2012 RWA Golden Heart Finalists – About My Celebrity Surprise, and Flaming Underpants

* I’m not implying my underpants are on fire.  Read on.

You might say the RITA and Golden Heart contests are the equivalent to the Academy or Oscar Awards for the romance fiction industry – which grossed $1.4 billion in sales in 2010.  The RITA Award is for published romance and the Golden Heart Award is for unpublished.

Even USA Today Books and Publisher’s Weekly ran articles announcing winners.  I’m partial to The Ruby Slippered Sisterhood.  I found approx. 17,000 Google search results and almost as many Twitter posts about the 2012 announcement.

According to the RWA (Romance Writers of America) website, 1,200 manuscripts are entered in 10 Golden Heart categories.  The general RWA membership judges the first 50 pages of the entries, and the 8 top-scoring manuscripts in each category are finalists.

The competition is fierce.  The manuscripts chosen receive perfect or near-perfect scores from all five judges, or so I’m told.  Many deserving stories are passed up; the process is as fair as possible, but it’s still subjective.

Occasionally I’ve entered the GH contest and a few others because that’s what you do if you’re an unpublished romance writer with even an ounce of hope.  When the judges send feedback, it’s helpful, though often painful.  And if you can manage to win, the exposure might help you land the agent or editor of your dreams.  I’d never won or placed in a contest, ever, and never expected to.

I missed a call from Texas early Monday morning on March 26th.  At first I thought it was my friend in Houston, and I’d forgotten the Golden Heart finalists would be announced that day.  Imagine my surprise when I called back to hear Julia London on the other end.

Me:  “Julia London?  Do you mean THE Julia London?”

Ms. Julia London: (laughs) “Yes, this is the Julia London…”

Me: (unflattering squeal) “Uh, sorry.  I don’t mean to act star-struck, but I’m a big fan!”

She was very gracious, and she had good news for me.  After I got over the shock, I tried not to act like an orangutan on caffeine.  My kids, who hadn’t yet left for the bus, came running to see what was on fire.  What they understood: Mommy just won the Best Writer in the Whole World Award.  I wasn’t in the mood to correct the assumption.

GH finalists have “secret clubs,” which I like to troll and occasionally post on.  We’re supposed to come up with a fabulous group name and badge pin, and probably a secret handshake and bird call.  There’s even talk about Official Flaming Underpants.  (I’m not joking.)  We might be quite, ah, distinctive at this year’s convention.  Bring it on.

These writers are brilliant and energized and so savvy it’s intimidating.  They’re also super friendly and helpful.  Supposedly I’m competing against the other finalists in my category, but it doesn’t feel that way.  Frankly, I’m so pleased to be a finalist, I’m not really thinking about the award ceremony in July at the RWA national conference in Anaheim; I feel like I already have my prize.  I expect to cheer whole-heartedly for the winners.

Congratulations to the  2012 Golden Heart FinalistsGood luck, and see ya’ll in Anaheim, with or without Flaming Underpants.

Contemporary Series Romance

A Perfect Wife by Caro LaFever

Bachelor: Baited, Hooked and Bedded by Lexi Greene

Cyrano at Your Service by Tamra Baumann

His Perfect Partner by Priscilla Kissinger

The Divorce Deal by Kat Cantrell

Montana Cherries by Kim Law

Second-Chance Bride by Ami Weaver

Tell Me Something Good by Jamie Wesley

Contemporary Single Title

All Beautiful Things by Nicki Salcedo

Blackjack & Moonlight by Magdalen Braden

Cat on a Hot Steel Flight Deck by Heather Nickodem

Earning Wings by Laurie Sanchez

Meant To Be by Terri Osburn

No Peeking by Talia Quinn Daniels

Thrown by Colette Auclair

You Had Me At Habari by Maggie McConnell

Historical Romance

The Devil May Care by Elisa Beatty

A Duke’s Wicked Kiss by Kathleen Bittner Roth

A Hero To Hold by Sheri Humphreys

A Knight of Her Own by Oberon Wonch

Love in the Music Room by Moriah Densley ← Yay! This is me!

A Private Affair by Jennifer McQuiston

Highland Promise by Tracy Brogan

Notorious by Alison Atwater

Inspirational Romance

Language of Love by Kristen Ethridge

Love’s Advocate by Karen Fleming

Powerless Consent by Jan Nash

Whispers in the Night by Carol Post

Novel with Strong Romantic Elements

A Tangled Season by Natalie Meg Evans

Beulah Land and the Happy Hour Choir by Sally Kirkpatrick

Faking It by Nikki Figueiredo

Lowcountry Boil by Susan M. Boyer

Mere Mortals by Catherine Villalobos

Song without Words by Lisa Laing

Taking Wall Street by Disguise by Terri Bolyard

The Devil She Knows by Anna Stewart (writing as AJ Stewart)

