Winners Announced for the 2018 MAKE IT GOLDEN Contest!

Oh, my goodness, Finalists!! You nearly broke the Rubies this time! 

This was the toughest final vote we’ve ever had. 

Truly, we could happily award our top prizes multiple times over…but we forced ourselves to choose just our top three entries each, and then made the razor-thin distinctions needed to come up with our winners. 

What an amazing group of entries this year!! Each of us has favorites that didn’t quite make the podium, and we’re eagerly awaiting the releases of ALL these stories!! Thank you so much for sharing them with us!!

For those of you who may just be joining us, the MAKE IT GOLDEN Contest celebrates excellent beginnings in unpublished romance novel manuscripts. Round 1 asks for entries of the first 50 words (max) of the very opening of the book. Ten talented finalists emerged from that round, and expanded their entries for Round 2, extending each entry to the first 250 words max.

We fully expect to see our Finalist’s names lighting up RWA’s website on Golden Heart Finalist announcement day!!

For maximum suspense, the winners will be listed in reverse order, after the jump:




Paula Huffman!!

Nine thousand fans stomp and clap and wave their arms, brandishing lighter apps and a few genuine, retro flames in a crazy tribute I will never deserve. The arena is black and gold, a dizzy cavern of drunken fireflies. A spotlight shoots down from the scaffolding and dies beneath my feet.

“Thank you, North Carolina.” My words echo through the half-light as the audience erupts. Their energy builds, louder, louder, louder, until it’s a shouting match between them and the voice inside my head. “You’re a god.” You suck. “We love you.” You suck.

I’m right. I suck.

I’m probably one of the best trained actors on the planet, playing the part of an ordinary-kid-turned-rock-star in a twisted, rags to riches reality show. But those people out there? They have no idea it’s all a script. They believe in me. And the worst thing is, I let them.

No, the worst thing is, I love it. At least a part of me does.

Behind me, JJ teases a snatch of melody out of his green Gibson Les Paul and the audience goes crazy again. I slap on my game face and sweep a bow in his direction, catching his smile and throwing it back while the rest of the band takes the stage. Then he nods. We’re ready. One final tune.

“This song is called ‘Last Man’,” I say into the mic, and they scream.

There was a girl I lost before I wrote these lyrics. Blonde hair. California tan.


Paula, your tormented rock songstress captivated us from the first 50 words!! Beautiful writing (kudos for “a dizzy cavern of drunken fireflies”) and rich inner conflict!!  You’ve won a $15 Starbucks gift card to make sure you’re well-caffeinated to keep on writing this fabulous stuff!







Kat Turner!!


Before Evie knew of her clairsentience, mortuary science seemed like the perfect career choice. She’d gravitated to the profession for the quiet and lack of drama, only to find out that dead people never shut up. Irony was one evil clown.

She locked the front door of the funeral home and extended her umbrella, stepping into the night after a draining day consoling panicky deceased. Fat raindrops drummed a litany of heartbeats. Reflections of red and green streetlights turned puddles into glimmering pools.

A breeze batted her curls in her face and made her shiver, but the air’s aroma of turning leaves lifted her mood.

One backwards glance at the bronze plaque above the doorbell snuck a smile onto her lips. Eve Conley-Adyemi, Funeral Home Director. She was a damn good mortician and adept shepherd to the souls of the departed.

Tucked in the back pocket of her pants, Travis Williams’s spirit warmed her butt cheek. Time to hurry home and process him before he faded away. Or worse.

Evie hustled through Old Louisville, rubber boots splashing against sidewalk. Vintage, gas lamp porch lights lit her path. From her neighbor’s stoop, the yellow glow of jack ‘o lantern mouths and eyes warded off sinister spirits.

She tipped a nod at a grinning pumpkin. Malevolent forces were not to be trifled with. A chill shot up her back. She pushed aside memories of her past blunder. Malicious powers had stolen too much from her already, thank you very much.


We’re loving this slyly funny voice! It’s just the right mix of eerily atmospheric (“Fat raindrops drummed a litany of heartbeats”) and irreverently sassy (“Travis Williams’s spirit warmed her butt cheek”). What kind of mortician is this anyway, and what is she going to do with Travis’s soul??? We just wanna curl up with a mug of hot apple cider on a rainy autumn night and read the rest! 

Kat, you’ve won a $20 Amazon gift card, and our admiration!













Charissa Weaks!!!!!!!


The first time a lost soul spoke to me, I was ten years old. It was late October and my seventh day of digging graves in the churchyard. Behind me stood our mule and cart, illuminated by lanterns Father hung from the side rails so we might see to work. That morning, eight bodies had been heaped inside, covered by a dirty canvas. Only two remained, a mother and child. An elegant arm stuck out here, a tiny foot there—evidence of a truth no one in Norwich wished to accept: The plague had breached the city walls. No one was safe.

Sweat rolled down my spine, though the autumn day had been cold and gray as late winter. Week-old blisters on my hands stung and bled, and the stench of bodies saturated the air.

I peered at the shadowy ground, the way the light flickered in the deepening night. It reminded me of our hearth. Oh, how I wanted to hurry home and hug my mother.

