2014 Golden Heart Update: The Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Finalists

The GH nominees voted for a group name, which is not as easy as you might think. Previous finalist groups have chosen terrific ones like the Lucky 13s (2013), Firebirds (2012), Starcatchers (2011), Unsinkables (2010), Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood (2009), Pixie Chicks (2008), 007s (007), and Romance Bandits (2006). What fabulous group name did the 2014 Golden Heart finalists choose? The Dream Weavers or Dreamweavers depending on which one fits better on the group pin. I hope to share the pin design with you in June. Right now it’s time to introduce another group of GH finalists.

2014 Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Golden Heart Titles


Word cloud created by GH finalist Nan Dixon




asa_marie_bradleyAsa Maria Bradley

It’s my first time as a Golden Heart finalist, and I’m thrilled and honored. I’m also amazed over the support and encouragement my fellow nominees offers. Since I’m originally from Sweden, and a non-native English speaker, the nomination is a huge validation. I am more confident in my writing and walk much taller these days. I must have gained at least an inch or two in height. 🙂

VALHALLA’S KING (Book 1 in the Valhalla’s Warriors series)

Hiding from black ops agents, cyber-security expert Naya works on the shady side of the law to finance a cure for her dying brother. When she inadvertently saves the life of immortal Viking king Leif and triggers an ancient Norse handfasting bond, she enters a world of primeval forces locked in battle for an eternity. To save her brother, she must risk her heart and trust the king in order to defeat their common enemy and prevent the end of the worlds—for both gods and humans.

www.asamariabradley.com     Twitter: @AsaMariaBradley

Jillian’s Note: Asa recently sold her 3 Valhalla books to Sourcebooks via Sarah E. Younger at Nancy Yost Literary Agency.


marni_folsomMarni Folsom


Kendra Harrison excels at running—from her past, from close relationships, from the man who killed her family—but she’s stopped in her tracks by a prophecy that she will save the world from ancient evil.

She laughs at the fairytale notion; if anyone knows the difference between fable and stark reality, it’s the sole survivor of a devastating arson attack. Then she meets a Demigod with anger management issues, watches a dead man drive a semi truck into her car, and dons a ring that transports her to a different place and time. If this is reality, it sucks…and if magic lives within her, why couldn’t she save her family from the fire all those years ago?

Ben Flannigan is a magical warrior, born to prevent the rise of a Pre-Celtic Demigod gone bad. He teams up with Kendra to fight fire with fire, and they produce a heat all their own. But Kendra doesn’t know how to keep her past from destroying her future. The weight of her life’s horrors has left her feeling tainted and unlovable. When the Gods who granted her power declared that the magnitude of her abilities required a personal sacrifice, Kendra cavalierly offered to sacrifice true love.

Now, rescuing the world requires giving up the one man who means the world to her.

~BEYOND THE FIRE is my second Golden Heart final. I feel more grounded in my writing career goals this time around, so my GH ride is all about the joy! Part of my elation is discovering the talent among our finalist group; I’m so impressed, and super excited to support fellow finalists on their own publishing journeys.

www.marnifolsom.com          facebook.com/marnifolsom


pintip_dunnPintip Dunn (also a finalist in YA)

This is my second year finaling in the Golden Heart, and it is perhaps even more meaningful than the first time because I know exactly what being a finalist entails. For me, the biggest reward is undoubtedly the friendships formed with my Golden Heart sisters. Two years later, I’m still blown away by the generosity and support of the Firebirds, and already, I feel such a strong bond with the 2014 finalists.

FIT TO DIE (Science Fiction Romance)

In a world where society is split between Eaters and Non-Eaters, and nutrition can be transferred via a pill, Eater Princess Viola Keystone has a problem. Her father, the King, is dying, and she has been tasked with selecting the boy fit to die for the King. However, when the boy she’s loved all her life, Carr Silver, emerges as the best candidate, Viola must re-evaluate her own integrity and learn what it truly means to be a ruler.

http://www.pintipdunn.com/     https://www.facebook.com/pintip.dunn


shelly_chalmersShelly Chalmers

HIDDEN MAGIC (Regency era)

It’s Regency London, 1817, and Logan McLellan has a crime scene with a dead demon, a symbiotic wolf who won’t shut up, and he’s just discovered his assistant is actually a female half-fairy masquerading as a man. And his killer’s just getting started. The only thing Logan can do is focus on catching the killer and maintaining the barrier between humans and the magical world – but magic is insidious. Like the wolf. If the wolf gains control of Logan’s body, there’ll be another killer on London’s streets. The last thing he needs is a half-fairy tagging along, to remind him of the woman he thought she was and the life he believed he could recapture.

