Maddy02BCongratulations to RWA member Madeline Ash who has been nominated for the Romance Writers of America (RWA) 2017 RITA Awards for the second year in a  row. Madeline is a finalist in the Contemporary Romance: Short category for Breaking Good (Tule Publishing).

We’d also like to give a shout out to Kara Isaac, one of our New Zealand neighbours, who is a finalist in two categories for her debut Close to You (Howard Books): Best First Book and Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements.

The winners will be announced on July 27 at the 2017 RWA Conference in Orlando, Florida. For the full list of finalists, including the Golden Heart nominees, visit the RWA website here. Have you read any?

Best First Book

  • Alterations by Stephanie Scott, Bloomsbury, Spark (Meredith Rich, editor)
  • Before Goodbye by Mimi Cross, Amazon, Skyscape (Miriam Juskowicz, editor)
  • Close to You by Kara Isaac, Howard Books (Beth Adams, editor)
  • The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt, HarperTeen (Annie Berger, editor)
  • Once and For All: An American Valor Novel by Cheryl Etchison, Avon, Impulse (Priyanka Krishnan and Rebecca Lucash, editors)
  • Summer of Supernovas by Darcy Woods, Penguin Random House, Crown BFYR (Emily Easton, editor)

Contemporary Romance: Long

  • Always a Bridesmaid by Lizzie Shane, Self-published (Kristan Andrews, editor)
  • Hot in Hellcat Canyon by Julie Anne Long, Avon Books (May Chen, editor)
  • Make Me Sin by J. T. Geissinger, Montlake Publishing (Maria Gomez, editor)
  • Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan, Harlequin, HQN (Flo Nicoll, editor)
  • Pansies by Alexis Hall, Riptide Publishing (Sarah Lyons, editor)
  • Snowfall on Haven Point by RaeAnne Thayne, Harlequin, HQN (Gail Chasan, editor)
  • Tender Is the Night by Barbara Freethy, Hyde Street Press

Contemporary Romance: Mid-Length

  • Back in the Saddle by Karen Templeton, Harlequin, Special Edition (Gail Chasan, editor)
  • Barefoot at Midnight by Roxanne St. Claire, Self-published (Kristi Yanta, editor)
  • Carolina Dreaming by Virginia Kantra, Berkley Publishing Group (Cindy Hwang, editor)
  • Fast Connection by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell, Self-published
  • Lone Heart Pass by Jodi Thomas, Harlequin, HQN (Brittany Lawery and Susan Swinwood, editors)
  • Off the Hook by Laura Drewry, Penguin Random House, Loveswept (Junessa Viloria, editor)
  • Once and For All: An American Valor Novel by Cheryl Etchison, Avon, Impulse (Priyanka Krishnan and Rebecca Lucash, editors)
  • Tell Me How This Ends by Victoria De La O, St. Martin’s Press, Swerve (Eileen Rothschild, editor)
  • The Turning Point by Marie Meyer, Grand Central Publishing, Forever Yours (Megha Parekh, editor)
  • Wanderlust by Roni Loren, Penguin Random House, Berkley (Kate Seaver, editor)

Contemporary Romance: Short

  • APB: Baby by Julie Miller, Harlequin, Intrigue (Allison Lyons, editor)
  • Breaking Good by Madeline Ash, Tule Publishing, Holiday, (Sinclair SawBreakingGood-medium-200x300hney, editor)
  • Christmas on Crimson Mountain by Michelle Major, Harlequin, Special Edition (Gail Chasan, editor)
  • Falling for the Rancher by Tanya Michaels, Harlequin, American Romance (Johanna Raisanen, editor)
  • Far from Home by Lorelie Brown, Riptide Publishing (Gwen Hayes and Sarah Lyons, editors)
  • His Stolen Bride by Barbara Dunlop, Harlequin, Desire (Kathryn Lye, editor)
  • A Malibu Kind of Romance by Synithia Williams, Harlequin, Kimani (Shannon Criss, editor)
  • Overwhelming Force by Janie Crouch, Harlequin, Intrigue (Allison Lyons, editor)
  • Searching for Disaster by Jennifer Probst, Pocket Books, Pocket Star (Lauren McKenna, editor)
  • Two Doctors & a Baby by Brenda Harlen, Harlequin, Special Edition (Susan Litman)

