2014 Golden Heart® Finalists Update: Dresses, Pins, and Photos! Oh, My!

Some finalists bought WOW! dresses for the awards ceremony. Sorry. I won’t reveal any sneak peeks. You’ll have to wait until Sat., July 26th. We ordered pins for our group, the Dream Weavers, and will wear them on our badges at the Romance Writers of America® ( RWA® ) conference later this month. Since the Dream Weaver pins haven’t arrived yet, I can’t show them to you either. However, I can share this photo of the Golden Heart® pin and reception invitation each of us received in the mail.


©2014 RWA® Photo by Jillian Lark

©2014 RWA® Photo by Jillian Lark

RWA® posted our photos right below the 2014 RITA® finalists’ photos on the awards section of the organization’s website. Absolutely thrilling! We can’t believe we’re on the same page with our favorite published romance authors. You can see their photos and ours by clicking here.

Gone Writing Summer 2014

Writing space in the Emily Carr House (Victoria BC)

Writing space in the Emily Carr House (Victoria BC)


Gone writing until July 4th!

Meanwhile enjoy exploring my site.



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.







Social Media for Writers Simplified*


TWITTER: I am writing.



FACEBOOK: I like writing.



INSTAGRAM: Here’s a photo of my writing.



YOUTUBE: Watch me writing.



LINKEDIN: My skills include writing.



PINTEREST: Here’s a recipe for my favorite writing snack.



4-SQUARE: This is where I write.



GOOGLE+: I am a Google employee who writes.


What’s your favorite social media and why?

 ~ Jillian


*Inspired by Social Media DE-MYSTIFIED


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.

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.


2014 Golden Heart Update: The Historical Romance Finalists

What have the other 2014 GH finalists and I been doing since last month? Besides celebrating, writing, revising, pursuing publication, changing signature lines and bios, answering interview questions, updating websites, adding special events to our conference schedules, keeping up with emails and social media, competing in other contests, going to day jobs, and having personal lives? We’re getting to know each other on the private Golden Heart loops. Who needs sleep?

What’s trending on the GH loop right now? Choosing a name for the 2014 group, RWA14 pitches to agents and editors, and finding the dress for the July awards ceremony. More on those topics in future Golden Heart updates. From now through June I’ll host groups of the 2014 GH finalists. Today the 8 Historical Romance nominees are sharing snippets of their manuscripts and thoughts on being a finalist.

2014 Historical Romance Golden Heart Titles

Word Cloud created by GH finalist, Nan Dixon


charisCharis Calhoon

This is my second time to final in the Golden Heart. It sounds so cliched, but it really is an honor simply to make the final-round of judging. Out of all my WIPs, this manuscript has always been my favorite, so I’m incredibly excited to see it out there. THE EARL NEXT DOOR is a whimsical Regency Historical that dips and spins from London to Somerset and back again….

Miss Piety Grey, American heiress, is running away. Running from a cruel and avaricious suitor; running from her manipulative mother, who is bent on the match; running from a life half-lived in New York City. Her flight takes her to London, where she sinks her inheritance into a ramshackle townhome mansion in Mayfair. There she resolves to entrench herself and her fortune, refurbish the house, and start a new life with real and true friends.

The very last thing that Trevor Rheese, the Earl of Falcondale, wants is to become anyone’s friend, real or true—especially no friend to the complicated, distracting American who’s bought the house next door….  chariscalhoon@yahoo DOT com


ellenEllen Lindseth

A SOLDIER’S SERENADE is my 2014 GH final, in which a spirited, young songwriter falls for a stoic, divorced army officer in WWII Minnesota, forcing her to choose between her dreams of success and the longings of her heart. As for the Golden Heart, this is my first final in four tries. I actually cried when I got the phone call, because to me it meant I had finally done it, I had finally taught myself to write at a high enough level to impress my peers, and that meant the world to me.

http://www.ellenlindseth.com    Twitter @EllenLindseth



Gwyn MacKenzie

My title is THE SEER. It’s the first of a Merlin’s Prophesy series. (The prophesy is on my website).  I’m a 4-time finalist (07, 09, 11, 14), and this is my first even-numbered year. Mayhap that will bode well.





Julie Mulhern

This is my first Golden Heart final. It was a wonderful surprise, and I still can’t quite believe it’s real. A HAUNTING DESIRE is a turn of the century story about a ghost-hunter and a madam, who team up to catch a serial killer in 1902 New Orleans.


 Jillian’s Update: Julie sold her 3-book mystery series to Henery via Margaret Bail of Inklings Literary Agency.  The publication date for THE DEEP END  is February 17, 2015.


lauraLaura Trentham

Hi! This is my first time finaling in the Golden Heart, too. My Regency romance series Spies and Lovers is a little dark, a little funny, and a whole lot of sexy. I entered the first two manuscripts and was beyond shocked when I got the calls informing me they had both finaled. For me, being nominated is a great honor that I hope will open a few doors in an industry that is tough to crack.


With spywork in her blood, Lady Lily Drummond, armed with some rather unusual skills for a debutante, joins Crown spy Gray Masterson in the hunt for her missing father, not realizing the danger will ignite a passion neither can deny even as a web of madness closes around them.


In order to keep control of her dowry and maintain the freedom not to marry, Lady Minerva Bellingham agrees to settle her brother’s gaming debts by working as a servant at Lord Rafe Drummond’s country estate for three months. Rafe can’t believe the beautiful, cold paragon of the ton didn’t call him out when he proposed the scandalous bargain. An unexpected passion turns their hatred into love, but neither can outrun their demons.

