Adventure into Romance with Shelley Munro
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Monday, April 4th, 2016
The White Desert, Egypt #travel

White Desert

This is the White Desert in the west of Egypt. It’s full of strange rock and sand formations, caused by the wind. I imagine a lunar landscape looks much like this.

Friday, April 1st, 2016
A Cinderella Romance Set in New Zealand #sale #99c

This month I’m taking part in the VIP Reader Rewards for April. Lots of genres on sale and free. Loads of bargains!

My book, ONE NIGHT OF MISBEHAVIOR is part of the promotion and currently on sale at 99c (normally $3.99)

One Night, FINAL200x300

Grab your copy now:

Amazon| All Romance ebooks| Barnes & Noble| Koboicon| iBooks|

Check out the rest of the bargains and freebies

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016
Reivers in Hunted & Seduced #paranormal

Highland cow standing in a field with a loch in background

When I was working through my edits for Hunted & Seduced, my editor asked me about my use of the word reivers. Did I mean Reavers, the ferocious race, that featured in the television series Firefly? And wasn’t I spelling it incorrectly?

No, I answered. I mean reivers.

When I started writing the House of the Cat series, I dipped into my past travel adventures in Scotland and decided to invent a race called the Scothage. In Claimed & Seduced one of Keira’s employees comes from the planet Scothage. He looks after her livestock and wears a leather kilt.

In Hunted & Seduced, I again dipped into my Scottish memories and introduced a group of reivers who came from the planet Scothage.

Reivers were cattle thieves. They roamed the border region of Scotland from the 13th to the 17th century, raiding and plundering cattle. The reivers stole from their Scottish neighbors and also traveled across the border to plunder the English. Their main motive was to make money.

One of the most well-known reivers was Rob Roy Macgregor, made famous in the books written by Sir Walter Scott. The truth was romanticized in Scott’s novels and Rob Roy was portrayed as the Robin Hood of the far North. He was captured in 1727 and sentenced to transport to Barbados. Eventually he was pardoned, and he gave up the cattle rustling business to live the rest of his life as a law-abiding citizen.

My reivers are baddies who earn their living by stealing or capturing other spaceships for profit. In this case, they bite off a little more than they can handle.

So, there you have it – the story behind my reivers.

Read an excerpt for Hunted & Seduced

Friday, March 25th, 2016
The Past Turning Full Circle #romance #contemporary

Past Regrets

Meet Julia Maxwell. Like many heroines in romance land, Julia comes with baggage. While she was growing up her mother ran The Last Frontier, a strip club on Karangahape Road (known as K’ Road). The club is an old one and several generations of Julia’s family have run the business.

As a child, Julia hated the teasing she received from her peers, hated living in the flat above the club, hated her mother’s profession. Julia turns her back on the club, yet when money is short, she turns to stripping to earn enough to enroll in secretarial school. The second her training is completed, Julia walks away, pleased to be done with The Last Frontier.

But the past often has a way of returning to kick us in the butt.

And that’s exactly what happens with Julia. When problems pile up at the club, Julia steps in to help her ailing mother. It seems generations of tradition have rubbed off on Julia. First though, she needs to confess the truth to her friends.

Here’s a short excerpt where she makes her confession to her friends:

Julia’s hand tightened around her glass. Afraid of breaking it, she set her wine aside. How would her friends react? “My mother runs a club on Karangahape Road. A strip club.” Julia sucked in a quick breath and scanned her friends’ faces, ready for their responses. She’d heard every variation while growing up and had a smartass cut down for each dirty, snide comment.

“K’ Road? Really?” The pitch of Maggie’s voice rose, clear amusement in the quirk of her lips.

“Is that all you’re gonna say?” Julia demanded.

“Why didn’t you tell us?” Susan asked.

“My question exactly,” Christina said. “It’s not a brothel, is it?”

“No!” Julia leapt to her feet, indignation fueling her temper. “It’s purely a strip club. Buck’s nights and that sort of thing. I earned enough money stripping to pay for my education rather than taking out student loans.”

Silence fell. Susan’s mouth dropped open fishlike. Intrigue and silent questions radiated off Christina while Maggie raised her quirk to a smartass grin.

“Any more comments?” Julia asked.

~ * ~

Julia, with the help of her friends, takes the opportunity to haul the club into the twenty-first century by rebranding and changing up the format to burlesque. For Julia, the challenges from the past keep coming, pinging her like buckshot. You can learn more about Julia and Past Regrets here.

Do we really put the past behind us or does it keep returning to teach us lessons and shape our destiny?

