Posts tagged with: 2013 Golden Heart finalist

Meet Lucky 13 Golden Heart Finalist Sonali Dev

It’s hard to believe, but Nationals 2013 is nearly here, and today is the LAST of our guest blogs with the Lucky 13s. Today we’re delighted to welcome Sonali Dev, 2013 Golden Heart Finalist in the Contemporary Single Title Romance category. Her manuscript, THE BOLLYWOOD BAD BOY, has already sold, and will be forthcoming from Kensington in 2015!

Sonali’s earliest attempt at writing came when her mother caught her writing couplets about her first grade math textbook instead of doing her homework. Now she combines her mad love for words with her love for Bollywood to conjure up stories that make a crazy tangle with her life as wannabe supermom and domestic goddess, and disgruntled corporate minion. Sonali lives in the Chicago suburbs with her very patient and often amused husband and two children who demand both patience and humor, and of course her characters who can’t stop doing Bollywood dances inside her head.

Here’s a blurb for (the very delicious-sounding) THE BOLLYWOOD BAD BOY:

Mili Rathod has been bound by marriage since she was four years old. But she’s experienced the kind of freedom other girls in her village in India only dream about. All because her grandmother raised her to be a modern city wife. So when the husband she’s waited twenty years for shows no sign of coming to claim her, Mili grabs the chance to come to America on a scholarship to fulfill her other dream- to get a higher education.

Film director Samir ‘Sam’ Rathod is perfectly happy being Bollywood’s favorite bad boy. He has never wanted to be a hero. But he will do just about anything for his own hero- his big brother, even travel halfway across the globe to take care of the ‘wife’ who just crawled out of his brother’s past.

When Sam tracks down his brother’s wife, he finds that Mili isn’t quite the simple village girl he planned to bully into signing divorce papers. She’s a whirlwind, who sucks him into her roommate’s elaborate elopement- complete with enough drama to put his films to shame. Before he can gather his wits or the guts to yank her dreams from beneath her feet, she’s got him drowning in her onyx eyes and forgetting what a jaded bastard he really is. Unfortunately, Mili believes the sparks between them are just friendship and she fancies herself in love with his big brother. Can Sam and Mili learn the difference between what is real and what they’ve believed all their lives and reach for a love that breaks tradition and turns convention on its head?

Take it away, Sonali!


sonaliprofile1Talking Sisterhoods with The Sisterhood

When the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood asks you to do a guest blog, all you can do (other than a little jig) is try and find something really truly close to your heart to talk about. Something that matters, something at the heart of writing romance, something that the Rubies nailed so poetically when they selected their name.


Because for everything writing romance is—yes, it’s a brutal business, yes, it’s blood sweat and tears, yes, it’s feeding your poor children remnants of pizza for days upon days—it is at its heart the very essence of being a woman. A sister. A devi, the feminine goddess within us all.  In a world where even today we as women struggle to find our footing on the demanding tightrope that hinges between family and motherhood, and ambition and freedom, these stories of men the way we want them, and relationships the way we dream of them are our stories. Stories told only for us, to pander to our souls, to fan our hopes and our sexual desires. Stories of the women, by the women, for the women.

These aren’t those books where we are the shrews, the fuses that ignite the cannons of war, painted in colors of manipulation and greed one minute, and sacrifice and victimization the next. Neither are we bodies, the lyrical curves of our waists, the lush rise of our breasts described to titillate men. We’ve read those books. We might even have believed what they told us, that you put a group of women in a room and the backbiting will start, the catfights will commence. We let them put our focus on that instead of the wonderful, soothing joy the presence of other women brings to our lives. The way they prop us up, the way they hold our hand when we need it, but also the way they kick our butts with steel tipped stilettos of truth when that is what we need. For all the fodder for comedy our group expeditions to the ladies room provide, it is that need to connect, to link arms that makes us who we are.

We are our sisterhoods. I can define the entire journey of my life in terms of my sisterhoods. Starting as far back as middle school, when our little trio tried to sign our allegiance to each other in blood (too much Tom Sawyer, what can I say). And our sisterhood of four in high school, the three women who taught me friendship, and to this day remain the best friends I will ever have. Women so strong, our joke is, a neurosurgeon, a lawyer, a movie producer, and a writer walk into a bar, and no one goes anywhere near them because they’re so bloody intimidating. It was with these girls that I made the passage into adulthood, where I learned the worth of belonging, where I learned to be myself, to be loved without having to conform. They were the best things that ever happened to me at the best time in my life but also the worst most painful time. We suffered through the most horrendous fashion faux pas, muddled through so many firsts, broken hearts, bruised egos, dreams dashed. But together we made our first re-emergences, our first jobs, our first successes as we stepped out into a world that up until then we had only watched through the dingy cafeteria windows of our school.

