Posts tagged with: 2012 finalist

Meet 2012 Golden Heart Finalist Sally Kilpatrick

Today we’re welcoming Firebird Sally Kilpatrick, Golden Heart Finalist in the Novel with Strong Romantic Elements  category.

Sally’s a former Spanish teacher by trade but currently lives as a stay-at-home mother/writer/laundry goddess/coffee and wine connoisseur/herder of figurative cats. A native West Tennessean, she writes Southern fiction heavily influenced by the farm and small town where she grew up. She currently resides in Marietta, GA with her husband and two children.

Her novel BEULAH LAND AND THE HAPPY HOUR CHOIR is a finalist in the Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category. When a fallen from grace honky-tonk piano player ends up the newest church pianist, sparks fly between her and the new minister and the whole community gets turned upside down.

You can find Sally at, on Twitter @SuperWriterMom and

on Facebook at

She also blogs at

Take it away, Sally!


So, you wanna guess what I was doing when I found out I was a Golden Heart finalist? I was cleaning out the lint trap. Yes, I was. If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I do a lot of laundry. I blame the little clotheshorse that runs around here. (Oh, and thank you, Tanya Michaels, for making laundry much more bearable that day!)

It’s easy for me to forget I’m a writer. The other parents at the school look at me and think, “She stays at home. Why can’t she head up the annual Let’s-Give-the-Kids-Banana-Splits-Immediately-After-Aerobics-For-No-Apparent-Reason Party?” My kids say writing is what I do best, but they also claim broccoli is my favorite food and that I weigh twenty-five pounds, so go figure. But my husband, now he sees me as a writer. God bless him for enrolling me into graduate school for Christmas that year. I was about to quit, to dedicate myself to being a school marm, but he saved me from myself when I didn’t even know I needed to be saved.

You see, when we graduated from UT, he wanted to call play by play like Skip Carey. I wanted to go to graduate school and become a literature professor. Since he already had an internship at one of the best radio stations in the state, I stayed put. When he decided he didn’t want that career after all, I found a job teaching Spanish and we moved down to the land of the Big Chicken (Marietta, GA for those not familiar with one of the world’s gaudiest landmarks). I wrote on the side, even got a request for a full, but then I let a couple of pesky pregnancies distract me. I was prepared to dedicate myself to my family and a career in education when I opened a shirt box that Christmas. Inside was the part B to an application to Kennesaw State and a note that said, among other things, you let me follow my dreams, now it’s time for you to follow yours.

Life is funny. I’ve studied enough literature to know why people write unhappy endings, the tendency of many literary types to dismiss God, the desire to write only what sells, or the need to write only for prestige. For me, though, everything fell into place. If there’s anything I’ve learned thus far in my brief life it’s that things do tend to fall into place if you pay attention to what the universe is telling you and if you tackle each thing you do with the idea you should do your best and learn something from it. Maybe I didn’t know it at 22, but I didn’t want to devote the rest of my life to researching the works of one literary goddess. I wanted to write my own stories; I just hadn’t lived long enough to know it yet. I wouldn’t trade life’s winding road nor what that road has taught me for anything.

Yes, I’ve had folks sneer at my romance writer membership because that stuff about a man and a woman meeting and falling in love for a happily ever after is just a load of hogwash, or at the very least not *sniff, sniff* fine literature. Folks have told me my novel would be a wonderful inspirational if I’d just take out all of that cussing, drinking, dancing, and sexual innuendo. Others said I needed to just take out all of that God stuff because no one believes in that kind of religious hooey in a world like this. And maybe I needed to be in my thirties and have survived eight years of the blunt honesty of teenagers to be able to tell them all I was going to write the story I wanted to write, the story I had to write.

Like any good teacher would tell you, the answer to life’s questions is often d) all of the above. Yes, romance is hard—but it’s worth it. Yes, sometimes it feels as though God doesn’t care—but maybe we aren’t listening. Yes, sacred things have their place—but you can often find the spiritual in some of the most basely human places. And, yes, not all endings are happy—but if we don’t look for one or expect it, it’s a cinch we won’t find it.

