Posts tagged with: 2018 Golden Heart Finalist

Golden Heart Finalist Gwynne Jackson: “Yet She Persisted!”

Today I’m delighted to introduce 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Gwynne Jackson, another of the fabulous Persisters. She’s been nominated in the Best Contemporary Romance Category for her manuscript DUET.

I was first ‘introduced’ to Gwynne when I was named as her GH mentor through THE GOLDEN NETWORK, an RWA chapter of past Golden Heart finalists. After a few emails, her talent, confidence, and generous spirit were quickly apparent, and my role morphed from mentor to cheerleader and fan.

Gwynne was born in New York City and raised in Connecticut. After earning a degree in English Literature, she went on to a promising career in fast food, advertising, educational support, typesetting, and technology, where she wrote plenty of How-To manuals and tested buggy code before giving it all up for massage therapy. Along the way, she spent far too many hours of her life hauling amps and equipment from vans and trucks to rock venue stages large and small, where she also mixed sound and lights.

These days she lives in the Seattle area with her family and pets. Her focus is primarily on writing contemporary rock & roll romance from the inside out, featuring strong, outspoken heroines who know what they want and aren’t afraid to reach for it. She does her best to bust at least a few tropes per book. Banter is her guilty pleasure. When she’s not writing, she’s either taking photographs, doing artwork of some kind, or critiquing manuscripts for writing partners.

Her nominated manuscript DUET is a look at life behind the scenes on the road with a major rock tour, where appearances are deceptive, privacy is nonexistent, no one is who or what they seem, and taking what doesn’t belong to you is par for the course.

Here’s a blurb:

Whatever it takes to succeed is guitarist Lila’s mantra. When her band is invited to fill in as opening act for Johnny Blue and the Lightning Bolts, they leap headfirst. There’s only one problem: the Bolts’ frontman is a head-up-his-ass sellout pop star with zero integrity. The rest of the musical world might be worshiping at his feet, but hell’s going to have to freeze over twice before Lila will ever stoop to that level.

The only thing openly bisexual rock star Johnny ever wanted to be was everything. What he never anticipated was that being everything would mean losing the people most important to him. The hole that puts in his heart shuts him down, leaving him to consider the unthinkable: success in music might not be the life goal he’s truly looking for.

 When Lila approaches Johnny and asks for private lessons in Rock Star 101, neither of them expects the rhythm of their own personal song to turn into something beautiful…and Johnny certainly doesn’t expect Lila to steal his best lyrics right out from under him.

Trope busting, indeed! I can’t wait to get my hands on this unique perspective of the world of rock rooted in Gwynne’s real-life experiences.

As with most of us, her pursuit of a writing career has been filled with twists and turns, ups and downs, and even a few potholes, putting her persistence to the test. In her own words, she’s going to fill us on the challenges she’s faced and how she persevered.

Tell us all about it, Gwynne:



We writers are a notoriously fractious bunch. Everyone’s got their own opinion on the best way to write (plotter! no, pantser!) or the best time of day for creativity (first thing in the morning! no, deep into the night!). We like to wax poetic about the best subgenre of romance, or about writing styles, or about favorite authors. But one thing we all seem to be able to agree on is that to make it in this business, you have to stick with it. You have to be persistent.

The first time I saw a writer friend declare publicly that she was quitting writing forever, I panicked. How could someone do that? I understand getting to a point where you think you don’t have it in you, or you feel like a giant imposter, or you’ve received your fifteenth rejection letter that week and wonder what the point is in continuing. But to see someone else make a public announcement about broke my heart. My first reaction was no, no, no, you can’t quit writing forever! Because what if you get a plot bunny tomorrow? Do you just cast it aside and say sorry, too bad, I’m not a writer anymore? Inconceivable.

Meet 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Leslie Marshman!

Join me in welcoming to the blog the 2018 Golden Heart Finalist, Leslie Marshman. One of 2018’s Persisters, Leslie is nominated for her Romantic Suspense manuscript, Goode Over Evil.

Here’s the blurb for Goode Over Evil:

Samantha Goode escaped Crystal Creek and a past she’d left behind years ago, vowing never to return. Now a Texas Ranger tough enough to succeed in a man’s world, Sam is driven back to the small Texas town by a family tragedy. There she must face the man she once loved but was forced to betray.