Erotic Romance

  • The Dirty Secret by Kira A. Gold, Carina Press (Libby Murphy, editor)
  • The Master by Tara Sue Me, New American Library (Claire Zion, editor)
  • Off the Clock by Roni Loren, Penguin Random House, Berkley ( Kate Seaver, editor)
  • Ravenous by M. S. Force, HTJB, Inc. (Linda Ingmanson, editor)
  • Three Sweet Nothings by Nikki Sloane, Self-published (Lori Whitwam, editor)

Historical Romance: Long

  • Dukes Prefer Blondes by Loretta Chase, Avon Books (May Chen, editor)
  • How I Married a Marquess by Anna Harrington, Grand Central Publishing, Forever (Michele Bidelspach, editor)
  • No Mistress of Mine by Laura Lee Guhrke, Avon Books (Erika Tsang, editor)
  • Susana and the Scot by Sabrina York, St. Martin’s Press (Monique Patterson, editor)

Historical Romance: Short

  • Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare, Avon Books (Tessa Woodward, editor)
  • Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt, Grand Central Publishing (Amy Pierpont, editor)
  • A Duke to Remember by Kelly Bowen, Grand Central Publishing, Forever (Alex Logan, editor)
  • Left at the Altar by Margaret Brownley, Sourcebooks, Casablanca (Mary Altman, editor)
  • The Study of Seduction by Sabrina Jeffries, Pocket Books (Micki Nuding, editor)
  • Taming the Highlander by May McGoldrick, St. Martin’s Press, Swerve (Elizabeth Poteet, editor)

Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance

  • The Color of a Promise by Julianne MacLean , Self-published (Pat Thomas, editor)
  • The Depth of Beauty by A. B. Michaels, Red Trumpet Press (Rachel Daven Skinner, editor)
  • The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel, Sourcebooks, Landmark (Shana Drehs and Anna Michels, editors)
  • Now That It’s You by Tawna Fenske, Montlake Publishing (Krista Stroever and Christopher Werner, editors)

Paranormal Romance

  • Bayou Shadow Hunter by Debbie Herbert, Harlequin, Nocturne (Ann Leslie Tuttle, editor)
  • The Beast by J R Ward, New American Library (Kara Welsh, editor)
  • The Champion of Barésh by Susan Grant, Self-published (Mary Moran, editor)
  • Enchanted Warrior by Sharon Ashwood, Harlequin, Nocturne (Ann Leslie Tuttle, editor)
  • Ghost Gifts by Laura Spinella, Montlake Publishing (Alison Dasho, editor)
  • The Leopard King by Ann Aguirre, Self-published (Sasha Knight, editor)
  • The Pages of the Mind by Jeffe Kennedy, Kensington Publishing Corp. (Peter Senftleben, editor)
  • Where the Wild Things Bite by Molly Harper, Pocket Books (Abby Zidle, editor)

Romance Novella

  • Her Every Wish by Courtney Milan, Self-published (Lindsey Faber, editor)
  • “The Husband Maneuver” by Karen Witemeyer in With This Ring, Baker Publishing, Bethany House (Charlene Patterson, editor)
  • Let It Snow by Jeanette Grey, Grand Central Publishing, Forever Yours (Megha Parekh and Lexi Smail, editors)
  • “Let Us Dream” by Alyssa Cole in Daughters of a Nation, Self-published (Nina S. Gooden, editor)
  • Searching for Mine by Jennifer Probst, Evil Eye Concepts (Liz Berry and M J Rose, editors)
  • Tycoon by Joanna Shupe, Kensington Publishing Corp. (Peter Senftleben, editor)
  • Wild in Rioby Lyssa Kay Adams, Self-published (Elaine Kulhanek, editor)

Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements

  • Close to You by Kara Isaac, Howard Books (Beth Adams, editor)
  • Keeper of the Stars by Robin Lee Hatcher, Thomas Nelson, Inc. (Ami McConnell and Leslie Peterson, editors)
  • My Hope Next Door by Tammy L. Gray, Amazon, Waterfall Press (Amy Hosford, editor)
  • Trust My Heart by Carol J. Post, Amazon, Waterfall Press (Erin Calligan Mooney, editor)