Perhaps being a Golden Heart finalist carries a certain amount of validation, but I mainly feel so much gratitude that I’m bursting at the seams. (And I finally found my Awards ceremony dress, so we really can’t have that!) I don’t know who read my manuscript or judged it, but I am so incredibly grateful that you gave my crazy story a chance.  And there’s a bunch of you out there—you know who you are, and I’m told I still have to write a speech whether I think I’ll win or not—thank you. Thanks again, Rubies, for letting me share a little bit of the magic behind this Golden Heart final, too!

Do you feel as though life leads you to where you need to be when you need to be there? Got any great stories to share on the subject? As a little incentive to volunteer and tell your tale, I’ll throw in a Starbucks gift card to one lucky commenter. After all, maybe you need to be at Starbucks later this week…

Meet 2012 Golden Heart Finalist Moriah Densley

Today we’re welcoming Firebird Moriah Densley, 2012 Golden Heart finalist in Historical Romance.

Moriah sees nothing odd at all about keeping both a violin case and a range bag stuffed with pistols in the back seat of her car. They hold up the stack of books in the middle, of course. She enjoys writing about Victorians, assassins, and geeks. Her muses are summoned by the smell of chocolate, usually at odd hours of the night. By day her alter ego is your friendly neighborhood music teacher. Moriah lives in Las Vegas with her husband and four children.

Moriah’s also one of the first Firebirds to publish her debut novel! Her gorgeous book, SONG FOR SOPHIA, came out in June. I’m here to tell you it’s gloriously well-written, and both hero and heroine are truly intense, complicated, and fascinating. (If you liked THE MADNESS OF LORD IAN MACKENZIE, this is most definitely for you!) A swoon-worthy romance!!

You can snap up your own copy anywhere e-books are sold, like right here.

You can learn more at

Take it away, Moriah!


Real Life Romantic Heroes

I adore alpha males in fiction. The take-no-prisoners, my-way-or-the-highway, dragon slayer types. I even cheer when they mess up and land themselves in trouble with the heroines, because it’s true to life, and I like seeing how couples work through conflict. “The course of true love never did run smooth,” and all that.

With apologies to Shakespeare, I’d like to share the results of my recent quest for “Real Life Romantic Heroes.” Because we hear endless tales of men in the doghouse, you might find these examples of thoughtful, adoring, and oh-so-romantic men refreshing. Some of them put romance novel heroes to shame. They certainly defy stereotypes.

Here are my top ten favorite stories from the women I interviewed:

Meet 2012 Golden Heart Finalist Nikki McIntosh

Today we’re welcoming Firebird Nikki McIntosh, Golden Heart finalist in the Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category and a first time Golden Heart nominee. 

A certified Project Manager by day, Nikki constantly sneaks in writing time while closing her office door and pretending she’s on conference calls. She writes romantic comedies and lives in the beautiful seaside commmunity of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada with her husband, her 11 year old son, and her clingy dog. 

 Her Golden Heart nominated book FAKING IT is a romantic comedy about a washed-up actress who returns to L.A. to make one last movie and signs up for a fake relationship with a mega-movie star for publicity. Things get messy when she falls for her co-star on the set. 

 You can learn more about her at her website,

or follow her on Twitter – @nikkimcintosh9

 Take it away, Nikki!


Becoming a GH finalist is a little like joining a secret society, without the hooded cape.  I’ve jotted down a few things that surprised me the most over the last few months, and in no particular order, here are my Top Five.

1) The Email

When you first join the loop you think “This will be fun – I’ll get to chat with my other GH nominees – get to know them a little before the conference.”

The reality?  Say goodbye to friends and family because you won’t have time to talk to them once you attempt to answer literally hundreds of messages that are sent to you every half hour.

It became so overwhelming that I had to hire a couple of middle-school girls to manage my email for me so that I could do the ‘extras’ in my life, like shower and eat. Although I had to skirt a few child labor laws, and they occasionally liked to chat with my fellow GHers about whether or not they have a chance to date Justin Beiber (for the record, the answer to that question is a resounding ‘seriously? Not gonna happen’), it was worth it to spend time with my family again.

Kind of.