(Jillian’s note: Double congrats, Laura! She sold both her historical manuscripts to Samhain and her 3 book football contemporary series to St. Martins’ Press via her agent, Kevan Lyon. To be released in 2015)

Twitter @LauraTrentham


Lenore Bell

My Regency CHARLENE AND THE DUCHESS FACTORY is also my first GH final. I’m beyond thrilled.

http://www.lenorabell.com/    http://lenorabell.blogspot.com/

(Jillian’s note: Lenore won the 2014 Golden Heart Historical Romance award. She’s represented by ICM literary agent Alexandra Machinist.)



sheriSheri Humphreys

A HERO TO HOLD finaled in 2012, so finaling in the Golden Heart again means I’m close to selling and realizing my dream!


The end of the Crimean War brings Victoria Thorne home to face a society that isn’t ready for a lady with the education and experience of a physician. While nursing a Crimean veteran she proves herself able to deal with medical challenges and discrimination, but she’s dismayed when she develops an attraction to her patient’s betrothed brother, the Earl of Havenwood.

Robb Merrick, Earl of Havenwood, is engaged to a darling of society, yet finds himself drawn to his brother’s nurse. She makes him feel connected with the world instead of cocooned by his title and position. He craves the freedom to pledge his love and loyalty, but ending his betrothal means entangling them all in scandal. How can an honorable gentleman be expected to keep his vow when doing so means destroying all hope of happiness?




That’s me, the last of the first time Golden Heart finalists in this year’s Historical Romance category. I’m still shocked, thrilled, and overwhelmed. The GH nomination is an honor from my peers and validates my writing, but I’m also humbled by how incredibly fortunate I am. Maybe repeating “Golden Heart” over 100 times in a 7 part GH blog series was my lucky charm this time.

MUCH ADO ABOUT SCANDAL (Book 1 Mischief in Mayfair series)

Lady Selborne has found the man she wishes to marry. Unfortunately he’s not her husband. Lord Selborne has found the life he always wanted. Unfortunately he’s not free to live it. The estranged couple agree to end their arranged marriage the only honorable way allowed by Victorian law. One of them has to die – a faux death. To avoid suspicion they must convince Society they are a loving couple. That is, if they can agree who should be the “victim” and protect their hearts from a painful past and unexpected desire.

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I can’t predict what being a GH finalist will bring to each of us, but I embrace the opportunities and my fellow Historical Romance nominees. Congrats, everyone! I can’t wait to read your books.




The Golden Heart Part 6: What Do the Judges’ Scores Look Like?

Unfortunately participants who enter writing contests don’t receive their scores as quickly as the athletes participating in the Olympics. The results of writing contests aren’t revealed until months afterward. Lucky finalists receive their notifications first, usually by phone. Then the scores are e-mailed. In most contests the scores include optional comments from the judges but not in the Golden Heart contest.


scorecardsWhat do the judges’ scores look like? First-time Golden Heart judges and contestants have asked me this question recently. My answer is based on the scoring rubric and information sent last year.

  1. Each of the 5 individual judge’s numerical scores for romance, plot / story, writing, and characters plus a total are displayed in a rubric.
  2. The highest and lowest totals are dropped, and the 3 middle totals are averaged together for the final score.
  3. The ranges for the final scores are listed to aid contestants in evaluating how their entry compared to others in that category. (Please note that ranges vary from year to year due to the actual numerical scores and number of entries submitted.)

Are you a Golden Heart judge, contestant, or both? What’s your opinion of this year’s ruling allowing entrants to judge their own category?


Scoring Guidelines for Judging The Golden Heart Contest


The Golden Heart Part 1: Judging Contests by guest blogger, Jody Wallace

The Golden Heart Part 5: Here Come the Judges


The Golden Heart Part 7 in Mar. 2014

Click here to follow this blog.

Deadlines and Writing: Two Important Reminders


FEB. 28TH This deadline is for writers who paid anyone $600 or more for writing-related services (web work, promotion, assistant, etc.) during the previous year. Click on the following link for details.

Feb. 28th , the Other Filing Deadline for Some Writers: Are You One of Them? 



MAR. 1st – This is the last date for Golden Heart Judges to complete, check, and finalize scores on the RWA website.


Scoring Guidelines for Judging The Golden Heart Contest


The Golden Heart Part 1: Judging Contests by guest blogger, Jody Wallace

The Golden Heart Part 5: Here Come the Judges


The Golden Heart Part 6: What Do the Judges’ Scores Look Like? (Feb. 18th)

The Golden Heart Part 7 (Mar. 2014)

Click here to follow this blog.

What deadlines are you working on?

The Golden Heart Part 4: Sliding Across the Finish Line with Your Synopsis



The last day to submit your Golden Heart entries and complete your edits is Dec. 13th at 5:00 p.m. CST. 

 Good luck!

~ Jillian


P.S. The Golden Heart posts will continue Jan.-Mar. 2014. To follow my blog, click here or on the link at the end of this post. Thanks!


Links to Synopsis Methods:

The Writers Write

Tia Nevitt

Hope Ramsay  The Seven Paragraph Synopsis (Ignore link description.)

Deborah Hale What to pack in your short synopsis

Shannon Donnelly 12-step checklist sexy synopsis

Links to Revising / Editing Your Synopsis:

 Writers Relief on Common Mistakes

Romance Writers of Australia Selling Synopsis Score Sheet
http://www.romanceaustralia.com/p/112/Selling-Synopsis (Scroll down  & click Sample scoresheet)

Links to Related Posts in the Golden Heart Series:  

Golden Heart Part 1:  Judging the Contest

Golden Heart Part 2: Entering the Contest

Golden Heart Part 3: T’is the Season to Sparkle and Shine

Future Posts in the Golden Heart Series:

Jan. – Mar. 2014    Click here to Follow Blog Via Email

What’s the status of your entry / synopsis?