Make It Golden Contest – Winners Announced!

Wow, finalists—you made this hard for us!!!

First, we asked for attention-grabbing opening lines, and got 100 outstanding candidates.

Then the Rubies narrowed the list to their favorite ten, and the authors had one day to give us more of the opening: a maximum of 250 words.

The entries lived up to the promise of their first lines: we were hooked, and wished we could read more of every one!

But in the end, we had to pick just three—not an easy task.  The polls kept shifting through the weekend, and in the end, TWO were tied for third place.  Which means we’ve got FOUR winners!

The two Third Place winners get a ruby-slipper journal to pen even more fabulous romance novel openings. Our Second Place winner gets a $20 bookstore gift certificate (Amazon or Barnes & Noble, winner’s choice):

And our First Place winner gets the Grand Prize: the Rubies pay the author’s Golden Heart entry fee!

And as good as our First Place winner is, that’s a perfect fit, since we think this author (not to mention the rest of our top ten!) should be entering the Golden Heart prontissimo….

For maximum suspense, the winners are announced from Third Place to First….after the jump.

We had a TIE for Third Place!



Today Fiona Macgregor would marry a man she had never met, and yet had hated all of her life.

Peering through the narrow window of her crumbling tower room, he plucked at the frayed hem of her sleeve and marveled over nature’s twisted humor. This morning of all mornings, she wanted the sky burdened with ominous clouds. The winds should howl and slice to the bone, fierce as a claymore in her brother’s hand. But the early spring day was soft, mild as a Highland calf, and in her misery she could not reconcile the irony.

In hours, perhaps even moments, the Campbells would pass through the gates of her ancestral home and enter the bailey below, unwelcome, yet unaccosted by her father’s men. Now two months in the grave, Hugh Macgregor could protect his daughter and his people no longer, and the calculated bargain, struck the day Fiona drew in her first breath, was sealed with the wheeze of his last crackling gasp. Betrothed to Myles Campbell by command of the King, her parents had once rejoiced at such a noble match. But that was before, when a different King sat on the throne, long before the raids, and the retaliations, and the accusations of treason and murder. And long before Fiona’s own dear mother was found dead, lying broken and naked in a stream, with Cedric Campbell’s brooch pierced into her pale ivory skin.


The tricky thing about having a poltergeist as a partner was how hard he was to find, even when he was standing mere feet away.

“Hey, Milt?” I flipped through the files in my filing cabinet, growing more impatient by the second. “Did you file the Morrison case under M, or V for vampire?” I’d checked both places twice, but couldn’t find the information. With every minute that passed, the more likely it was that I’d run into someone I desperately wanted to avoid. School had been worse than usual today, and I didn’t think I could take one more annoying confrontation. “I swear, it was right here.”

“Are you talking to me?” a smoky female voice asked.

Every nerve in my body went on edge as I slowly turned around. The stacked, overly-collagenated succubus who stole my boyfriend stood on the other side of my office, gripping a tiny beaded clutch.

Speaking of people I’d rather avoid.

I clenched my jaw. “The answer to that question will always be no.”

“Aha, but right there, you are talking to me.” Nadia twisted a strand of her platinum hair around her finger, something I was sure drove the y-chromosome population crazy. Hell, I was a little hypnotized by the motion myself.

I returned to flipping through my files. “Go away.”

“I’ve got a case for you.”

“I’m all filled up on cases.”

Nadia made a big show of looking around. “Yeah, I noticed the long line.”




Our Second Place Winner is CARLA KEMPERT!!


“Uh, coach, why is there a naked woman in our showers?”

Tommy stood in my office doorway, looking as confused as he was excited. He was just fifteen, and naked women were still a novelty.

Exhaling what I wished was my last breath, I hung my head. My hand stopped halfway to the bottom drawer of my desk where I hid the whiskey. For the tenth time, I wondered if this job was worth the money.

The whiskey would have to wait. “Is there, now.”

He nodded, his already sunburned cheeks very nearly to full-on scarlet. “She’s there, all right. And she’s, uh, singing.”

I pushed myself out of the creaky wooden chair. “Just shoot me now. Okay, Tommy, show me this naked woman.”

