The competition’s been absolutely amazing!

First, we asked for attention-grabbing opening lines, and got 79 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 all 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.

Third Place gets a ruby-slipper journal to pen even more fabulous romance novel openings. Second Place gets a $20 book-store gift certificate. And First Place 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.

Our Third Place Winner is: GILLIAN LAYNE

Sisters with morals were a dreadful nuisance. “I’m dead. Tell him I’m dead, Maddie.” Matching deed to words, Rebecca Stayton collapsed among the feather pillows littering her bed. “Corpses are marked by silence, dear.” Madeline rescued a mewing kitten from the depths of a discarded afghan upon the floor and settled him into a bedside basket with his littermates. Rebecca propped up on her elbows, blowing an errant curl out of her face. “I am, in truth, the very picture of health. It’s criminal, your obsession with my simple cold, while countless others languish, deprived of desperately needed medical attention.” “I’ll concede your lungs are unharmed.” A smart rap upon the bedroom door pulled Madeline’s attentions away long enough for Rebecca to tuck her last bag of treasured lemon drops under a pillow. “You may enter.” The physician who strode through the doors, however, pausing only long enough to drape his long coat across the camelback sofa and nod respectfully to Madeline—of course, he was respectful to Madeline, whose graceful stance never faltered—was not the elderly Scotsman who had visited Rebecca each day for the past week. This gentleman’s frank stare or brisk conduct could never be confused with the rambling manner of their jovial family doctor. Physicians ought not visit their patients looking quite so robust and well kept and—and virile. Such observations would be rather lowering, if the disheveled patient gave a fig about the immaculate physician’s opinion. Thankfully, she suffered from no such inclinations.

Our Second Place Winner is:  HEIDI LUCHTERHAND

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas – unless you’re stupid enough to marry him. Meg Cromwell really didn’t want to open her eyes. She was lying in bed…somewhere. The room was dark, the sheets smelled musky, and there was a big heavy arm curled around her from behind – with its big heavy hand cupping her breast. Her naked breast. Which matched— Meg shifted her hips slightly and…yep. Which matched her equally naked bottom. And his. Hard to miss that fact. Or the fact that Meg’s mystery man wasn’t entirely asleep despite the soft snores ruffling her hair. One part of him, at least, was wide-awake and raring to go. Meg shifted again, just a little. Just enough to discourage Mr. Happy but not enough to wake his owner and— Oh, God. If the unexpected moisture between her legs was any indication, Mr. Happy had gone riding without a saddle that night. How could she have been so stupid? Her last one-night stand had been her only one-night stand – and that had been her freshman year in college about a gazillion years ago. She’d been stupid then, too, and also impatient to become a “real” woman by embracing her sexual freedom. She’d realized later, after her marathon hot shower, that having sexual freedom also meant having the freedom to say “no” or “not yet.” Or at least “not without a condom.” How could she have forgotten any of that? Or her ensuing pregnancy scare?

And now, a major drum roll, please!!!!

Our Grand Prize Winner is:


(Wow, Heidi!!!!!)

Before that morning, Delaney Matthews had foolishly believed that nothing could be worse than being flashed by a geriatric superhero high on Viagra. She’d been wrong. Worse was when it happened again. And again. “Now, Mr. Anderson,” she said in her most authoritative voice, “we’ve already discussed this, remember?” But of course he didn’t remember. Mr. Willard Anderson – aka the Winged Avenger – had broken the sound barrier one-too-many times saving the world and now his short-term memory was all shot to hell. “Dang impressive, ain’t it?” Mr. Anderson said, grinning and waggling his bushy gray eyebrows at her. Delaney knew from experience that he was waggling something else, too, but she’d learned from her previous mistake and so kept her gaze due north. Not an easy feat when she was seated behind her desk at Sunset Ranch – the top-secret retirement home for elderly superheroes – and Mr. Anderson was standing in front of it. With his “little superhero” at eye level. “Maybe I should tell Mrs. Leon about your behavior,” she threatened. Mrs. Camille Leon – aka Cammie Chameleon – was Mr. Anderson’s girlfriend and his Viagra dealer. Delaney had tried in vain to cut off his supply after the first time he’d flashed her, but as Mrs. Leon had warned her, “It’s impossible to stop a horny old broad who can shape shift.” And she’d been right. All Delaney had ever accomplished was making a fool of herself chasing shadows.

