Honorary Heartlette – Jessica Andersen

June 1, 2008 at 7:00 am | Posted in contests, Honorary Heartlette, Jessica Andersen, writing | 17 Comments
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I’m a New Englander, which by definition means I drive way too much in the snow.  I know that isn’t really what we want to be thinking of when we’re at the verge of summer, but bear with me.  Or better yet, let’s turn it into a hydroplaning metaphor: it’s raining buckets and the roads are soaked. . . and you start to skid.  What do you do next?

Well, let me tell you from experience that ‘hit the brakes’ usually isn’t a great answer.  You’re way better off steering into the inertia, and either pausing a second… or hitting the gas.  If you hit the gas, you might go flying off the road, you might break the skid and continue on your way, or you might do something in between those two extremes.  But if you hit the brakes, you’re probably going to wind up spinning in place. 


And personally, I’d rather make a mistake going forward than keep spinning my wheels, going nowhere. 


The same can be said of the men and women of Nightkeepers (NAL, 6/3/08).  They’re ordinary people like you and me (most of them, anyway) who are just now learning that they’ve inherited extraordinary powers and the task of saving the world from the prophesized 2012 doomsday.  Time isn’t going to slow down and wait for them to catch up, nor are the Mayan demons who seek to precipitate the apocalypse four years before the 2012 end date.  The Nightkeepers don’t have time to coast, and they sure as heck can’t hit the brakes.  They can only go forward and deal with the consequences.


Will they fly off the road and wind up in a ditch?  Maybe.  Will they punch through and fulfill their twenty-times great-grandparents’ vow to protect mankind?  Maybe.  But you can be sure of one thing: they’re not spinning their wheels.


When I’m faced with a choice, whether in my writing career or my life, I try to make the active decision.  It’s not always the right choice, but it’s a choice, dang it. 


After I first conceived Nightkeepers, it took me a good eighteen months of research and writing, as well as an agent change, to get the project sold.  But I kept writing and rewriting, throwing out version after version as I iterated to the final story.  The same can be said of the writing process once the book sold, but in both cases, I kept moving forward.  When something didn’t work, I tried something else with one goal in mind: making the story the biggest, best, brightest, loudest, sexiest book it could possibly be.  I’d rather go down in flames for having tried something amazing and failed, than only partway failing because I only halfway tried.


So today, how about you challenge yourself?  Make sure you make at least one of your mistakes going forward (but do your best to stay out of the ditch, okay?).  And if you feel like it, let us know how it goes.  Or tell us about a recent forward-moving decision that worked… or didn’t.  Tell us… how did you hit the gas?



Jessica Andersen writes sexy medical thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue.  Her first single title book, Nightkeepers, will be released by NAL on June 3, 2008.

We’ll be giving away a copy to one lucky winner at the end of the week. Post a comment to be eligible.

Golden Heart – I didn’t final, but I won.

March 26, 2008 at 10:17 am | Posted in Bria, contests, Honorary Heartlette, Kristan Higgins, motivation, romance, writing | 6 Comments

I’ll admit, I didn’t think I’d be ready for the Golden Heart deadline and, being the superstitious Boston Irish that I am, I feared I’d final.But I didn’t. No surprise there.

The happy surprise is that, while not moving on to the final round for the national award, I’m pretty sure I won.

When the first deadline came about in December, I had been writing for about six months. I loved my story. I loved my characters. I liked my writing. But I had a lot to learn, and in the last several months I’ve submerged myself in it.

Craft books, workshops on CD, self-editing guides, reading for more than just enjoyment, working with amazing women on the Diva board (the entry never would have been in the mail without Mamad, Kaige, Lanie, Neith and a lot of help from those as I did chat drive-by’s) and partnering with the Lovely Ann as my CP.

The experience has been hair-raising. My Murphy’s Law fear pushed me to be as close to complete and polished as possible. My availability pushed back. And the friction that caused – well, it bettered my writing by an unimaginable amount.

Sentence structure, word choice, tight prose all became more consistent.

And now for the big “author confession” – I’m dyslexic. I can’t see those mistakes that are obvious to everyone. And I thank God every day since January when we started for my CP Ann. She corrects errors and points out potential errors. She also asks the hard questions and tells me straight forward when something doesn’t work or she just plain doesn’t like it.