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016
A Taste of Poison

Crime Scene: Poisons

One of the cool things about writing books with mystery and suspense elements is that you get to kill people off. The murder can be behind the scenes where the reader doesn’t see the grisly stuff, or the murder can be graphic and gritty and give readers nightmares. And then there are all the interesting methods of killing characters off. Choices galore and so much fun—for the writer that is!

Today I’m going to discuss poison. I’ve heard it said poison is a woman’s weapon. Since food is the ideal vehicle for poison and food preparation is often the domain of women, it’s simple to slip a little extra into the dinner. With poison, all the murderer requires is a way to introduce it to the victim’s system and their job is done. They don’t have to get up close and personal or get blood on their hands.

Poison was used by ancient tribes, within the Roman Empire and in Medieval Europe. Many noble families employed people to taste their food before they dined, so if the meal did contain poison, the taster keeled over first. These days most poisonings occur accidently, and the victims are often children.

Arsenic

This is a common poison in fiction, and it was very popular with the Borgias and de Medicis.

Arsenic is usually swallowed, but it can also be inhaled in industrial circumstances. Symptoms of arsenic poisoning include gastric problems, jaundiced skin, a skin rash, pain and vomiting. The skin becomes cold and victims become dizzy and weak from in drop in blood pressure. These symptoms are followed by convulsions and a coma. Death finally occurs due to circulatory failure. Not a nice way to go!

In the eighteenth century a Frenchman killed off his wives with arsenic. During sex he used a goatskin sheath to protect himself, but he placed a lethal dose of arsenic on the outside of the sheath. The women absorbed the arsenic during intercourse and died. Authorities became suspicious when so many of his wives died. He was found guilty and hanged.

Cyanide

Cyanide comes in three common forms: potassium cyanide, sodium cyanide and hydrogen cyanide. The potassium and sodium forms are solid and have the distinctive bitter almond scent while hydrogen cyanide is a gas. Cyanide can be swallowed, inhaled and absorbed through the skin. The cyanide interferes with the enzymes responsible for getting oxygen into the body. Death is fairly quick—short of breath, dizziness, nausea and a drop in blood pressure are some of the symptoms. Although the bitter almond scent is an indicator of the presence of cyanide, not everyone is able to smell this aroma.

Agatha Christie used cyanide in several of her mysteries. I distinctly recall Hercule Poirot detecting the scent of bitter almonds in a recent TV episode.

These are only two poisons to consider—there are countless others for your characters to use to rid themselves of troublesome foes.

When deciding to use poison as a murder weapon consider the following:

1. Is your book a historical or a more contemporary title?

Poisons were readily available from apothecaries in years past, and the possession of poisons didn’t prove guilt. It is more unusual to have poison readily available these days (apart from general household cleaners) and it isn’t always easy to purchase poison. Some require a special license before they can be purchased.

2. Think about the symptoms and the dosage required to kill off a character. i.e. their size, age and sex.

3. Do you want a quick death or do you want them to suffer for weeks?

4. Is there an antidote available?

5. How are you intending to introduce the poison? Will the character swallow, inhale or absorb the poison through their skin?

6. Do you want the crime discovered quickly or not? Maybe the murderer needs time to set up an alibi.

Poison is an interesting addition to the writer’s arsenal, and it might be just the weapon for you!

Authors: Have you used poison as a murder weapon before? What is the most interesting way you’ve killed off a character?

Readers: What are your favorite murder weapons in books? Do you like the sly murderer who uses poison or would you prefer a gun? Do you like your murders to take place off the page or do you like to experience them along with the characters?

Sources: Deadly Doses, a writer’s guide to poisons by Serita Deborah Stevens with Anne Klarner

Monday, March 21st, 2016
Terms of Endearment

Endearments

“Hello, darling.”

“Stop right there, sweetheart.”

“Lookin’ good, babe!”

“Sugar-pie, honey bunch, you know that I love you.”

“Aw, snookums.”

Endearments and pet names have always been part of our vocabularies. They appear in movies, on television, we see them in books and magazines and hear them in our daily conversations. Some are cute. Some are private, kept for tender moments between lovers. Some are over-the-top saccharine-sweet and make us cringe.

As a romance writer, I sprinkle sweetheart or babe in my dialogue. It’s a good way of adding characterization. A man might use the casual “babe” because a woman’s name escapes him and he doesn’t want to look stupid. Our male character might never utter a sweetheart or love until he meets the one. Perhaps the first time the heroine hears an endearment she realizes our hero is serious about their relationship. The ceasing of endearments could be the signal that the relationship is important, or it might mean it’s over and the person doesn’t care enough to use a pet name.

