Posts tagged with: romantic suspense

2019 Golden Heart Finalist Angie Hockman on Motivation!

Today we’re welcoming Angie Hockman, another of the Omegas, whose manuscript THE HUSTLER is a 2019 Golden Heart Finalist in the Romantic Suspense category.

Angie Hockman writes modern romance with sizzling thrills…because what’s life without love and adventure? Her professional background includes stints in law, government, and education, but these days you can find her burning up the keyboard in the late hours of the evening, working her day job as a conservation manager for an expedition cruise company, or embarking on adventures big and small with her family. Angie lives in northeast Ohio with her engineer husband, young son, and two grumpy-old-lady cats.

Here’s a blurb for THE HUSTLER:

Tech-savvy Sage Peters is one of the most highly respected PIs in New York City. For her latest investigation, she’s spent countless hours poring over Ryder Thorne’s surveillance photos, enough to memorize the precise angle of his cheekbones and the curve of his Cupid’s bow lips. Ryder is a master thief and con artist—the fact that he also happens to be jaw-droppingly handsome is immaterial. Once she’s hired for a job, she delivers. Always. But when a routine night of surveillance unexpectedly ends with her father gravely injured in a shoot-out, Sage is thrust in the middle of a high-stakes conspiracy and has no choice but to go on the run with the handsome thief. 

Ryder Thorne has never met a woman he couldn’t charm. Once a member of an elite crime ring, now in hiding from his former partners, he’s always lived in the shadows. But when a small-time con job goes wrong and puts him back on the radar of the nefarious figures he once worked for, he finds himself relying on an unexpected ally: a gorgeous, sassy PI who matches him wit for wit.

As the danger heats up and sparks fly, Sage has to decide how much she can trust a con artist. Will she give the tenacious thief a chance to win her heart? And even if she does, will the two make it out alive?

Ooh, this sounds fun!! I love Thrown-Together-in-Crisis stories, especially when the couple are antagonists who match wits and each think they ought to be the one in control!! Definitely looking forward to the dialogue on this one!!

Angie’s with us today to talk about one of her favorite things: Motivational Posters! 

Take it away, Angie!! 


Some Not-At-All Corny Motivational Poster Advice

When I was a high school varsity field hockey coach, I routinely wore t-shirts to practice with corny sayings like “Dream | Believe | Achieve” and “Don’t Give Up. Don’t Ever Give Up.” I like to think that through forced repeated viewings of inspirational quotes, my players dug that much deeper during end-of-practice sprints or discovered an extra dose of determination during the final minutes of a tough game.

Or maybe they thought I was a hopeless cheeseball. We’ll never know.

One thing’s for sure, I do love a good motivational quote—inspiring, powerful, cheesy, or otherwise. So when I sat down to write this guest blog (huge THANK YOU to the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood for having me!), I thought I’d share a few of the quotes and mantras that have given me a boost over the years—brought to you by cats. Because everything’s better with a cat.

Meet 2019 Golden Heart Finalist Lisa Heartman!!

Today we’re welcoming Lisa Heartman, one of the Omegas, the 2019 Golden Heart Finalists. Lisa is a finalist in the Romantic Suspense category with her book HIGH HEELS AND HANDGUNS.

Lisa Heartman is a coffee-swilling, sass-spewing, romance writer who believes love is messy and magnificent. She writes things she wishes she had said, and some she wishes she hadn’t, delighting readers with exhilarating stories and swoon-worthy characters in a world where danger and desire collide.

In addition to writing, Lisa enjoys movies, music, reading, baking, traveling, anything dark chocolate or coffee related, and hobbies like jewelry making and sewing. Growing up in New Jersey in a large Italian family full of strong role models gave Lisa the confidence to chase her dreams all the way to Arizona where she still lives with her husband and cat.

Here’s a blurb for HIGH HEELS AND HANDGUNS:

For Kate Howard, former Army Special Forces Weapons Sergeant, life as a one-woman personal protection detail comes with challenges. Wearing civilian camouflage while guarding high-profile clients is a dangerous game of rock, paper, hollow point. After an explosive and deadly end to her client’s re-election fundraiser, which left his young son in critical condition, Kate must accept help from an unwanted source: the soldier she loved and left in Afghanistan, bloody, broken, and barely alive.

