Little Bling, Big Thrill

When I got home from work this evening, I found a small box in my mailbox, from the RWA® National office.  It contained my invitation to the RITA® and Golden Heart® Finalists reception on Juy 27th, the Friday afternoon of the RWA conference, and my Golden Heart finalist pin.

The pin isn’t all that impressive as jewelry goes, just a little gold heart-shaped lapel pin suitable for wearing on a badge holder.  Pretty much like this one.  But receiving one is a Big Thrill.  And receiving a second one is, well, validating.

When my historical manuscript Paper Hearts made the Golden Heart finals last year, I was stunned.  For weeks, I went back to look at the list on the RWA site, sure that sooner or later someone would realize there’d been some gigantic mistake, and my name, title, and picture would disappear.   But I stayed on the list, went to the conference in New York City, and had a wonderful time, made just that much better by that little gold heart pin and the Golden Heart Finalist ribbon attached to my badge.

When I got The Call this year I was excited, delighted, thrilled, but not quite so stunned as last year.  First Times are hard to match in some areas of life.  This year I didn’t wake up in the morning thinking “Oh, wow, I’m a Golden Heart Finalist.”  Well, maybe once or twice.  But in another way this second time has been even better.  I’m a seasoned veteran now.  I know, mostly, what to expect.  My finalist this year, Bathtub Jinn, is a paranormal romance, and I feel more comfortable in that category.

Most of all:  Once might have been a fluke.  Twice is real.

The Golden Heart Revisited

I opened this little establishment almost a year ago, shortly after I learned that one of my manuscripts (Paper Hearts) was a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart® contest.  The Golden Heart is a Big Deal in the romance world, and I was thrilled.  I went to the RWA National Conference in New York City and had a wonderful time, met lots of people, and watched a cop on horseback plant a parking ticket on a UPS truck while I ate an overstuffed reuben on the sidewalk at Junior’s.

Eventually life returned to normal, and I kept writing.  I finished (with a writing marathon Thanksgiving week) my newest manuscript, Bathtub Jinn, and then I took a break for a few weeks.  We like to call that “filling the well,” which sounds as good as any other excuse. 

On New Year’s Day, my hundred word group started a new stretch, and I began a new story.  I wrote about twenty pages before one of those little voices that live in every writer’s head stopped making up stories and told me to get back to work on Bathtub Jinn.  I’d gotten some good feedback from my critique group and contest judges, and I knew the manuscript needed cutting here and expanding there.  And who knows, the little voice said, you might get lucky again.  So I got out the green pen (red ink feels so critical) and dove back in.

Yesterday the calls went out for this year’s Golden Heart and Rita (that’s the contest for published work) nominations.  My little voice was still with me, and I told Jo Anne last week that I planned to stay home an hour or so later than usual, just in case the phone rang.  (Last year I was somewhere on the freeway, missed the call, and finally found an email in my spam folder asking for another phone number!) 

As it happened, there were two accidents and a truck fire on I45 between here and Houston yesterday morning, and I would have been at least an hour late if I had left at my normal time.  Good excuse to stay home, I told myself.  At least a thousand people who were brave enough to enter the Golden Heart would not get a call, I told myself, and there would be some excellent manuscripts among them.  I knew that was true–I’d judged some of them myself.

And at 8:30 the phone rang.  Out of Area, said the Caller ID.  I hardly ever answer Out of Area calls.  Yesterday I grabbed the phone and fumbled for the talk button.  My hand shook, and I’m sure I babbled incoherently at the lovely RWA board member who had called to tell me that Bathtub Jinn is indeed a finalist for the Golden Heart this year, in the paranormal category.

As much as I enjoyed my trip to New York last summer, I wasn’t planning to go to the RWA Conference in Anaheim this July, unless I had a really good excuse.  I can hardly think of a better one.  I’d better start making plans.

Judging a Book By Its Cover

is something we’ve all been taught not to do.  But the Houston Bay Area chapter of Romance Writers of America (my “home” chapter, the first I joined back in 1996) sponsors a contest that does just that, Judge a Book By Its Cover, or JABBIC.

When we decided a few years ago to start a contest, we figured the RWA world really didn’t need another writing contest.  But a cover competition was something new, it could be done electronically, and it could be judged by booksellers all over the English speaking world.

Since we couldn’t offer possible requests by editors and agents, the usual lure of writing contests, we decided to offer publicity instead, reserving the inside cover of the April Romance Writers Report, the journal of RWA, for an ad featuring the winning covers.  This turned out to be good publicity for both the winning authors and our chapter, and we do it every year.

The JABBIC winners and finalists this year reflect new trends in the publishing world:  two of the winners and three more finalists are self-published ebooks, proving perhaps that these days we really can’t judge a book by its cover.

This year JABBIC added two new categories, Young Adult and Inspirational, as well as a set of Readers’ Choice Awards, judged by anyone who cared to visit the web site, look through the entries, and vote.  Three of these lovely covers were also self-published.

Follow this link to see the all the JABBIC winners, runners up, and Readers’ Choice favorites.  And then consider buying and reading a few of them. Good books.  You can tell by the covers.

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