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Owls ~ The Research and Maori Lore

For the last year, I’ve been obsessed with owls. I have no idea why, except that I like their cute faces and huge eyes.

Owl

Photo by Rúben Marques on Unsplash

My current work-in-progress is Black Moon Dragon. I was writing away, and suddenly, an owl appeared. Since this dragon romance is set in New Zealand, the owl was a ruru or morepork as they are more commonly known. An owl made an appearance in Journey with Joe (this was a pink owl) and I also wrote one into Stranded with Ella. None of this was conscious, but I clearly have owls on the brain!

In Maori mythology, the owl is a bird of the Underworld. The Maoris thought this because the morepork is a nocturnal bird, it has big, round eyes, and is a silent hunter.

Before the arrival of the white man in New Zealand, the Maori considered the arrival of the ruru a bad omen—a sign of death. They dreaded its powers and the people thought the bird was connected with witchcraft or makutu. Rumor said the ruru ate dead men’s fingernails and these became part of the owl’s eyes, which is why no one ever ate an eye.

The Taranaki Maori used to eat owls, thinking that by eating the birds they would prolong their lives. They did not eat the eyes. The Maoris in other areas considered eating owls distasteful.

While some tribes thought the bird a bad omen, others considered the appearance of an owl a family protector. They could protect, warn, help and advise on important matters.

One last thing about the owl—the first Maoris viewed the owl’s big, round eyes and adopted this wide-eyed look for their hakas (war dance or challenge).

While visiting England, my husband and I had a chance to fly owls, and we held a morepork. They are a small owl, much smaller than I’d realized. It was a rare privilege since although we often hear the owls call, they are seldom seen. Read about our visit to the Exmoor Owl and Hawk Center.

A morepork’s call is very distinctive. Early European settlers thought the birds where calling More pork. More pork, hence the owl’s common name.

Source: Maori Bird Lore by Murdoch Riley

Shelley and a Morepork (New Zealand owl)

This is a photo of me holding a morepork (ruru) during our Exmoor visit.

The Story Behind: Military Men – Innocent Next Door #romance #research

Before I published my first book, I wrote a story called Summer in the City. The heroine was a country girl and funnily enough, her name was Summer. She was a trainee librarian, and she moved to Auckland for further training and to get away from her overprotective family. I knew she came from the country, but I wasn’t sure where Summer and her family lived.

I consulted a map and finally decided on Eketahuna because I liked the name and the way it sounded. For the uninitiated, Eketahuna is north of Wellington. As I mentioned, it’s a country town, but I’d never visited the place before.

The story featuring Summer is available now as Innocent Next Door, the first book in my Military Men series.

I’ve always meant to write more stories in this series, and earlier this year, I had the spark of an idea for one of Summer’s brothers.

Two weeks ago, Mr. Munro and I flew down to Palmerston North, hired a car and drove down to Eketahuna. I took lots of notes and photos and the new story is percolating away inside my head. Like many of our country towns, Eketahuna is smaller than it used to be, but one thing that delighted me is that the town still has a library.

Here are a few photos of Eketahuna

Kiwi - Eketahuna

Wild kiwis live in the Eketahuna area so there are lots of Kiwi signs.

Eketahuna Township

The township of Eketahuna. A sleepy little town!

Eketahuna - Kiwi

More kiwis!

Eketahuna Church

The Anglican (Church of England) church.

Surrounding Countryside

Beautiful countryside surrounds the town of Eketahuna.

Check out the books in the Military Men series:

Book 1 – Innocent Next Door
Book 2 – Soldier With Benefits
Book 3 – Safeguarding Sorrel
Military Men Box set – featuring books 1 – 3

13 Facts About Baboons and Frogs

Thursday Thirteen

Recently I’ve been plotting and planning a new series called Middlemarch Capture. One of the fun things about writing is you get to research all sorts of interesting things. This week I’ve been researching baboons and frogs for the first two books in my series.

Thirteen Things About Baboons and Frogs

We’ll start with baboons:

Baboons

1. The muzzle angles very sharply from the braincase and the face is free of hair.

2. The buttock area is naked of fur too.

3. All fingers have fingernails.

4. They hang out in troops of varied ages. If threatened the adults will protect those weaker and there are marked ranks within the troop.

5. They have powerful canines and are fierce fighters. Their main enemy is the leopard.

6. They are omnivores and eat grasses, insects, young gazelles and antelopes and sometimes others within the troop. They have also been known to kill human children.