Georgiana (George) Jeoffrey is prophesized to be Fey’s next High Queen and save her people. The prophecy comes with a drunken fairy fiancé, a Fey where she’s despised for her human blood, and a lifetime of loneliness. And sure, she has a plan – and a disguise – for all eventualities. Except when it comes to Logan. He sees right through her magic to the lonely woman inside. But he’s in trouble, hiding his wolf, and potentially losing his mind. Can she save both her people and Logan? Or is magical war inevitable?

~This is the first time I’ve been a Golden Heart finalist and, after trying for a number of years, I still have a hard time believing it’s true. I want to make the most of this opportunity, and it’s been such a thrill so far.

www.scchalmers.com             Twitter: @scchalmers




abbie_rhodesAbbie Roads

This is also my first time being a Golden Heart Finalist. Being amongst this group of talented women is the highest honor I’ve ever attained and a huge validation for all the blood, sweat, and tears I put into DANGEROUS DREAMS. I’m just so so so grateful to be here. For me, the competition is over. I’m so happy to have made it this far.


Born with the unique ability to smell people’s memories, Lathan Montgomery uses his nose to solve cold cases. When he links a group of murders—by scent alone—and discovers and active serial killer, the mind-hunters at the FBI refuse to open an investigation. Lathan is determined to find the killer himself, but his search gets stalled when he rescues a woman from an attacker. She’s the only person—the only freaking person—he’s ever met who doesn’t have a cloud of memories around her. The more he gets to know her, the more devotion, tenderness, and passion overwhelm him in a way he’s never experienced. But the killer is on the offensive and takes Lathan’s only love. And he never keeps his victims alive for long…

https://www.facebook.com/abbieroads2          http://www.abbieroads.com/


connie_taxdalConnie Taxdal


When the CFO of a candle manufacturer discovers canisters of cocaine hidden within the wax, he’s determined to avenge the life his sister lost to drugs—even if his boss is the source. He hires a female PI to help him investigate, but as their passion for one another builds, so do the dangers. Can they expose the drug traffickers before their journey together turns fatal?

~This is my first time to final in the Golden Heart, and I’ve only been writing three years! Being a Golden Heart finalist solidifies my belief in myself. I’ve become more confident in my writing. I’ve formed a camaraderie with the other 2014 finalist. But most importantly, the experience gives me a chance to encourage members of our TARA chapter’s Push-to-Pro Program. If I can final in such a prestigious contest…they can too.

www.connietaxdalauthor.com        https://www.facebook.com/connietaxdalauthor


wildingDeborah Wilding


This story is set in 1941, against the backdrop of Honolulu’s glittering high society, an unsolved theft of Hawaiian crown jewels, and the attack that changed the course of history.

When Merrylei Wentworth inherits an abandoned mansion–all that’s left of her family’s fortune–she confronts two big problems. Mysterious intruders keep vandalizing the house she is determined to turn into a guesthouse. The other problem is enigmatic Japanese-American architect Jamison Sumida who’s eager to purchase a painting by Merrylei’s late mother.  Conscious of social pressures to marry within his culture, Jamison has no interest in the spirited independent Merrylei. She’s suspicious of his motives. But Merrylei is haunted by a sense of déjà vu and unexplainable coincidences when they’re together that is compelling and seductive. As they get drawn deeper into the mystery of the painting, “The King’s Crown,” they begin to share family secrets to uncover the truth. All the while their attraction to each other deepens as anti-Japanese sentiments simmer in the community.

~ This is my first Golden Heart final. I’m so honored to be counted among such a talented group of writers. I’ve had two non-fiction books published, but this is my first attempt at romance. I’m really thrilled to become a member of the GH community.



denny_bryceDenny Bryce

I am thrilled to be a 2014 GOLDEN HEART® Finalist in Romantic Suspense for my novel CHASING DAMN. It is my first GH final and ‘ the call’ consisted mostly of showcasing my inability to come up with complete sentences (which is rare, seriously:). I repeated OMG – over and over and over again.