Special Forces Officer Paxton Banks, Kate’s former captain-turned-FBI agent, is brought in to investigate the attempt on her client’s life. After twelve years, old emotions and new threats whip Kate’s world into complicated chaos. But when other elected officials are threatened, Kate and Paxton must tamp down their fiery feelings to catch a madman hell-bent on revenge.

That sounds deliciously intense! “Old emotions and new threats,” indeed!! I’m just imagining the dialogue….

So glad to have you with us here today, Lisa!! I’m having a blast getting to know the Omegas!

Since Lisa’s a Romantic Suspense finalist, I’m going to invite everybody into my virtual bulletproof bunker today. Don’t worry—I’ve got comfy couches inside, and there’s a fresh pot of coffee brewed up by one of the hunky FBI agents who always seem to be hanging out. Grab a seat!!


Welcome, Lisa! Congrats on your Golden Heart Final, and thanks for being with us today! So, tell me a little about your background as a writer. Did you always know you wanted to write?

What My Mother, And Walt, Didn’t Tell Me

Life is messy. I don’t know one person who is living the fairy tale that Walt and his tribe, lack of social media, and the sheltering love of parents helped us to envisioned as children. Disagreements were once about how we were affected. Now they included our families, our communities and our world’s state, and these disputes are not easily forgotten with a hug.  Disease, accidents, and death are no longer something that happens to someone else. Financial responsibility is more than adding dimes to a piggy bank. Social manners go beyond saying please and thank you. The news is aired 24/7, and viewed by children. Life is messy.

My grandmother had a saying. If everyone in the room tossed their problems into a pile and then were told to go pick one out, most would pick their own.  

Why would we do that? Because we know what we’re dealing with, we have experience handling it, and we have a sense where we’re headed. Starting over with new problems requires a lot of energy, physically and mentally. Many don’t want to do that. A few don’t have any more stamina left to give. The rare person will give up a less important problem and take on a life threatening one. They are heroes.

Readers love to escape their world. They want to read about other peoples’ problems and learn how they resolve them. They don’t want to read about a fairytale life. They know that world doesn’t exist.  They want to connect with your characters and causing your reader to sympathize with your characters is a way to connect. Give your readers a hero or heroine to cheer for.


Life will always be messy, especially in great works.  





Autumn Jordon is an awarding-winning author of Romantic mystery/suspense and contemporary romance. Check out her sexy U.S. Marshals in the C.U.F.F. series, or fall in love with her characters in the Perfect Love Series. 




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.

Writing Romantic Suspense

In Romantic Suspense there are two distinct stories. The suspense and the romance.

RWA defines romantic suspense as a romance novel in which suspense, mystery, or thriller elements constitute an integral part of the plot.

You need a strong suspense story and a strong romance. Then you weave the two together perfectly. Today I’m only going to talk about developing quick physical and emotional relationships.  

In this genre the action moves fast and the story takes place over a relative short period. I write contemporary thriller/action adventure and the stories take place over a couple of weeks. BIG PROBLEM. An author has to weave in a plausible romance and bring it to a satisfying conclusion (don’t forget part of a romance definition is the HEA) in short timeframe.  Not easy.

If your characters are meeting for the first time on the pages of your story how can that plausible relationship develop so fast? What about the sexual aspect?  Characters getting under the covers fast is crazy tricky. Of course if the characters have a history, good or bad as long as they have a touch point of familiarity and knowledge, it’s less complicated.

If you plan on writing sex for a hero and heroine who just met it is important you know yourself and your own boundaries.  Know what YOUR comfort zone is. If you can’t conceive of, or don’t agree with characters getting hot and sweaty together fast, for goodness sakes don’t do it.

For example I’m not comfortable with a 24 year old woman meeting a man,  two hours later being in bed and two weeks later being in a happy ever after relationship. Nor am I comfortable with someone that age knowing the man she’s just met is the one that fast. It would be impossible for me to give her the experiences that would allow her to make these decisions. Let me be clear here. I am NOT saying someone that age is incapable of making that decision, I’m saying I can’t write it to happen fast.   

