Tuesday, November 19, 2013

R. Ann Siracusa The African Big Five and Story Ideas #contest #contemporary #Africa

Today R. Ann Siracusa is talking about the setting in her latest Tour Director Extraordinaire series, All For A Blast of Hot Air. There's nothing more romantic than Africa, but we're going to see the wild and the sad side of it, too. 

She'll give an e-book copy of the first book in the Tour Director Extraordinaire series, entitled All For A Dead Man's Leg, to one lucky comment maker.





By R. Ann Siracusa

The question most asked of authors is where they get their ideas. The answer: Everywhere. Just look, listen, and ask "What if..."

I use world travel as an inspiration for writing novels. On nearly every trip I've taken, there were annoying, funny, or scary incidents that happened. There is always one person in the group who is an interesting, annoying, quirky, or otherwise noticeable character. And, of course, most world travelers are exposed to new sights, sounds, smells, and customs.

The important thing is to pay attention. I have to keep a notebook where I jot things down. Some people write a daily journal.

Not everything ends up in a book. In fact, most of it doesn't, although knowledge garnered adds significantly to the author's "command" of the setting.

When most of us think about Africa, we immediately envision wild animals and, in particular, "the big five." This term applies those African animals most difficult and dangerous to hunt on foot, not the size of the animal. These are lions, African elephants, Cape buffalo, leopards, and rhinoceros. But there are plenty of other interesting animals such as zebra and giraffes, and observing them in their wild habitat is a one-of-a-kind experience.

My trip to southern Africa in 2008 (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia) was one of the most interesting and exciting adventures I've had. Seeing the animals in the wild was awesome...even in a safari vehicle filled with tourists.

Here's my point. I knew there are significant efforts to protect the African wildlife habitat and the animals, but I had no idea how endangered they are. And, of course, the primary source of threat comes from humans.

A hundred years ago, the estimated number of lions in Africa was 200,000. Today, experts say the lion population is between 20,000 and 30,000.

Scientific America reports that in 1930 there were between five and ten million African elephants. Sixty years later, when elephants were added to the list of critically endangered species, there were only about 600,000. That has dropped another 100,000 to about half a million. The Asian elephant population has dropped to around 40,000.

Rhinos have nearly been wiped out. Protection efforts have been in existence for nearly 100 years, yet in the 1970's, there were about 70,000 black rhinos on the continent. In the 1980's, this population had been reduced to 15,000, and the species has all but disappeared in at least ten African countries. In the 1990's, there were 2,475. Since then, through conservation efforts, the population has increased to 4,838.

White rhino have fared a little better, and the white rhino population is back up to an estimated 20,140.

And the reasons for this?
● First, loss of habitat due to population growth and human encroachment.
● Second, poaching for ivory, horn and other "trophies."
● Third, big game hunting

In 2009, according to Treehugger.com, "Rhino horn is now worth more than gold: A kilo of rhino horn now goes for $60,000 on the black market, whereas that much gold is currently a bit over $40,600. That's $1610 an ounce for the rhino horn." The major use of rhino horn is in traditional Asian medicines. Yowza!

This isn't all about wildlife conservation. Knowing the situation, how could an author use it in a novel? A heroine who is fighting poachers to save elephants or rhinos confronts the big game hunter, or poacher or perhaps works with a park ranger. The situation would provide for plenty of action and, perhaps, enlighten readers at the same time. If you want to stick to US settings, here’s a news headline from the November 13, 2013 Denver post which might give you an idea.
"U.S. authorities on Thursday crushed 6 tons of seized ivory, each piece cut from dead elephants, signaling a resolve to kill a $10 billion illicit trade linked to international crime and terrorism."

I knew, when I went to Africa, that I wanted to use that setting for a novel in my romantic suspense series Tour Director Extraordinaire. I had a paragraph length concept, but nothing else. If you read my latest release All For A Blast of Hot Air, you'll see how I used the setting.

This is book 5 in the romantic suspense series, Tour Director Extraordinaire
By R. Ann Siracusa

A secret prenuptial honeymoon, a hot air balloon safari, and a plot to kill the US president all come together at a Vatican wedding.


BLURB from All For A Blast Of Hot Air...
I'm Harriet Ruby, tour director extraordinaire. Finally, I'm tying the knot with Will Talbot, my favorite spy and the love of my life, despite my nagging concerns about his dangerous profession.

He could get killed!

I don't want my children to grow up with an absentee father...or a dead one, but Will's work is his calling. I can't ask him to give it up. When he holds me in his arms, I have no doubt he'll find a way to make everything right.

To avoid the huge Italian wedding my mother is planning in California, I jump at an offer to get married in the Vatican, only to learn my whole tribe is making the trip to Rome for the ceremony. Darn. Now, I'm stuck planning a big wedding in two months without help. I freak out totally when my boss cancels my vacation time scheduled for the honeymoon.