Romantic Suspense

  • All the Dead Girls by Rita Herron, Montlake Publishing (Alison Dasho, editor)
  • Atone by Beth Yarnall, Penguin Random House, Loveswept (Sue Grimshaw, editor)
  • Field of Graves by J. T. Ellison, Harlequin, MIRA Books (Nicole Brebner, editor)
  • Killer Countdown by Amelia Autin, Harlequin, Romantic Suspense (Carly Silver, editor)
  • and Mr. Smith by HelenKay Dimon, Penguin Random House, Loveswept (Shauna Summers, editor)
  • One Minute to Midnight by Nico Rosso Carina Press (Rhonda Stapleton, editor)
  • Repressed by Elisabeth Naughton, Montlake Publishing (Charlotte Herscher and Christopher Werner, editors)
  • Tall, Dark and Damaged by Sarah Andre, Self-published (Anya Kagan, Touchstone Publishing, editor)

Young Adult Romance

  • Affective Needs by Rebecca Taylor, Ophelia House (Maya Packard, editor)
  • The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt, HarperTeen (Annie Berger, editor)
  • The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout, Harlequin, HQN Teen (Margo Lipschultz, editor)
  • Summer of Supernovas by Darcy Woods, Penguin Random House, Crown BFYR (Emily Easton, editor)

October new releases

Whew! It’s October already. Competition season is upon us and there is no substitute for reading when it comes to improving your craft. It’s one of the myriad benefits of being a romance writer and reader – you can educate yourself and enjoy yourself at the same time!


A Day in the Writing Life of Elise Ackers: Holiday Edition

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you’ll be familiar with our ‘Day in the Writing Life’ column, where we meet one of our RWA members and learn a little about how they do what they do when it comes to writing.  We normally do it in a question and answer format, but this time, just to mix it up a little, we thought we’d ask Elise Ackers just one question and see what she came up with (it’s possible that I knew that she had something up her sleeve on this topic…).  So, without further ado, here’s Elise, on the subject of inspiration!

Elise K. AckersChasing Inspiration

For writers, inspiration is everywhere: a song lyric, a real-life event, a what-if question born from something ordinary. Sometimes these inspirations lead to a short story, novella or novel, other times they are a fleeting intrigue.

In my experience, inspiration comes to me. Often when I’m driving and I can do nothing about it short of pulling off the freeway. But this year, I’ll be chasing my inspiration.

All the way to the spectacular coastlines and ancient wonders of Turkey.

To give you a bit of context, I recently finished writing my first new adult manuscript, and it was based loosely on my backpacking and tour group experiences through Europe. I spent five weeks on a Contiki coach in 2007, and I knew at the time that I would one day write about it. Almost seven years later, I managed to get out of my own way, and I believe that it is my most diverse, culturally rich and surprising book to date.

In the midst of research about all things international, I became enchanted with the idea of writing a book whilst travelling. Of capturing the nuances and details the internet could not give me, and twisting them into fiction.

One eight page itinerary and a lot of money later, I will be doing just that. Come May, I will be exploring Istanbul, ballooning over the moon-like landscape of Cappadocia, and sailing the coast with a bunch of strangers I’ve already decided will be my new best friends. I will also be writing about John and Kayla, two long-standing friends with benefits who find themselves beginning a relationship in reverse.

Because I understand that travel by its very nature is distracting and exhausting, I’m not challenging myself to write an entire book whilst I’m over there. Instead, I’ve given myself a goal to return home with a story skeleton. This work in progress will be heavy on location and description, light on plot. Plot can come later when I’ve got my feet up at home. As of right now, I have an outline, a cast of characters, and a lot of room to move. Where inspiration leads, I will follow.

I read an article in a recent edition of Heart Talk (RWA’s member newsletter, Ed.) about two RWA ladies who challenged themselves to Tough Mudder, with the view to put their experiences into their books. I thought that was an excellent idea, and the whole point of my blog post today is to reinforce that message.

You are surrounded by inspiration, in almost every imaginable form. And whilst there’s something to be said for sitting your butt in your chair and knocking the words out, don’t forget to leave the house and chase your muse down. Writing a scene at the beach? Get thyself to the sand. Our imaginations are remarkable things, but sometimes reality gives us something we might never have thought of ourselves. Tiny details which make great scenes remarkable, sensations or observations which bring settings alive.

You don’t have to fly to Turkey – I may be crazy, time will tell. But if you want to write a hilarious camping scene, for example, maybe bully your family into embracing the great outdoors and wait for the chaos to present itself. You may return with scenes you might otherwise never have imagined.

Get out there, take something to capture your ideas, and find inspiration in its natural habitat.