2018 Golden Heart Finalist Katherine Olson on Self-Care for Writers!

Today we’re welcoming another Persister, 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Katherine Olson, whose manuscript NORTH STAR has been nominated for Best Contemporary Romance!

Katherine lives in south Texas with the rest of Team Olson—her Air Force pilot husband, daughter, two cats, and two dogs. Excellent margaritas notwithstanding, she wishes she was back in Alaska, but settles for writing contemporary romances set in the Land of the Midnight Sun. When she’s not writing a new story on napkins, receipts, and keyboard alike, she’s lifting weights, biking, swimming, and reading all the books.

Here’s a blurb for NORTH STAR:

Yura Nukusuk, an Inupiaq geologist in Alaska, fights to save her home from the devastation of climate change while trying to forget about her first love, NHL hotshot Michel Beaulieu. When mutual friends put together a relay triathlon, Yura aims to use the race to reclaim her dignity and send Michel back to Montreal with his tail between his legs. Instead, Michel sets the record straight about his infidelity and confesses his lingering feelings for her, shifting the ground right under Yura’s feet.

Under the glow of the midnight sun, Michel steps back into Yura’s life as her friend, regaining her trust with every act of kindness and bridging the divide between them. Caught between her calling and the man determined to win her back, will Yura leave the Last Frontier to be with the love of her life, or will they remain on opposite sides of North America, forever separated by the Continental Divide and an inability to forgive?

Oh, sigh! I’m such a sucker for second chance love, and I think it’s fabulous that you’re mixing in climate change, athletic competition, and love as a guiding “North Star!” (Excuse me while I sigh again!!)

Katherine’s here today with some wonderful advice for all of us: concrete things to do on those days when we feel down, and aren’t sure how to get back up again!

Take it away, Katherine!


Self-Care for Writers

That’s it, you think, hearing the heavy-handed criticism from someone in your critique group.

Or reading the polite let-down from yet another agent you’d queried.

Or the scathing review from a reader who did not care for your book and wasn’t shy about letting the entire world know.

I just can’t do this anymore.

A writer’s career is rife with opportunity for disparagement—by its very nature, we are putting our work and ourselves out in the world for public consideration and either adoration (we all hope!) or rejection, in its many permutations. So, what’s a tender-hearted writer to do? How does one cope with the ups and the downs and not lose sight of the reason we started telling stories in the first place?

I don’t have easy answers for those questions, but what I do have is a game plan for putting myself back together when the rejection comes. In no particular order, here are some strategies that have helped me pick myself back up and get back to doing what I do best.

Meet 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Brenda Lowder!

Today we’re welcoming another Persister from the 2018 class of Golden Heart Finalists. Brenda Lowder has been nominated for Best Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance for her manuscript KEEPING THE PIECE.

Brenda lives in Atlanta and writes romantic comedy novels. She loves international travel, fine dining, and air conditioning. She’s obsessed with fiction in all its forms—books, films, television, and the lies we tell ourselves. Her smart and sexy husband and two princess scientist daughters love her enough to insist she’s still twenty-nine.

Here’s a blurb for KEEPING THE PIECE:

Emma Hayworth has loved Cameron Rushton ever since their freshman year of college. He’s always seen her as a friend, but she knows the last twelve years of devotion are going to pay off today, at his 30th birthday party on his parents’ yacht, because last night he kissed her for the very first time.

Instead, he announces to everyone assembled that he’s proposed to his on-again-off-again glamazon girlfriend, Honey Covington, and she’s accepted.

Emma is devastated, but as she looks across the crowded room, she sees handsome loner Derek Chase as upset by the news as she is, except he’s not looking at Cam—he’s looking at Honey.

Emma and Derek join forces to break up Cam and Honey and keep the pieces for themselves. As they scheme, they discover an unexpected attraction to each other. When Cam and Honey’s relationship gets rocky and they turn toward their long-suffering admirers, Emma and Derek must ask themselves if they really still want the pieces, or if—with each other—they’ve already found the person who makes them whole.

This sounds like it would make another fun beach read! C’mon, Persisters, and get these books out to the public ASAP!! I need this!

Okay, friends—grab a chaise lounge here under this palm tree Brenda’s found for us, while handsome cabana boys bring us iced teas and delicious beach-friendly canapés. Brenda and I have some fun things to chat about, and we’d love to have you join us!


Welcome, Brenda!! You’re a first time Golden Heart finalist, so I’m going to start with my traditional favorite question: What was it like when you got that phone call?