FABULOUS JOB, everybody! We want to thank all our entrants for sharing their work with us, and giving us heaps of entertainment and inspiration.

We hope to see you ALL in the Golden Heart, and on our bookshelves ASAP.

(Winners, we’ll be in contact by email to tell you how to collect your prizes. Congratulations again!!)

64 responses to “ANNOUNCING the WINNERS of the MAKE IT GOLDEN CONTEST!!!”

  1. Elisa Beatty says:

    Congrats, Gillian and Heidi (twice)! A very impressive achievement, given the calibre of the entries. I loved all three of your entries, and am hoping we’ll get to see more!!!!

    Incidentally, folks, Heidi’s entry that begins “What happens in Vegas….” just netted her another prize: ONCE UPON A MARGARITA is a finalist in the prestigious Golden Pen!

    • Heidi Luchterhand says:

      I was really tickled to get your call about finaling in the Golden Pen! I’m keeping my fingers crossed, OF COURSE, but just knowing I made the cut is HUGE!!!


  2. Whoo-hoo! Congrats, Heidi and Gillian! You’re both stars!

    Thanks to everyone who entered. I had a lot of fun judging, but boy, was it hard to narrow down a winner!

  3. gillian layne says:

    Thanks so very much! I was so impressed by the quality of all the entries; best of luck to everyone entering the GH this year. You Rubies rock! 🙂

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      I really loved your entry, Gillian–that first line is AWESOME for Regency, and I love the playfulness of the tone of the rest of it. Sounds like an incredibly fun story. (And a sexy Regency doctor…mmmmm!!)

  4. Carla says:

    Congrats, Heidi! I can’t forget your name because a) I have a cousin named Heide (close enough), and b) because in last year’s NJRW PYHIAB contest, my friend Laura and I tied for 2nd while you won 1st place in the Single Title category. Now it’s fair to say, we know why! Great job and brilliant writing! Congratulations!

    • Heidi Luchterhand says:

      Carla, you get the award for giving me my morning giggle. One of my grandmothers spelled my name “Heide” until the day she died — at age 96. It always bugged the heck out of me, but I do have to admit that I always think about her now when I see the alternative spelling.

      And thanks so much for your kind words! Winning the NJ PYHIAB contest was thrilling, naturally, but I’m sure it could’ve very easily gone three different ways.


  5. gillian layne says:

    Heidi, I laughed myself silly reading your Viagra entry, and read it aloud to my husband last week. Congratulations! 🙂

    • Elise Hayes says:

      Congratulations, Gillian! I loved your entry. The “voice” of the heroine, particularly near the end when she contemplates that her reaction to the doctor would be “lowering,” if she gave a “fig,” is utterly charming.

      Do tell us that you’ll be entering the GH this year!!

    • Heidi Luchterhand says:

      Gillian, I’m happy you enjoyed my Viagra entry so much. What I’M enjoying is being grouped with a GH finalist in this contest! It amazes me every single time it happens because being a GH finalist is something that’s still eluding me. Congrats on your GH final!


  6. Laurie Kellogg says:

    First and foremost, I want to congratulate my good friend, Heidi. I knew you would do well in this contest. You deserve all of the praise you’re getting. I expect you to send me your GH entries to proof before you send them out.

    Secondly, I want to congratulate, Gillian, my Unsinkable Sister. Your entry was amazing too. I fully expect to see you on the GH finalist list again this year.

