2014 Golden Heart Update: The Young Adult (YA) Finalists


This week the trending topic among the Golden Heart nominees is the final vote for the group pin design. The pin is used to decorate finalists’ badges and reflect the spirit of the group. Our decisions involve Dreamweavers or Dream Weavers, woven wire or solid, puffy or flat, etc. While we’re choosing what we want, here are a few pins from previous GH groups.

Assorted Golden Heart Group Pins

(top row) RWA Golden Network Chapter pin (bottom row left to right) 2011 Starcatcher, 2010 Unsinkables, and 2013 Lucky 13s pins Photo courtesy of 2014 GH finalist Nan Dixon

(top row) RWA Golden Network Chapter pin
(bottom row left to right)
2011 Starcatcher, 2010 Unsinkables, and 2013 Lucky 13s pins
Photo courtesy of 2014 GH finalist Nan Dixon


Before I introduce you to the Young Adult nominees, I have a pronouncement to make. I’m proud, not embarrassed, that I’m an adult who reads YA books. I judged the Young Adult category in the 2013 Golden Heart contest and critiqued the first chapter of Emily McKay’s 2013 RITA award-winning YA novel, THE FARM.

I’ve had fascinating discussions about Young Adult books with hundreds of readers ages 12-18. None of them asked why an adult like me reads books targeted for their age group. Not only were they thrilled to discuss their current and favorite YA novels and authors with me, but they were also eager to recommend what I should read next.

No adult should be discouraged from reading YA or any books they enjoy. PERIOD. Books, bookstores, and libraries don’t have age expiration dates for readers. If they did, we’d be living in a dystopian society. I’d rather read about one. Preferably in a YA novel.

The fabulous thing about reading Young Adult stories is that they’re not limited by a specific genre. Don’t take my word for it. Enjoy learning about my fellow GH nominees and their YA manuscripts.


2014 Golden Heart Young Adult Titles

YA Word Cloud created by GH finalist Nan Dixon

YA Word Cloud created by GH finalist Nan Dixon


Aamy_delucamy DeLuca

FOUR BULLETS is my second book to final in the YA category. I was thrilled to final last year, but this year was even more exciting, because I knew what I was in for. The Golden Heart experience is one of the best things ever because of the friends I’ve made among the other finalists. It’s also helped my writing so much, because some of those friends have become critique partners! And going to the national conference as a finalist is so much fun.

FOUR BULLETS was inspired by a murder case I covered years ago as a TV news anchor/reporter in Mississippi. Here’s the story:

They say nothing interesting ever happens in Bell, Mississippi, but this summer, that’s all changed. Sixteen-year-old Lauren’s district attorney mother is prosecuting the biggest murder trial of her career, a case that’s fascinated the whole county. And Lauren’s lifelong crush, Bowie Weston, has finally noticed she’s alive. Too bad it’s for the wrong reasons. He’s the son of the defendant.

www.amydeluca.com     Twitter: @AmyDeLucaAuthor


barbara_gerryBarbara Gerry

MACHA AND THE RIVER BLUE is a contemporary Young Adult romance with supernatural elements. When sixteen-year-old Alyona Roseta arrives in Costa Rica for a ten-week study abroad, she finds her overbearing and infuriatingly sexy new neighbor, Diego, has been tasked with watching over her. She thinks things can’t get worse.  She’s wrong.

Bucking Diego’s warning, Aly accepts a toucan charm from an old village woman—and inadvertently brings alive a Maleku Indian jungle legend. As things heat up between Aly and Diego, Aly must decide if keeping her word to the old woman to safeguard the necklace is worth not only risking her budding relationship with Diego but taking on the legend’s evil goddess bent on world destruction.  Seriously, none of this was covered in the exchange student handbook.

~This is my first time as a Golden Heart finalist. I still can’t believe it! It’s such an honor, and a bit intimidating, to be part of a group of such talented writers!

Twitter: @bgerry2

jessica_ruddickJessica Ruddick

Finaling in the Golden Heart for the first time is a dream come true! It’s such a thrill and so flattering that anonymous readers liked my book enough to make me a finalist. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity this experience has given me to network with my fellow Golden Heart sisters.