Meet 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Barbra Campbell!

Today we’re welcoming 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Barbra Campbell, another of the fabulous Persisters, who has been nominated for Best Short Contemporary Romance for her manuscript WATCHING.

Barbra grew up in the suburbs of Houston but feels much more at home in the mountains of Colorado with few people and an abundance of wildlife. Other than writing, two of her many passions are playing the cello and placing exchange students with local families. But with all life has to offer, she’s pretty sure she needs to be reincarnated because there’s not enough time in this life to do all the things that fascinate her.

Her author tagline isRomance served with a side of spice.”

Here’s a blurb for WATCHING:

Cassie is taking control of her life and that means taking matters into her own hands when it comes to her drug dealing ex. If the cops can’t do anything about his stalking, she’ll get the evidence they need to put him away for good.

Gabe had a crush on Cassie in high school, and grasps the opportunity for a second chance when he crosses paths with her ten years later. But his military and cop training won’t let him take a backseat while Cassie cleans her life up.

Personal and professional lines blur when Gabe agrees to a fling with Cassie. Neither wants the other hurt. Neither can turn away. But Cassie’s ex will do his best to keep them apart.

How much risk will Cassie take to get her ex locked up? Can Gabe let Cassie have the control she seeks?

I love the title and the multiple layers of meaning in “Watching”! And her need to stay in control mixed with his need to protect makes for some great internal and external conflict! Can’t wait to learn more!

It’s a lovely day here today, so let’s all stretch out on lounge chairs poolside with some cold iced tea and watermelon popsicles while Barbra and I chat about breaking locks and the complicated (but wonderful!) nature of love.


Welcome, Barbra! Tell us a little about your Golden Heart book. Where did the idea for WATCHING come from, and what does the word represent for you?

When I was in Copenhagen, I saw a bridge with a bunch of locks clamped onto it. The idea of ‘love locks’ became an obsession for me and I knew they’d end up in a story or three. Seeing all the locks, I couldn’t help but wonder how each relationship worked out, and thus the heroine in my GH story is cutting a lock off a bridge in the opening scene.

When I started brainstorming my GH story, WATCHING, which contains a stalker, the concept of ‘watching’ became my secondary theme. Whether we think about it or not we’re always watching people (at least I am) and they’re always watching us (even though that creeps me out to think about it). As the story developed, the various ways we watch each other, or ourselves, kept popping into my mind, so I had a fun time letting my characters explore the concept.

Nice! The title is even more layered than I guessed! And I love the idea of opening with the breaking of a “love lock” (surely not all those optimistic “lockings” end up lasting forever, after all!). So…that little moment during travel led you to a Golden Heart nomination. What was it like when you got that coveted phone call letting you know you were a finalist?

A little backstory…I’m trained as a geneticist, but a brain injury brought my world to a stifling halt ten years ago. There’s a long story that involves a fortune teller and losing self-awareness, but I don’t have enough space to delve into that here. So basically the brain injury gave me a personality reset and I had to relearn who I was and what I wanted out of life. Yes, this was quite a challenge for my husband too, but again, not enough space.

Meet 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Elizabeth Chatsworth!

Today we’re welcoming Elizabeth Chatsworth, another of the amazing Persisters, the 2018 class of Golden Heart Finalists. Her manuscript THE BRASS QUEEN (fabulous title!!) is nominated for Best Mainstream Fiction.

Elizabeth Chatsworth was born and raised in Yorkshire, England. After earning a Masters in Business Management, she left a career in corporate marketing to become a voice actor. She emigrated to the U.S., where she (barely) survived intensive comedy training with the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York City. In 2010, she joined SAG-AFTRA as a professional actor. Her voice acting encompasses corporate training, advertisements, medical videos, and computer games. If there’s an elf, a witch, or an aristocrat in a video game, it might be her! 

Elizabeth lives in Connecticut with her husband and Yorkshire terrier, Boo. Elizabeth and Boo (a Pet Partners therapy dog) visit hospitals, colleges, and retirement homes to share Yorkie snuggles. Elizabeth also donates her vocal skills to record audio books for the blind and dyslexic at Learning Ally, and for fun practices archery, kung fu, and horseback riding (but never at the same time).

She describes THE BRASS QUEEN as “a science fiction rom-com set in an alternate Victorian world” and says its “cross-genre fun will appeal to fans who enjoy sci-fi and fantasy, historical and paranormal romance, alternate history, and/or steampunk.

