Posts tagged with: 2017 Golden Heart Finalist

Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Scarlett Peckham!!

Today we’re welcoming another Rebelle, Scarlett Peckham, 2017 Golden Heart Finalist in Historical Romance with her manuscript CONFESS, YOUR GRACE.

Scarlett Peckham came to romance as a child upon finding her grandmother hiding on a porch, giggling over a beat-up copy of Whitney, My Love. She quickly stole it, and has never looked back.

She studied English at Columbia University and built a career in public relations, but in her free time always returned to her earliest obsession: those delicious, big-hearted books you can never bear to put down. Her manuscript, Confess, Your Grace, is a 2017 Golden Heart® finalist in historical romance.

An American who has spent most of her adult life in Brooklyn, Scarlett now lives in London, along with her very nice husband and their very sleepy cat. Her hobbies include cooking, running, and watching The Real Housewives while consuming unadvisable amounts of white wine.

Here’s a blurb for CONFESS, YOUR GRACE:

Immaculate, ludicrously handsome, and blessed with impossibly kind eyes, no one would expect the Duke of Westmead to be a member of Georgian London’s most exclusive private whipping club. Least of all: the woman he intends to marry.

Having shed a painful past to become the most legendary investor in London Archer Stonewell, the Duke of Westmead now finds himself in urgent need of an heir. Which means he must search for that rarest of creatures: a wife who won’t question his nocturnal whereabouts, or make demands on his heart. Poppy Cavendish is not that type of woman. A fiercely ambitious nurserywoman hired to build Westmead a garden, she has no interest in auditioning for the role of his duchess. But when their shared obsession with business triggers an attraction that is decidedly unbusinesslike, the resulting scandal leads to something neither of them bargained for: a hasty marriage of convenience. As their thorny arrangement blossoms into unexpected passion, and Westmead’s rival threatens everything they’ve built, no secret – or heart – will remain safe for long. 

**Fans self fervently!!!** Oh, MY, that sounds exciting!! How come I can’t read that right now???

Scarlett’s here with us today to talk about about reading, and writing, romance novels “in the dark.” And not quite in the way you might think. I think this topic will resonate with a lot of us.

Take it away, Scarlett!!


Allow me to begin with a confession. I started writing romance because I thought it would be easy.

I know. I know. I’ll sit here and wait while you roll your eyes and refrain from pelting me with an old dog-eared copy of Shanna.

Finaling for the Golden Heart — a milestone that took place five years after I decided to try my hand at this seemingly undemanding enterprise and nearly two years after I began to pursue it seriously — has brought into relief just how perfectly wrong I was.

And it has made me think about why I ever thought that this might be easy to begin with.

You see, my entire life, I have read romance novels. Hundreds, if not thousands, of romance novels. And almost always in the dark. In secret.

Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Janet Halpin!!

Today we’re welcoming another Rebelle, 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Janet Halpin, whose manuscript BERYL BLUE, TIME COP is nominated for Best Paranormal Romance!

Janet Halpin identifies as a “kidder, complainer, tea-drinker, mom, reader, teller of hilarious and sometimes totally true tales, sock-folder, and author.” Inspired by the genre fiction that enthralled her as a kid, Janet writes YA, mystery, light Sci-Fi, and WWII-set paranormal and time travel, all with a dash of humor and romance. She lives in New England with her husband, a funny and friendly guy, two sons, both geniuses and good looking to boot, a hyper Border Collie and a gigantic Maine coon cat with a terrible disposition.

Here’s a blurb for her nominated manuscript, BERYL BLUE, TIME COP:

Wannabe librarian Beryl Blue shelves books in her hometown library. Dull, but after being orphaned and years in foster care, she prefers the mild life. Until she meets a woman whose claim to be a time cop from the future isn’t nearly as unbelievable as the reason she’s come to Beryl: She needs Beryl to stop a rogue time traveler from killing a seemingly random soldier on leave and changing history forever.

Before Beryl can blink, she’s stranded in 1943, tasked with sticking like a Band-Aid to Sgt. Tom “Sully” Sullivan. She soon learns two things: Sully’s more than capable of taking care of himself, and it’s her heart that’s in danger—the more time she spends with the sexy, stubborn soldier, the more she comes to care for him, a man from a different time, a man she can never be with. Terminator meets Somewhere in Time as Beryl scrambles to stop a time traveling assassin, protect a man who refuses to be protected—and keep her heart intact.

Terminator meets Somewhere in Time”! I love that! The book sounds like so much fun, and, Janet, I can already hear the warmth and humor of your voice! Go, you!