(And keep your receipts, because I’m pretty sure stuff like that is tax-deductible!)

For inspiration that came from a little closer to home, you might like to check out the print edition of Elise’s three-novella series, jointly titled Ask Me to Stay.  Here’s a blurb:

Ask Me To Stay 2, Elise K. AckersAsk Me to Stay

In Australian country towns, everyone knows everybody else’s business. Nothing is private, and escaping the past is difficult if not impossible. But how much of the truth does anyone ever really know, even about those closest to them? 

When family tragedy brings Ethan Foster home, he doesn’t expect a warm welcome. In the small town of Hinterdown reputation is everything – and Ethan’s was ruined long ago. His family and friends don’t want him around, and nor does Sam O’Hara, the girl he left behind.

In this tender and heartwarming romantic trilogy, a funeral, a wedding, and a homecoming spark a series of events that prove that love can find a way, if only given a chance. 

Includes the stories Ask Me to Stay, Ask Me for More and Ask Me for Tomorrow.

About Elise:

Elise K. Ackers is a romantic suspense and contemporary romance author based in Melbourne, Australia. She is print and ebook published with Penguin’s Michael Joseph and Destiny Romance, and ebook published with Harlequin’s Escape Publishing. Elise is a 2013 Romantic Book of the Year finalist, and is known to do some pretty strange stuff in the name of research. Like fly to another country on a whim.

You can find Elise here:




Craft: Musing

The Muses (Mousai) were goddesses of song, music, dance and story. They inspired poets and where also the memory of knowledge. We have nine of them in later Greek mythology: Kalliope (epic poetry), Kleio (history), Ourania (astronomy), Thaleia (comedy), Melpomene (tragedy), Polyhymnia (hymns), Erato (love poetry), Euterpe (music), and Terpsikhore (choral song and dance).

The 9 Muses

So while they inspired others, we can be inspired by other people’s creations in the same way.

I’m a big believer in using different inspirational sources to amp up my storytelling.  While there is reading (which always inspires me), I’m talking beyond the written word.

Just this past week, I have watched The Lord of the Rings again, and again marvelled at the imagery, the pace and the story telling. Yes, the story is JRR Tolkien’s but seeing it on the screen brings up so much more I can work with as awriter – especially for a quick boost. It combines all of the muses in a dance of story telling.

The Shire

To me, these films have really brought the story of Middle Earth to life in an awe inspiring way.  It’s showing not telling, and in this age of writing, this is a key element we are told to watch out for. Books of old were told in a different style. No less fascinating or entertaining, but more narrator based style- Tolkien, Dickens, Lewis, Austen.  While now with the audio-visual mediums of movies, TV, and the Internet, stories are more fast paced to go with our faster paced lifestyle.

The LOTR is epic (Kalliope) with a richness of world building supreme in literature as Tolkien created his own languages and an in-depth history (Kleio), where different lands have different views and ways; Hobbits being a folk who love a good party (Terpsikhore) and have a quiet life.  While others like the wizard Gandalf is more worldly and other-worldly (Ourania).

Aragorn and Arwen

In The Lord of the Rings books, the love story between Aragorn and Arwen is in an appendix. In the films their love (Erato) is in the forefront and woven into the tale, showing the motivation of the two characters; their goals and conflicts to be together. Their story is beautiful and yet tragic (Terpsikhore).

The battle scenes are amazing as the sound, sight and emotion creep up on you and you cheer for the heroes, laugh at their jokes (Thaleia), and cry over their losses (Polyhymnia). For those hours Middle Earth exists, it’s people real. It’s like a history that has never been recorded, rather than it being a made up world. And to me, this is inspirational.

The White City

I also watch the DVD extras- commentary and snippets on how elements were constructed in the story and in the world building, colours used, how characters were developed, why one idea was abandoned and another taken its place. I find the creative process fascinating, and it gives me an insight to different ways of working.  Ways, which may be a path for me to try.

So yes to me movies can be a way of juicing up our creative inspiration (as can TV, pictures, and music – i.e. Muses). They take us away to another world and let us return with a feel good sense, making us want to create our own worlds to hopefully resonate with others. It makes me want to pound out my own story on my keyboard.

The muses have jumped off the screen at me. No wonder I’m inspired!

Of course these two help inspire too 😉



So what other sources do you use? Have you a favourite Muse?

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