    Lastly, congratulations to all of the other finalists. Everyone’s openings are GH worthy. Good luck to you all in the Golden Heart.

  7. Elise Hayes says:

    Heidi–I agree with Gillian above. I laughed and laughed when I read your entries. You’ve got a great comedic voice. And congrats on the Golden Pen final, too!!

  8. Kim Law says:

    Congratulations to you both!!! These were all fabulous!

  9. Callie James says:

    Congratulations to the winners … and best of luck in the Golden Heart, everyone!

  10. Tina Joyce says:

    Congratulations to our winners, and to all who competed. It wasn’t easy narrowing down those lists, but I’m sure I’ll be seeing many of your names again, either on contest finalast lists or in bookstores!

  11. rita says:

    A big congratulations to our winners.
    Heidi your voice is so strong and bright and shinny. Are you entering both of these in the GH?
    Gillian the way you provided insight about Madeline and described the doctor is very clever.
    What are the titles for these stories if I may ask?

  12. Jeannie Lin says:

    Congratulations Gillian and Heidi!

    All the finalists were so engaging, it was truly difficult to choose between them. Congrats and best of luck with these stories. Having a killer opening is key to getting the reader on your side quickly and the hardest part to nail.

  13. Nan Dixon says:

    Congratulations — Gillian and Heidi. What fantastic openings. They were so much fun to read.

    Good luck.

  14. Diana Layne says:

    Fantastic entries, congratulations Heidi and Gillian! It was so tough to judge them all!

  15. Hope Ramsay says:

    Congrats to Gillian and Heidi.

    Heidi that viagra opening had me rolling on the floor. I think it’s fair to say that many of us wanted to read more, more, more of that entry. Great work and we’ll be rooting for all our finalists in the Golden Heart this year.

  16. rita says:

    I have to say this now. This contest was way more difficult than I anticipated. The first lines were all good, getting to see another two hundred fifty words and choosing from those was a little mind bending. It really gave insight into what agents go through in a query process.
    I’d say everyone who posted a first line has a good start on an MS. I hope you all are entering the GH this year.
    Best to all of you

  17. Congratulations Heidi and Gillian. Really enjoyed your entries and wanted more! Thanks for entering.

  18. Barb Han says:

    Congrats Heidi and Gillian! Excellent entries. Best of luck to both of you in the GH!

    Take care.

  19. Heidi Luchterhand says:

    It’s safe to say I’m a bit dazed this morning, and hope my huge THANK YOU to the Ruby Sisters comes across as gracious and sincere — instead of ditzy. (Especially since I’m writing this with kids underfoot!)

    One, it was incredibly fabulous to actually have a free contest and I’d like to thank the Rubies for donating their time.

    Two, it was also incredibly fabulous to have practical prizes, especially given the times we now live in.

    And, three, obviously I’m thankful for finaling, placing second AND first, and all the wonderful comments and encouragment. Too often in this business I feel like it’s me against the world, when — in reality and all seriousness — writers become stronger and more successful when they work together and support each other.

    THANK YOU again!!!


    • Elisa Beatty says:

      I’m so excited for you, Heidi: you’ve got the momentum going!!

      The Viagra entry’s hilarious, but I have to admit, my favorite of your two is the Vegas one. The physical detail of that opening scene is so rich and human: the musky-smelling sheets, the “big heavy arm / big heavy hand,” the “soft snores ruffling her hair”…you’re hitting all the senses. And it’s funny, too (Mr. Happy..snort!) And it has terrific (comic) suspense and tension.

      One of the perks of being Single Title Coordinator for Golden Pen is that I had a chance to read a bit more of this scene, and the heroine’s reaction keeps getting funnier, and the hero turns out to be WONDERFUL…I was falling in love with him within the first page.

      Fabulous, exciting work, and you DEFINITELY need to be sending this one to Golden Heart!!!!!!

      Good luck!!