Emotionally scarred after a car crash kills her ex-lover, FBI Special Agent Nikki Chase, a brilliant ethical hacker, returns to Chicago to find her baby sister. She ends up partnering with a one-night stand, a private security consultant hired by her uncle to search for a cyber thief. But when she discovers her uncle’s connection to the sex-trafficking cyber gang and its leader, a revenge-seeking psychopath, she must make a choice between family and a new love, knowing the wrong choice could get her killed.

http://www.dennysbryce.com   Twitter: @dennysbryce 


sarah_andreSarah Andre


The disinherited son of a Chicago billionaire returns home for a mysterious announcement only to encounter betrayal, discover the horrific truth behind a family secret and get arrested for murder. Unfortunately, the only person who can help him is his long, lost love, whose neighborhood is targeted for demolition by his development company.

~I was also a 2011 GH finalist for LOCKED, LOADED AND LYING. A romance writer’s ultimate validation is obviously a publishing contract, but this honor is a close and coveted runner-up! I enjoy the camaraderie of the 2014 group and the six 2011 RS finalists who started the Kiss and Thrill blog. We’re the best of friends now.

www.SarahAndre.com         www.Facebook.com/SarahAndreWriter


sharon_wraySharon Wray


When Juliet Capel, a woman determined to protect the life she’s built for herself, becomes the target of an arms dealer who believes she holds the key to a 12th Century secret, her only chance to stay alive rests within the arms of Rafe Montfort, her ex-Green Beret husband who abandoned her eight years earlier.

SEE HER NO MORE is my sixth Golden Heart final. I’ve never taken a Golden Heart Final for granted. I am grateful for each and every shiny gold pin and I wear them proudly. After years of writing and many, many manuscripts, each Golden Heart final has given me opportunities I would not have had otherwise. The GH has opened doors that led to my amazing agent, offered friendships with other authors that I treasure, and reminds me that even though I’m not published yet, I will be one day. One of the best things about being in the GH sisterhood is the constant affirmation that with persistence and perseverance we all will succeed in achieving our dreams.


Jillian’s Note:

If you missed the post about the 2014 Golden Heart Historical Romance finalists, click here. For the Contemporary, Short Contemporary, and Inspirational nominees, click here. Please follow this blog or return on June 9th to view my post about the Young Adult finalists.


Recently my fabulous Austin RWA chapter held a champagne party for the 2014 RITA/Golden Heart finalists at the beautiful home of urban fantasy author, Sloane Calder. (Thanks, everyone!) About 25 chapter mates enjoyed conversations and refreshments. Some ARWA members eluded the camera, so you won’t see them in the party album below. President Emily McKay (previous GH finalist, double RITA finalist, and 2013 RITA YA winner) proposed a toast to the current group of nominees and our past finalists and winners. We wished all of you could have attended. I’m truly honored to be among the supportive, talented writers in my local chapter and in this year’s group of Golden Heart finalists.




Julia London (double RITA), Julie Kenner (RITA), Jillian Lark (Golden Heart), and Sherry Thomas (double RITA)

                   hostess                          emily

                      Hostess Sloane Calder and Ana Farrish                               Austin RWA President Emily McKay

the toast

The Toast (Julia London, Julie Kenner in back, Jillian, Sherry, and Susye Bowles)


The Refreshment Table
(Foreground) Jodi Linton and Cheryl Rae’s curls
(Background) Aimee Wyatt and Mari Mancusi



Julia London, Julie Kenner, and Jenna Stuart (2009 Golden Heart finalist)



Melissa Rupert and Elaine Brady



(Left to right) Tracy Talbot, April Kihlstrom, Claire Ashley, Kathy Ramirez, and Susye Bowles



Anna Castle, Tenaya Sunbury, Chris Campillo (2011 Golden Heart finalist),
Emily McKay, Sloane Calder, and Ana Farrish


2014 Golden Heart Update: The Contemporary, Short Contemporary, and Inspirational Finalists

Last week most of the nominees focused on deadlines for the1 agent / 1 editor pitch sign up for RWA14, the Golden Network Retreat registration, and voting for our 5 favorite group names. Best of all, we celebrated LOTS of multiple contest finals and wins plus first sales. Congratulations, everyone!

In April I introduced the Historical Romance Golden Heart (GH) finalists. Today the 9 finalists in the contemporary, short contemporary, and inspirational categories are sharing blurbs for their manuscripts and how they feel about their GH finals.

2014 Contemporary, Short Contemporary, and Inspirational Golden Heart Titles

Word Cloud created by 2014 Short Contemporary finalist, Nan Dixon




shelly_alexanderShelly C. Alexander


Ella Dennings has a scandalous secret. Cooper Wells has a scandalous legal problem. And neither is on each other’s top ten list of People To Call If You Need A Friend.