Ergo, I write with heroes and heroines over 35. They have experience. To my way of thinking—my comfort zone—they are more capable of making a decision about going into a sexual relationship after a short time and handling any blow back. A 36 year old woman who has been around and experienced a lot in her life knows the ramifications of a hook up.

You MUST know your characters.  What they will and will not do and why. I mean the down deep why.  While these issues are vital in every story, it is even more important in the fast pace RS genre.  You must know what circumstances will drive your heroine to hit the sheets quickly.  BTW I say heroine because I firmly believe she is the one who makes the decision as to the when and where sex happens.

In my first book the H&H go home together after they first meet. I totally knew my heroine. What event formed her values and beliefs and was behind all her decisions. The day the H&H met, she suffered two huge setbacks in her story goal. Going with him that night breaks all her personal rules but she decides to console herself with some sexual healing. Give in, just once, to her own needs and the reader knew this. She leaves his bed before he wakes thinking she will never see him again. In a few days this comes back to bite her. It also begins the resolution to her story goal. 

As for the HEA in this story, these two people were NOT looking for a relationship but found something in each other that filled a void they didn’t know existed. As the author, I knew it did. Knowing your characters inside and out allows you to understand what they fear, what they want, and what they need. You use it to get them to work out their problems together and rapidly establish a bond. With each other’s help they face their fears, they change, and are rewarded with love and in the suspense novel get the bad guy in the process. This is an over simplification but I hope you get what I mean. 

When the H&H have a sexual history getting them into a speedy relationship is always easier. In my third book, two experienced intelligence officers from different agencies have an affair that lasted more than a year. He broke it off for his own misguided reason. They come together again working to find the same bad guy. With their history, the sexual tension lasts for only so long before they give in. Their HEA is very complicated. Again, I know them completely.

Another way is to use what some call survivor sex. After two people share a near death experience sharing the life affirming act of sex is always a possibility.  As an author, you can put friends, detective or business partners, who have worked together for years and know each other completely into that death experience and life affirming sex after. The act changes a relationship to full blown love and HEA. On the surface this looks to be the easiest choice. Honestly it’s the most difficult for me to write. To get a good balance of conflict you really have to know your H&H.

I can probably come up with a hundred more scenarios but this is already too long.

Bottom line

  • Dig deep
  • Know yourself
  • Know your characters inside out.

What do you think?

Check out my Romantic Suspense Books.


Meet 2016 Golden Heart Finalist Diane Holiday!

Today we’re welcoming Diane Holiday, 2016 Golden Heart Finalist in Romantic Suspense with her novel LOVE IN HIDING.

dog in wavesDiane, who won first place in the 2015 RWA Pages From The Heart contest, lives with her husband at the Jersey Shore. An avid boater and beach lover, she spends her spare time on the water. She has a grown son and daughter who live out of state, so her adoring golden retriever gets a lot of attention. The dog also draws a crowd on the beach as she loves to surf the waves. Diane worked in corporate until she had children. She became a director of the Pampered Chef for nine years, then a substitute teacher for ten as she raised her family. She now volunteers in the public school system tutoring the children of active duty military families. If asked, “What’s the most important thing in life?” the answer right behind chocolate would be humor. Diane lives to make people laugh, often at her own expense. She incorporates that in her writing as well. If she can put a smile on one face, she considers her day a success.

Here’s a blurb for LOVE IN HIDING:

Prima ballerina Sarah Baker needs to disappear. She flees cross-country to hide from an obsessive stalker and winds up working side-by-side at a horse ranch with a former Navy SEAL. On the run, with a fake identity, Sarah isn’t looking for love. All she longs for is a normal life and to dance again.

Bruce Thompson is a horse trainer who runs a therapy program for amputee vets. He has no interest in another relationship after the tragic death of his wife. That is, until Sarah shows up and jump-starts his guarded heart. But Sarah has secrets, and he intends to find out what threat might follow her to the farm. His protective claws come out as he is determined to keep her and his clients safe.

While Sarah and Bruce fight their sizzling attraction, an unknown threat lurks in the midst. This one, closer to home. Will they find love and uncover the deadly plots before it’s too late?

