Posts tagged with: writing community

Guest Blog: 2019 Golden Heart Finalist Janet Walden-West

Today we’re delighted to welcome Janet Walden-West, another of the Omegas, the 2019 Golden Heart Finalists. Janet is a finalist in the Contemporary Romance with her manuscript Salt + Stilettos.

Janet is also a long-time friend of the Rubies and a hard-core participant in our yearly Winter Writing Festival, and we’re already huge fans of her fabulous writing voice! Regular Ruby readers know about our annual Make It Golden Contest, in which competitors submit 50-word book openings, Rubies select ten finalists from all the entries, and then finalists submit a longer 250-word version to compete for the top prizes. The entries are always AMAZING, so competition is incredibly fierce. Well, the very talented Miz Walden-West has finaled EVERY YEAR FOR THE PAST FOUR YEARS, and has been one of our final winners TWICE.

Janet lives in the southeast with a pack of show dogs, a couple of kids, and a husband who didn’t read the fine print. A card carrying Crazy Dog Show Lady, she’s easily distracted by great cars and bad coffee. A founding member of the East Tennessee Creative Writers Alliance and The Million Words craft blog, she is also a member of Romance Writers of America. She pens Urban Fantasy that escapes the neat confines of the city limits in favor of map-dot hillbilly towns, and inclusive Romantic Suspense and Contemporary Romance.A #PitchWars alum and Golden Heart® finalist, her first short story, “Road Trip,” is included in the CHASING THE LIGHT anthology. She is represented by Eva Scalzo of Speilburg Literary Agency.

Here’s a blurb for Salt + Stilettos:

Growing up red-dirt poor, Brett Fontaine learned image matters, you can’t count on family, and marriage is another word for misery. Leaving that past in her rear-view, her new reality is the best Jimmy Choo collection in Miami and a position as the go-to image consultant in South Beach. With a strict CYA policy of never mixing business with pleasure, she’s good with uncomplicated hookups who can see themselves out the door. Unfortunately, her latest client—the muscled chef with the intriguing tataus—is making it difficult to stick to her no-complications rule.

Will Te’o expected plenty of challenges establishing a fine dining restaurant in Miami’s chic foodie scene. However, falling for the fierce consultant with the power to make or break his career wasn’t one of them. He’s already learned mainland women prefer manscaped and unencumbered, not hulking and rough around the edges. But he wants the same kind of Happily Ever After his parents had and is determined to cook his way past Brett’s relationship reservations.

While their kitchen heats to scorching, Will’s traditional Samoan family obligations crash into their modern Miami life, leaving Brett questioning whether she’s repeating her parents’ mistakes, all while a smear campaign led by ghosts from her past threatens both their careers and their chance at love.

Oh, man!!! I know this going to be FANTASTIC!! I’ve loved all of Janet’s 250-word openings for the Make It Golden Contest, and adore her sassy, fresh, funny contemporary voice. I can’t wait to read A WHOLE DANGED BOOK!!!

Instead of choosing the the interview option today, Janet volunteered to pen a guest post.

And it’s on a topic very dear to the Rubies’ hearts: the ways writers don’t have to go it alone. 

Take it away, Janet!!!


Does It Really Take A Community To Raise A Writer?

It’s a truth universally acknowledged…that writing is a lonely, solitary occupation. Hours, days, weeks of toiling alone in our isolated tower, with only the characters in our heads keeping us company.

Meet 2018 Golden Heart Finalists Eileen Emerson and D. Murphy Ryan!

What a treat here for our second-to-last interview with the Golden Heart class of 2018: today we’re welcoming TWO Persisters, D. Murphy Ryan and Eileen Emerson!

D. Murphy Ryan, also known as Dawn, is a finalist in Contemporary Romance Short with OUT OF THE SHADOWS, and Eileen is a finalist in Historical Romance with AN UNLOVED EARL.

D. Murphy Ryan has lived a life in chapters: as a waitress, a nanny, a photographer’s assistant, a singer and performer, and as a healthcare professional.  But author is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.  Writing since she was eight, she has a vast array of stories she’s eager to share as she moves onto the next chapter of her storied life.




Eileen Emerson spent years getting a Master’s degree in costume design for the theatre, and then chucked it all to make her way in the world of Corporate America. She eventually turned her creative focus to writing and began submitting her work to the contest circuit, with excellent results. She is now a three-time Golden Heart finalist and is zeroing in on publication.


We’re sitting down to chat in the Writing Room of Eileen’s newly renovated Victorian house, which she’s named Valhalla. Dawn and Eileen will be telling you about their books in the course of our conversation, so let’s jump right in!

FYI, Dawn and Eileen met last year when Dawn joined Valley Forge Romance Writers, of which Eileen is President.

And fair warning: Eileen is also Elisa’s real life sister, so the conversation gets a wee bit personal as we go along. Also, there was waaaaay more giggling and raunchy humor than the final transcript implies. (We talked for 45 minutes!! I had to cut something!!!!)

And one more thing: at one point we got so caught up talking about the possible elimination of the Golden Heart Contest, I decided halfway through the conversation to split that part of the interview off into a separate blog that will post tomorrow. IF YOU’VE GOT STRONG FEELINGS ABOUT THE VALUE OF THE GOLDEN HEART, PLEASE JOIN US AGAIN TOMORROW, AND TELL YOUR FRIENDS!!

Elisa’s questions are in maroon, and Eileen’s answers are in black, and Dawn’s are in blue. 

Off we go…

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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