Okay, readers, let’s settle in for some lively conversation with Janet Halpin. In keeping with her WWII theme, let’s find ourselves a cozy booth in a pub full of handsome soldiers in uniform (they can send over drinks, and maybe we’ll decide to foxtrot with them later).


Janet’s offering a $15 Amazon gift card to one lucky commenter today, so join in the conversation after the interview!!

Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Jo Anne Banker!!

Today we’re welcoming another Rebelle, 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Jo Anne Banker, Finalist in Contemporary Romance with her manuscript THIS CHILD IS MINE.

This is Jo Anne’s third Golden Heart® final. She won the Short Contemporary category in 2011 with LOST AND FOUND, and finaled again in Contemporary Romance in 2015 with HOMECOMING. She writes about the secrets that families guard and the love that heals them.

She’s owned a bookkeeping service for years, and finds balance in the creativity of storytelling. She has volunteered with her local RWA chapters, serving as President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer and contest coordinator. She lives in Houston, Texas with three overly-pampered cat, where she enjoys the theatre, an eclectic mix of foods, good friends, and family.

Here’s a blurb for THIS CHILD IS MINE:

A date rape survivor returns home to care for her dying father, and faces the two men who changed her life. A vicious attack, a desperate secret, and a love that can heal even the deepest hurt…

Jenna’s world shattered the night her boyfriend’s twin brother assaulted her. She fled her hometown the next day, but found herself pregnant from the attack. Twelve years later, she reluctantly returns to care for her dying father. But feelings long since buried resurface when she meets her lost love.

Cade never knew why Jenna deserted him. Until she shows up in town with a son who looks exactly like him. There’s only one problem. The child can’t be his. The only answer leaves him furious and hurt. She betrayed him with his own brother.

Can these two childhood sweethearts get past their anger to find happiness and love in forgiveness?

That sounds intense!!! I hope we see it on bookshelves soon!

Jo Anne is here today to talk about a fascinating topic every writer needs to think about: the importance of knowing your “core story”!

Take it away, Jo Anne!


Core Story: Or Why We Write What We Write

As writers, we all have a core story, a common theme, infused throughout our novels. It inspires our characters to pursue their goals, to overcome whatever conflicts we throw in their paths, motivating them to strive for their happily-ever-after. This theme is the underlying meaning of the story, the life lesson exemplified throughout. It normally has a universal nature, one understood as part of the human condition, so it transcends race, religion, and language, and instead encompasses experience. It might be a coming of age story, or good versus evil. Perhaps it’s betrayal, or lost love renewed. But if we examine our tales, whether they be filled with fantastical creatures, lords and ladies, or Navy seals, we’ll find that each of us writes our own individual core story.

Recently, Jayne Ann Krentz signed her new Amanda Quick historical release, The Girl Who Knew Too Much, at Murder By the Book here in Houston. During her chat with the audience, she promised her readers that although she’d changed the landscape of her new novel from Regency England to the Hollywood/Southern California coast in the 1930s, she had not changed her core story. Jayne/Amanda knows that her readers pick up one of her books with the expectations of a certain type of story and characters, and she wanted to assure us those would always be there. A strong suspense plot, a dark hero who walks with an emotional limp (and sometimes a physical one, too), a smart, fearless heroine, and that core story, which in Jayne’s case is about trust. What makes her romantic stories so beautifully yummy is the trust her hero and heroine develop for each other.

As it turns out, my core story is about healing family hurts. I believe each of us has some type of family karma, and that it’s healthy to identify and work with what we’re given. Why do some have co-dependent relationships that promote victim consciousness, while others come from a healthy nurturing place? Why is it important for some people to have children, and some choose not to? Why do some express obsessive behavior destructively, becoming alcoholics or drug addicts, where others focus that same obsessive behavior into eating right, exercising, and living healthy?  

I write stories where love not only heals family, but where it often forms new families. Not always with biological family members, or sometimes with lost family members found. My stories are often about children separated from a parent in some way. My maternal grandmother had four children, each with a different man. I don’t know why. She died before I was born. But the half-siblings, each seven years apart, all grew up without fathers. My own father and paternal aunt were both adopted. In the five generations I’ve researched, either adoption, growing up without a parent, or raising someone else’s child is prevalent. Parent/child separation, family karma. I recently joked with friends that I write about the skeletons in everyone else’s closets to keep my own rattling bones at bay.

Multi-published New York Times bestselling author Sharon Sala says that everything in her stories comes full circle, because that’s how she sees life. “We are born, we live, we die, and as one life ends, another is beginning. Full circle…. From conflict to solution. From sadness to joy. From being alone to finding a happy-ever-after love. From beginning to end…” Sharon writes characters we all love, and we love seeing them come full circle to their HEA.

