Posts tagged with: Young Adult Romance

Meet 2019 Golden Heart Finalists Janet Raye Stevens and Christine Gunderson!!

Today we’re welcoming not one but TWO Omegas, Janet Raye Stevens and Christine Gunderson, both 2019 Golden Heart Finalists in the Young Adult Romance category, Janet with her sci-fi book THE NASCENT BLOOM, and Christine with THE WALLS BETWEEN.

Why two at once, you ask? Janet and Christine aren’t just finalists in the same Golden Heart category; they’re critique partners, and good friends! They met on the RWA contest circuit before they became GH sisters. They’re here today to tell us how they met and became CPs, how their friendship has helped their writing, and what it’s like to be finalists together.

A little individual background first:

Janet Raye Stevens is a committed genre hopper, writing mystery, paranormal, contemporary romance, and sometimes YA, but she draws the line at poetry. A three-time RWA Golden Heart® Award finalist, she won in 2018 for her short contemporary, Cole for Christmas. Janet lives with her family in Massachusetts, where she spends her days drinking copious amounts of tea (Earl Gray, hot) plotting revenge (best served cold), and creating fictional worlds populated with cool chicks and hot guys.

Here’s a blurb for Janet’s GH book THE NASCENT BLOOM:

In a strictly controlled society of rich and poor, Meili and Kai are worlds apart. She has everything; the only thing Kai has is a scholarship to Meili’s elite school, provided he works in exchange for lessons. Captured by space pirates while on a school field trip and sold into servitude on a far-off planet, they’re equals. Desperate to find a way to escape, they’ll do anything—even work together. 

Christine Gunderson grew up on a family farm in North Dakota reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books in her own little house on the prairie. She’s a former television anchor/reporter and former House and Senate aide. She currently writes YA fiction outside of Washington, D.C. with three children, two dogs and a very patient husband. She’s the 2018 overall winner of the unpublished Daphne du Maurier Award and a 2019 Golden Heart® Finalist. When not writing, she’s sailing, playing Star Wars trivia, re-reading Persuasion, or unloading the dishwasher.

Here’s a blurb for Christine’s GH book THE WALLS BETWEEN:

Seventeen-year-old Soren King’s life changes forever the night her father is arrested, and she’s thrown into a labor camp for orphans and political prisoners. Now she must decide if she’s willing to betray her twin sister to help the handsome leader of the Resistance take down the evil dictator who controls her father, the Republic and everyone she loves.

Ooh! I’m already seeing lots of interesting thematic connections between your books—complex power dynamics, family loyalties, politics, hard choices to be made! No wonder you two work well together!

Time to gather ‘round, everyone! In keeping with the dystopian themes, we can meet in my secret underground bunker where we’ll be safe from all exterior dangers…plus I’ve got warm brownies fresh from the bunker’s gourmet oven (‘cause even in a dystopia, excellent baked goods are key!) Grab a seat!


Guest Blog: 2019 Golden Heart Finalist Susan Lee – This One’s For the Dreamers

Today we’re welcoming another member of the Omegas, the 2019 Golden Heart Finalists: Susan Lee, whose manuscript DRAGGED has finaled in the Young Adult category.

Susan Lee has built a career as a Human Resources executive at successful startups such as Spotify, Warby Parker, and SeatGeek. Her biggest job takeaway: we are all, for the most part, ridiculous. 🙂 And she channels this into her writing of light-hearted, quirky novels about the oftentimes hilarious human condition. You can find Susan around New York City enjoying bottomless brunch, catching any show with her favorite local drag queen, Marti Gould Cummings, or trying to snag cheap tickets for Broadway previews. Susan is a 2018 PitchWars alum, a 2019 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart® finalist, and a lifetime Shangela stan.

Here’s a blurb for DRAGGED:

Goody two-shoes Grace Lee has a surefire plan for success: work her butt off to become a doctor and then be rich enough to buy herself a new butt. She’s one-hundred-percent focused on graduating first in her class and accomplishing all her goals. Nothing can stop her…except her smug arch-nemesis, Henry Liao. Henry is fast on Grace’s heels in their race to the top. He’s also the villainous traitor who convinced Grace to participate in a senior prank gone terribly wrong. Left shouldering the blame, Grace faces an enormous repair bill and—even worse—disappointed parents (eek!). To redeem herself and get back on track, Grace must win the school’s Most Outstanding Student Award, along with its hefty scholarship. Problem is, “outstanding” requires not just good grades, but song, dance, and jazz hands, too. 