After learning her high school sweetheart’s death was suicide instead of an accident, college sophomore and type-A control freak Cori Elliott attends a fraternity party to distract herself. The last thing on her “to do” list is meeting smart, sexy Luke Evans. Drinks flow, sparks fly, and she finds herself attached to Luke at the lips. The next morning, she vows to put her newfound wild side on lockdown, but as luck would have it—in this case, bad luck—Cori can’t seem to get away from Luke, and her self-enforced lockdown is no match for his ice blue eyes and subtle charm. As her reservations fade away, their flirty friendship morphs into a relationship.

If only “happily ever after” could be that easy.

Luke becomes the one bright spot in Cori’s life as everything else falls apart. Afraid her past will contaminate her relationship with Luke, she keeps it a secret until he finds out in the worst way possible. When her past collides with her present, Cori discovers that sometimes letting go is the only way to hold on to what matters most.

www.jessicaruddick.com     Twitter:  @JessicaMRuddick


kim_maccarronKim MacCarron


No pain, no gain.  At least that’s what they say. All of her life Brynn Davies has wished for the ability to feel physical pain like everyone else. For seventeen years her disease, called CIPA, has robbed her of any semblance of a normal life. When she starts a new school senior year, Brynn seizes the chance to be known for something other than her disease. She keeps her life-threatening condition a secret from her new best girl friend as well as her new boyfriend, Parker Beckett.

After an injury puts her in the hospital, Brynn’s new life begins to collapse. Her boyfriend bails—just like her dad did seven years ago. Under the agony of heartbreak, she closes herself off emotionally, choosing not to feel. But when Parker begs for a second chance, Brynn must decide once and for all if love is worth the pain.


Sixteen-year-old Mary Caldwell just knows star football player Mitch Bauchman is “the one”—the one whose kisses will finally make her see fireworks.  And if there’s one thing football players love, it’s cheerleaders.  For the opportunity to have Mitch light up her life like the Fourth of July, Mary’s about to do the one thing nobody expects—become a cheerleader. She persuades her pom pom-wielding sister to help her make the squad.

But with each new victory, Mary’s connection to her true self slips, and she finds herself becoming something she’s not.  The demands of masquerading as a cheerleader girlfriend cause everything to change, especially with her best friend Colin.  When Mitch’s kisses produce all the fizzle of a dud sparkler, Mary begins to suspect fireworks aren’t on her horizon.  Or maybe, if she’d only taken the time to look up, she’d have noticed they’ve been in her skies all along.

~I’m a double finalist, so this is my third and fourth finalin the Golden Heart®. I also finaled in 2010 and 2013. Although being a finalist in the Golden Heart® is an amazing honor, it’s truly the relationships I make through the contest itself that means the most to me. The first time I finaled, I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t have any connections, and that experience in 2010 changed my writing life. It allowed me to build a circle of writing friends, and that’s definitely the best part of this ride.

http://www.kimmaccarron.com       Twitter:  @KimMacCarron

marnee_baileyMarnee Bailey

This is my first final. Finaling in the Golden Heart has been a fantastic ride. I’ve met some really amazing women, and I’m so proud and humbled to be part of such an inspiring group.


After the worst flu of her life, Blue Michaels wakes with telekinetic powers and finds most of her tiny town dead. The first living person she encounters is Seth Campbell, a visiting soldier who is also changed after the mysterious illness. As armed helicopters circle overhead, Blue teams up with Seth to get out of town and figure out what happened to them.

During their escape, they discover the unauthorized drug experiment that altered them. As dangerous side effects wreak havoc on their bodies, Blue is determined to find a cure and bring those responsible to justice. She needs Seth’s training and expertise if she’s to succeed, but Seth hides a tragic mistake from his past that makes him doubt his ability to keep her safe. While they grow closer and military operatives close in, they must learn to trust each other—and themselves—or risk losing it all.

http://www.marneebailey.blogspot.com       Twitter:  @marneejo


mccall_hoyleMcCall Hoyle


Sixteen-year-old Emilie Day wants to be normal, but her epilepsy always gets in the way. She lives on the coast of North Carolina, surrounded by water, and can’t swim, can’t cruise the beach on a bike, can’t even shower with the door locked because of her seizures. So she stays holed up in the house with her books and her assistant dog.