So many sisterhoods have followed since, each one absolutely irreplaceable and essential to who I am. Women who became family as I migrated to a foreign land, they became surrogate mothers to my children, feeding them and correcting them when I wasn’t there. Surrogate mothers to me even, cooking for me in sickness, packing up my home when I moved, giving me their shoulder not just to lean on but to sob on when the juggling of family, career and marriage brought me to tears.

When I first turned earnest in my quest to be published a few years ago, I expected to find what I had seen in the corporate world—formal, distant relationships, where each stood for himself and all stood for the bottom line. A man’s world that women could only fit into if they pretended to be men in that regard. But boy was I wrong, delightfully, wonderfully and utterly mistaken. Instead what I found was the best darned example of what a formidable force girl power is.  Of how strong and supportive beauty and grace can be. How much fun you can have while still being professional and selling more books than any other genre in publishing. Where women who will salivate over a hot pair of shoes and a slick pair of pecs with you will just as easily stay up nights critiquing your book before you send it off to an editor. Where the shouts to get off your ass and get writing are just as loud as the whispers that tell you that a rejection says absolutely nothing about you.

Where a Susan Elizabeth Phillips will share with you all the wisdom it has taken her decades to gather without a moment’s thought while scolding a newbie like you about getting your act together and finishing your book. Where a Sherry Thomas will read through hundreds of queries for free so you can write your best query and share shelf space with her. Where there is always, always a hand to help you up when you fall and it does not matter if that hand has penned bestsellers upon bestsellers or if it still struggles with the first chapter of that first manuscript.

Sonali with the Aphrodites

Sonali with the Aphrodites

I joined the Windy City chapter of the RWA the day I finished my first manuscript. It took the group precisely one meeting to embrace me into its fold. This was a room full of women who wanted nothing more than to sell books and to get published, and yet all they had learnt, their spreadsheets, their charts, their very hearts were thrown at me so fast and furious I could barely get my thank yous out. I went on to join other chapters and groups and found the exact same eagerness to share of their spreadsheets and of their love of writing. The wonderful Aphrodites, who are my day-to-day writing support group, share goals every week; we brainstorm, critique, inspire and goad. Along the way we root for more than just our writing, we root for lives fully lived.

Many wonderful things have happened for me in the wake of finaling in the Golden Heart, but the most precious gift of all is the sisterhood of this year’s finalists, my Lucky 13s, who once again have shown me that this bond between women who write stories for women is not a fluke. It is either a conscious choice to bring the best part of being a woman to a business, or it is just what you get when you throw a bunch of talented ambitious women together. No, not catfights, but cohesion into a pack, into a living quilt that drapes a business and transforms it into life itself.

Whether or not I get a chance to say my thank yous at the awards ceremony in Atlanta this year, this is what I am thankful for. To every one of the sisters who has enriched my life, Thank You! Without you I could not write. Without you life would be lonely and pointless, much like a visit to the ladies room all by yourself.


You can find Sonali Dev online at:


Meet Lucky 13 Golden Heart Finalist Darcy Woods

Today we’re thrilled to welcome another Lucky 13, Darcy Woods, who’s a 2013 Golden Heart Finalist in YA with her manuscript SUMMER OF SUPERNOVA.

Darcy loves finding magic in the mundane. Which would explain why many of the Young Adult stories she writes weave a supernatural element. And the occasional love triangle. Because what girl doesn’t like options?

She is a two-time RWA Golden Heart® finalist for SPARK and SUMMER OF SUPERNOVA, and winner of the Marlene, Winter Rose, Fire & Ice, and Write Stuff Contests.

Boasting a gloriously strange mix of professions including: three years in a US Army aviation unit refueling helicopters, a sales rep for Xerox copiers, and over a decade as an esthetician in a spa, has given her plenty of writing fodder. She eagerly awaits her next big adventure—culinary or otherwise—in Williamston, Michigan, where she lives with her insanely supportive husband, two cats (who identify as dogs), and a closet full of shoes.