Popular historical author Shana Galen finds her central theme tends to be the fish-out-of-water trope, usually in her heroines, sometimes in her heroes. Shana believes there are several reasons she writes this core story. First, “…a character who doesn’t have all the answers and is unsure of herself is approachable and likeable…. Secondly, this convention gives me lots of opportunities for conflict and comic relief. If I throw a character into a situation she’s not ready for, she can get into trouble and she can also mess up in funny ways. Thirdly, this is a theme in my own life. From a young age, I’ve held views and opinions very different from those of my family and friends. …I became a romance writer, which is not exactly a common profession.” Because it’s familiar to Shana, it’s easy for her to write. Feeling out of place is something to which we can all relate. And Shana’s stories are action-packed, and her characters do get into lots of fun trouble!

Award-winning romantic suspense author Colleen Thompson writes about women harnessing their anger in a positive way, “…using [that anger] to find their strength and right a wrong rather than continuing to ‘behave’.” Colleen gravitates toward this theme because “…women are fed from childhood the message that it’s not nice not to be nice, so much so that we end up swallowing the unpleasant and internalizing the damage rather than risking making a scene and drawing attention to ourselves. What happens when a woman reaches her limit and stands up for herself or those who can’t protect themselves? What price does she pay, and what rewards can she reap?” Colleen is tough on her heroines. She puts them in situations where if they want to live, they’d better find the emotional strength to fight for what they love.

My friend and three-time Golden Heart® finalist, Kay Hudson, and I were talking about common themes a few days before Jayne brought it up at her book signing. Kay’s core story is about “…starting over, beginning a new life, a new adventure, a new romance.” Kay doesn’t know why, except “…it always seems like good story material, and a springboard for humor, as my heroines tend to be the sanest person in the room, surrounded by oddball associates.” Kay wrote an article once on how she came to write what she writes, and found a line that sums it up for her. “Love is funny. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.”

I’ve spoken with writers who say nothing personal ever appears in their stories, it’s all about the fantasy for them. I’ve talked to many more who agree there’s something of themselves in every one of their protagonists. But I believe that even if it’s subconscious, everyone’s core story is a basic life lesson learned deep in our own psyche. We don’t choose our theme, then write a story around it. In fact, we often finish a story without even being aware of any theme. But it’s there.

Can you identify yours? What thread of life is your common theme? What’s even more interesting: why is that core story yours?



Connect with Jo Anne Banker on Facebook!

Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Grace Adams!!

Today we’re welcoming another Rebelle, 2017 Golden Heart finalist Grace Adams, whose manuscript FIRE’S RISING is nominated for Paranormal Romance.

Grace Adams is an award-winning author of paranormal and contemporary romance who loves nothing more than a happy ending. Whatever the genre, regardless of the medium, as long as justice prevails, the good guys win, and people are falling in love, she’s in. A lifelong reader of science fiction, fantasy, and of course romance, Grace also enjoys painting and drawing and is an avid skier. One of those rare Geeks who loves both Star Wars AND Star Trek, she’s got a closet full of costumes she created and firmly believes that she who dies with the most fabric (and books) (and shoes) wins. Grace has a B.S. in Mathematics from Ursinus College and an M.A. in English from Wright State University.  She is a veteran of 8 years as a communications officer in the USAF and currently works as an IT Controls Analyst. She shares her home with the best super cats ever, Thor and Elektra.

Here’s a blurb for FIRE’S RISING:

Liliana has never understood why a fire burns at the heart of her. All she knows is that it’s cost her any hope of family, love, and a normal life. The strength of the dragon half of his soul has made Cole the ranking fire dragon shifter of Clan Drakon. But as long as he struggles to control his matching power over light, he’ll never feel worthy.

When Lili’s dragon finally emerges and their worlds collide in the hunger and heat of fire, they’ll have to rely on each other to survive the crucible. Because Lili’s abuser Maks won’t give up what’s his. And the Clan’s ancient enemy, The Order of the Dragon, is following Maks straight back to the long-hidden Clan.

In keeping with the theme of her book, Grace will be giving away a gorgeous set of sculptural dragon refrigerator magnets to one lucky commenter today!!

Grace is here today to talk about her complex journey to figuring out what she really wanted to do with her life.

Take it away, Grace!



I tell people that my Golden Heart® finalist entry FIRE’S RISING is my first book. And it is. But that’s not the whole story. Not by a long shot.

Because it’s not the first thing I ever wrote. It’s not even the first time I wrote something about people falling in love. Most importantly, it’s not the first time I told a story.