Here’s a blurb:

In 1897, fiery English aristocrat Constance Haltwhistle is the last in a line of blue-blooded rogues. Selling illegal firearms under her alias, the “Brass Queen,” has kept her baronial estate’s coffers full, but due to an archaic law, she will lose her ancestral home if she fails to marry within three days. Torn between high society and the underworld, Constance throws herself a lavish coming out ball to attract a noble spouse.

Her party is gatecrashed by US spy, JF Trusdale. Tall, dark, and almost handsome, Trusdale is shadowing a shady scientist. Doctor Creswick has developed an invisibility serum that could change the international spy game forever.

Trusdale is blindsided, and Constance mortified when an airship crashes through the ceiling and kidnaps Creswick.  Constance knows a liar when she sees one. Trusdale knows a fraud when he meets one. Yet, the two join forces to save the scientist.

As royal foes create an invisible army to start a global war, Constance and Trusdale must learn to trust each other. If they don’t, the world they know will literally disappear before their eyes.

This just sounds incredibly fun!! I love the idea of steampunk with a sense of humor, and the threat of the world literally disappearing is so clever! I wish I had THE BRASS QUEEN to read at the beach this summer!

Folks, Elizabeth and I are sitting down here in my parlor to take tea, with a lovely steam-powered fan (made of peacock feathers!) to keep us cool! Please join us!


Welcome, Elizabeth! Wow, what an interesting background you have! You grew up in Yorkshire, lived in New York, and now are in Connecticut, with a little kung fu and improv comedy thrown in! (Though I think your life won’t really be complete until you combine the archery and the horseback riding!! At least once!! And post a video on YouTube!! Bonus points if you do it with your Yorkshire Terrier on your lap!) With all those influences, I’m not surprised you’re going the highly inventive steampunk route. How did growing up where you did tie in to writing this novel?

2018 Golden Heart Finalist Kate Belli on Overcoming Imposter Syndrome!

We’ve got another Persister with us today: 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Kate Belli, whose manuscript A FEATURED AFFAIR is nominated for Best Historical Romance!

Kate Belli writes women’s fiction and historical fiction, including historical romance. A longtime Brooklynite, she recently relocated to the Deep South where she has learned to embrace football and biscuits, and to tolerate large insects. When not writing, Kate works as an art historian or a yogi, depending on the day. She is married to a New Englander of Italian descent and they have one son.

Here’s a blurb for A FEATURED AFFAIR:

Under the gaslight glamour of New York City’s Gilded Age ballrooms, Justine Stewart is a fish out of water. Though her eccentric family is old New York money and a decided part of the Astor 400 (the number of people deemed acceptable by the city’s matriarch of society, Mrs. Astor), Justine wants more than parties and suitors: she longs to make a name for herself as an investigative journalist under the pseudonym Polly Palmer. If she could break the story of the infamous Robin Hood of the Lower East Side, who steals from the rich and gives to the poor, she knows her editor would take her seriously.

Daniel McCaffrey, mysterious heir to a vast fortune from an old New York scion, is one the city’s most elusive and eligible bachelors. Despite his unknown origins, hostesses are desperate to have him, his rakish good looks, and his inherited millions attend their functions. Tortured by his past, Daniel is desperate to avoid the beautiful, witty, nosy journalist who has decided he might be a subject worth investigating. It’s terribly inconvenient, then, that he finds himself fantasizing about what she’d be like in bed.

From the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge to the brilliant lights of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, Daniel and Justine play a game of cat-and-mouse amidst both an ever-growing attraction and an ever-deepening investigation. Justine is convinced that Daniel is Robin Hood, but she struggles to stay true to her professional ambitions once her heart is at risk. Daniel, in turn, must keep Justine’s inquiries at bay since he is determined to keep painful secrets from his past out of the papers at all costs. But he’s not quite as determined to keep Justine out of his arms. Can Justine set aside her professional ambitions for the sake of love? Can Daniel let go of his past enough to trust? Or will they both find their hearts stolen?

Ah! I’ve got shivers!! You had me at the Gilded Age New York setting, and my one-click-buy finger was twitching at since “he is determined to keep painful secrets from his past out of the papers at all costs. But he’s not quite as determined to keep Justine out of his arms.” Squeeee!!! Very exciting stuff!!