The Lazarus Gambit by Deborah Wright

Paranormal Romance

Bathtub Jinn by Kay Hudson

Better Dead by Pamela Kopfler

Draxis by Laurie A. Green

Figs From Thistles by A.J. Larrieu

Flannigan’s Grace by Marni Donnelly

Never Deal with Dragons by Lorenda Christensen

Trouble in Mind by Donna Frelick

Unchained Memory by Donna Frelick

Regency Historical Romance

A Whisper to the Wild by Eileen Emerson

King of Swords by Anne Kenney

The Last Light of Dusk by Joanne Lockyer

The Perfect Heiress by Kimberly Ohara

Scandal in Spades by Wendy LaCapra

Romantic Suspense

Body of Evidence by Rachel Grant

Chemical Attraction by Mary Oldham

Edge of Deception by Elizabeth Bemis

Exposure by Robena Grant

In Wolf’s Clothing by Sally Eggert

Rescuing Rembrandt by Jean Willett

Rogue’s Return by Sharon Wray

Spy in the Harem by Diana Belchase

Young Adult Romance

Angel Academy by Cecily White

Canvas Crossers by Natalie Vawter

Pandora’s Clock by Natalie Vawter

Forget Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn

The Matter of Souls by Stephanie Winkelhake

The Silent Sister by Megan Macijauskas (writing as M. Kassel)

The Suspicions of Cairo Jones by Mary Danielson

Wired by Romily Bernard

For more information about the RITA and Golden Heart Awards, visit RWA.org.


  1. Congratulations on being a finalist!

  2. Hi Moriah! Congrats again on the final. What a lovely article…and it’s fabulous being in this group. That phone call…made your ears buzz, didn’t it? I honestly don’t remember half of what she said after “your manuscript finaled”…can’t wait to meet you in Anaheim for our “Oscars!”.

  3. Love the post, and what a task you set yourself, linking all our websites here! So glad you did, too. I’m bookmarking it for future reference.

    And yes, it’s impossible to look at the others in my category as competition. More like comrades. Which goes for all of us, in fact. Your kids pretty much got it right. 🙂 What a ride, huh?

    • Yes, thanks Moriah – I’ve also bookmarked the page. Now I can stalk everyone from one easy place!

      When I tried to explain the Golden Heart to my six year old, he says, “Yay! Does this mean you were in a race or something? With pencils?”

      I told him, “yeah, sort of.” Regardless, he knew mommy was happy.

    • Thanks, Lorenda. I’ve loved seeing everyone’s websites (stalker here too). A race with pencils. *hehe* Close enough. (Cute!)

    • Hi, Talia! It wasn’t so bad, I need to thank Wendy LaCapra and Terri Osburn for compiling the databases–I just stole the info 🙂 Btw, I already stalked your website. Can’t wait to see your book on the shelves, sounds fun!

  4. Wow, Moriah, what a great article! So cool to see all the names and web site links in one place. Love being a part of this group!

  5. How fun, Moriah! I’m proud to be a finalist with you! (And your site is GORGEOUS!)

  6. Thanks for the post, but sadly a lot of the links don’t seem to work for me. E.g. those for Tamra Baumann, Priscilla Kissinger, and Kim Law.

  7. eileenemerson says:

    Such a joyful post! And I can’t wait to meet you in person in Anaheim…. Flaming Underpants and all.

  8. terrio39 says:

    So WordPress ate my comment. *sigh* Congrats again and thank you so much for including all of us in this blog. That must have taken forever! And now I want to go with the name Flaming Underpants. LOL! When anyone says, “You think you’re hot pants, don’t you?” we can say, “Yes. Yes we are.”

    • BOO for technological black holes. (sorry!) Wendy LaCapra and Terri Osburn compiled the database–I just stole the info. I too am quite fond of The Flaming Underpants. (There’s 2 votes…)

  9. robenagrant says:

    Beautiful, Moriah. Thank you for thinking of all of us, and congratulations to you. And may your underpants flame for a really long time. ; )

    • Thank you for such a moving sentiment, Robena. *sniff, wiping tear* And congratulations back to you, my friend. Wishing you NO MORE STRESFFUL SURPRISES. And that’s all I’ll say on the matter, other than it’s lovely to have you here, and thanks for stopping by.

  10. deborahbwright says:

    Wonderful post, Moriah. This group is definitely a hoot! Can’t wait to meet you all in Anaheim. 🙂

  11. What an awesome article! I love what you said about us technically being in competition, but I agree, I never think about that. I’ll be thrilled for the winner, whether it’s me or not. 🙂

    • You’re right on, Kat. It’s just not competitive, at least not that I’ve seen. I love that about writers, and this group in particular. Just the same, I wish you all the best and good luck!

  12. Terrific post! Flaming Underpants!!! LOL. Love it!

  13. What a lovely post, Moriah. Thank you and I look forward to meeting you in California!

  14. Congratulations! I am thrilled for you!

  15. A massive congratulations to you all! And Moriah, I know I’m biased (what with being your crit partner and having read your amazing manuscript), but I think you totally are Best Writer in the Whole World. I *can’t WAIT* to cheer for you at Anaheim!


    • Wet slobbery kisses back, Kat. (Sorry, Smarty Pants. You’ll have to fight me for her. Rowr.) Thanks so much. We’re going to have way too much fun in Anaheim. And I’m willing to share the Best Writer in the Whole World Award with you. We can take turns polishing it. (Not trying to talk dirty there, hehe.)

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