When they both end up at the same Red River retreat, an altercation that involves wrestling an overweight English Bulldog, a baseball bat named Old Faithful, and a hefty dose of pepper spray rekindles an old grudge that started long ago.

The last thing they expect is for their passionate dislike of each other to erupt into a romantic entanglement that neither can walk away from. Until Ella’s secret is exposed, threatening to send Coop to jail for a crime he didn’t commit.

~ This is my first time to final in the Golden Heart. The GH means a sisterhood to me. Growing up with four older brothers, my sister and I were outnumbered. Then I grew up to have three sons of my own and no daughters, so friendships with other women are very important to me.

shellyDOTcDOTalexander@gmailDOTcom            Twitter @ShellyCAlexande


suzanne_kaufmanSuzanne Kaufman Kalb aka Erika Kelly

After years of rejection and pitching and submitting and learning craft, to receive the professional acknowledgement of a Golden Heart nomination is just such a win. I’m enormously grateful to the RWA community for its support–without which none of this would have happened. I recently sold a series to Berkley via my agent, Kevan Lyon, and my first book comes out in January 2015.


In this New Adult story, a freshman has just left his troubled single mother behind for the first time. Seeing himself as a white trash kid in a college full of prep and boarding school kids, he’s committed to avoiding friendships and relationships. He’s just going to keep his head down, do his work, and get back to his mom. But then he meets the irresistible and irrepressible force that is Nicole Everett. She shows him that he’s no different from anyone at the school–their families might have money, but the students don’t. Here’s his chance to become the man he wants to be. He resists her until he no longer can stay away.

 https://www.facebook.com/erika.kelly.1293?fref=ts              Twitter @ErikaKellyBooks




lee_kilraineLee Kilraine


Delaney Lyons returns from Afghanistan with a Purple Heart, a prosthetic foot and survivor’s guilt. She’d rather have just bought the T-shirt. After months of physical therapy and pain, she withdraws to her apartment. She wants to be left alone. Her worried sister talks small town cop Quinn Cates, who once carried a torch for Delaney, into bringing Delaney home. Delaney figures she’ll go through the motions of rehab again, and after a few weeks, when her sister stops worrying, she can escape back to her solitary life.

What she doesn’t figure on? Quinn getting in her space and under her skin on a regular basis. The darn man practically dares her to commit to rehab. Can she find the strength to try again, or will she miss her last chance to grasp her life back? Quinn is determined to resist the woman he got over years ago, except her cranky still cranks his tractor. Sparks fly as Quinn’s brothers get involved while the town grapevine calls the play-by-play.

~ I am completely honored to be among this amazing group of Golden Heart® finalists. This was my first time in the GH.

http://leekilraine.blogspot.com               Twitter   @LeeKilraine


nancy_Evertz Nancy Evertz writing as Nan Dixon

This is my 5th time to the Golden Heart ball. I have finaled in both the Short Contemporary and Single Title Contemporary Romance categories. Finaling in the Golden Heart is not just about being a princess for a week and getting to know a brand new group of friends. And I’ve found, these  are friends that will last a lifetime. It is also about the prestige that comes with the honor and the doors that this contest has opened.  I do not believe that I would have gotten an agent without being able to add the phrase Golden Heart Finalist to the subject line of my queries. I recently sold SOUTHERN COMFORTS to Harlequin Super Romance via my agent, Laura Bradford.

POETIC JUSTICE (Elevator Pitch):  A panicked architect kidnaps a nurturing writer. He must keep her safe, rescue her son and survive long enough to bring his business partner to justice.

http://www.facebook.com/nan.dixon.7          Twitter @nancyevertz


lauren_cananLauren Canan (aka Sarah Cannon)


It’s North meets South in a battle over 5000 acres of prime Texas real estate. At the center of the controversy is a 200-year old lease with some rather unusual stipulations.

Shea Hardin’s family has ranched the land for six generations. She is the last. And she’s not going anywhere. She figures a good dose of country living will send the city slicker running back to his posh lifestyle. When he leaves, the ranch is hers.

But she never considered how his lips could make her feel.

And she didn’t count on falling in love.

The land has been owned by his family for 200 years and billionaire Alec Morreston wants it back. It’s that simple. He reasons her backwoods attempt to keep it is nothing more than a minor hindrance. He’ll have her bags packed and be helping little Miss Tradition out the door in record time.

But the second he gazes into those fiery blue eyes, Alec knows he’s in trouble.