Folks, Kate Belli’s not just here to tantalize us with that blurb…she’s here to talk about a powerful subject that many of us wrestle with as writers: the dreaded Imposter Syndrome! She’s got a very personal story to tell, and lots of wisdom to share about how to embrace ourselves as writers.

 Take it away, Kate!


Every author knows the path to being published, whether traditional or indie, is rife with obstacles. Our Persister sisterhood has been talking a lot about those obstacles.

For some of us, the most difficult obstacle we have to overcome is ourselves.

I’m talking about Imposter Syndrome. It’s pervasive among writers. And I’ve had a bad, bad case of it for a long, long time.

Meet 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Suzanne Turner

Today we’re welcoming another Persister, 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Suzanne Turner, whose manuscript THE ART OF THE SCANDAL is nominated for Best Historical Romance.

Suzanne grew up in Oregon (Go Ducks!) but has found herself living in Jacksonville with three too-energetic boys, an equally too-energetic husband, and a lot of mosquitoes. She’s a lawyer by training (Dad’s fault), a lover of books by raising (thanks, Dad!), and will argue to the death that a Bloody Mary is a legitimate vegetable (sorry, Mom). 

This is Suzanne’s second Golden Heart final. Her previous historical romance, THE LOST CHORD, finaled in 2017. 

Here’s a blurb for THE ART OF THE SCANDAL:

The art is fake. The love is real. The risk is ruin.

Jilted by her fiancé, abandoned by her father, and scorned by her friends, Lady Lydia Pierrepoint and her pregnant, 15 year-old sister will be homeless by midnight unless she can charm the deed of her family’s home out of the mysterious South African who won the estate in a poker game. 

Grieving over the death of his Jewish father and English mother, Simon has no time for gallantry. He’s out to reclaim his mother’s name from the aristocracy who humiliated her. With an art collection worth millions and the National Gallery begging for a donation, revenge is within reach. 

But when Lydia points out that Simon’s treasure trove includes at least one forgery, they strike a deal. She’ll ferret out the fakes, and if the debut of his collection goes smoothly, she’ll win back her home. If she fails, she will take the blame and go to jail.  

Together, Lydia and Simon will feign an engagement, delve into the world of art forgery, and navigate the narrow-minded prejudices of London society to discover that love is forged, never faked.

Wow! That sounds rich and complex! And a half-Jewish South African art collector—a fresh take on a historical hero. Very exciting!

Okay, folks, come grab a lounge chair under our gazebo (no mosquitos here on the virtual lawn!) and enjoy a tropical drink with Suzanne and I as we chat about what drives her stories and why places matter so much.


Welcome back to the Rubies, Suzanne!! Thanks for being with us today, and congrats on finaling in historical for the second year in a row!!

Hi, Elisa! I want to say hello and thank you the Ruby Slipper Sisterhood for inviting me onto this blog. The Golden Heart creates such a strong community of writers in what is oftentimes a lonely world. Real truth, I used to write in my youngest son’s closet (mostly b/c he wouldn’t fall asleep unless someone was in the room). With the Golden Heart sisterhood there is leadership and mentorship and camaraderie and wisdom galore and in those moments when the rejection emails pile in, I find myself wandering over to your blog and finding courage and inspiration. Also, Elisa, you always make me sound like I’m actually an interesting person. Appreciate that!

You started writing IN A CLOSET. You are already an interesting person. (And I wish I’d thought of that technique with my own little guy who wouldn’t fall asleep alone….I just sat there in the dark wishing I was writing.) So, to do that, you must have felt a powerful need to write. Why romance? Do you have a core story that drives you?

My novels tend to start with a break-up. My heroine loses her sense of place. She’s betrayed or jilted by someone she loves and she sets out to reclaim her old self. She doesn’t want to change, she wants to be the person she was before she was betrayed. In comes the hero, a fellow who straddles identities, who shrugs off labels and fights not to belong to any place or anyone. 

The heroine and hero push each other further and further out of each other’s comfort zones—the heroine is going to learn, through a lot of trial and error, humiliation, pain and vulnerability, that her true self cannot fit in the tight boundaries she’s let society, family, and obligation draw for her. The hero is going to learn that boundaries are not a prison, that even if he picks a side or a person, he is who he is—he is strong, he is true. 

The true sense of place for both is not defined by geography or family, or social standing, but by the love the hero and heroine build together. Their place in the world is side-by-side.  