Darcy says she often takes the road less sensical. But you probably gathered that already 😉

Here’s a blurb for SUMMER OF SUPERNOVA:

When zodiac-obsessed teen, Wilamena Carlisle, discovers a planetary alignment that won’t repeat for a decade, she’s forced to tackle her greatest astrological fear: The Fifth House—Relationships and Love. Armed with a killer collection of 40’s vintage dresses, and a surefire-ish plan to find the Sagittarius of her dreams, Wil embarks on a twenty-two day race for love, before Jupiter’s luck expires.

As the daughter of an expert astrologer, Wil knows billions of stars can’t be wrong. So when her heart defies the heavens by falling for a sensitive guitar player hailing from the wrong side of the chart, Wil must decide whether a cosmically doomed love is worth shunning her mother’s legacy—and the very system in which she places a lifetime of unfailing belief.

Sometimes the greatest leap in life…means never leaving the ground.

 Take it away, Darcy!


darcy author photoMy Sweet Zodiac

Before I begin, I must first send virtual chocolate éclairs of gratitude to all the lovely Rubies for honoring me with an invitation to guest blog today. It’s a real treat to be here! Annnnd, already I have punned 🙂 This should shock no one.

Admit it. You’ve always secretly wondered what you would be if you were a sugary confection. Am I right? I’m going to pretend I heard a resounding, “YES!”

So then, what do sweets and astrology have to do with one another? Absolutely nothing…until now. You, my darling readers, are the benefactors of my spelunking. That’s my codename for researching because it’s very much like cave exploration—you just never know what’ll come out of it!

Today I bring you my warped and bizarre take on what I’ve learned about the zodiac, which is a prevalent theme in my GH story. Except…instead I constellations, I have rewritten the zodiac signs into their dessert incarnates. Yeah, you’re welcome 🙂 Now, everyone grab a pastry and beverage of choice—I’ll wait here. Okay, ready?

 THE LEMON BAR (aka: Aries) Mar 21-Apr 19:  Exciting and vibrant, you offer a memorable citrus blast to all who encounter you! Being the talkative tart that you are, it’s actually your courage that endears you to other taste buds. What you lack in patience, you more than make up for with your bold, zesty flavors and sprinkle of powdered sweetness!


Meet Lucky 13 Golden Heart Finalist Jacqui Nelson

We’re thrilled today to welcome another of the Lucky 13s: DOUBLE 2013 Golden Heart Finalist Jacqui Nelson, who made the list in two very different categories: Historical and Romantic Suspense. Jacqui’s Romantic Suspense manuscript, THE SHADOW HOUR, is currently also a Daphne finalist.

None of that’s a surprise: her books have been finalists (and winners!) in many prestigious contests, including the Golden Pen, Gateway to the Best, Great Expectations, TARA, Gotcha!, Fab Five, Winter Rose, Orange Rose, Romance Through the Ages, Fool for Love, Heart of the Rockies, and the Catherine, and she WON the Golden Heart Historical category in 2010, with another historical, BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL.

Here are blurbs for her two 2013 Golden Heart finalists:

Between Love and Lies (Historical finalist): After his herd destroys a homestead on the trail to Dodge City, a Texas rancher blames himself for not preventing the down-on-her-luck farmer from becoming a saloon girl. Surviving each day via a web of deadly lies, she’s determined to never put her fate in anyone’s hands again—not even the honorable Texan who’s now willing to become Dodge’s Deputy Marshall to assist her. What would happen if he discovers being a soiled dove is only the first of her lies?

The Shadow Hour (Romantic Suspense finalist): When her father dies under questionable circumstances, a Victorian physicist and society misfit turns amateur sleuth in order to clear his name and regain her inheritance. But enemies abound not only in London’s scientific institutions and impoverished slums but in the most powerful echelons of Parliament. Can an unlikely partnership with an ex-Scotland Yard detective—who’s only willing to share his first name—help or lead to her death as well?

Today, I’ll be interviewing Jacqui (yay!), so buckle up and think of some questions of your own to toss in for her to answer in the comments throughout the day!


jacquiWelcome, Jacqui! It’s so great to have you here.

