It’s Jumped‘s release day! 

It was a labor of love and panic, exhilaration and fear. The second novel does that to someone, I’ve learned from talking with other novelists. It’s the first book I wrote with a deadline, and with an editor waiting. There was a rather major setback when I broke the hero’s jaw and had to do a major revision. After that, it was relatively smooth sailing.

Today I’m doing my first television interview on Denver’s NBC affiliate, Channel 9, on “Colorado & Company.” If you saw it, thanks for tuning in! I’ll put it on here as soon as I can.

I hope you’ll read and enjoy Jumped. It returns to Aspen Creek and the characters from Thrown, and also introduces a new character, Finn McNabb, who is a bit more serious than Grady Brunswick—but just as handsome, since it’s a romance novel.

 

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  • THROWN and Veuve

    A bound galley of THROWN (no it’s not in paperback yet–the publisher made these up for me), flanked by celebratory Veuve Clicquot Champagne.

    This is my first post as a bonafide, real live, puttin’-it-out-there, published novelist. It has been—and still is—quite the ride. For those dressage riders out there, I compare it to the first time (and one of the only times) I got to ride piaffe/passage transitions. Waaaayyy cool!

    To think that this madness began innocently enough four years ago as a lark. The lark has become an eagle, and not to beat this metaphor into the ground, but the eagle is soaring. I am published. It’s real. My book is out there, and anyone who has an Internet connection, an ebook app and $1.99 to spare can read my story. I still can’t consistently believe this is really happening to little ol’ me.

    It’s thrilling. I am honored when friends tell me they just downloaded Thrown. I’m touched when someone I know writes a glowing review on Goodreads or Amazon. I get all tingly when I see another five-star rating. I am humbled and grateful for all these wonderful people in my life.

    Of course, there are not-so-glowing reviews, too. Nothing truly awful (yet!), but not everyone loves my book and it certainly isn’t perfect. If the comments make sense, I make a note and will work to improve my future writings. If I disagree, I let it go.

    Now that my first-born is out in the world, I’m revising Jumped (the next book) and trying to resist checking my sales rank on Amazon every four seconds. I have new-author Tourette syndrome, where I involuntarily look at my “author dashboard” to see if there are any happy new reviews or another constellation of shiny gold stars. Ah, obsession. Gotta love it.

    It’s all exciting and good and fun and angsty, and if this is what I must endure to be a novelist, so be it. Sign me up. I’ll take the sparkling reviews along with the “meh” reviews, the revisions, the blog tours, the friends checking in to see how I’m doing, the social media cavalcade, the panic that nobody will want to read my writing, the bottle of Veuve my friend Lori sent me, and all the rest. Because I’m a novelist.

    And it’s exactly what I want to be.

    Looking a little crazed, but that's okay; there will only ever be one day in my life when my first novel is released.

    Looking a little crazed, but that’s okay; there will only ever be one day in my life when my first novel is released.

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  • Galley and pillowsRecently I completed the manuscript for my second novel. It was harder to complete than the manuscript for the first novel. It has been pointed out to me by experienced novelists that this may have been due to the fact that the maximum amount of time I had to complete the second novel—if I had started when I received a signed, sealed and official contract—was seven months. The first book took more than four years. Can you see my problem opportunity? Not that I’m complaining. I’m just saying it took some getting used to. It was a crucible of sorts, a fiery little crucible containing an abundance of what my friend Hal calls “ass glue.” But in the end (no “ass glue” pun intended), it worked.

    If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, where you have a limited (read: oh-my-god-why-did-I-not-get-more-done-sooner-I-thought-I-was-doing-so-well-but-this-is-an-impossibly-small) amount of time to complete a task, here are some strategies you might find useful.

    1. Go into mole mode. No means no. You decline invitations, no matter how alluring. (Well, unless it’s super-duper alluring and a once-in-a-lifetime deal, like Susan Elizabeth Phillips asks you to go to Iceland with her to lace her hiking boots.) You can go to stuff later. For now, you have to write. It will all be better soon, I promise.

    2. Avoid the temptation to nap. See photo of dog on bed. This is a warm, soft dog who is really nice to pet. He is Supreme Pillow Commander on a warm, soft bed. You tell yourself you would only sleep for a few minutes. Do not be fooled. The dog is tantamount to a strumpet (just look at those demonic eyes!). No good can come of this! Run away! Run away!