 Enter stage right: Azia J’Adore, New York City’s hottest teen drag queen. With her huge wigs and an enormous heart to match, Azia’s the fairy dragmother Grace needs to land a role in the school musical, catapulting herself past Henry and straight into the winner’s circle. But working with Azia stirs up unexpected feelings in Grace. And when she finds out Azia’s true identity, Grace is knocked for a loop. With opening night fast approaching, it’s time to face the music: win the scholarship at any cost and screw up the one relationship she never knew she wanted, or toss aside her best-laid plans for the chance at a future unlike anything she ever imagined.

Oh, my!! What a fascinating and fresh storyline!! I’m dying to know exactly who Azia really is! Just from this blurb, Susan, I can see the humor and warmth in your writing voice, and can’t wait to see this book out in the world!

Today, readers, Susan has a wonderful guest blog post for us, one that’s especially poignant just after Father’s Day.

Thanks so much for being with us, Susan! Take it away!!


This One’s For the Dreamers:

It is such an honor to be a finalist for the 2019 Golden Heart award. Some of my favorite authors started their careers as GH finalists and to share this achievement is mind-blowing for me. I’m a baby writer – I’ve only been putting words to page for a few years now, and this is my second completed manuscript. But, I think I’ve been a storyteller my entire life. And I know I’ve been a dreamer from the very beginning.

My father passed away a few weeks ago. It was a difficult loss for my family. But as I’ve been scrolling through memories of him in my mind, there has been a common thread: my dad was a dreamer. He was hard-working, uber-practical, stubborn, demanding…but he was a dreamer nonetheless. From early on, he dreamt of a better life and greater opportunities, success for his family, and a legacy to leave behind. And he made those dreams come true for us.

When I was growing up, he moved us to a new neighborhood in the suburbs of San Diego. We were one of the very few families who looked different than the rest. In school, others would actually tell me that they’d never even seen a kid who looked like me. But at home, my dad made it a practice to speak life into me. He showered me with words of confidence and acceptance. When I walked down the stairs of our home, he would announce “Here comes Miss Korea!” And I would wave and smile and stand taller with pride. I was unfazed by looking different than other kids because in my heart I knew I was beautiful. My daddy told me so.

We attended a Korean church every Sunday. It was one of the only places I had access to other Korean kids, kids who looked like me. But most of these kids were born in Korea, where I was born in Chicago. It’s funny what kids decide is weird to them. For these kids, it was weird that I was “not Korean”.. But at home, my dad made it a practice to speak life into me. He showered me with words of confidence and acceptance. When we watched the news at the kitchen table, he would proudly say, “Susan, you’re the only person in our family who can be President of the United States.” And I would nod and let those words sink in and accept all the opportunity ahead of me with pride. I was unfazed by kids telling me I wasn’t Korean. I knew I was Korean-American and that meant something big. My daddy told me so.

The dreamer in me wants to tell stories that are life-affirming, confidence-building, and honestly, belly-achingly funny (my dad was that too, by the way). I write young adult romance because I want the teens who might worry there isn’t a place for them, to be assured that there is. There are stories for them. There is love and happily ever afters for them. I don’t want to tell kids to forget who they are, but to explore all the possibilities that lay ahead of them because of EXACTLY who they are.

I was raised by a dreamer.

I am a dreamer.

I write stories for the dreamers.

What about you, readers? Who inspires you the most in your life? 



Connect with Susan Lee on social media:

Twitter: @susanleewrites

Instagram: @syleegurl



Meet 2019 Golden Heart Finalist Sammi Spizziri

Today we’re delighted to welcome another Omega, Sammi Spizziri, whose manuscript AFTER I BID YOU ADIEU is a 2019 Golden Heart finalist in the Young Adult Category

Sammi Spizziri lives in a small town in Illinois with her husband and baby girl. When she’s not lost in writing (or reading) a new book, she’s a stay-at-home mom who dabbles in accounting on the side. Boy bands, rec league volleyball, and chai tea lattes are a few of her favorite things.

Here’s a blurb for AFTER I BID YOU ADIEU:

Eighteen-year-old Evie wants to change the world through podcasts and not repeat her deceased mom’s mistake of settling for a hometown boy over her career. In an early college program at NYU, she’s on the perfect path to success. The only thing missing is her best friend and sort-of love interest from back home, Kace. But since he decided to skip college in favor of staying in Ridgeview for his mom, Evie’s done her best to forget about him. So when her dad’s heart attack requires her to return home for the summer, she’s not sure how to handle being face-to-face with Kace again—or her grief.