And I’m delighted that I get to be interviewed here on the Rubies with you of all people, Elisa! It feels like we’ve been contest circuit buddies for a long time. Whenever I see your name in a list of finalists, I give a cheer. Then, if I’m nominated in the same category, I give a little groan before reminding myself it’s not a true contest unless you’re up against the best.

LOL!  I’ll just think of us like Lady Gaga and Madonna up against each other at the Grammy’s (though let’s skip the traffic-cone bras and the meat dress).  Okay, I’m going to start with my single favorite question for Golden Heart and Rita finalists:  What was it like when you got the call saying you were a finalist?

I was sleeping when Gerri Russell called at 5:30 am. I started to wake up when she said, “You’re a—” but then my brain short-circuited when she continued with, “—double finalist” because that’s just too amazing a sentence to even dream. I didn’t tell anyone until I saw my name listed on the RWA and the Ruby’s websites later that morning. I kept asking, “What if I did dream this?” But the call was real. It was the best wakeup call I’ve ever received. Thank you, Gerri!

Meet Lucky 13 Golden Heart Finalist Chris Taylor

Today we’re delighted to welcome Chris Taylor, another of the fabulous Lucky 13s, and a finalist in the Romantic Suspense category of the 2103 Golden Heart.

Chris lives in rural Australia on 25 acres with her husband, five kids and two dogs. During the course of her career, she’s been a nurse, a lawyer, an English and mathematics tutor and is currently work part-time at her local high school as a learning support officer. She’s been writing seriously for nearly 4 years and has completed 7 books in a loosely-linked romantic suspense series set against the beautiful Australian landscape. Several of the books have already finaled in contests like the Emily and Australia’s prestigious RWA Emerald. Her Golden Heart finalist THE PREDATOR is one of these stories. It delves into the dark and horrifying world of online child predators.

Here’s a blurb:

Four years ago, Brandon Munro did the unforgivable: he betrayed the woman he loved in order to protect an undercover operation tasked with infiltrating a terrorist cell.

Alexandra Cavanaugh’s world fell apart with Brandon’s betrayal. Refusing to listen to his explanation, she fled their home, taking her secret with her. Now, four years on, she has built a successful life and career as an Australian Federal Police officer working in a High Tech Operations team hunting online predators. In conjunction with Interpol and the FBI, her team is in pursuit of a pedophile ring that has its origins in Belgium.

Fate intervenes when Brandon comes striding into Alex’s office and back into her life. Thrown together in a race to uncover a global ring of pedophiles stalking vulnerable school girls online, Alex and Brandon are forced to confront their past.

While both struggle with guilt and forgiveness and the resurgence of love, they are unaware of the predator who stalks close to home.

You can learn more about Chris’s books online at

Take it away, Chris!


Chris Edited for profileI’m so thrilled and honoured to be invited as a guest blogger with the Rubies and to join the haloed ranks of RWA’s Golden Heart Finalists. It was such an exciting moment to receive the call. Me, an ordinary, everyday, nobody-special writer from Australia. It made me realise dreams do come true and anyone can make it if they dream big enough.

There are so many ordinary heroes in our everyday life. They’re not necessarily blessed with movie star looks, they’re not necessarily built like supermodels, but they are just as brave, just as deserving and more humble than many of the heroes we tune into on our TV screens and social media platforms on a daily basis.

These unsung, ordinary, everyday heroes have always called to me and it’s for this reason, I give them centre stage in my books. Given my legal background, it’s not surprising that I’m attracted to law enforcement and all of my stories contain at least one main character who is a police officer.

They are good looking (of course they are, these are a romance books, after all), but they are ordinary, everyday people, with ordinary, everyday flaws and imperfections, dealing with the myriad of stresses (big and small) that we all face during the course of our lives.

To keep it interesting, I like to write about topics that are confrontational and not necessarily popular. As mentioned above, in my Golden Heart story, The Predator, my hero and heroine are investigating online pedophiles. The story’s shocking and quite confronting, but I think it’s an issue that needs to be exposed and somehow dealt with.

Another story in this series is titled, The Wall and I deal with the issue of incest. In other stories, I have written about betrayal by a trusted friend, child kidnappings, suicide and serial killers.

Heavy stuff and not exactly the kind of thing you might expect in a romance novel, but as much as we might not want to believe it, scary stuff like this happens. I like to think my stories might help raise awareness in a small way to some of the darker sides of our society.  With awareness, comes knowledge, education and change and that can only be a good thing.