Some people are fortunate. They figure out when they’re young what they want to do. They drive toward it from an early age, and they never lose sight of their goal. I wasn’t one of those people. I was good in math as well as English and French, I loved history as much as science, and if I didn’t have my nose in a book, I had a pencil or a paintbrush in my hand. Whenever I take one of those right-brain/left-brain tests, I wind up 50/50. I enjoy a lot of different subjects, and I see them all from a lot of different angles. Which is great. Your world becomes a complex place with many fascinating layers. Except it complicates things when you’re trying to decide what you want to do with your life. I nearly went to art school instead of college. Can you guess why I didn’t?

Because it would have meant I’d chosen one direction over all the others. And I couldn’t do it.

Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Emily Sullivan!

Today we’re welcoming the second of our fabulous Rebelle guests, 2017 Golden Heart Finalist in Historical Romance, Emily Sullivan!

Emily lives in West Hartford, Connecticut with her pizza man boyfriend and works as a college-level writing instructor and tutor. When she isn’t writing or reading, she is very slowly learning to play the piano. Her goal is to one day be able to play the theme from Murder, She Wrote.

Her nominated manuscript, The Price of Desire, is a late-Victorian historical romance. Here’s a blurb:

It has been three long years since the unconnected, unfashionable, and all together unremarkable Charlotte Alwyn was last a guest at Heathway, ancestral home of the powerful Winterfield family and her best friend, Lily Winterfield, when she escaped in the middle of the night to avoid her guardian’s ruthless scheme to marry her off. Now she is older, wiser, and determined to stop Lily from marrying the notorious Lord Eliot. But she didn’t count on Lord Eliot turning his much lauded charms on her instead, threatening to ruin her only friendship and her already tenuous place in society.

When she confronts his aloof cousin Edward about his lordship’s true intensions, a stolen moment with the man who has done nothing but glare at her since they met reveals an attraction she has never experienced, and she suspects that beneath his steely demeanor beats a lonely heart that could rival her own. However, Edward is not interested in hearts—hers, his, nor anyone else’s. What he needs is to secure a wealthy wife for his rakish, spendthrift cousin before they both go broke, and with her vast inheritance and lack of connections, Charlotte is the perfect target. Edward should be ecstatic, except he can’t stop thinking about or arguing with the headstrong, captivating, and wildly arousing young woman. But Edward is determined to let neither his growing desire nor his pesky conscience intervene with his cousin’s seduction. That is until fate throws a most tempting wrench into Edward’s best laid plans.

But as Charlotte delves deeper into her own mysterious past, the truth she has spent her life trying to uncover could ruin her chance at the love she has always wanted.

Ooh, doesn’t that sound like fun!! I love steely men who glare…and then slowly melt (siiiiigh). I’m looking forward to seeing The Price of Desire on bookshelves!!

Happily, Emily’s sitting down with us today for a lovely bit of drawing-room conversation. So grab your prettiest frock, ladies, find yourself a seat on one of our Ruby velvet divans, and help yourselves to some cucumber sandwiches and scones. I’ll start pouring the tea!


 Thanks so much for joining us today, Emily! And what a charming frock you’re wearing! Those who’ve joined us for these Finalist interviews in past years know my FAVORITE FAVORITE question is this: What was it like getting that phone call telling you you were a finalist?

I actually thought the finalist notifications went out on March 22nd, not the 21st. That morning I was on my way to work when I kept getting calls from an unknown number. I figured it was a telemarketer and ignored them. Then I went on Twitter and saw all the posts about the Golden Heart and that’s when I began to hope. I answered the phone the next time it rang and got the news! So far the best part about finaling has been connecting with the Rebelles. Writing can be a lonely pursuit at times, so it’s been lovely to be a part of such a supportive group.

Amen to that! Hold tight to your new Golden Heart sisters; trust me when I say those friendships will get you through a lot!! This is your first Golden Heart final, yes? Have you been writing long?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I started writing when I was a kid, but I didn’t get “serious” about my writing until college. I’ve mostly had articles and essays published and was very excited when my first short story was published in The Southampton Review this past winter. I would say I mostly write contemporary short stories that I guess would be categorized as literary fiction. In addition to my GH manuscript, I’ve also completed a couple of television pilots, but otherwise my documents folder is a graveyard of beginnings—short stories, a couple novels, screenplays—and for a long, long time the manuscript that would eventually become my GH manuscript was among them.

The Southhampton Review! That’s impressive! So you’re bringing a literary bent to your romance writing. Tell us a little more about your Golden Heart book and the process of writing it.

