Adventure into Romance with Shelley Munro
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Tuesday, June 4th, 2019
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!

Saturday, June 1st, 2019
Interview with Author McKenna Dean #paranormal #romance

Interview with author McKenna Dean
Today, I’m excited to welcome McKenna Dean to my blog. McKenna Dean has been an actress, a vet tech, a singer, a teacher, a biologist, and a dog trainer. She’s worked in a genetics lab, at the stockyard, behind the scenes as a props manager, and at a pizza parlor slinging dough. Finally, she realized all these jobs were just a preparation for what she really wanted to be: a writer.

She likes putting her characters in hot water to see how strong they are. Like tea bags, only sexier.

Hi, McKenna! Your website tagline is “Paranormal lives here.” Please tell us a little about yourself and what made you write paranormal romance.

I’ve been writing for about 10 years now, having cut my teeth in fanfiction. I had a hard time settling down to one genre at first—I love so many! Romance, mysteries, science-fiction, historical romance… finally, I realized that most of my stories had that little extra twist that comes from the supernatural—and my experiences working with animals just lent itself to writing about shifters.

I also love exploring that sense of “other” you get with paranormal romance. It’s such a great genre for examining our social structure. Not to mention, my favorite stories center around found families and finding your tribe. Paranormal romance has such wonderful scope for world building, too.

You write several series, but let’s focus on your Redclaw Security books today. You’ve won awards with these books, so please give us a little background. What was the inspiration behind your series?

I’m so glad you asked! Redclaw Security is an elite firm of paranormal agents who investigate and solve shifter matters. Prior to the use of nuclear weapons in WW2, there were very few shifters, mostly of the mythological kind, such as phoenixes, dragons, and griffins. Nuclear testing activated dormant shifter genes in the rest of the population, creating the wolf, big cat, and bear shifters (and more) we all know and love. At the same time, artifacts of great power were triggered as well, many of which can only be used by those with the shifter gene. The Paranormal Council formed Redclaw to collect, study, and isolate such artifacts, as well as serve as a kind of law enforcement for shifters as they can’t take their problems to the regular police. The Redclaw books can be read as standalones, and each of them feature a member of Redclaw in some form or another, showcasing a different set of characters with each story.

I’m also working on the origin story of Redclaw. Set in the 1950s, the Bishop and Knight books feature a pair of human agents working within Redclaw in its early days. Henrietta “Rhett” Bishop is a former socialite in desperate need of a job, who’s been tasked with recruiting a brilliant but discredited scientist, Dr. Peter Knight, to work for Redclaw. I’m having great fun writing these stories, which I liken to Nick and Nora meets Warehouse-13. The first in the series, Bishop Takes Knight, should be out in June or July 2019.

I’m very excited about another planned series, however! Whereas the Redclaw books feature different characters within the agency, the Better off Red series is going to focus on the Major Shifter Crimes division within Redclaw. Tiger-shifter Morgan Delaney is in charge of MSC, leading her teammates fox-shifter Jason Fox (yes, people make jokes about his name), hedgehog-shifter Mark Mabry, honey-badger shifter Lex Reeder, and ocelot-shifter Perdita Hansen as they tackle the gritty crimes of the paranormal world. Her first big case on returning to duty after killing her ex in self-defense involves shifters being murdered for their DNA—and all signs point to wealthy industrialist Rian Stirling, who happens to be her boss’s half-brother—as well as her fated mate. I can’t wait to share those books with you guys!

What is your favorite paranormal creature to write? Do you like felines or wolves best, and what research did you do to write your shifters?

I’m a biologist and have worked as a dog trainer and a vet tech. Writing animal scenes are the easiest part of my stories! I do spend a fair amount of time online researching specifics—such as the length of a grizzly bear claw (Two to four inches) and whether or not tigers can purr (they can’t! Cheetahs are the only big cats that purr). Picking between the two is like asking me to choose between dogs and cats. Um, both? Though given the number of cat shifters I have in my stories, it looks like the felines are in the lead right now.

What comes next in the Redclaw Security series? Can you give us a few hints?

People have been begging me for bear-shifter Andy Grant’s story, and I promise it will come. I’ve been eyeing Morgan’s younger sister as a potential mate for him. Can you imagine how hard it would be to live up to your big sister, who’s a tiger-shifter and head of one of crack teams within Redclaw, when you’re ‘only’ a cat shifter and a forest ranger? Bridget is going to learn not to compare herself to her sister, and find love along the way.