I followed him across the locker room, holding my breath against the smell of stale sweat and dirt and cut grass and rusting metal. Steam billowed out of the shower room, over the heads of the small crowd gathered there. Over the faint murmur of fascinated voices, I heard what, indeed, sounded like a woman’s voice, singing…The Blues Brothers?


I pushed my way through the players and staff crawling on top of each other to get a better look. Through the doorway, I walked into a cloud of steam perfumed by soap and female skin. Even before I saw her face, I knew it was Remy Turner. Despite the humidity, my mouth went dry.


And now, may I have a drumroll, please………


Our First Place Winner is MAGDA ALEXANDER!!!

Stalked by that most fearsome creature of the Beau Monde, a matchmaking mother, Lord Lindsey didn’t think, he ran, dignity be damned. Ignoring greetings along the way, he weaved through the merry revelers in Lady Twynham’s ballroom toward doors which opened out to a flagstone terrace. Outside, he dashed down to the lawn before reentering the mansion into a quiet hallway where his hostess’s library could be found. He’d whiled away a pleasant hour or two there in the past, not always in intellectual pursuit.


Opening the third door on the left, he slipped into the room. A cheery hearth fire greeted him. He was reaching for a Greek version of “Odysseus” when a rustle emanated from the opposite side of the library.

He was not alone.

Searching the shadows, he discovered a female reclining in a chair, book in hand, titian hair piled up in some sort of artful arrangement with the au courant curls cascading across creamy shoulders. He recognized her gown, in a shade the fashionable world had named verdant spring, chartreuse jonquil, or some other silly name, to be all the rage. Ribbons trailed from a handsome bosom which owed nothing to artifice; he’d undressed enough women to know the difference between illusion and truth. The color of her eyes was harder to discern, not only because of the relative darkness of the room, but because the lady in question wore spectacles. He had no trouble discerning their expression, though. Bemused would cover it nicely.


 Fantastic entries, Magda, Carla, Cindi, and Tracy!! We’ll be in touch to tell you how to claim your prizes.

 Congratulations to all four winners, to all of our fabulous finalists, and to everyone who entered the contest!

 Best of luck to you all! Happy writing!!

64 responses to “Make It Golden Contest – Winners Announced!”

  1. What Elisa said is so true. We had a hard time voting. Every entry was awesome. Congrats to our winners!

  2. Tracy Brogan says:

    Yea!! It’s an honor to be among such talented competition! I want to read all those top ten manuscripts, and I’ll expect to see those names again when the GH finalists are announced. Best of luck to each of you! And a big juicy THANKS to the Rubies for sponsoring this fun contest.

  3. Congratulations, Magda, Carla, Cindi and Tracy! The standard of all entries was so high. I had a hard time choosing my favourites–but it was fun, too. Well done to everyone who entered!

  4. Asha says:

    Congrats to all the winners! I think everyone, from entrants to judges, did an awesome job!

  5. Alexa Bourne says:

    Congratulations to the winners!

  6. Heidi Luchterhand says:

    Carla!!! Congrats!!!

    And everyone else, too!


  7. Carla says:

    THANK YOU, Rubies!! (And to my Lalala Sisters for keeping me sane!) What an awesome way to start the week!!

  8. liz talley says:

    Such a fun contest, and I admit that it was way tough! So many good openings. Makes me look a bit harder at my own, so it was good for me to think about those first 250 words. Congrats to the winners, finalist and everyone who entered.

  9. Congratulations to all the winners.

  10. Rita Henuber says:

    This is so much fun. It was difficult to pick winners from the very first. Hope everyone is entering the GH.

  11. Congratulations everyone! 🙂

  12. Tamara Hogan says:

    This was a tough one. Like Liz said, the entries definitely made me give the first page of MY WIP a good, hard look. 😉

    Beautiful work, ladies. Congratulations, and best of luck in the Golden Heart!

  13. […] morning I found out I placed second in a First Lines contest (sponsored by a different blog; hope you don’t mind me sharing) and I feel like I have a […]

  14. OMG!!!!! You heard me screaming, right? So many wonderful submissions were entered into this contest, really, it was an honor just to be in the top 11.