So, my advice for those aiming for the December’s deadline:
o Get a Critique Partner. Don’t know how to set that partnership up? Read these guidelines
o Don’t fluff the deadline – strive for it as if it were publication, not a contest
o Plan ahead – start NOW
o But most of all, do it for the joy.

I’d like to take this moment to give a very special shout out to KRISTAN HIGGANS – our very first Honorary Heartlette. Kristan finalled in the published author’s equivalent of the Golden Heart – the RITA.

So, pick a goal and run at it, but mostly, Go Write.

March Giveaway with Mary Buckham and Dianna Love

March 8, 2008 at 4:05 pm | Posted in contests, Dianna Love Snell, Mary Buckham, writing | Leave a comment

We’ve had a great week here at the Purple Hearts, thanks to the visit from Mary Buckham and Dianna Love.  They have graciously donated two prizes for us to give away, so without further ado, here are the names of the winners, drawn at random — 

The winner of the set of 5 BREAK INTO FICTION™ templates from the highly successful Break Into Fiction™ Template Teaching Series is . . . Laurie Wood

And the winner of a critique of a query or cover letter is . . . Kat Jorgensen

Congratulations, Ladies!  And thank you all for stopping by to join us this week . . . especially Mary and Dianna for sharing so much of their time, encouragement, and expertise with us.  

We look forward to seeing you all again, soon!  


March Giveaway with Mary Buckham and Dianna Love

March 6, 2008 at 10:03 am | Posted in career, contests, writing | Leave a comment

We have two amazing women guest bloggging for us this week and offering some writer-life changing information. 

diannaphoto            maryphoto    

Dianna and Mary are offering door prizes! All you have to do is post to be entered in the drawing, both geared toward aspiring authors. The first is a drawing for a set of 5 BREAK INTO FICTION™ templates from the highly successful Break Into Fiction™ Template Teaching Series (www.BreakIntoFiction.com).

The second is a critique of your query or cover letter to get you one step closer to a dynamite proposal package.

Visit their post HERE to get some great information and enter for the contest being drawn on Friday. 

And the Winner is. . . .

February 8, 2008 at 5:46 pm | Posted in books, contests, Honorary Heartlette, Tina Ferraro, writing, young adult | 3 Comments


 Congratulations, Rachel. Email me at briaquinlan@aol.com with your address and we’ll make sure you get Tina’s newest book, How To Hook A Hottie.

 I know you’ll love it as much as I did – you’ll have to let us know!

Book Giveaway – How To Hook A Hottie, by Tina Ferraro

February 7, 2008 at 5:02 pm | Posted in books, career, contests, Tina Ferraro, writing, young adult | Leave a comment
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One more day until our February Honorary Heartlette Tina Ferraro gives away a FlanTastic copy of her latest book How To Hook A Hottie.

If you haven’t checked out her guest post, you can see it HERE and enter join the fun to win your own copy.

 Good Luck!

Book Giveaway – How To Hook A Hottie, by Tina Ferraro

February 5, 2008 at 2:13 pm | Posted in books, contests, new releases, Tina Ferraro, writing, young adult | Leave a comment

Three more days till our February Honorary Heartlette Tina Ferraro gives away a FlanTastic copy of her latest book How To Hook A Hottie.

If you haven’t checked out her guest post, you can see it HERE and enter to win your own copy.

 Good Luck!

Honorary Heartlette – Tina Ferraro

February 3, 2008 at 11:03 am | Posted in books, career, contests, Honorary Heartlette, Tina Ferraro, writing, young adult | 44 Comments
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Why YA?


My fourteen year-old niece recently read my work-in-progress and commented to her father (my brother) that “Aunt Tina really understands how teenagers think.” My brother, grinning, responded, “That’s because Aunt Tina still is a teenager.”               

This story greatly amuses me. For on one hand, I’m a responsible adult who manages my writing career, the comings-and-goings of my husband and our three teenagers, and some community service projects. But strip all that away, and I’m a person who is giving herself the happy teen years now that she was too cranky to appreciate the first time around.               

For ever since I made the change from writing adult romance to YA romance, I’m having more fun than an adult should be allowed. There’s nothing better than shutting out my real world of property taxes, laundry, and my impending Empty Nest Syndrome and letting myself sweat the small stuff: my complexion, my grade on a test, or what hero’s text message REALLY means. I love the idea that my whole life is still ahead of me, and is full of endless possibilities.  I could still make my first million before my first wrinkle, “hook a hottie,” and look fantabulous in tight jeans.                

