Monthly Archives: August 2012

Research notes – Alpacas

ImageThis is an alpaca, a camelid who’s part of a pretty little herd of alpacas in Northamptonshire.

Having had her baby a few weeks earlier, she had just been shorn of her fleece – to make gorgeous and expensive clothing – which had left her looking a bit like a punk rock sheep with a long neck.

I’ve tried to resist putting my friends’ herd of alpacas in a book, for one reason or another, but once I’d been to spend time with the herd, I could resist it no longer. So Emilia, in Is This Love? is going to have a starter herd for five pregnant females and, having recently found an interest in yoga, is going to call the babies after yoga moves, like Warrior II and Triangle. Emilia is the young wife of a rich industrialist, so can pretty much have what she wants, and she wants alpacas.

She’s also going to use the herd to irritate my new hero, Jed, who works for Emilia’s husband, Tom.

I can’t blame her because they’re lovey animals.Image

They make a soothing noise, as well, called humming. It’s not an impatient or condemnatory hum, it’s not even a musing one, but more of an approving, ‘Mmm!’ as if the alpacas, having looked at you, like what they see.

What came as an absolute surprise to me is that alpacas are guardians. Shepherds will buy a couple (they hate hanging out alone) and put them in with the sheep and the alpacas act as an early warning system when there’s a fox about. Very effective, apparently.

Alpacas come in all shades of fawn, gold, brown and black and the pregnancy of a female will last over eleven months, usually. (Can’t help but feel that they have a raw deal, there.) As you can see from the pic, they have little camel-like two-toed hoofs. Bless.




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New Talent Award aims to uncover romantic fiction authors of the future

I had such a great time at the Festival of Romance last year (slightly influenced by Love & Freedom winning the Best Romantic Read Award) that I signed up for this year’s Festival (in Bedford 16th-18th November) as soon as it became possible to do so. I shall be at the Festival Gala Ball on Friday evening, the Romance Fair on Saturday morning and leading a workshop on writing romantic fiction on Saturday afternoon. I’ll be hotfooting it to the Meet the Authors Rock Star Party in the late afternoon and then the literary dinner in the evening. On Sunday I’m attending the authors’ brunch and the Romantic Fiction Conference. I’m sure there is time in my schedule for sleep, too.

What’s great about the Festival this year is that you can either buy the entire weekend package, or just attend the events you wish to. The programme is here.

I’m entering my soon-to-come book, Dream a Little Dream, into the Best Romantic Read Award and, if it’s ready in time, my e-book-only novella, Listen to Your Heart, into the Best Romantic e-book Award. One of the things I like about the Festival (there are too many to list, but one of them) is the New Talent Award. It’s open to everybody, not just festival-goers. This is the announcement from the Festival organisers:

The Festival of Romance is delighted to announce that the New Talent Award will run again this year. The industry judges are Georgina Hawtrey-Woore senior editor at Cornerstones, Random House and Diane Banks, literary agent at the Diane Banks Associates Literary Agency.

The Festival of Romance New Talent Award aims to cast a spotlight on the authors of tomorrow and is open to all writers who have not yet had a book commercially published. Writers may submit the opening chapter (up to 3,500 words) of a romantic novel of any type by 30th September 2012. The winner and runners-up will be announced and presented with trophies at the gala Festival of Romance Awards on Friday 16th November 2012. There is a small entry fee to cover the award administration. Entrants may also gain a critique of their entry written by a professional novelist.

“As part of the Festival of Romance we want to help new writers with talent get their break into the commercial fiction world,” says Kate Allan, chief romantic at the Festival of Romance. “At the Festival of Romance in November we are running writing workshops, an industry conference and chance to meet publishers face to face as well as the New Talent Award. I’m delighted that Georgina Hawtrey-Woore and Diane Banks have agreed to judge this year’s entries.”

Winner of the 2011 New Talent Award Henriette Gyland subsequently garnered a book deal from publishers Choc Lit. Her debut novel Up Close will be published in December 2012.

For more details about how to enter the New Talent Award please see

What a brilliant opportunity to come to the attention of top industry professionals!


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Short story competition wins look great on your CV. Here’s an opportunity to work with a Fantastic Books editor and be published an anthology that will include a short story by International Award Winning thriller writer Danuta Reah and also a prize winning offering from Stuart Aken.

Competition judge is international award-winning author, Penny Grubb.

Prizes; £100, £50, £25

10% of the entry plus 10% of the ongoing sales of the anthology are to be donated to World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF – Reg.Ch.No. 1000739) who work globally in the field of cancer prevention. 
Genre ; Fantasy/Sci-Fi;  Wordcount ; 700-1500 words; Fee : £5 per entry, £8 for two entries.
Max.2 entries per person.

Closing Date for entries; 15th August 2012
Rules and submission procedure here

Good luck!

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