    Congrats to Carla, Cindi and Traci. Loved your entries. So well written. Expect to see them as Golden Heart finalists.

    Thank you, Ruby Slippers. You made my day, week, month. Now off to polish my Golden Heart entry so it shines, shines, shines.

  15. Kelley says:

    Yay for all! I really enjoyed all the entries…
    Good luck with the Golden Heart, ladies…(and everyone)…terrific stories. KB

  16. Shea Berkley says:

    Congratulations, to Magda, Carla, Cindi, and Tracy!! So much fun to see your stories unfold. It was difficult and I’m proud of everyone who took the chance to submit their work. It’s scary, but look at what can happen?

  17. Congratulations to all the winners, especially my fellow lalala, Carla, yay! Such fabulous opening lines!!

  18. Loni Lynne says:

    Congratulations to all! Congrats to my friend Magda! Hugs!

  19. Elisa Beatty says:

    Congratulations, winners! We really hope to see your names when Golden Heart rolls around!

  20. Robin Kaye says:

    Carla – Congratulations! I’m so thrilled for you, it’s well deserved!

  21. Diana Layne says:

    Congratulations to the winners! It was tough voting, but fun to read all the wonderful entries!

  22. Robin Kaye says:

    Oh, sorry….Magda, Cindy & Tracy–I didn’t mean to leave you out, congratulations, all of the entries were wonderful. I don’t know how the Sisterhood chose only four!

  23. Amanda Brice says:

    CONGRATS to all our winners, as well as all our finalists! Seriously, we’re nto lying when we say this was such a difficult choice!!!

  24. Thank you to all those who entered. I enjoyed reading all the openers.

    Congratulations to the winners and best of luck to all of you entering the Golden Heart this year!!

  25. As we continue to work on our GH entries, I was just wondering if any of the Sisters would like to share the elements they think make these first pages sparkle? Thanks!

  26. ..and they do sparkle! But for teaching purposes, can you help us out with a few pointers? Many thianks…

    • Rita Henuber says:

      Miranda we will be doing just that in next few days. We will be talking about what we think a GH entry needs.
      Oct 5 the suspense finalists will be addressing RS entries.
      Oct 6 will be YA.
      Oct 10 Contemporary Series.
      Oct 11 Regency
      Oct 12 Single Title
      The finalists in those categories will be answering questions. Overall with each of these posts you will be getting ideas for making that entry stand out.
      See ya then!

  27. Congrats to all the winners! We’ll be looking for your name on GH day! 🙂

  28. Rita Henuber says:

    I’m sending a big THANK YOU to Elisa Beatty, the Make It Golden contest coordinator, for all the work she did. She kept the entries straight – and the Rubies – to make this a fun contest. HOO RAH!!!!!!

  29. Cindi Madsen says:

    Thanks so much! This contest was fun and I’m so glad I could be part of it. Congrats to everyone. Best of luck with the GH.

  30. Choosing last year was difficult. This year? OY! The wealth of talent was not only apparent, it was scary! Kudos to all who entered, and major congrats to all our winners.

  31. Big congrats to Magda, Carla, Cindi and Tracy and all the contestants. Enjoyed reading the entries (thanks, Elisa). Good luck to everyone entering the Golden Heart. So much talent means more books for everyone to enjoy.

  32. NICE!!!! Super congrats everyone! This was such a difficult decision. I was so impressed with all the entries.


  33. Kate Parker says:

    Congrats to our winners, our finalists, and everyone who had the nerve to enter our contest. It takes bravery to put our work out there for everyone to see, whether it’s the Golden Heart or the Ruby first line contest.

  34. Bec says:

    Congrats to all the winners!!

  35. Congratulations Carla, Cindi, Tracy, and Magda!

  36. Tina Joyce says:

    Congratulations, ladies! These were some wonderful entries! Hope to see all your names on the GH finalist list!

  37. Fabulous!!! And yes, I am thinking GH competition this year is going to be fierce!

  38. […] Recently the Rubies ( did a post on the importance of openings and sponsored a first line contest.  The entries were many (we said a max of 100 and filled every slot) and varied in tone and genre, giving us quite the time chosing the finalists and winners.  You can find those that won and placed—with their expanded entries—here: […]


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