When her well-intentioned mom forces her into public school, her life is turned upside down. Overnight, Emilie goes from studying at home in her PJs to group projects with mean girls who want nothing to do with her. Then Emilie’s paired with oh-so-cute starting point guard Chatham York for a research project on Emily Dickinson. She should be ecstatic when their study sessions move from the library to the lighthouse. Emilie’s teaching Chatham about poetry and the English language. He’s teaching her about trust and…body language. Then the worst happens, and she must decide whether to withdraw to safety or follow a dead poet’s advice and dwell in possibility.

~This is my first Golden Heart final. The two best things about being a 2014 GH finalist are the new group of writing friends I’ve made and that my critique partner, Amy DeLuca, who’s a repeat finalist is a finalist with me this year. Plus, I’m excited about my first trip to San Antonio.

https://www.facebook.com/mccall.hoyle   Twiitter @McCallHoyle


pintip_dunnPintip Dunn

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.


High-school senior Carlie Brooks knows how it feels to be the center of scandal. A year ago, her mother committed suicide after being accused of having sex with a student. Now, all Carlie wants to do is fly under the social radar and avoid anything associated with her mom. But when she gets drawn into the school’s crisis hotline, she discovers — with the help of new guy Sam Davidson — her mom’s death may not be as straightforward as it seemed. In order to clear her mom’s name and stop a sexual predator from striking again, Carlie must find the courage to take a stand for what she believes — and subject herself to the very thing she was trying to avoid, the judgment of her peers.

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

Jillian’s Note: I apologize to Pintip and anyone who read this post earlier today. I accidentally used someone else’s words in the first paragraph of her section.  The mistake was entirely mine and has been corrected.


stephanie_winkelhakeStephanie Winkelhake

CARMA ALWAYS is a YA thriller about a clone who is resurrected to solve her original’s murder and save the boy she loves in her memories.

~This is my second time as a GH finalist, but getting that call this March was just as exciting and surprising as when it happened in 2012.

http://www.stephaniewinkelhake.com    Twitter @StephWinkelhake



vanessa_barneveldVanessa Barneveld

This is my third GH final (2009, 2010, 2014). The Golden Heart means so much more to me than just professional validation. The contest generates camaraderie among finalists like no other and is something I really treasure. It has led me to women — sisters, even — whose friendship and loyalty have lasted long after the awards season.


Sixteen year-old Kendall discovers she’s clairvoyant when Jimmy, her crush, turns up dead and his ghost demands to know what…or more importantly who killed him. Now Kendall can only tell the one guy she hoped to avoid in order to find Jimmy’s killer. The book sold to Bloomsbury Spark and is due for release in digital format this northern fall.

http://www.vanessabarneveld.com           Twitter:  @vanessab73

Jillian’s Note:

The 2014 Golden Heart finalists are looking for an experienced, reliable person or company to make our final pin design a reality. Please email suggestions to jillianlarkDOTcom@gmailDOTcom by June 13th.

I’ll be back to reveal our group pin and other GH news in mini-updates through July, but this post is the final one featuring groups of 2014 Golden Heart finalists and the premises for their manuscripts. If you missed the post about the 2014 GH Historical Romance finalists, click here. For the Contemporary, Short Contemporary, and Inspirational nominees, click here. For the Paranormal and Romantic Suspense finalists, click here.








  1. Here we all are! 🙂 I’m so honored to be a part of this group of talented ladies.

    Thanks for the feature, Jillian. Great blog, as always!

  2. You YA writers rock! Big. No wonder it’s one of the biggest categories of finalists this year. Your stories sound amazing. Good luck in San Antonio, and I can’t wait to read your books.

  3. What a talented bunch. Can’t wait to add all your books to my TBR!

  4. I am so loving to see all the finalists in their categories and can’t wait to see everyone in SA!. What an amazing group of stories by and amazing group of women. You all rock!!

    • Hi, Nan! You’re correct. The 2014 Golden Heart finalists rock. I’ve loved sharing all the finalists and their stories, so I’m a bit sad this is the last in this series.~Jillian

  5. Wow, lovely women with intriguing books! I hope to meet all my Golden Heart sisters in San Antonio.

  6. These ladies are clearly awesome! Thank you for featuring them Jillian–you are awesome too! 🙂

  7. I can’t believe how fabulous EVERY ONE of these stories sound! What dynamic, creative minds you ladies must have. I’m proud to be in your GH year and can’t wait to meet you. And to read these stories once they’re published!