I love the title–and the way both of them are struggling to rebuild a life for themselves! I want them to have their HEA!

Diane’s joining us today to talk about a personal act of rebuilding, and what to do when you hit the Black Moment…in your writing life.

Take it away, Diane!!


diane holidayFirst, I want to thank the Rubies for this tremendous opportunity to share a piece of myself.

I thought long and hard about what to discuss and decided that I wanted to address one of the most difficult parts of being a writer. Self-doubt and rejection. We all know this journey is not for the weak-hearted. I don’t have a thick skin, and rejections hurt. So, it’s pretty amazing to me that I can make the statement that I am confident in my writing. As soon as I wrote this sentence my inner demon said, “Yeah, but are you published?”

How do we overcome these negative thoughts and rejections? I think we all ride a roller coaster of ups and downs. I got a request for a full! Champagne and dinner out. Only, a month later, it’s a pass. I got signed by an agent! Triple champagne dinner. Only, the big pubs rejected the manuscript.

I’d had a particularly tough week prior to the call about the Golden Heart. I had found out only days before that my agent, who I didn’t even know had cancer, had passed away. I was in shock. Sad for her family, unsure of my future, and no clue what might be going on with the book I had out on submission. I remember sitting under the stars that night and thinking about my journey. Had I wasted the last four years of my life in workshops, critique groups, studying grammar and writing techniques until my eyes crossed? What did I have to show for it? A folder of rejection emails, albeit some very complimentary, but the bottom line was still a no. If I were writing my story, that night would be the dark moment. In my heart, though, I knew there was no other answer but for me to get back up and keep at it. Writing isn’t optional for me.

Two days later, the Golden Heart happened. Talk about a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows. I got a personal call from Kristan Higgins congratulating me on my final. Kristan Higgins? I was a bit star-struck. I had my dog’s leash in my hand (because I kept checking the time, and hey, it was already nine a.m., so clearly I hadn’t made the cut), her water bottle (the dog, not Kristan’s), a hat, sunglasses, keys, and poopy bags (again, for the dog.) The dog ended up asleep in the cul-de-sac by the time I got off social media and texted my family. It took me a while to find her water bottle on the top of the refrigerator and her leash behind her food bin. I was a little excited and had mindlessly thrown things around to free up my hands.

shore pictureFor me, the Golden Heart was finally some validation. My hard work had paid off. I’d spent the last four years completely dedicated to writing after moving to the shore. My incredible, supportive husband insisted I take the time to do what I’d always wanted and write a book. Sure, I’d been writing for as long as I can remember, but it was always around my job, the kids, sports, you know…life.

This couldn’t have come at a better time, and what a ride it’s been so far. The journey’s not over, though. I’m working with a new agent and have met so many amazing people through the Golden Heart. I know there will be plenty of tomorrows filled with rejections and criticisms. It comes with the job. But, just for today, I’m enjoying one of the highs.

I’d love to hear from others. What do you do to overcome self-doubt and handle those tough rejections? What high have you had that’s kept you in the game?


Connect with Diane Holiday on social media:

Meet 2016 Golden Heart Finalist Melanie Novak!

Today we’re welcoming Mermaid Melanie Novak, 2016 Golden Heart Finalist in Romantic Suspense with RUBY RED!

Melanie Novak lives, reads, and writes in Pittsburgh. Though she lives with only her sixteen-year-old cat Jasmine, she has a posse of friends and family close by to rescue her when her toilet overflows or she locks herself out of the house. When not reading and writing, Melanie enjoys walking, going to the movies, and following Pittsburgh Pirates baseball. She can’t decide if she’s more excited about Outlander finally coming to the small screen or the upcoming Gilmore Girls revival.


When a multi-million dollar ruby belonging to Marie Antoinette is stolen from Lamont Auction House, Addison Merritt’s career—and the survival of the boutique house—is on the line. Addison teams up with sexy U.S. Marshal Michael Wright, but they are not the only ones looking for Rosette’s Ruby.

And others are willing to kill for it. 

As the danger mounts and time runs out, Addison takes a bold gamble and risks everything—including her heart—to recover the ruby.

