Seger. This is set during the second world war and came out in 1985. I must reread it to see if it’s as good as I remember. Amazon says it’s a civil war story. Wrong, wrong, wrong!

11. All the Queen’s Men by Linda Howard – not strictly military. The hero John Medina is a CIA Black Ops Specialist.

12. Summer in the City of Sails by Shelley Munro – you didn’t think I’d leave out my own did you? :grin: The hero is a member of NZ’s SAS.

13. Unforgettable by Shelley Munro. Go on – buy me! I’ve been getting Five star reviews all over the place!

14. And one extra one – just for Mr. Munro. Any of the Sharpe books by Bernard Cornwell or if you prefer check out the DVD’s featuring the hunky Mr. Sean Bean. One of the recent Sharpe books is Sharpe’s Escape The stories are set in the early 1800’s.

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Thursday, September 20th, 2007
Magical Seahorses

Thirteen Things about SEAHORSES

When I saw one of the excursions possible from the ship was a visit to a seahorse farm I cast my vote immediately. I told Mr. Munro we should visit and he agreed since we both love nature, animals and the like, and it was something we can’t do here in New Zealand. I fell in love with seahorses during my visit to Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater world in Auckland. Our claim to fame – I believe Kelly Tarlton’s pioneered the giant perspex tubes that you see in aquariums World wide.

1. Seahorses are generally monogamous and they can’t live alone. They must have a mate.

2. The seahorse is the only animal in the entire animal kingdom in which the MALE has a true pregnancy.

3. The MALE stays pregnant most of its life.

4. Seahorses inhabit the coral reefs and sea grass beds in all the oceans of the world.

5. They’re an endangered species.

6. Over 30 million seahorses are taken from the wild every year for use in Chinese medicine.

7. Over 1 million seahorses are taken from the wild for pets. Most die.

8. They will eat only live foods such as brine shrimp and are prone to stress in an aquarium, which lowers the efficiency of their immune systems and makes them susceptible to disease.

9. A seahorse has highly mobile eyes to watch for predators and prey without moving its body. It has a long snout with which it sucks up its prey. Its fins are small because it must move through thick water vegetation. The seahorse has a long, prehensile tail which it will curl around any support such as seaweed to prevent being swept away by currents.

10. Ocean Rider in Kona, Hawaii started up to breed seahorses so they weren’t taken from the wild for the pet fish trade.

11. As mentioned in No. 8 above seahorses eat live food in the wild. Ocean Rider’s first challenge was to get their seahorses to eat dead food. One brave little seahorse – I think his name was Jack but I can’t remember for sure – tried one and all the others copied him. They moved Jack from tank to tank to train all the other seahorses.

12. Check out Ocean Rider for details on buying and caring for seahorses and register for their bulletin board to get into contact with other owners.

13. A pair of Mustang Seahorses of medium size costs around US$300 for a pair. Mustang seahorses are good for first time seahorse owners. They are tropical, colorful, bold, gregarious, social, hearty and healthy! They all feed EZY on frozen mysis enhanced with Vibrance® right from your hand!!

Ocean Rider has been breeding the Mustang since 1998. They first offered Certifiticates of Authenticity and High Health for the Mustang in 1999. All Mustangs are now shipped with these Certificates.

And finally, here are a few photos from our visit. It was a bit hard to photograph the little blighters but we did our best! These are the tanks and that’s me with my floppy hat.

Sea Horses

Sea Horse

And these are my fingers holding a seahorse. They’re just so danged cute. Ah, that would be the seahorses, not my fingers :wink:

Sea Horse

Saturday, August 25th, 2007
The Bog Man

I was fascinated by this story and the photos in my National Geographic newsletter today. It’s about bodies discovered in Denmark’s bogs, most of whom seem to have been sacrifices. Check out the photo of the man with the battle hairstyle and the one with the red hair. (They think the bog has made the man’s hair turn bright red)

This is the link here