~ I’m not sure what to say! This is my first time to enter or final in the Golden Heart competition. To suddenly find myself a finalist in the greatest literary competition for unpublished writers of romance in the US- if not in the world- is a very humbling experience and I am so grateful. It is a dream come true.



Jillian’s Note: Congrats, Lauren! She recently sold 2 books to Harlequin Desire via her agent Jill Marsal. YESTERDAY’S PROMISE will be released in Feb. 2015.




carrie_padgettCarrie Padgett

I’m enjoying every moment of the Golden Heart journey and looking forward to meeting many of my fellow finalists at Nationals in July! I’m thrilled to be a first-time Golden Heart entrant and first-time finalist with my Inspirational romantic suspense, Against the Peace:  Sparks between a U.S. Marshal and his headstrong witness threaten to combust their mountain hideaway.


Cricket Spencer witnesses a murder and Inspector Lucas Holden expects her to pack up her life and leave Portland, Oregon and her family behind. Lucas knows the only way he can keep Cricket safe is to stay one step ahead of the organized crime boss intent on silencing the one witness who can put him away. They run for the hills and along the way they discover it may not be coincidence that brought them together. Their lives intersected as children when Cricket’s family escaped from a cult compound and Lucas’s father was one of the federal agents helping them. The past catches up to both Cricket and Lucas and they draw on their shared faith to find their future.

http://www.livevicarrieous.com               Twitter @CarriePadgett


kristi_hunterKristi Ann Hunter


Left cynical by a broken heart, Lady Miranda Hawthorne is approaching spinsterhood when she finds herself unacceptably drawn to her elder brother’s new valet. Her interest in him pulls her into the middle of a dangerous mission to hunt down Napoleonic spies because the valet is not exactly who he seems.

~ This is my first time finaling in GH. It’s been an incredible boost in validation for my writing career. I am taking it more seriously and so are my family and friends, even those who don’t really understand what it is.

www.KristiAnnHunter.com                 Twitter @KristiAnnHunter

Jillian’s Note: Kristi Ann is the 2014 Golden Heart Winner in the Inspirational category. She recently sold MY LORD VALET to Bethany House Publishers. It will be released in Fall of 2015. 


piper_huguleyPiper Huguley

This is my second time to final in the Golden Heart. That means the first time wasn’t a fluke!

A VIRTUOUS RUBY (early 20th century)

If Winslow, Georgia thought her shame would keep her from speaking out against lynching, they were wrong. Town troublemaker Ruby Bledsoe resolves never be quiet, loving her baby, no matter how he had come into the world.  However, when she seeks help for her sick son, she doesn’t anticipate meeting a handsome stranger who offers Ruby a way to help her son and a brand new life.

Dr. Adam Morson had always felt shame as a mulatto child–shame enough to masquerade as something that he wasn’t.  However, something powerful draws him to protect the beautiful and fiery activist who shows him how to be true to himself.  A force outside of himself compels him to offer Ruby a job in his practice up north and Ruby has to decide if she should stay and fight for the soul of the town, or if she should seek her own happiness with the handsome stranger.

http://piperhuguley.com                  Twiiter @writerpiper


sara_tompkinsSara Tompkins

BETTER THAN A MOVIE  features a young legal assistant who aspires to become a litigator. She’s obsessed with movies and has carefully scripted her life to ensure a happy Hollywood ending. Things go off script, though, when her irrepressible teenage niece comes to live with her and she falls for her niece’s shy school counselor. The manuscript is about learning to let God write the script of our lives. This is my first time entering the Golden Heart® contest and the second writing contest I’ve ever entered. I submitted the manuscript on a last minute whim, with no expectation of winning!

~I am humbled to be a GH finalist. I was genuinely shocked to receive the call and nearly hung up on the woman! I was sure she was trying to sell me a Florida timeshare or something. I am excited to go to San Antonio and learn from people much more experienced than me.



Jillian’s Note:

I’ll announce our group name and introduce the 2014 Golden Heart nominees in the Paranormal, Romantic Suspense, and Young Adult categories soon. If you missed my previous post about the 2014 Historical Romance GH finalists, click here.


Mother’s Day Wishes

mothersdayThe Bayswater Omnibus by George William Joy 1895


I love this 19th century painting and its subjects from the clothing to their expressions. The details make me wonder about the passengers. Who are they? Where have they been and where are they are going? What are they talking, reading, or thinking about? Maybe the passengers were on their way to or from visiting the female members of their families like most of you will this Sunday.

Happy Mother’s Day!

            Best wishes to mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers everywhere!