2) The Dress

You may think the GHers are emailing about the quality of their manuscripts, or the pros and cons of entering the Twitterverse (please use #Twittersucksthelifeoutofme when compiling your list) … but no greater dilemma faces a GH finalist than “what am I going to wear?”  Hundreds and hundreds of hours are dedicated to the pursuit of the “perfect dress.”

I’ve decided to take the Angelina Jolie route and use my dress as a focal point to highlight my favourite limb.  And since Angie’s pretty much done The Leg to death, I’m going with a strong lean toward the often overlooked, and underappreciated, elbow.  I’ve been practicing a “hand-on-hip” stance that really emphasizes the mid-arm, and I think it’s fair to say that I am rockin’ this pose.

Challenge ‘on’ ladies. Challenge on.

 3) The Speech

Although you’re supposed to be humble and pretend like you don’t have a shot at winning your category, we have all been advised to create a speech, “just in case.”  I have labored long and hard over mine, and although it’s not perfect yet, I think I’ve got the core elements down.

I’ve got a strong opening line (“Whazzup bitches … “), the irreverent shout-out to our published authors (“I am coming for you Nora Roberts.  That’s right, you heard me … I’m going to take you down … JD Robb-style.”) and a closing line that will leave them cheering (“we’re going to do this tequila shot on the count of three.  Everyone ready? “).

Combined with the hand-on-hip elbow thrust that I’ve perfected, I think it’s safe to say that I am Conference. Ready.

 4) The GH Group Name

Nothing gets the GHers more excited than picking a group name.  And although it seems like it would be a fun activity, it was clear that any of the names suggested, no matter how innocent, could be interpreted negatively.  For instance, my suggestion of “Demon Writers Practicing a Weekly Chicken Sacrifice To Please The Blood-God” was met with multiple comments that poultry references were very 2011.

In the end, we went with The Firebirds as a group name (although it’s my understanding that Team Corvette is still planning on launching a protest).

5) The Friendships

We’ve had an opportunity to get to know, and bond with, a whole new group of writers.  You would think that the competitive spirit would prevent new friendships from being forged, especially in our categories, as we all know that if one person gets published it takes away our chance at the dream.  But strangely, we’ve all come together in these last few months to celebrate our achievements.  And although I’ve spent many hours attempting to sabotage my fellow nominees in the Strong Romantic Elements category through emails attacking their personal character (did you know Susan Boyer hates spinach?  I’m serious, there’s no way we can let someone who’s anti-vegetable win the category, can we??), I’m confident that the bonds we form at conference time will be lasting and strong.

Unless I lose.  And then I am gonna tear that place up.  JD Robb Style.


Everyone has their own experiences of being a GH finalist.  What are yours?  Anything that I missed?  And do you think Team Corvette is going to go the Gandhi-route or should we expect paint bombs?

Meet 2012 Golden Heart Finalist Magdalen Braden

Today we’re welcoming Firebird Magdalen Braden, 2012 Golden Heart Finalist in Contemporary Single Title. Her novel BLACKJACK & MOONLIGHT is the story of a federal judge and the lawyer he falls for even before he learns her name. You can read an excerpt at her website,

Magdalen used to be a lawyer, but then she used to be a lot of things, including a speechwriter, a temp secretary, a philosopher, and (for 25 years) a babysitter. Now, finally, she’s following a 30 year-old dream: writing romance novels. Specifically, romances about Philadelphia lawyers. As her business card puts it, “I write about lawyers who are smart, funny, fair, and able to fall in love. Technically, I’m not writing paranormal romances, but I can see how someone could get confused.”

Magdalen is entering her second semester at the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine. She’s not there for the degree—the last thing she needs is more letters after her name—but for the education. It’s the first time she’s taken a writing class…if you don’t count “legal writing” in law school.

Magdalen’s personal life is even less believable than her romances. She fell in love with a distant British cousin in 1980, didn’t see Henry for almost 20 years, then married him in 1999…after he’d introduced her to her current British husband, Ross. They’re all good friends, though, and both “Brit Hubs” will be in Anaheim for the Golden Heart awards dinner. Stop by and say hi!