As though I’d spoken my thoughts, Father regarded me. “We finish first.”

He dropped his shovel and retrieved one of the dead while I looked to the sky, thankful for the falling cover of night.

But something shifted in the churchyard, drawing my sight across the mist rolling over the graves. A man’s figure took shape near the trees, beneath the leafless boughs. He crept toward me, each step laden with uncertainty, until he paused just inside the faint reach of lantern light.


Congratulations, Charissa–this is AWESOME!!

We soooo much want to keep reading, but we might have to hide under some blankets first. It’s understated, but really, really scary. And intriguing, and lovely and moving, all at the same time.  You communicate so much so sparingly–the love this family feels for each other, the powerful sense of duty they have, the sense of vulnerability and human pain.

Everybody should go check out Charissa’s website, and what we think is the blurb for this (HOPEFULLY!!!!) forthcoming book. WOW!!!!! Move over, Diana Gabaldon! WE CANNOT WAIT!!!

It’s our honor, Charissa, to award you an entry fee for the 2019 Golden Heart Contest, plus a $25 Amazon gift card!!



Thanks again to EVERYONE who entered the 2018 Make It Golden Contest!! It’s been a true pleasure seeing this amazing and diverse array of talent, and a genuine challenge trying to narrow down to three winners.

You’re all amazing!!!



22 responses to “Winners Announced for the 2018 MAKE IT GOLDEN Contest!”

  1. Elisa Beatty says:

    Huge congratulations to all our winners, and all our Finalists!! And, really, everybody who entered on our first 50-word day!!

    This was an amazing display of talent, and made it a tough tough choice for the Rubies!!

    Thanks to all who shared their wonderful work!

  2. Michelle McCraw says:

    Congratulations, winners! I’m so looking forward to reading all of these when they’re published!

  3. Huge Congrats to the winners!
    But let me tell you – as a judge, this was so hard, because all of the entries were fabulous! There wasn’t even one that I felt I could pass on right away. I want to read all of your books!
    Thanks for entering!

  4. Liz Talley says:

    They were all so good. I felt like picking between ten gorgeous roses. How do you do that? Some major talent about to hit shelves soon 🙂

  5. Jennifer Bray-Weber says:

    Each one is amazing. It was so hard to choose. There’s some talent, right there. Great job, ladies! Can’t wait to see these hit the bookshelves.

  6. Daphne Chase says:

    What a fun contest! Thank you to the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood and congrats to winners! I can’t wait to read your books!

  7. Elizabeth Essex says:

    Loved reading all the entries!!! Such a dazzling array of stories. Congrats to all the finalists and especially to our winners. Now get back to those stories!!!!

  8. Kat Turner says:

    Congratulations everyone, and THANK YOU Rubies for the love today!!! 🙂 <3

  9. Tamara Hogan says:

    While reading the entries, I lost count of how many times I thought, “I WANT MORE PAGES.”

    Thanks to all the talented writers who entered, and who made this decision so (delightfully) difficult!

  10. Addison Fox says:

    Congratulations to our winners!!!

    And I have to echo the other comments – you all made it SO TOUGH this year!!! Big congrats to Charissa, Kat and Paula for outstanding entries!


  11. Congratulations to the winners! Brilliant entries this year and STEEP competition! I will be cheering for all of you in the Golden Heart! Go forth and conquer! 🙂

  12. Tracy Brody says:

    Congratulations, Paula (who I know will use that Starbucks gift card! 😉 ), Kat & Charissa. Best of luck in the Golden Heart!!

  13. Congratulations to all the finalists and especially to Paula, Kat and Charissa. Such enjoyable reads that left me wanting more! Gong over to check out Charissa’s website now.

  14. Paula Huffman says:

    Thank you, Rubies, for sponsoring this contest and for making it so much fun! All of the entries were amazing, and I’ll be a better writer for having read and studied them. Like you, I can’t wait to read more. I’m honored to be among the winners.

    Wow! These people can write!

  15. Kate Parker says:

    The finalists were all fabulous and I expect to see several of these stories on bookshelves soon. Y’all made this sooooo hard for the Rubies to choose between the entries. It was like choosing between lobster and steak and…

  16. BETHANY TRUEX says:

    Congratulations you guys! I’m looking forward to seeing each of these in print one day 🙂

    • Lara Archer says:

      Bethany, I have to tell you I LOVE LOVE LOVED your entries!!!! (Lord Carlyle was a favorite for many!)

      I fully expect to see your name among the Historical Romance Golden Heart finalists if you enter!!

      Terrific work!

  17. Oh my goodness!! Thank you!!! So glad you loved it 🙂 😬😍

  18. Coming back to say congrats to everyone and thanks so much for doing this! I’m a little speechless and very happy 😂😍

  19. Cynthia Huscroft says:


  20. Janet Walden-West says:

    Congratulations, ladies. These are some killer openings.

  21. Rita Henuber says:

    Reading these gave me a thrill. The effort put into the craft is obvious. I wish each of you much success. 🙂


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