Ask any author, and they’ll tell you writing is hard work. I like to have a cup of tea on hand before I start my working day. Do you have any rituals to get you in the mood to write, and what is your favorite time of the day to add to your word count?

My favorite time to write is in the morning, but that rarely happens. I hit the ground running and am at work by 7:30 am each day, often putting in ten to twelve hours. I like the idea of rituals, but mostly I’m sneaking writing in here and there, in between other things. My idea of heaven is a weekend in a cabin, where I take the dogs for long walks in the woods (the best time to brainstorm!) and write all afternoon and evening.

I understand you have a free story called Snowfall, which is part of the Redclaw Security series. How do readers get their hands on this and does it standalone?

Oh, that’s easy! You can sign up for my newsletter and get Snowfall for free when you do so. It’s a short story set in the Redclaw universe, but I love Paige and Nicholas so much I’m planning to give them their own full length story someday! And yes, like all the Redclaw Security books, it can be read as a standalone. The Bishop and Knight books, as well as the Better off Dead stories, will be more traditional series.

Newsletter signup: http://eepurl.com/c8GDYX

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

The best place is to follow my blog—I tend to post about once a week with snippets about life on the farm and upcoming plans. I’m far more disciplined about posting there than sending out a newsletter—most of the time those are featuring stories on sale. If you go to the right sidebar on my blog page, you’ll see the subscription box for the website. You might have to scroll down before you see it, especially if you’re on your smartphone.
http://mckennadeanromance.com/blog

Links:
Newsletter
Website
Amazon
Facebook Author Page
Twitter
Instagram
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Snowfall by McKenna Dean Snowfall (A Redclaw Security Universe story)

The storm of the century. That’s what the forecasters called it. No problem. Peyton Grant was ready: books, food, wine, and a wood stove. The only thing she could have wished for was a little company. With heavy snow on the way, that was unlikely.

The last thing she expected was to run into celebrity, Nicholas Lang, stuck in a ditch near her house. What could a small-town veterinarian and a movie star have in common? The answer just might make all Peyton’s fantasies come true.

Get Snowfall, free at Amazon

Other books in the Redclaw Security series:
1. The Panther’s Lost Princess
2. Ghost of a Chance

Monday, May 27th, 2019
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.

Sunday, May 19th, 2019
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

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019
Hobbiton, Part Two

This is a continuation of my post about my visit to Hobbiton in Matamata. Part one is here.

Pheasant in the Vegetable Garden

I was busy taking photos of Hobbit holes and my surroundings and saw something moving. It took me a moment to realize the pheasant was real and it was busy feasting on the vegetables.

The Frog Pond

This is the frog pond. During filming the frogs made it challenging to hear the actors. Sir Peter Jackson paid someone to catch all the frogs and relocate them elsewhere so filming could continue without issue. The frogs found their way back…

The fake tree

This tree, which grows above Bilbo Baggin’s home in Bagshot Row is the only fake tree. All the rest are real. A few days before filming Peter Jackson visited the site and decided the tree’s leaves had faded to the wrong color. A man spent two days spraypainting each leaf. The trees are resprayed every few years.

Bilbo Baggin's Home

Bilbo Baggins is one of the more prosperous hobbits. We know this because his home has lots of windows, and Hobbits are taxed by the number of windows in a dwelling.

Shelley and the Hobbit Hole

There are two different sizes of Hobbit holes. I think the guide said they were 60 and 90 respectively. The Hobbit characters were filmed in front of the large doors, and the tall characters such as Gandalf were filmed in front of the small doors. I’m standing in front of a small door.

Each of the Hobbit holes is empty inside since the interior shots were all filmed at studios in Wellington.

Green Dragon Inn

This is the view of the Mill and the Green Dragon Inn. We walked across the bridge to the Green Dragon and finished our tour with a drink.

Drinks at the Green Dragon Inn

The drinks are all brewed especially for Hobbiton. I tried the apple cider, which was delicious.

If you’re ever near Matamata, I recommend a visit to Hobbiton. It’s pure fun and whimsey, and I loved every moment of my visit.

Monday, May 6th, 2019
A Visit to Hobbiton, Matamata, New Zealand

I’ve wanted to visit Hobbiton in Matamata for ages, and yesterday, I finally got to explore the home of the Hobbits. In order to visit it’s necessary to plan and book ahead. My tour was for 10:30 and Hobbiton central was very busy with tours going out every half an hour.