To make matters worse, her scholarship is threatened and she needs Kace’s help on a podcast to save it. She knows it’s not safe to get too close again or she’ll be tempted to stay, especially since he admitted his feelings for her before she left the first time. But as they spend time together, she soon finds herself admiring his small acts of kindness around town and appreciation for who she is over what she does, making her doubt why she’s leaving. Will Evie chase her dreams no matter the cost or learn how extraordinary ordinary can be?

Ooh! You’ve got podcasts and the lure of New York and anxiety about the future and family responsibility and best friends who might fall in love…very real stuff for teen readers!! And I love the idea that the boy is the one representing kind-heartedness and small-town-values! Very interesting dynamics going on!

Well, readers, it’s a lovely summer day outside, and my cottage hollyhocks are in bloom, so let’s all pull up some comfy-cushioned wicker chairs, pour tall glasses of iced tea, and let the local finches serenade us while I lob some questions Sammi’s way.


Welcome, Sammi! Wonderful to have you with us! You’re our first Young Adult Finalist of the year. (It’s a favorite genre for me, since I teach high school and am always looking for good books to recommend!) Tell us a little about your Golden Heart book and the process of writing it.

Meet 2016 Golden Heart Finalist T.L. Sumner!

It’s hard to believe we’re here already, but Nationals is NEXT WEEK, and so we’re nearly at the end of our 2016 series introducing the new Golden Heart Finalists, the MERMAIDS!!

Our guest today, T.L. Sumner, actually joined us last year, too, since this is her second Golden Heart final in a row! She’s nominated this year in Young Adult Romance for her book BETWEEN NEVER AND ALWAYS.

Forever optimistic and easily amused, T.L. Sumner is the author of magical stories about strong, athletic heroines chasing their dreams on and off the playing field. She holds both a B.S. and M.S. in business from Villanova University where she ran cross country and track on a full athletic scholarship. When not hiding in her writing cave, T.L. works in healthcare information technology, enjoys running, and being the number one fan for her kids’ sporting events. She’s an active member of Romance Writers of America, including the Young Adult (YARWA) and Georgia Romance Writers chapters. Sometimes you can find her hanging out on Twitter or in TL’s Dreamworld.

Here’s a blurb for BETWEEN NEVER AND ALWAYS:

There’s instant chemistry when seventeen-year-old track phenom Callie meets eighteen-year-old Trent, a junior cyclist on her uncle’s cycling team. But after losing her pro-cyclist father in a horrific crash, Callie has sworn to never date a cyclist. Besides, Trent’s already dating the daughter of the team sponsor. However, when Callie suffers a season-ending injury, and a doping scandal threatens her dad’s legacy, Trent becomes the perfect distraction. As they spend more time together, the sparks between them start to sizzle, and Callie finds herself falling for “the cyclist boy with a death wish.” Terrified she’ll lose another person she loves, Callie must decide whether following her heart is worth the risk.

Woot!! How awesome that your heroines are strong, athletic girls!!! We need more of that in YA! Hopefully we’ll see this out on shelves soon!

Okay, everybody—let’s take a little time-out from your workouts to join T.L  over on the bleachers for some Gatorade and a rub-down by one of our talented in-house masseuses. T.L.’s here to tell us a bit about her own athletic career, and how that intersects with her writing life.


TLSumnerBETWEEN NEVER AND ALWAYS features athletes from two of my favorite sports – running and cycling. Right now I am in sporty girl heaven because leading up to #RIO2016, there are the Olympic Trials for swimming, diving, gymnastics and of course, my favorite – track and field. I’m also a HUGE cycling fan, and the Tour de France started this past Saturday, July 2nd and goes through July 24th. So pretty much for all of July – it’s all sports, all the time in our house.

Although in some respects it seems like yesterday, a very long time ago, I was one of the athletes you’ll see on television in the next few weeks, competing for the chance to represent Team USA at the Olympic Games.

My story started in ninth grade, when my health teacher, Coach Hayden, suggested I go out for the track team. I ran sprints and hurdles during my time on the Fairport Track team, then in college I became a middle distance runner. Fast forward to the 1996 Olympic Trials – I toed the line in the finals of the 800m in the very stadium the Olympic Games would be held. Little ‘ole me had a shot to make the Olympic Team!! It was a surreal experience that I will never forget. Just like today, top three make the team…I placed seventh that day, but I left it all on the track and couldn’t have been happier with how I ran my race.