I’m not averse to the odd sweet nothing. A sweetheart or love works for me, maybe babe in some situations, but if anyone calls me snookums they should watch out!

When I’m reading, I don’t mind endearments as long as they’re not overdone. If they’re used on every page I want to yank them out of the book. Violent, much? But it’s true. They can bug a reader if they’re used too often.

What do you think about endearments? Do they irritate you or make you smile? Are there any that make you cringe?

Sunday, March 20th, 2016
Grab Claimed and Seduced for #99c Alpha Spring Fling

AlphaSpringFling

I’m taking part in the Alpha Spring Fling today.

You can grab my book Claimed & Seduced, House of the Cat series, for 99c—a real bargain since it normally sells for $4.99.

Don’t delay, since the sale is one day only.

Friday, March 18th, 2016
Dragon Scales

During the last few months, I’ve done a lot of reading about dragons and their different characteristics. I’ve read fiction and non-fiction.  One thing everyone is clear about is that dragons come in lots of pretty colors.

attractive blonde and big dragon

Here are a few interesting facts about dragon scales:

1. The scales cover the entire body of a dragon.

2. The dragon can make its scales stand on end, especially during the preening process.

3. Dragons like to keep their skin and scales impeccably clean.

4. Each scale overlaps and fits perfectly into the next to allow the dragon to move freely.

5. The inner part of the scale consists of hairs. Small glands around the hair follicles secrete a mineral rich substance, which coats the scales. It is this substance that colors the scales and makes them hard.

6. The scales grow and automatically renew like human fingernails and hair. Only a sick dragon will shed its scales.

7. The scales are never even in color, but will be different hues of a dominant color.

Source: The Book of the Dragon by Ciruelo

I’m about to write a new dragon story for my Dragon Investigator series. What color do you think I should make my dragon and why?

Thursday, March 17th, 2016
BOOK Your Next Escape – Big St Patrick Day’s Sale #AREBLAST

Want to ESCAPE into relaxation mode? BOOK your next romantic escape at All Romance ebook’s St Paddy Day’s 25% off sale.

Romance. Adventure.

Shapeshifters. Pirates. Dukes. Billionaires.

Whatever your taste, BOOK an armchair reading escape today. The sale is for one day only!

#AReBlast

You can BOOK (grab!) your tickets into a romantic escape here.

Just as an aside – All my Samhain Publishing Books are on sale for the entire month of March with a 25% discount. Now is a great time to shop at All Romance ebooks.

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016
Dartmoor, the Mysterious National Park

Dartmoor Scene

Dartmoor, the first national park in Britain, was formed in 1951. It’s a large open area famed for its moor, the bogs and stone tors, and wild ponies. Around 33,000 people live within the park and many others visit to experience the wilderness.

Man has farmed, mined the stone, lived and visited the Dartmoor region for at least the last 12,000 years as evidenced by stone circles, ancient bridges and other monuments.

Since the area has been inhabited for so long there are hundreds of tales involving ghosts, both evil and benevolent. Piskies or pixies, fairies, witches and wizards also live in Dartmoor, so it’s not good to travel through the moors after dark—not if you value your life.

During more recent years, tales of the beast of Dartmoor—a big black cat—have become common. There have been numerous sightings of big cats, but so far no one has definitive proof of one residing in the park.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle set his Hounds of the Baskervilles in Dartmoor, and it’s said he was inspired by ghostly tales of black dogs haunting the moors. Here’s one of the many ghostly tales of large black dogs.

A stagecoach with two female passengers was traveling from Tavistock, which is the largest town in the area. All of a sudden, the driver started whipping his horses, and when the passengers called up to him to slow, he pointed at the large black dog galloping alongside the coach. It was the ghostly black dog.

When I was deciding where to set Mistress of Merrivale, I wanted a place that was wild and potentially dangerous. The bogs and the isolated parts of the moor fit my story needs nicely. I added in a mention of ghosts and set a murderer loose. Understandably the locals become very nervous and start to glance over their shoulders and cast blame.

I chose Merrivale for my setting within Dartmoor, but my village is different from the real one since I took liberties and made it much larger. I added shops and made the church bigger. I also added to the population for the purposes of my story. In truth, the real Merrivale has an inn, a few houses, a chapel and a nearby mine, and thank goodness, they don’t harbor a murderer!

Would you be willing to walk alone at night in Dartmoor National Park? Why or why not?

Sources:

http://www.legendarydartmoor.co.uk/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/england/sevenwonders/southwest/dartmoor/