That sounds thrilling—and you KNOW the Rubies are psyched to have a ruby-centered story out there in this year’s Golden Heart! We’ll be cheering for you in San Diego, Melanie!!

Melanie’s here today to talk with us about first times…with romance novels, that is.

Take it away, Melanie!!


Novak_Melanie HeadshotYou Never Forget Your First

I don’t remember how old I was when I read my first romance novel, but not old enough to know that what went on between the hero and heroine behind the closed bedroom door was a lot more than kissing. I read in absolute amazement as the scene unfolded. This was an eighties romance novel with all the trimmings—bodice ripper cover, politically incorrect hero, a not-entirely-willing-but-completely-satisfied-afterwards heroine.

I still didn’t understand everything that happened in that scene, but one thing was certain. 

I was hooked. 

When my mother sat me down to tell me about the birds and the bees, I informed her that I knew all about it. When a brief round of questioning confirmed this, she asked, “Did Cousie tell you?” Cousie was—of course—my beloved cousin and senior by four years. 

I will admit Cousie provided a few details and clarifications, but she hadn’t told me. Valerie Sherwood and her swashbuckling buccaneers and corseted ladies already had. 

I first tried my hand at writing a romance novel in 2006. I was twenty-five, and I’d read dozens of romances by then. Inspired by the Torino Olympics, I made my hero and heroine star-crossed figure skaters who were paired with the wrong partners. 

With FIRE AND ICE, I proved to myself that I could maneuver around work and life, overcome a dismal first draft, and research all the things I didn’t know about skating. 

I could finish.

I typed the final sentences of FIRE AND ICE on the fourth of July. As I did, fireworks exploded outside my window. Oh please. Personal fireworks for my finale? How cheesy is that?

Hey, don’t blame me. I didn’t write the scene. This was real life, not fiction.

FIRE AND ICE, it must be said, was met with deafening silence from the publishing world. I read it now, years later, and I see its flaws. But I still see those fireworks.

2016 is shaping up to be a year filled with firsts. My third novel, RUBY RED, has garnered a Golden Heart nomination. This is more than my first Golden Heart. This is the first external recognition I’ve received for one of my original works. Lack of external recognition wouldn’t stop me from writing—I’m not sure anything would stop me from writing—but let’s not lie to each other. External recognition is wonderful.

In July I’ll attend the Romance Writers of America conference for the first time, and in the process I’ll see San Diego for the first time. For the first time, I’ll be querying agents with a bona fide feather in my cap.

And this, dear reader, is my first blog post.

You can bet I won’t forget it.

Your turn readers! Tell me about a first in your reading or writing life: the first romance novel you read, the first book that made you want to write, or the first book you wrote. I can’t wait to read your responses in the comments.


Find Melanie on the Web 

Twitter: @MelanieNovak31

Instagram: novak_melanie


Meet 2016 Golden Heart Finalist Tracy Brody!

Today we’re welcoming another Mermaid, Tracy Brody, already a Golden Heart winner last year, who’s a DOUBLE finalist this year, in two different categories!!

2015-10-17 CRW Glam Party -cropTracy Brody lives in North Carolina with her husband and teenage daughter and has a son that shows up for a few weeks between college semesters and internships to let her feed him and do his laundry.

Though she followed her father’s advice and studied business, she continued to indulge her creative side with various crafts and scrapbooking until her overactive imagination dreamed up a story line that she wrote as a spec movie script. Being a housewife in NC with no ties to Hollywood, she eventually took friends’ suggestion to turn her script into a book and began writing romances. She joined RWA and Carolina Romance Writers in 2010. She loves walking in her neighborhood or, even better, being at the beach talking to herself as she plots books and scenes. She’s represented by Helen Brietweiser of Cornerstone Literary.

Her 2015 Golden Heart winner, A SHOT WORTH TAKING, is actually the second book in her series of single title romances featuring the Bad Karma Special Ops team whose love lives are as dangerous as their missions. This year, both the first and third books in the series are finalists—which means all three of her completed manuscripts have finaled in the Golden Heart!!