Meet 2015 Golden Heart Finalist Tosha Sumner!

Today we’re delighted to welcome another YA-writing Dragonfly: Tosha Sumner, 2015 Golden Heart finalist in Young Adult Romance for her manuscript THE CULLODEN IMMORTALS.

Forever optimistic and easily amused, T.L. Sumner is the author of magical stories about strong, athletic heroines chasing their dreams on and off the playing field. She holds both a B.S. and M.S. in business from Villanova University where she ran cross country and track on a full athletic scholarship. When not hiding in her writing cave, T.L. works in healthcare information technology, and enjoys running and being the number one fan for her kids’ sporting events. Her work has garnered several awards, including being named a 2015 Golden Heart® finalist for her YA novel THE CULLODEN IMMORTALS. Sometimes you can find her hanging out on Twitter or in TL’s Dreamworld.

Here’s a blurb for THE CULLODEN IMMORTALS:

Focused on getting a full ride to run track in college, seventeen-year old Kyra Siefert doesn’t have time for distractions like the daymares tormenting her since she was mugged; or Aidan MacGregor, the über chivalrous guy who sits next to her in Calc. As Kyra and Aidan spend more time together, a romance between them quickly develops. But bound by a strict code of honor, Aidan hides a powerful secret from Kyra; he is the son of Scottish immortals, guardians of ancient Templar treasure.

In this Romeo and Juliet meets Highlander, Kyra becomes the pawn for one rogue immortal pursuing a sacred artifact and another seeking to settle a centuries-old blood feud. Aidan must betray his family to protect the girl he’s forbidden to love; but haunted by visions of Aidan’s death, Kyra’s secret may cost her everything – including the boy she loves.

Awesome!!! Culloden and Scottish warriors are all the rage right now with the success of Outlander–may you book ride that wave!!

Okay, folks, it’s time to lace up your track shoes and grab a water bottle—Tosha’s going to take us for a couple laps around the track while she tells us about the connection between her life as a writer and her life as a runner.

Take it away, Tosha!


TLSumnerRunning has always been a big part of my life.

I started running in high school and attended Villanova University where I was on scholarship for track. Post collegiately, I ran professionally for a couple years, tried out for the Olympics in 1996, and got to travel the world representing Goldwin Athletics, a Japanese clothing company.

Being a professional athlete was a lot of fun, and I learned so much about dedication, discipline and perseverance. All qualities I’ve segued into my writing life.

I still run mostly to stay fit, but also to try to keep up with my kids. It’s very humbling when you realize your child is as fast, if not faster than you. L

I run. A lot. So of course, I find a lot of parallels between writing and running. I think it comes down to four basic things:

Finish It. Prove It. Better It. Win It.

Let me elaborate…

Meet 2015 Golden Heart Finalist Diana Muñoz Stewart!

Welcome back from the holiday weekend, everyone! Today we’re delighted to welcome Diana Muñoz Stewart, 2015 Golden Heart Finalist in Young Adult Romance with her manuscript MIND TRAVELER.

Diana Muñoz Stewart’s award-winning young adult and adult romantic fiction includes paranormal, science fiction, and contemporary stories. No matter the genre or whether her characters face death, danger, or the daunting trials of everyday life, readers are guaranteed a fast-paced story along with all the tingly temptations of a swoon-worthy romance. 

In addition to writing multi-genre fiction, Diana runs her own company providing web content on health, writing, and family. She earned her Master’s degree in Creative Writing from University of Southern Maine and is an active member of RWA and SCBWI. When not writing, she can be found off-roading in her Jeep—easy to spot by the license plate WRITE ME—or behind her lakeside home, kayaking and hiking with her kids and the man who’s had her heart since they were teens. 

Diana is represented by the wonderful Michelle Grajkowski of Three Seas Literary Agency.

Here’s a blurb for MIND TRAVELER:

A time traveling teen struggles to save the world from her future self.

Sixteen-year-old Able McKinney just wants a normal life. Finding out aliens hijacked her future brain in order to carry out their evil plans—so not helping. 

She should probably give up and tattoo fatalistic poetry all over her face. Except, she’d rather fight back.