But I also believe in love and I truly believe love can conquer all. My stories are, above all, love stories. Despite the horror and the fear and the despair all around them, my unsung hero and heroine still find time for love. And of course, despite the seemingly unsurmountable odds, love wins out every time. (I am an optimist, after all).

Do you believe in the power of love? Do you believe each of us, either singularly or collectively, have the power to change what is not right in our society? I would love to know your thoughts.

Meet Lucky 13 Golden Heart Finalist Talia Quinn Daniels

It’s a special treat for me to welcome our latest Lucky 13 guest blogger, Talia Quinn Daniels. She’s not only a 2013 Golden Heart Finalist in Single Title Contemporary, she was a finalist in that category in 2012 as well with her manuscript NO PEEKING, so she’s also one of my fellow Firebirds. And she’s wicked smart and funny and awesome in so many ways. Oh, and did I mention she WON the Golden Heart last year? And gave one of the most moving speeches of the night?

Her 2013 Golden Heart manuscript, WHAT’S YOURS IS MINE, is a sexy contemporary romp. Here’s the blurb:

Darcy Jennings just bought a one bedroom condo, a gorgeous cliffside property in a coastal community north of Santa Barbara. It’s the first time in her life she’s ever had a permanent home, and it means everything to her. It’s especially sweet after what happened four years ago. That’s behind her now, and the rat who nearly ruined her career, one Will Dougherty, is history.

Will Dougherty just bought a one bedroom condo. He helped build the property with his green, clean designs, and he earmarked this unit to make his own. It’s up the road from his newly divorced sister, and it means everything to him. He’s come a long way since the day four years ago when his underhanded coworker, one Darcy Jennings, got him fired.  Thankfully, he’ll never have to see her again.

They couldn’t be more wrong. Darcy finds this out the hard way when she stumbles into her condo after a long business trip, crawls into bed, and discovers a man there. Will Dougherty. And he says it’s not her bed, it’s his.

It seems they bought the same condo.

Now Will and Darcy have to live together twenty four hours a day until one of them admits defeat. When these two strong willed people are stuck together, sparks fly, in more ways than one. They get under each other’s skin and then some.

Don’t you just want to snuggle down into the couch with that one?? Okay, Lucky 13s, you all really, really, REALLY need to get these books published soon!

You can read about NO PEEKING at at Talia’s website: Be sure to check out her bio while you’re there–it’s very cool.

Talia grew up in a New York City loft with her artist mother.  Since then, she’s lived in a Craftsman house in Los Angeles, a carriage house in New Jersey, and now lives in Queens with her husband and son, not far from Archie Bunker’s old digs.  She fantasizes sometimes about opening a sinfully healthy grain-free bakery, but then wakes up and realizes how much work would be involved.   So instead she writes contemporary romance and YA.

Take it away, Talia!


talia.editedIn three months, September 9th, to be exact, my son will enter high school. This is obviously a huge milestone for any kid, but it’s particularly significant for us. I’ve been homeschooling him since the end of fourth grade.

I don’t know how much you all know about homeschooling, but the home part is something of a misnomer.  We’re constantly out and about, heading to homeschool classes, field trips, and park gatherings. And when we’re home, there’s a ton for me to do.  My husband works long hours.  My son has some learning issues. I’m primary caregiver magnified tenfold.

This particular high school looks to be really good for my kid. It will be amazing for me. I’ll have time to write every day. I’ll be able to work at home.  In my little home office. WIth music playing, the window open to the autumn breeze, a cat snoozing on the comfy chair nearby.  Bliss.

Over the years, I’ve written in some strange places.  In a way, these places tell the story of my life as a mom.  For instance:

I wrote a commissioned synopsis for a children’s TV pilot (which didn’t get picked up) while sitting on the floor in the corner of a preschool classroom, my laptop propped up on a low bookshelf as I surreptitiously watched the kids playing and it sank in just how out of place my boy was.

I wrote much of my first novel (literary, heaven help me) in a library in Santa Monica, California during the three hour window while my son was in a therapeutic preschool getting much needed interventions.  I had to keep moving away from the homeless man who muttered imprecations under his breath.

I wrote in the back seat of my car, which was parked on a side street near the beach.  Same three hour stint.  Less stink.

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