  8. I love YA! And it’s especially great because it gives my daughter and I something to share and talk about. Congratulations to all the finalists. Some really great stories for my daughter and I to read some day soon.

  9. McCall Hoyle says:

    So honored to be a part of this group! Thanks so much for organizing and hosting, Jillian. See you in SA!

    • My pleasure, McCall! You’re so right about what an honor it is to be a part of the Dreamweavers. Can’t wait to meet you and my other GH sisters next month.~Jillian

  10. Ladies, all these books sound like such fun! Can’t wait until I have the opportunity to read them. Thanks again for introducing us all to each other even more, Jillian. Otherwise, SA quickly approaches, and we’ll all finally get to meet in person. Yippee! 🙂

  11. Wow! I loved reading about all your books–they ALL sound soooo awesome!

  12. Sarah Andre says:

    Hurray, the YA group is here! Isn’t Jillian fabulous to have done this for us?
    I confess with head hanging: I do not gravitate to YA (except for the Harry Potter books, and wouldn’t that be children’s?) I think the reason is I really (and I mean REALLY) disliked my teen years. So when my friends urge me to read an exceptional YA I do so reluctantly, and guess what? I’ve loved every one. And I adore the New Adult genre, I hope it takes off.

    I wish all of you the best of luck in your writing careers! Just having “2014 Golden Heart Finalist” in your platform is a huge step up the long ladder. When we hear ‘Oscar Nominated’ we don’t think ‘yeah, but he’s not an Oscar Winner…’ You will find this happens with GH too.

    • My pleasure, Sarah! I’m going to miss writing these group blogs, but I’ll be posting mini GH updates through July. So glad you’ve discovered YA and NA books you love. Good luck to you, too!~Jillian

    • Jessica Ruddick says:

      Hi Sarah,
      I also wasn’t wild about my teen years, and now I’m a high school teacher and a young adult writer. Go figure!

  13. Such a wonderful group of writers! And I, too, am an adult who just loves to read YA. I just finished the Shatter Me series, the Embrace series, the Article 5 series, the Mystic City/Toxic Heart books, Legend series and am now on the third Partials series book “Ruins”. And I have no doubt I will one day find these GH books in my local Barnes and Noble. (Yes, I still have a B&N store and I LOVE it!) 🙂

  14. I love that YA books cross so many genres and writing styles. I’m privileged to be among such a great group of writers. And I can’t wait to meet my new GH sisters in San Antonio. 🙂
    Thanks, Jillian, for a wonderful introduction.

  15. Jillian, there’s nothing wrong with adult women loving YA books — nothing at all! I love the fact that people of all ages enjoy YA. Thanks for spotlighting us finalists today. Such a wide range of stories! I can’t wait to read everyone else’s work.

  16. lthuskins says:

    Great post! I can’t wait to read the books (I love YA)…AND see everyone in San Antonio!

  17. How fun to see everyone together. I enjoy YA and I would totally read all of these. Congratulations Dreamweavers!

  18. Hi Jillian!
    Thanks so much for featuring us today! It is so much fun to read everyone’s blurbs! Best of luck to all of the Dreamweavers!

    • Hi, Pintip! My pleasure. I’ve had fun writing the posts and reading the blurbs. I’ll miss meeting you at RWA14, but babies have priority. Good luck to you and your family!~Jillian

  19. Thanks for having us on the blog today, Jillian! I’ve enjoyed ‘meeting’ all the finalists here.

  20. Terri Osburn says:

    I have so many connections in this category. Two of my bestest writing buddies are here. *waves to Marnee and Jessica* And then there are my Firebird sisters. *squeals for Pintip and Stephanie* I was lucky enough to judge Amy’s 2013 entry, which I loved, and I just realized I’ve judged BOTH of Kim MacCarron’s! Throw in my fellow Golden Network ladies and I’ll have to scream for everyone on awards night.

    • Hi, Terri! Thanks for commenting! I haven’t judged my GH sisters’ work, but I judged Darcy Woods’ winning 2013 YA entry. I’ll be screaming no matter who wins, too. Looking forward to meeting you at the TGN Retreat.~Jillian

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