I got the initial idea many years ago while I was still in high school. I’ve always been interested in the Victorian period and love lush, romantic dramas, but the idea of actually writing one felt beyond me. Even still, I would write scraps of scenes over the years until sometime around 2009 I started working on the manuscript more regularly and it began to have a semblance of a plot. I would write a little, then set it aside for months and months and months. Mostly I worked on it when I didn’t want to work on other writing projects. I felt very intimidated by the Victorian setting as well as the love scenes, but to be honest I didn’t put much effort into getting better either.

Then in Fall of 2015 I had a breakthrough. I was teaching English 101 and it was the end of a particularly difficult semester, so I started binge-reading historical romance novels as an escape. I hadn’t touched my manuscript for the better part of a year, but while I was reading I began to have a better sense of what was missing from it. I started conducting more research on the time period and began to revise my draft. I also realized that if I was serious about trying to write an historical romance novel, I needed to read a lot more historical romance. So, I hunkered down and got to it, making sure to read like a writer, not just a reader. After a lot of trial and error the draft really started to get somewhere. I stuck to a consistent writing schedule and after a couple of months I hit my groove. I did a little writing during the week, but Saturdays became my big writing day and I became very protective over my time. It was an obsession really, and a part of my brain was always thinking about the draft.

I remember thinking that even if nothing ever happened with this manuscript, this was still the most satisfying creative experience of my life, and I actually felt a little sad when I realized I was getting close to the end. It had been my main focus for months and months, and I wasn’t ready to let it go. I finished the full draft sometime in August and have basically been doing line edits ever since.

Awesome!! I’m an English teacher myself, and I think there’s nothing more important for a writer than to READ READ READ….and then to fight for that regular, uninterrupted writing time so you can put what you’ve learned to work! And just look where it got you! What other tips to you have for other writers?

I considered myself a pretty experienced writer before I started working on this novel, but I learned so much along the way. Read everything. Read widely and read with purpose. Become obsessed with language. I have pages full of just verbs and adverbs. Reread your favorite scenes and consider why you love them so much. There’s a great book on this by Francine Prose called Reading Like A Writer. I read it years ago and still find it so helpful.

In my professional life I often work with beginning writers, but a lot of the same advice I give applies to writers of all levels: You can’t be too precious about your writing or your practice, especially if your goal is to get better or earn that ‘A’. You don’t have to accept every criticism, but you should at least be open to hearing about what works and what doesn’t. There really are no short cuts and you can’t wait around to feel ‘inspired’. I never would have finished my GH manuscript if I hadn’t stuck to a consistent writing schedule. Whether you’re writing a paper or a novel, it takes time, dedication, and a willingness to revise like mad.

Reading Like a Writer is a fabulous book! And words are such a fabulous obsession! We’re definitely agreed that well-defended alone time is vital to getting those much-obsessed-about words on the page, but we can’t really go it all alone. Aside from your Rebelle sisters, who are your biggest supporters?

Writing invariably involves a lot of rejection, which can lead to self-doubt, but I’ve always been able to count on the support of my family and friends. When I was a kid my parents encouraged my writing and would take the time to read my stories. My mom even used to bring my stories into work with her and show them to her friends. She still does that, actually. (Thanks Mom!) I think this was a really formative experience for me because they took my writing seriously even before I did. I’ve also been lucky enough to have a partner who has enthusiastically encouraged my writing since we met nine years ago. I once read an interview with Richard Ford where he said, “Marry someone you love and who thinks you being a writer’s a good idea” and that has always stuck with me. My boyfriend, James, has believed in me even when I haven’t, and it has been a great comfort to have him in my corner through the rejections. So now it’s nice to have something to celebrate!

Aww!! I love your support system!!! Great mom, and great pizza man boyfriend!! And the Richard Ford quote is spot on!! Thanks so much for answering all my questions, Emily! Now’s your chance to turn the tables: is there anything you’d like to ask our readers today to get the conversation going?

 Yes! This will be my first trip to Nationals. Any tips for making the most out of this experience, particularly as a GH finalist?



Connect with Emily Sullivan on Social Media:

Twitter: @paperbacklady






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The Latest Comments

  • Jennifer Bray-Weber: Great tips! Love what you did with this. Thanks so much!
  • Bev Pettersen: She really is amazing. I’m learning a lot, Beth!
  • Elizabeth Langston: What a great idea–and I think you’re really close! A meticulous Horseman of the...
  • Lydia Stevens: I went and grabbed the revised pitch from the first post and this is what we came up.with: When mother...
  • Jennifer Bray-Weber: You make it sound so easy, Beth! I’ve always struggled with elevator pitches, but these...