Here’s the blurb for THE SNIPER’S SECOND SHOT – Contemporary Romance:

Sergeant Mack Hanlon thought he could beat the odds, despite knowing that a Special Ops career and a stable, successful marriage don’t go together as smoothly as peanut butter and jelly or even guns and ammunition. His wife left him and the Army life, but when Mack meets Black Hawk pilot Kristie Donovan, he believes he’s found a woman who can support him and his career choice. However, he soon finds he’s battling more than regulations prohibiting romantic relationship between the ranks.

After losing one husband in combat, Kristie’s sworn she’ll never fall for another man in his dangerous profession. Mack’s persistence and charm in pursuing her are accomplishing his mission to win Kristie’s heart until his ex-wife threatens to expose their relationship if Mack won’t let her move out of state with their girls. Kristie ends their forbidden romance to protect their careers and keep Mack from losing contact with his daughters. But, after insurgents bring down Kristie’s aircraft and take the crew hostage, Mack’s team rushes to rescue Kristie and her crew. If he can save her, he still has to find a way to give them both a second shot at love.

And here’s the blurb for IN THE WRONG SIGHTS – Romantic Suspense.

A patient’s deathbed confession landed nurse Cassidy O’Shea in witness protection. However, her unauthorized trip to Fort Bragg for her ex-stepfather’s funeral necessitates putting her under temporary protective custody after learning he’s been murdered. The Marshal Service turns to her late stepfather’s friends, the Army Bad Karma team, to keep her safe.

A dedicated soldier, AJ Rozanski is supposed to be protecting Cassidy, not falling for his former mentor’s stepdaughter. But her acceptance of his career choice is a refreshing change from his parent’s disapproval of his military service and his ex-fiancée’s inability to handle his erratic deployments.

Cassidy going back into Witness Protection puts an end to their hopes for something beyond a few days and romantic nights together—until an assassin locates her and she flees to AJ and the Bad Karma team. Can they give her back her life—and a future with AJ?

Awesome stuff!!! And both very suspenseful! I’m sure these will be out in readers’ hands before very long!!

Okay, everybody–time to gather around in our super-secret Ruby bunker for a chat with Tracy Brody. (No bad guys allowed!!….um, unless they look like Tom Hiddleston and are eminently redeemable!! In which case, join us!!)


Welcome, Tracy!! Lovely to have you back here with the Rubies!

Okay, so ALL THREE of your completed books so far have finaled in the Golden Heart, and the one that finaled last year actually WON. That’s incredibly impressive!! Did this come out of nowhere, or did you have experiences with contests before that? (Inquiring minds want to know.)

I’m a bit of a contest veteran, actually. I’d entered a few contests early on with RWA – when I didn’t know how much I didn’t know.  🙂 Some of the early feedback pinpointed areas I needed to improve in. Things like point of view, eliminating passive writing, establishing character’s goals, motivation and conflict, showing instead of telling, comma usage, et cetera and etc. I took classes and later entered a new WIP in the Golden Pen to see if my writing had improved. I was happily shocked when I finaled and kept working on learning craft.

I missed the Golden Heart finals in 2014 by one point. As most of the ladies in my critique group were not writing a lot, I felt bad asking them to keep critiquing for me. So in 2014, I entered a number of chapter contests for fresh feedback to see what I still needed to master. I developed a reputation as a contest queen (or whore depending on who you asked.) That year I think I entered eight different contests, entering both manuscripts in two of them. I had four misses but placed first in six contests.

Even after the wins in 2014, I almost didn’t enter the Golden Heart for 2015. I was very methodical in picking which contests to enter based on the submission size, the score sheet for judging, number of judges, whether they dropped a score, who the final round judges were. The Golden Heart didn’t tick the right boxes for getting feedback and in front of agent and editor judges I wanted. But, I decided to give it one more shot.

Clearly, a shot worth taking!! (Sorry, sorry…couldn’t resist the title pun.) You must have been excited that it finaled.

I’m thrilled it did! The Golden Heart is unlike any other contest I’d entered. With its reputation, it’s great affirmation to final and brings the perks of priority registrations for pitch appointments at convention – not just the year you’re a finalist. It’s a great credential to list when you query (and I got very quick requests.) Then there’s the networking opportunities, getting to shop for fancy dresses, and feeling a little like a celebrity. But the biggest difference was the sisterhood that developed among the finalists. Just being a finalist was a win and we worked to help and encourage each other. While I’d really hoped not to be eligible for the Golden Heart this year, since I hadn’t accepted an offer yet, I decided to enter again because of the friendships I formed with other finalists.