At Will's suggestion, we get married at city hall, hire a wedding planner, and then take off on our honeymoon before the church ceremony. The first leg of our trip is a hot air balloon safari in Africa—well, it sounded like fun at the time—but afterward, we'll have two quiet, relaxing weeks totally alone.

When a member of our tour is kidnapped, I learn Will accepted an assignment from the US government to keep the kidnap victim under surveillance—after he'd promised me his full attention. All my doubts about the marriage raise their ugly heads.

Have I jumped the gun? Sure, we love each other, but is that enough to make this marriage work?

It won't matter if we don't get out alive.


EXCERPT from All For A Blast Of Hot Air...

Later, sated and limp with contentment, we dozed. I awoke to him nibbling at my ear.

"Hmm. Is it morning yet?" I eased away, stretched long and hard, then curled against him again. "Will..."

I hesitated so long he pulled back and turned me so he could peer into my eyes, holding me in place so I couldn't escape.

His voice conveyed concern. "What's the matter?"

"Mmm, nothing. I was wondering if... Is this going to change when we get married?"

Will stiffened and gazed into my eyes with an unreadable nuance of expression. "If you're asking if I'm going to whip out a roll of duct tape, run a line down the center of the bed, and put my Kevlar vest and a can of Mace between us, the answer is definitely not."

I grimaced. "Mace would be risky."

He laughed with amusement and some other undefined emotion that made me fidget in place. He wasn't done with me. "With your track record, we'd better forget the Mace. But if you mean this..."

Cupping my breast, he took the swollen nipple into his mouth, pinching lightly and pulling, sending bolts of sexual desire to my core, flushing my body with heat, then trailed hot kissed down my quivering abdomen and between my legs. My body arched, and, in a heartbeat, I flew from unprepared to orgasm to spinning in space among the stars.

He gave me time to come back to earth and relax, utterly contented, and then said, "If you mean that—yes, it's going to change."

My heart seized, then slammed against my rib cage. I pushed him away and sat up. "What do you mean, it's going to change?" Confused and alarmed, I grasped his shoulders and shook him.

Gently clamping his strong hands around my wrists, he pulled me back down onto his chest, our faces inches apart. Our gazes locked in the dim early morning dawn seeping through the slats of the veneziani shutters. "As I understood it, you were asking me if our sexual relationship would change when we get married. I answered you."

"But I don't want it to change!"

"Get a grip, Tiger. You know everything changes."

I sniffed and held back the tears burning behind my eyes. "M-maybe we... shouldn't g-get married."

Sucking in a deep breath of frustration, he rolled me under him, nudging my legs apart and settling his weight in the V of my thighs, his gaze boring into me.

"Jesus, Harriet. I didn't mean that. Think! Do you remember how our relationship was when we first met in Morocco, three years ago? Do you want us to go back to how we were then?"

"Yes, I remember. It was good—really good—but I...I like things the way they are now." His erection pressed against me. Oh, yeah. I definitely like things the way things are now.

"We've both changed, Tiger. Our relationship has changed...for the better, but it's not the same. We're at a different time and place in our lives. We'll never be back there, and we'll never be back here again, either."

My lower lip trembled with trepidation and disappointment. "You're scaring me, Will. Promise me everything will stay the way it is now." Even as I pouted and sniffed like a child, I regretted my foolish statement. Of course, there was no way to stop life from evolving, no going back. I clamped my teeth on my lower lip to stop the quivering.

His face softened into a tender expression, a faint smile tweaking the corners of his luscious lips. He shook his head. "Can't. But I can promise you this. As long as I live, I will never love you less than I love you now."

Music to my ears, a silken caress to my fluttering heart. "You are so..." The word sweet came to mind, but he didn't like being called that. "Loveable." I arched my body and brushed my lips across his with feather lightness, then relaxed beneath him.

With his weight on one elbow, he pushed strands of my undisciplined hair off my face and hooked one behind my ear.

"I mean it." His pause made my heart constrict, as though his next words would be momentous. "But there are a few things I'd like to see change in the near future."


R. Ann Siracusa is a California girl who earned her Bachelor of Architecture degree from UC Berkeley, then went immediately to Rome, Italy. On her first day there, she met an Italian policeman at the Fountain of Love, and the rest is history. Instead of a degree from the University of Rome, she got a husband, and they've been married going on fifty years. In Rome, she worked for as an architect and planner for a land development company for several years until she and her husband moved to the US.


Now retired, she combines her passions—world travel and writing—into novels which transport readers to exotic settings, immerse them in romance, intrigue, and foreign cultures, and make them laugh.

Her first novel, a post WWII mafia thriller, was published in 2008.  She now writes for Breathless Press which has published five books in the romantic suspense series, Tour Director Extraordinaire, one sci-fi romance, and three short stories.

She loves to hear from her readers and can be contacted through her website, Facebook, Twitter, or Google Circles.


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