Map of Hobbiton

This is the map of Hobbiton, given to each visitor. Hobbiton itself is situated on the Anderson farm, which is an operating beef and sheep farm of 1250 acres. The land in the Matamata area is gorgeous full of green rolling hills and perfect for Hobbiton. Sir Peter Jackson discovered his home for Hobbiton after flying over in a helicopter. After the Lord of the Rings movies were completed, Hobbiton was dismantled. When it was decided to film the Hobbit movies, Hobbiton was rebuilt in permanent materials and kept as a tourist attraction once filming was completed.

Welcome to Hobbiton

There are 44 Hobbit holes and seven maintenance men and women keep the 12-acre site in pristine condition. What I loved about the place was the attention to detail. Each hobbit hole has a theme or a clue as to the occupant’s occupation. There is a beekeeper, a fisherman, a painter and so forth.

A Hobbit Hole

Smoking Chimney

This one even had a smoking chimney. There were lines full of washing, and I loved the vegetable gardens.

The Fisherman's Home

Hobbit Hole

Shelley and the Hobbit Hole

I enjoyed my visit so much and took heaps of photos. There are too many for one post. Come back tomorrow for part two.

Wednesday, May 1st, 2019
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)

Monday, April 29th, 2019
Recipe ~ Vegetarian Chili

Adventure 2019

I’m still on an adventure kick and trying as many new things–big and small–as much as I can this year. This week, I tried a new recipe for vegetarian chili, which I discovered on The English Kitchen blog. It was a complete success, and I’ll be adding it to my recipe repertoire. This recipe is chock-full of vegetables, and I bet even you meat-lovers out there will enjoy it.

Vegetarian Chili

Ingredients:

2 x onions
2 x carrots
1 x green pepper
1 x green chili
1 x kumara (sweet potato)
2 x cloves of garlic
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
salt
pepper
1 x can red kidney beans (drained)
1 x jar tomato passata (about six cups)
1 teaspoon liquid honey
coriander leaves
1 x square of dark chocolate

Method:

1. Peel carrots and dice finely into small chunks.
2. Dice onion, kumara, green pepper.
3. Deseed the green chili and dice.
4. Chop the garlic.
5. Add the oil to a large pot or frying pan.
6. Once heated, add all the vegetables and cook for around eight minutes until the vegetables are softened.
7. Add the spices and fry off for about thirty seconds.
8. Add the passata, kidney beans, and honey.
9. Also, add a little water – about 1/2 cup.
10. Add salt and pepper to taste.
11. Cook for around 1/2 hour, adding a bit more water if necessary.
12. Add the square of chocolate a few minutes before serving and let it melt into the chili.
13. Garnish with fresh coriander.
14. Serve with rice or with tortillas, sour cream, and guacamole.

Shelley’s Notes:

1. I didn’t have any fresh chilis to hand, so I just used the chili powder, and that worked out fine.
2. The original recipe said 1 tablespoon of mild chili powder. We only have the hot stuff. I reduced the amount to 1/4 teaspoon and that was perfect for my taste buds.
3. That looks like an egg on top, but it’s a spoonful of plain yogurt with a little mango chili sauce on top.

This chili was delicious, and I’ll definitely make it again.

Monday, April 22nd, 2019
The Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, New Zealand

Whenever we have friends visiting from overseas, we take them to the Waitakere Regional Park. A short drive from the inner city and you’re in the middle of nature. The views from the visitor center are gorgeous, and it’s an interesting place for kids of all ages!

Waitakere View from Lookout

This is the view from the lookout at the rear of the visitor center. On a clear day, you can see for miles.

View of Auckland

It was a little hazy on the day I took this photo, but you can make out the Sky Tower and the other highrise buildings in the central city.

Native NZ trees

These are some of the native trees. The punga ferns were striking and pretty this day.

About the kauri tree

A Young Kauri Tree

A young kauri tree. This native tree is in danger from kauri dieback. It’s incurable, and currently, many of our tracks in the park are closed in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease.

The bush and river

Another view of the bush and the river.

Maori carving

Maori carving

Maori carving

These are some of the Maori carvings at the visitor center.

Shelley at Waitakere

And finally, this is me hamming it up with a view of the bush and sea behind me.

I’ve used the Waitakere area in my book Black Moon Dragon, and the heroine lives on the coast at Piha, which is not far away.

I highly recommend a visit to the Waitakere Ranges if you’re a visitor to Auckland. You won’t be disappointed!

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019
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…