Frog

7. Frogs are found on every continent apart from Antarctica.

8. A worrying number of frogs are becoming extinct each year.

9. Frogs are amphibians. They hatch as tadpoles and change to frogs. There are some frogs which develop directly and this enables them to live away from water.

10. Scientists call frogs an indicator species since they help to show how an ecology is functioning.

11. Frogs eat insects.

12. Different species of frogs have different shaped and colored eyes. They can be catlike, round or even heart shaped and the colors can be brown, bronze, green and red.

13. Frogs breathe and absorb moisture through their skin. Some frogs secrete a mucous through their skin. Some frogs shed their skin on a daily basis, while others stick to weekly shedding of skin. By all accounts this looks pretty freaky.

I found some very cool facts to twist and fit into my sci-fi romances. A very productive day!

What is the strangest thing you’ve researched?

Thirteen Factoids About Eighteenth Century Food

Thursday Thirteen

I picked up a copy of A History of English Food by Clarissa Dickson Wright from the library last week. The history of food fascinates me, and I enjoyed the way this author told an interesting story instead of throwing facts at me.

Here are thirteen things I found interesting:

1. The Georgians had a huge impact on food, the way it was cooked, served and consumed. They even influenced the times of dining.

2. Advances in the fireplace and accessories made cooking less laborious. Roasting and baking became much easier due to new designs of ovens and flues.

3. Some of the poorer families didn’t own ovens and sent their pies, stamped with their initials, to their local baker.

4. The English started making porcelain from which to drink tea.

5. Tea became a very common drink for all classes. Tea was drunk weak and sweetened without milk. It’s assumed that they drank their tea black because the milk was often sour, had nasty additives or was thinned down.

6. The introduction of more lighting was one of the reasons meals became later and taken at times more familiar to us in 2011. In Medieval times people would go to bed when it became dark, but now people stayed up much later.

7. Seating was done according to station, although gradually this changed to alternative seating with men and women. They say behavior improved on the introduction of this new seating method. The women obviously kept the men in line!

8. Turtle soup wasn’t actually a soup but more a stew. It contained chunky bits of turtle. Turtle soup was so popular that people who couldn’t afford turtles made mock turtle soup out of calves’ heads. Personally, I say yuck!

9. It was deemed vulgar to sniff the meat on your fork or plate because the activity implies the meat was tainted. People didn’t take their own cutlery with them any longer. Instead the host provided it.

10. The ice house was another new innovation. A small stone outbuilding containing a deep pit for ice helped keep food fresh. Blocks of ice were sawn from rivers to provide the necessary ice.

11. In 1762 John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich sent for two slices of bread and some meat, inventing the sandwich. Job well done since I like sandwiches for lunch.

12. Viscount Townshend, known as Turnip Townshend, introduced a system of four-field crop rotation. This involved a strict order of plantings and improved the fertility of soil and crop production.

13. The staples of the English diet – meat, bread, and vegetables were readily available and affordable during the first half of the century. Toward the end of the century with the industrial revolution taking hold and growing populations, the laboring classes started to suffer.

It’s interesting to note that around this time England started sending convicts to Australia. One of my ancestors was sentenced for receiving stolen goods in 1801 and sent to Australia. His wife and two children went with him.

The Connection: Characters and Real Life Experience

This is the final day of my Lone Wolf virtual tour. I’m visiting Sara York’s blog and talking about authors, life experience and characters. Is there a connection between an author’s life experience and their writing?

Don’t forget–if you comment on my post at Sara’s blog you’ll be in the draw to win a $20 Amazon voucher.

Lady Parts

Thursday Thirteen

Last week my thirteen was about male naughty bits so this week I thought I’d do a female one.

Thirteen Names For Lady Parts

1. Downstairs (19th century)
2. cock-holder (19th century)
3. Serpent socket (1990s)
4. Brat-getting place (19th century)
5. Inglenook (19th century)
6. Netherlands- the low country (18th century)
7. Happy hunting grounds (19th century – USA)
8. Road to a Christening (19th century)
9. columns of Venus (labia – 18th century)
10. Cupid’s furrow (19th century)
11. fun hatch (1990s)
12. poking hole (late 19th century)
13. aphrodisiacal tennis court (17th century)

Source: the very entertaining The Big Book Of Filth: 6500 Sex Slang Words and Phrases

So, which one are you going to use in your next book or sexy conversation?