With your track record, I’m betting you won’t be eligible to enter Golden Heart again as of this time next year—but you may just have a second (or third!!) shiny heart pendant to add to your collection. So, I’m curious: your two finalists this year are part of the same series, but are nominated in two different categories, Contemporary Romance and Romantic Suspense. What’s the story behind that?

Several of the 2015 finalists had entered several manuscripts that year, and a few said it was the one they didn’t expect to final that did. While I tend to be a last minute kinda gal, I got IN THE WRONG SIGHTS (third in my series) submitted for the Golden Heart with a few days to spare. I kept thinking about the first in my series, which I’d entered in the GH back in 2011. It hadn’t finaled (hadn’t even come close then), but I’d revised it, and thought why not give it a shot. But it’s not as suspenseful, especially in the opening. (I was still learning how my series needed to be consistent in genre.) So the Friday before the GH deadline, I emailed my agent to say I was going to enter it and asked which category she thought I should put it in. I started doing an editing pass over the weekend. I only beat the deadline thanks to one of my awesome ’15 GH Dragonfly sisters saying, “Tracy, you know the deadline is 5 PM—not midnight?” Yeeps! I uploaded THE SNIPER’S SECOND SHOT with 10 minutes to spare and went with my gut to enter it in the contemporary category. My agent emailed a few hours later saying to enter it in romantic suspense. Ooops. My bad – I’m still learning, but it worked out despite the strong competition in that category. And having the first book of my series, that has undergone so many rewrites, changes, and edits, final is really special.

I love that you’re so open about having to learn to become the writer you are! I’m a teacher in my other life, and I always tell my students that screwing up and trying again is essential to growth…whether you’re a writer or Steph Curry. (And I’ll confess, my very first writing contest entry was a 35-page opening chapter. The judges very lovingly smacked some sense into me, and I quickly got to work on the dynamics of pacing.) But, in the short term, criticism can sting, can’t it?

While I’ve had friends who made the finals, even won, the first time they entered a writing contest, that’s not my story. We’ve probably all heard stories of mean judges and crazy comments and widely ranging scores. You learn to accept how subjective judging can be. Feedback can make you reach for a bottle of wine or make you dance.

Well, I’m sure you’re doing a lot of dancing these days!! Speaking of good times, are you going to Nationals?

Heck yes!! I get to see many of my wonderful friends from the 2015 GH class (am even rooming with two of them!) and meet new finalists. And I get to buy fancy dresses. Yes, plural. Last year I bought six dresses, returned four, and rebought one on sale – all for under $150 total. I’m about on that same track now. Still trying to decide between three, including one I didn’t wear from last year.

LOL! I’ll be looking forward to the fashion show!! (And everybody’s fabulous shoes!!) Before we go, do you have a question for our readers to get the conversation rolling today?

I’d love to hear your best or worst contest story. The good. The bad. The laughable comments from a judge. Feedback that made you cry or gave you that “ah, ha!” moment. Here’s your opportunity to let us commiserate or celebrate with you.

As a thank you for reading and responding, I’m giving away a $5 Amazon gift card and a pair of patriotic handmade red, white (okay, really they’re crystal) and blue earrings to two commenters. Thanks for stopping by and your support! Hope you all have the opportunity to fall in love with my Bad Karma heroes and their loves.

Bravo TeamAnd as a little reward for all, here’s a scrapbook collage of my Bad Karma Team for your viewing enjoyment.


Connect with Tracy Brody online:

Twitter: @BadKarmaWriter








Meet 2016 Golden Heart Finalist Layla Reyne!!

Today we’re welcoming another Mermaid, Layla Reyne, a 2016 Golden Heart finalist in Romantic Suspense with her manuscript FOUR TRAGEDIES.