Ah—reclaiming the essential self, which can mean reclaiming a place. Liberation by coming (or creating a) home. What about you personally? What is your sense of place? Or experience of dislocation, as the case may be?

I grew up in Portland, Oregon, a world full of hippies and centuries-old pine trees. My high school history teacher lived on a pot farm. My favorite English teacher was a former spy. Another teacher camped out in Canada for a few years because he was dodging the draft. Our postman had a Ph.D. in Philosophy. I spent summers in the mountains, wearing sweaters and mittens.  

Okay, wow! I can see you come by rich and complex narratives naturally. What a point of origin!! But you don’t live there now. What happened?

I “adulted” in the San Francisco Bay Area, which has its own distinct culture, but to me, it was always like Portland’s snotty, stock-grant rich sister. There are still mountains and cold rain. I was still close to home.

And then one day my husband said, “Let’s have an adventure.” And we took our three boys and moved to Jacksonville, Florida, which is geographically, atmospherically (is that the word for the weather?) and culturally the total opposite of Portland. The pine trees are so skinny, they’re like toothpicks. The ocean is warm. The sun is…out.

The other day, someone said, “Rainy season has started. Summer’s here.” And I experienced that weird jolt of realizing I am in a strange place. It’s culture shock. It’s being in one’s own skin, but the skin is experiencing a sensory world it is not in tune with. 

I hear you on that! I grew on the East Coast and live near San Francisco now. I love the area, but I’m still baffled by the bone dry summers, since summer is “meant” to be deep lush Pennsylvania green. (My husband, who grew up in L.A. and who lived with me for awhile in Ohio, freaked out when it rained there in July…he’d wonder why winter was starting.) And I spent years feeling like I was flipping upside down whenever I tried to navigate along the California coast, since the ocean was on the “wrong” side. It’s definitely a visceral thing. A sensory world problem, as you say.

I’m starting to think my sense of place is simultaneously liking and disliking the place I currently am. So much so, that I recently joined the world of Instagram! Where I tell the story of my own sense of displacement. I try to be generous with Jacksonville because it has been great for my family, but no picture can capture the humidity. 

Oy…I will never miss humidity! And I’ll have to check out your Instagram!! It does sound like an adventure you’re having! But back to the question of your inspirations for writing. What’s your all-time favorite romance?

I am going to be a total nerd and say my parents. My parents met during the Vietnam War. My mother, who is Vietnamese, was a translator for the U.S. Army. My Irish-American father was an officer. At heart (and later by profession) my mother is an accountant, no nonsense, all logic. Her favorite love story, I kid you not, is Moneyball! At heart my father was (he passed a few years ago) Irish—you know, romantic, sentimental, a lover of poetry and rhyme. My mother is a vegetarian, my father smoked and ate red meat. To relax, my mother plays with a calculator. My father would fish. I cannot for the life of me figure out how they managed to get along so well and be so in love, when they were so different. But to the day my father died, my parents held hands.  

Aww!! I love it!!! That’s a fabulous inspiration for so many stories! And I can see why Portland, with all its contradictions, would appeal to the two of them. (And adds another interesting layer to the fact that you wrote a hero who’s Jewish/English/South African. So much more interesting than yet another “to the manor born” lord!) So, any other creative outlets in your life besides writing?

I stress bake. Which seems to have backfired on me since anytime my kids want a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies, they do their best to drive me insane. With three boys who refuse to wear shoes even when the alligators are out, I promise you, something’s always in the oven.

LOL! (Though I’ve got to tell you—the phrase “when the alligators are out” guarantees I will never, never be moving to Florida.) I admire your adventurous spirit! So, what question would you like to ask our readers to get the conversation going today?

Where do you go or where do you feel most in your skin?



Connect with Suzanne Turner on social media:

twitter @suziluvvturner

instagram @notajaxgirl



Meet 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Alicia Anthony!

Today we’re welcoming another Persister, 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Alicia Anthony, whose manuscript INHERENT LIES is nominated for Best Paranormal Romance.

Alicia Anthony is a wanna-be full-time writer who splits her time between writing and teaching. She is ecstatic to have recently handed the baton back to her students’ parents for the summer. Now, it’s time to write! She lives in Jeffersonville, Ohio with her ever-tolerant husband and amazing teenage daughter. When not writing and teaching, she loves to travel, and has plans to visit England and Scotland later this summer. She’s a PRO member of RWA, and a member of Kiss of Death, TGN, and COFW chapters. She satisfies her hankering for all things deadly as a member of Sisters in Crime, Columbus, Ohio chapter.