Picture it: My husband, my ex-husband, and I are reading scripts. Specifically, scripts written by the other students in my MFA course.

This is my fault. I set as my semester homework the task of writing a screenplay adapted from my Golden Heart manuscript, Blackjack & Moonlight. So when asked which workshops I wanted to take, I picked “Scriptwriting: Illuminating What’s Not Being Said” because I could be lazy and send in three scenes from the screenplay I’d already written.

That was the easy part. Now comes the hard part. The workshop starts on Thursday so I have to critique my fellow writers. And scripts are harder to read than prose.

Which is where the Brit Hubs come in handy. Henry (Brit Hub 1.0) is visiting from Philadelphia. He’s a lawyer, and as he puts it, that requires him to be willing to make a fool of himself in public. Ross (Brit Hub 2.1) is more or less stuck helping me out with my writing and with school. He’s better at proofreading my work than reading aloud the work of others, but he’s a good sport. We divvy up the parts and get acting.

We start with Blackjack & Moonlight. Henry has to play a septuagenarian Jewish grandmother appellate court judge. He can’t quite manage the Philadelphia accent, but he’s fine. Ross—well, I love him dearly, but it’s good he doesn’t have his heart set on an acting career. I do a bit better—mostly by channeling my mother, who was an actress—but I’m not moving to Hollywood either.

We get through a few scripts before the system breaks down. Ross has to read a line about a petting zoo. The daughter (Henry) asks her mother, “So what would you have in your petting zoo?” and the mother (Ross) answers, “Llamas, burrows and chickens…”

Only Ross couldn’t do it. He’s a professional proofreader—no, really, I managed to marry a professional proofreader!—and the concept of petting “burrows” instead of “burros” does him in. Then Henry points out that a “burrow” is a “wonky donkey,” and they’re both laughing too hard to keep reading.

What these two don’t understand is that I could read the scripts myself, but it wouldn’t be as much fun. I could hire a proofreader, although whoever I hired wouldn’t put little motivational stickers (“Way to go!,” “Nice job!” and “Wow!”) on my manuscripts the way Ross does. And I must know some other lawyers to answer all my research questions about civil procedure and the rules of evidence, but I could never find anyone with as much patience as Henry has.

Even if I replace them as my support system, though, it won’t alter the truth about the Brit Hubs: they taught me everything about love. I read my first romance novel more than 45 years ago, but it took  my two happy marriages to know enough to write a good love story. A story with heart. And no “burrows.”

Who’s made it possible for you to write romances?


Magdalen and Ross together run a “mom and pop publishing empire,” Harmony Road Press, which will start to publish Magdalen’s contemporary romances this fall. At the moment, they publish other writers, which means Magdalen’s been editing manuscripts.

Today she’s offering a critique or edit of a first chapter (maximum 25 pages) for a winner selected at random.

Meet 2012 Golden Heart Finalist Carol Post

Today we’re welcoming Carol Post, 2012 Golden Heart® finalist in the Inspirational category. Her manuscript, WHISPERS IN THE NIGHT, has been sold to Harlequin® and will be published as a Love Inspired® Suspense under the title MIDNIGHT SHADOWS. It will hit the shelves January 2013.

From medical secretary to court reporter to property manager to owner of a special events decorating company, Carol has the resume of someone who doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up. But one thing that has remained constant through the years is her love for writing. She started as a child writing poetry, then graduated to articles which made it into some religious and children’s publications. Several years ago (more than she’s willing to admit), she penned her first novel. In 2010, she decided to get serious about writing fiction and joined Romance Writers of America and her local chapter, Tampa Area Romance Authors.

Carol lives in sunshiny central Florida and writes her stories under the shade of the huge oaks in her yard. Besides writing, she works alongside her music minister husband singing and playing the piano. She enjoys sailing, hiking, camping—almost anything outdoors. Her two grown daughters and grandson live too far away for her liking, so she now pours all that nurturing into taking care of three fat and sassy cats and one highly spoiled dog.