Because when I’m writing for teens, I *am* a teen. Not today’s teenagers, necessarily, not trying to get inside my kids’ heads and live parallel lives. I float back to those thoughts and feelings of my own day, and I write from that perspective–while trying to create storylines, characters and sometimes odd things that would have appealed to me (like uses for an unworn prom dress, a hexagon to define romantic compatibility, and 26 much-needed tips on ways to kiss your next boyfriend). Naturally, I use my kids as sounding boards on slang, present day electronics, and trends, and occasionally a subplot or scenario will arise from something I see or hear from them. But that’s all secondary to my own creativity. The elements of my books start and end with me.                

So that’s my good news for those of you without kids or teens who are interested in writing YA. Don’t feel that put off by a lack of teen contact. You can always find one to read your first draft, chat with other YA authors, or research teen trends through books and the internet. Most important is tapping into your inner teen and remembering what intrigued you, scared you, thrilled you. And to create those characters and storylines. Times have changed, but teenagers really haven’t.                 

And if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself completely engrossed in your stories, laughing out loud at the keyboard, and looking at the world with a revitalized, fresher view. Nothing wrong with that. So excuse me if this sounds like a cliché, but when people ask me, “Why YA?” I am tempted to say, “Why not?”  Because writing YA fills me in a way no other genre does.                

And I am, like, toh-tally okay with that, okay?                                             

Tina is (very generously) giving away a copy of her new book How To Hook A Hottie to one of our commenters at the end of the week- Just let us know what you’ve done to hook a hottie to get in on the giveaway action!

Golden Heart – Last Min Prep

November 28, 2007 at 9:40 am | Posted in Bria, contests, writing | 6 Comments
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UPDATED for 2010/11 HERE – things have changed, please check out the updated site! Thanks 🙂






This is my first year entering the Golden Heart and I had  A LOT of questions around the rules and guidelines for packaging my YA Fantasy.  I thought I’d share them and the answers I got from RomanceDivas, Wet Noodle Posse, and my RWA chapter.


1. Line count? Word on the street is your entry doesn’t have to be exactly 25 lines. Is this true?

Ok, I would love to add an extra line to every page and squeeze in to that last good hook before my page deadline, but the suggestion was to ignore this impulse. While the rules don’t state each page MUST follow the 25 lines guidelines, judges can often be, I believe the term was “Old School” about it. Avoid doing anything outside the standard formatting we’ve all come to know and love. If you need to brush up on formatting a page, check out our post: Gift Wrapping Your Baby

2. Do you need to include a query letter?

I’m not going to point fingers, but someone “reminded” me not to forget my query letter when sending in my entry. Talk about misinformation creating PANIC – no query letter is needed.

3. How long can/should my synopsis be?

Lots of differing opinions on this. Your synopsis can be UP TO 15 pages – but for every page you give to your synopsis, you take one from the 55 pages you have eligible to send in. I’d rather send more of my story.

The general consensus I received was to keep my synopsis between 3 and 5 pages.

Need help on your synopsis? Check out:  http://www.charlottedillon.com/synopsis.html

4.  Numbering your pages. This excerpt is from the RWA Golden Heart FAQ:

Golden Heart contest rules state, “The partial manuscript shall consist of consecutive pages beginning with page one, typed, and with at least the general body of the manuscript and synopsis double-spaced. The synopsis shall not be more than 15 pages. The total partial and synopsis shall not exceed 55 pages combined.”  Please number your synopsis 1 – (end of synopsis), and begin your numbering over with the partial. For example, your synopsis can be numbered pages 1 – 5, and then your partial would be 1 – 50.”

5. Does the cover page count as a page?

NO. No cover page is needed.

6. Do I have to use my real name?

Yes. In the first round, all contestants must use his/her real name. If you final, you may continue in the contest using your pen name.

7. Do I have to / Should I put my name on the entry?

I didn’t think to ask this question, but I’m glad someone else did!  I’ll admit to being surprised to the answer. The overwhelming answer was “no” – but someone gave a reason and that’s where my surprise came in. Rumor (more writing rumors) has it that occasionally judges perceive entries with names on them as having something to prove. Go figure.

8. What should I put in my header.

The title of your manuscript should be lined up on the left hand side and the page number should be lined up on the right hand side. The font and font size should be the same as the body of your work.