Allied with Rainer, present secret crush and future commando heartthrob, Able travels through her own mind and into her future body to wage a war through time. Her desperate actions could reverse the alien plague devastating her world, but could also separate her from the boy she loves forever.

Wow, Diana! I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THAT!! What a fabulous twist (in fact, a whole series of twists!!) on the whole time-traveling-to-save-the-world genre!! I will snap that up as soon as it hits shelves!

Okay, readers—Diana’s here today with a fascinating perspective on what it really means to write “strong female characters.”

 Take it away, Diana!


dianamunozstewartA Strong Female Character?

Shortly after I received that exciting call telling me that my science fiction YA, Mind Traveler, was a finalist in the Golden Heart, I began to interact with the other 2015 Golden Heart finalist in a private online group.

People began introducing themselves and sharing stories. These women were unique, diverse, and had gone through a lot of adversity not just on their journey as writers but in their lives.

As well as successes, every day manias, humor, fashion choices, marketing strategies, and business tips, these women shared stories of children with learning disabilities, divorce, heartbreak, job loss, injury, and illness.

As I read their inspiring and touching stories, I also began seeing articles online on “How to Write a Strong Female Character.”

I have to admit that seeing that headline stung. It seemed to me that the headline assumed that we, the everyday women of the world, were not strong. And that somehow authors needed to rack their brains, test the very limits of their imaginative boundaries, have articles, and numbered lists in order to conjure up a strong female character.

Meet 2015 Golden Heart Finalist Julie Glover!

Today we’re welcoming Julie Glover, 2015 Golden Heart finalist in the Young Adult category with her contemporary novel manuscript SHARING HUNTER.

Julie Glover grew up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder, Judy Blume, and every Nancy Drew book she could get her hands on. Although she’d always dreamed of writing a novel, she didn’t write her first book until Hurricane Ike pummeled the Houston Gulf Coast and made her house off limits for a couple of weeks. Sitting at the in-laws’ house with her laptop, she set her mind to achieving her dream of penning books and began to write. These days, she writes teen fiction—indulging her desires to create interesting characters, express deep emotions, and add snark wherever possible. She lives with her heartthrob husband, two teenage sons, and a diva cat in Friendswood, Texas. Not to mention her ever-growing collection of boots. Julie recently signed with Louise Fury of The Bent Agency.

Here’s a blurb for SHARING HUNTER:
Some girlfriends share everything. Why not a boyfriend?
Rachel and Chloe are the best of friends, sharing everything since fifth grade. When the senior class’s complete-package guy suddenly becomes a free man, it’s open season on Hunter Mills, and both girls want a spring fling.
When Chloe suggests they share a boyfriend, Rachel goes along, knowing Chloe’s leap-first approach has given her some fabulous memories—not to mention Chloe has a history of winning contests, so sharing could be Rachel’s only shot at Hunter.
But sharing a boyfriend means they no longer fully confide their desires or their dates. And Hunter is falling in love with one of the girls—hard. Will romance and rivalry destroy their faithful friendship?

One lucky commenter today will win a copy of Julie’s published short story, “Color Me Happy,” a YA romance, along with a three-hearted gold necklace (picture below)—which stands for my odd love triangle and the Golden Heart final.

Take it away, Julie!


Julie Glover Author Photo - face onlyThe (Pushy) People Who Believe in You

“You need to enter this in the Golden Heart.”

Say WHAT?!!

I stood behind the head chair with my fellow writers, all friends, surrounding the rectangular dining table. They’d just listened to a large section of my young adult contemporary novel.

I’d brought my manuscript to a four-day workshop at the home of writing coach Margie Lawson. We’d been polishing and perfecting lines our works in progress for days, and it was time to share what we’d written and shined up during the week.

But even though I felt good about where my book was, my jaw practically hit my chest at the thought of entering the unpublished manuscript contest hosted by RWA National. Was my book good enough? Was I good enough?

The Latest Comments

  • Darynda Jones: Kylie, I LOVE LOVE LOVE your voice!!! Way to go! And thank you for being our first victim…I...
  • Vivi Andrews/Lizzie Shane: Hope your mom recovers quickly, Tammy!
  • Vivi Andrews/Lizzie Shane: I really love the sense of place, time and character that you’ve established in just...
  • Autumn Jordon: Kylie, Good opening. I wondered immediately what the two villains might be scheming about? I might add...
  • Tamara Hogan: Kylie and Ruby community, My apologies in advance for being scarce at the blog today. I’ll be...