Here’s a blurb for INHERENT LIES:

Empath Liv Sullivan discovers a personal link to the forgotten spirits who seek her help. Unfortunately, the only way to bring peace to these ghosts is to return to her hometown, and undercover Agent Ridge McCaffrey, the man who broke her heart.

As their relationship rekindles, an unknown enemy begins threatening the people they hold most dear. Liv must choose between love and life, placing herself in the crosshairs between a covert psychic intelligence operation and a madman with a twisted sense of revenge.

“Choose between love and life”—awesome!! I love the idea of having a mission to bring peace to the forgotten spirits of her hometown. Man, I don’t envy the final judges for the Paranormal category!! What a creative group you all are!

Okay, folks! Come join Alicia and I as we sit down for a little chat about love, life, small towns, and the ways our private experiences become part of the stories we tell.

Meet 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Melanie Edmonds

Today we’re welcoming another Persister, 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Melanie Edmonds, whose manuscript PLAYED is nominated for Best Contemporary Romance.

Melanie lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her Cardinals-loving husband and the three lovely daughters he’s ruined into being the same. When she’s not rooting for the Cubs alone*, she’s thinking about working her way through the alarmingly-high stack of books beside her bed, but really, she’s probably just re-reading The Hating Game.

*just kidding, she doesn’t care a bit about baseball. Her true passion is giving her husband sh*t. No, wait, it’s tennis Yes. Tennis.

Here’s a blurb for PLAYED:

With her career in free fall, star tennis player Anna Carsten is ready to walk away. But when her dad’s gambling jeopardizes control of their tennis academy, she’s determined not to let it slip from her grasp. Climbing to the top of the rankings is hard enough, but getting to the bottom of her family’s secrets has been impossible—until she decides to hire her father’s protege-turned-enemy as her new coach. 

Former Irish tennis pro Declan Riordan never thought he’d speak to a Carsten again, let alone coach one. Then he discovers it’s not Anna’s game her aunt wants him to fix—it’s her matches. Reluctant to return to the past he thought he’d left behind, he’s determined to figure out what the Carstens are hiding—even if it comes at the expense of the girl he swore he wouldn’t hurt again.

As Anna and Declan wind their way through the U.S. hardcourt season, the cost of winning on the court collides with the bets made off it. And just as Declan realizes that redemption might mean sacrificing his future, Anna is forced to choose between the family loyalty she didn’t know she should doubt and the man she didn’t think she could trust.

I love the idea of a sport romance set in the tennis world—with the heroine as the central athlete! Sounds like it’s full of suspense and emotional complexity, too. Congrats, Melanie, on spinning a story that earned a Golden Heart final!

Melanie’s here today to talk with us about beginnings—in particular, the beginning of her own career in writing Romance. It’s a story I think will resonate with many of us in this community.

Take it away, Melanie!!


The beginning of a story is never easy. It’s why we spend countless hours honing and revising. Lure the reader in, don’t give too much away, but don’t say too little. A delicate balancing act. I have myriad versions of my opening, so many I used to joke I wasn’t sure if I was writing a novel or merely writing the start of one, over and over again. My own personal Groundhog Day.

Yep, beginnings are hard.

But they’re hard in real life, too. Like probably most people reading this post, I started writing at an early age. My grade school required every fourth through sixth grader to put 200 words on a page, every day. Fiction, non-fiction, copied from a book. Didn’t matter. And I loved whipping out those words, creating stories and characters that I’d then run home and pitch to my brother. (To this day, when he asks what I’m writing, I like to begin with “Well, there’s this girl and…” And, for better or worse, that opening line still works!)

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The Latest Comments

  • Jennifer Marvel: The noise came from just outside my window. I draw the curtain slowly to the side, a pair of red...
  • Darynda Jones: Love this, April! I could see this for any age. Your protagonist could be a child haunted by a...
  • Darynda Jones: Oooooo, this would make a great opening, Cynthia! Great job!
  • Darynda Jones: YES! Love it, Lydia! Creepy and dark. Two of my favorite things, and if that’s wrong, I...
  • Darynda Jones: BAM! There you go. Fantastic, Diane! Super creepy.