Here’s a blurb for MIDNIGHT SHADOWS:

Melissa Langston can take care of herself, so when she learns she is being stalked, the last thing she wants is help from her police detective ex-fiancé. But Chris Jamison is sworn to defend and protect and can’t walk away from a woman in distress, even if said woman broke his heart. As the threats intensify and Melissa begins to question her own sanity, Chris finds himself fighting for her life…and her love.

You can learn more at her website,, and on Facebook,


I’m so honored to be a guest on the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood blog. Like Terri, this is my first blog ever.

2012 has been a very exciting year for me. On January 27, I got the call from Harlequin® that they are going to publish my Golden Heart®  finaling manuscript as a Love Inspired® Suspense. I was still on cloud nine from that (yep, it lasts that long!) when I got the call on March 26 that I was a Golden Heart finalist. On May 2, I signed with an agent—the awesome Nalini Akolekar of Spencerhill Associates.

Although I’ve been writing for over twenty years, I’ve been a member of RWA and my local chapter, Tampa Area Romance Authors, for less than three. During that time, I’ve made life-long friendships, learned more about the craft than I ever dreamed possible and gotten the encouragement I needed to keep plugging away when I felt like giving up. Here are some of the things I’ve learned along this crazy ride to publication:

1. Everyone on the planet is thinking about writing a novel.

Tell someone—anyone—that you’re writing a novel, and they’ll tell you that they’re thinking of writing one, too. After all, “How hard can it be?” You just think up a plot, drop in some characters and voila—a print-worthy book. And once they find out you’re finished, they keep asking, “So when is your book coming out?” They don’t understand that the road to publication is usually paved with years of learning the craft and dozens (as in hundreds) of rejection letters.

2. Prolific writers don’t have clean houses.

This was a quote from one of the keynote speakers at the 2010 RWA Conference. I can’t remember who. But it was life-changing for me in a liberating sort of way. I’m a bit of a neat freak. No, let me rephrase that. I have to have things orderly and uncluttered. Nothing wrong with that, right? Okay, I admit it. I alphabetize my spices. But prolific writers don’t have clean houses. When working a full-time day job, being active in my church, and putting at least a little time and effort into my marriage, (and, for many of you, caring for small children), a spotless, perfectly organized house is only going to come at the expense of my writing. Oh, I still have to have some semblance of order—total chaos definitely stifles my creativity. But I’ve picked up a new motto: Out of sight, out of mind. If I can’t see the mess, it’s not there. I’m going to go write.

3. Comparing your progress with the progress of others will drive you nuts.

Just as everyone’s writing processes are different, so is everyone’s path to publication. There’s the occasional writer who makes it there pretty quickly, but for most of us it takes several books. For me, it was book three…take twenty (because I rewrote the thing so many times)! I belong to the TARA book challenge loop. Every Tuesday we report how many new words we’ve written for the week. The purpose is to cheer each other on, not to compare ourselves with one another. That’s a good thing, because if I felt that I had to match Jean’s consistent 25,000-word counts, I’d have given up a long time ago. I read a blog recently where one of the commenters had actually calculated hourly earnings for a category romance author. He used a very “reasonable” estimate of 320 hours to complete a novel (first draft to final edit), based on a rate of 10,000 words per day. Maybe some writers can do that. But if I tried to write 10,000 words in one day, I’d fry all my brain circuits. My husband would come home to find me staring into space and drooling on the keyboard.

4. If you’re going to get that book finished, you have to “dare to suck.”

This is something else I learned at an RWA conference. Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler talks about student performers and how they have this whole freedom thing going on, a sense of no-fear. He calls it the dare-to-suck syndrome. He says in writing a song, you have to put ten stupid things down if you want to get two great ones out. This holds true for novelists, too. We have to dare to suck, or we’ll never get anything down on the page. I’m a perfectionist (which you probably gathered from point #2 above), so this didn’t come easily for me. I’d slave away over my first draft, finding just the right words, and six months later have some great-sounding chapters but no book. When I heard, “Dare to suck,” it was as liberating for me as, “Prolific writers don’t have clean houses.” Dare to suck. If we want to get the story on the page, that’s exactly what we need to do—turn off the internal editor and write, write, write. So what if it’s dreck. Dreck can be fixed.

 So, what pieces of advice have you found most helpful to you along the path to publication?


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