GOOD LUCK – and congratulations on seeing this through – that in itself is a huge accomplishment! -bria



Here is the checklist RWA has on its website.  Check it out before you mail it in:


  • Double space:
    Partial Manuscript
    Full Manuscript
  • Manuscript title in header on:
    Partial Manuscript
    Full Manuscript
  • Page numbers in header on:
    Partial Manuscript
    Full Manuscript
  • Six copies of : 
    Partial Manuscript 
  • One copy of: 
    Full Manuscript on either floppy disk or CD (preferable) 
    or printed out
  • Each synopsis is placed in front of a partial manuscript and bound together by binder clip (preferable) or rubber bands
  • No personal information in header other than name (name is optional) on any materials.
  • Materials must be received in the RWA office by 5 p.m. Central Time on December 3, 2007.


Honorary Heartlette – Karen Foley

November 4, 2007 at 8:48 am | Posted in contests, Honorary Heartlette, Karen Foley, writing | 22 Comments

When Opportunity Knocks…

Hi everyone! I’m so excited to be blogging here at Purple Hearts! My debut book, Flyboy, hit bookstore shelves last month, and was a Romantic Times top pick for October.

How I reached this point is, I think, worth sharing because sometimes it really is a matter of seeing an opportunity, and taking advantage of it.

I’m a big fan of RWA-sponsored contests, and when I was first writing, I entered as many contests as I could. Between 2003 and 2006, I think I entered more than sixty contests. At that time, I was primarily writing historical fiction. Overall, my manuscripts did pretty well on the contest circuit, and I received a lot of positive feedback from the judges, and a handful of requests for partials from editors and agents.

The downside was that I also received my share of lousy scores and hurtful comments. While I was tempted to shove those scores deep into a desk drawer and ignore them, I forced myself to read the comments and try and figure out which remarks were valid, and how I could use them to strengthen my writing. The result was that I began to win or final in many of those contests. It was late in 2005, when I noticed a trend developing; whenever I entered a contest where Brenda Chin, senior editor for Harlequin Blaze, was the final judge, my manuscript finaled or won. She even included personal notes with my score sheets, saying she loved my voice and my characters. Unfortunately, Brenda wasn’t acquiring historical romances.

While I’m not an advocate of chasing market trends, I do believe that occasionally stepping out of your comfort zone can help you grow as a writer. I’d never written a sensual contemporary romance before, and had never read a Harlequin Blaze novel. But the fact that Brenda Chin apparently liked my writing style was incentive enough for me to give it a try.

During the two months leading up to the 2006 RWA National Conference, I devoured Blaze novels at the rate of 3-4 books per week. I even developed a spreadsheet to analyze the different aspects of these books, like what constituted the sexy premise, how explicit was the language, and how many sex scenes were included in each novel? What I found really surprised me. There was no “formula” to writing a Blaze novel. There were no prerequisite number of love scenes, and each story was as unique as the author who penned it. They ran the gamut from light and funny, to dark and edgy, with everything in between. They included paranormals and time travel romances, bad-boy alpha heroes and boy-next-door beta heroes.

By the time the conference rolled around, I felt I had a good handle on what constituted the Blaze novel, and had the outline of a story taking shape in my head. That year was the 5th anniversary of Blaze, and Brenda Chin was hosting a contest where she solicited ideas for the next great Blaze novel. I remember scribbling my 1-page synopsis down on a piece of paper and dropping it into the box with a feeling of hope and anticipation. But nothing could have prepared me for the phone call that came just three days after the conference, requesting the full manuscript. I wrote that book in a fast and furious ten weeks, and received The Call three months later.

It’s been exactly one year since I first submitted that manuscript to Brenda, and it’s hard to believe that Flyboy is now gone from bookstore shelves. But the result of stepping out of my comfort zone to write that one book is a contract for three more Blaze novels, due out sometime in 2008 and 2009.

So what am I trying to say? Keep doing what you’re doing, but don’t be afraid to take some risks and put yourself out there, whether it’s through contests or queries, writing articles or presenting workshops for your local chapter. And most of all, learn to recognize opportunities, and be ready to grab them when they come along.

I will give away a copy of Flyboy to two lucky readers at the end of the week. Post a comment here to get your name in the drawing — winners will be chosen at random on Friday.

Karen Foley
Karen’s group blog: The Moody Muses

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