Layla Reyne - Author Photo-1Attorney by day, writer by night, Layla Reyne was raised in North Carolina and currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with her scientist husband and three smush-faced dogs. Growing up surrounded by generations of southern storytellers and at the knee of her soap opera loving grandparents, she began writing at an early age. Now writing romantic suspense and contemporary romance, Layla is inspired by her coast-to-coast experiences and delights in weaving the people she’s met and places she’s been into her stories for readers everywhere to enjoy. Layla is a member of Romance Writers of America and its Kiss of Death and Silicon Valley chapters. She is represented by Laura Bradford of the Bradford Literary Agency.

Here’s a blurb for FOUR TRAGEDIES:

University professors are dying in Hanover, North Carolina, and their murders bear a striking resemblance to the deaths of Shakespeare’s wronged heroines. Police Chief Charlie Reddmann is on the case, which becomes complicated when her ex-fiancé, FBI Agent Hayes Keller, joins the investigation. Hayes was forced to leave Charlie behind two decades ago when his parents threatened to expose a secret that would destroy her family. Since he’s been gone, Charlie’s done everything in her power to keep that secret buried and protect, at all costs, the son Hayes doesn’t know exists. But as the case Charlie and Hayes are investigating leads closer and closer to home, the tightrope they’re both now walking is stretched taut under the weight of their past and their secrets. If it snaps, the free fall will be deadly.

Awesome!! I’m a Shakespeare fiend, so I love the conceit! (Layla calls it “a second chance romance wrapped in a Shakespearean-themed murder mystery,” which is pretty much like crack for me.) Looking forward to this!

Okay, readers—it’s time to pin on your FBI badges and gather round for some intense (but friendly) interrogation of Layla Reyne!


Meet 2015 Golden Heart Finalist Brynn Kelly!

Today we have the pleasure of welcoming another Dragonfly guest blogger: 2015 Golden Heart Finalist Brynn Kelly, whose book DECEPTION ISLAND is nominated for best Romantic Suspense.

Brynn Kelly is an award-winning novelist and journalist, and bestselling non-fiction author from New Zealand. She could well be setting a RWA15 record for the longest non-stop journey to New York—35 hours straight, including stopovers. The flight goes via Sydney—which means she starts out flying three hours in the wrong direction. She’s viewing it as a long (and cramped) writing retreat. And, hey, when you’re a parent of young children, any time alone is a luxury.

Not only is DECEPTION ISLAND her Golden Heart book, it’s also going to be her publishing debut, to be released by Harlequin’s HQN imprint in 2016.

In DECEPTION ISLAND, an action-adventure romantic suspense, a rogue French Foreign Legion officer and a Californian conwoman reluctantly team up to battle modern-day pirates and slave traders in the steamy jungles and azure waters of an Indian Ocean paradise.

 Brynn’s here to talk with us about an issue so many of us struggle with as writers: the yearning for external validation, and the temptation to give up on our dreams.

Take it away, Brynn!


brynnkellyLet It Go

We fiction writers are a neurotic bunch.

We’re forever waiting for someone to tell us whether our writing’s any good—and by extension whether we’re any good.

When we’re unpublished, we hang on the opinions of critique partners, beta readers, contest judges, editors and agents. After we’re published, we add reviewers and readers and booksellers to that list.

We think we’ll have made it if we can just win that contest, land that publishing deal, get that five-star review, hit the bestseller lists, gather 1000 likes on that Facebook post… We’ll be good enough. We’ll be a real writer.

If a publisher or agent passes on our story, we call it a “rejection”. Ugh. What an ugly word—it hits you like a punch to the gut. You can’t help taking a rejection personally. (I’ve launched a personal campaign to ban the word from my writing circles. The professional word for this, a “pass”, is much kinder, and more accurate.)

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The Latest Comments

  • Autumn Jordon: You’re very welcome. I learned a lot.
  • Bev Pettersen: Such a helpful post, Thanks Autumn. And also thanks to Vivi, Rae and Judy!
  • Autumn Jordon: Everyone of these cover designers is so talented. I wish I had their eye for detail.
  • Autumn Jordon: I totally agree, Kate. I think it takes a certain eye to make an awesome cover.
  • Autumn Jordon: They did a amazing job answering my questions, didn’t they. I also learned a lot.