  20. Shoshana Brown says:

    Congratulations, Heidi and Gillian! I’ll be looking for your books on the shelves because I definitely want to read more. 🙂

    It was a pleasure to read all the entries. Best of luck to everyone in the GH and beyond.

    • Heidi Luchterhand says:


      So far, my Viagra entry has not done well in contests overall. That said, I know you’ve seen more of that manuscript than what’s posted here on this site and you had some amazingly kind and encouraging words for me, words that have kept me plugging away at it. Thank you so much!!!


      • Shoshana Brown says:

        Really? Just goes to show how subjective this whole process is. I hope you find the right editor soon.

  21. Gwynlyn MacKenzie says:

    Of all the entrants, to have one list twice with two different entries? Whodda thunk? And there were some fabulous entries. Looks like my TBR pile will be growing in leaps and bounds soon.

    Congrats to both Heidi and Gillian! With the caliber of the entries, you ladies had some seriously stiff competition.

    Heidi, I didn’t realize you were Laurie’s Heidi until after I read the entries. Now I know why she speaks as highly of your writing as she does.

    • Heidi Luchterhand says:


      Thank you so much!!!

      Laurie has been pounding HIGH-CONCEPT into my head for awhile now, and my Viagra entry is a direct result of all that pounding.

      And while that’s setting you ladies up for a lot of puns, there’s no other way to accurately phrase it. :^)


  22. Tamara Hogan says:

    Congratulations Heidi, Gillian, and everyone who put themselves out there and entered our contest in the first place. If these first pages are any indication, this year’s Golden Heart is going to be a blast to judge. 😉

  23. Stopping by to congratulate our winners – Heidi x 2 and Gillian!! Great reads! Best of luck in the Golden Heart.

    2007 GH Finalist
    2009 GH Double Finalist

  24. Drat! I knew the competition was stiff. 😉

    Congrats to the winners, Heidi and Gillian. The Vegas one was my favorite of all the entries (except mine, of course!).

    And thanks for sponsoring this contest. Even making the final cut was fantastic.

  25. Congrats, Heidi and Gillian. I hope to see both your names as Golden Heart finalist in 2011. And congrats to all the entries. It was really, really hard picking from all the great entries.

  26. Donnell Bell says:

    Oh my goodness, I can see what the fuss is about. These are fabulous. Heidi what a great, great contemporary voice you have. And Gillian, I LOVE the eloquence of your historical voice. Kudos to you both, and thanks to the Ruby Slipper Sisterhood for putting this competition on.

  27. jbrayweber says:

    Great job, ladies. ‘Twern’t no easy task pickin’ the winners. Everyone did a fabulous job.
    Congratulations to all.

  28. Congratulations to Gillian and Heidi!

    Thanks to EVERY contestant who entered this contest and made it so darned difficult for us to pick finalists and winners.

    We also need to thank the woman who dreamed up the notion for this contest: Rita Henuber!

    And the brains behind the programming that made picking winners far, far easier on the Rubies than it otherwise would have been: Liz Bemis!

    Incidentally, both ladies recently collaborated to produce Rita’s fabulous new website. Check out

  29. These are sooooo fantastic!!! I totally voted for these, too, so I feel so proud. *sniff* You guys absolutely rocked this contest. What wonderful entries.

    Super congrats to both of you. I’m in love with your writing and know you’ll sell soon!

  30. Congrats to both Gillian and Heidi! All of them great reads/entries!

  31. gillian layne says:

    Another hug to all of you for the kind and supportive words!

    • Heidi Luchterhand says:

      Ditto what Gillian said! My intentions were to thank everyone who commented on an individual basis, but you know what they say about good intentions…

      My job and my kids ganged up on me and stole all my time and energy the last couple of days. That said, I wanted to thank everyone again and, as Gillian so nicely put it, give everyone of you another hug for your kind and supportive words!


  32. What a fun competition this was to follow! CONGRATS to all!!


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