    3. Buy frozen entrees. If I do say so, this was genius on my part. I started out believing in my heart of hearts that I’d grill things. After all, grilling is healthy (except for the char carcinogen factor, but let’s not go there), quick and easy, right? Except that even throwing a chicken breast or burger or steak on the grill with asparagus or peppers or eggplant requires time. I didn’t want to spend time dealing with olive oil and salt and pepper, and cleaning up the dishes, because even though I wasn’t doing Julie and Julia, I was still taking time to cook and clean up. So I looked up “healthiest frozen entrees,” and voila! my writing time expanded. It takes much less time to pop something into the microwave than to grill. Or to make a pb&j, which I did for lunches.

    4. Don’t dry your hair. This was difficult for me, a relatively vain person whose hair has no inclination to do anything attractive unless forced. I showered daily, but only dried my bangs (because believe me, if I had to catch a glimpse of my bangs if I hadn’t styled them, I wouldn’t have been able to write anything other than curses). I wasn’t going anywhere, I looked presentable if there was a fire, and I saved more precious time.

    5. If your characters refuse to speak to you, write anyway. Oh but this was tough. I had read about this phenomenon but hadn’t experienced it. Those days are over, because it happened several times. I knew what I had to write, but my characters were all listening to their iPods or texting their friends or doing their nails—anything except helping me. What to do? Write anyway. Write crap. Make yourself do it. It’ll either get easier and some of the characters will actually pitch in and help, or at the very least you’ll get the all-important words on the page and fix it later. You don’t have the luxury of waiting for your muse to return your call. You don’t have the luxury of waiting for inspiration. You’re not a waiter, you’re a writer. You write.

    6. Go offline. The Internets and the Googles and the Facebook are fantastic places to goof off and not write. They are not your friends. Do not associate with them. They are there to suck up precious time you need for writing. Ignore them. I sometimes went to Ted’s Montana Grill and wrote at the bar because they didn’t have wifi. It was a godsend to be cut off. (No, the bartender didn’t cut me off, smartie.)

    7. Shoo away distractions. If you have a spouse who is the equivalent of a Labrador retriever puppy, as I do, you must put up the equivalent of a verbal doggy door to block off the area where you write. I found that a simple, sharp “Eh!” accompanied by a stern look did the trick. He would slink out of the kitchen and leave me alone.

    8. Make your desk purty. Even though I was thrilled to have to write a second novel with a deadline and everything, it was still work. As Nora Roberts says, “If writing a book was easy, everyone would do it.” I cut some roses from my garden and put them in a vase on my kitchen table/desk. I also got a little lamp and used it when the sun went down because I abhor overhead lighting. This made my writing space all cozy and happy and inviting and for some reason made me feel more like a “real” writer.

    9. Eat things you like that aren’t too messy. I viewed grocery shopping as gathering supplies for the foxhole. This is not an excuse to go crazy and eat poorly (although…). This is a strategy to keep your creativity fueled. I stocked up on healthy snacks and allowed a couple splurges in the unhealthy category. I also allowed myself a glass (or two) of wine in the evening. (My characters thanked me.) Apples are good because they are easy to eat while you write. Same with those mini carrots. (Please note these are also horse-approved foods.) Dark chocolate is a must. And I don’t like to drink water, but if put it in a fun little bottle, it becomes appealing. So do that. I used an 8.45-oz. San Pellegrino bottle. It made me feel European.

    10. Move. I know I said you have to stay put because you have, after all, applied a generous amount of ass glue. But exercise is important. I mostly walked my dog every morning (if you don’t have a dog to walk, borrow one. Or try walking the cat. A plant? How about a spoon? Then the neighbors can call you “eccentric,” which is perfect for a writer.), and sometimes took two walks. I did crunches. I did push-ups. The beauty of exercising is you can think about your book while you do it, and often those scenes that weren’t quite working miraculously sort themselves out in your head when you’re busy doing something else.

    Well, there you go. My wisdom broken into digestible bits. If you have more (and I know you do!) please share. Go! Write! Win!

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  • 978147674580

    Yes, Thrown is now available through many of your favorite online book retailers. I was rather shocked to learn this through a relative on Facebook. Who knew? Amazon might be taking over the world, but they’re pre-selling my book so I can’t complain.

    Can I tell you, it was an incredible feeling to go to amazon.com, type in my own name and HAVE A PAGE POP UP!  With my name right there. And the book cover I love and have as my wallpaper on every single screened device I own (except the TV and the front door). All on purpose and everything. Just like Susan Elizabeth Phillips or Kristan Higgins or John Irving or any number of other authors I read and admire.

    I suppose what’s so surreal about it is, this is another step removed from me, and it’s the first time my book has gone into the wild. I wrote the book, Editor Abby bought it, and then she and I revised it. I know her, she knows me. We have spoken in person and on the phone. She bought me a glass of bubbly when we talked at the Romance Writers of America national conference. We showed each other pictures of horses on our respective phones. But now my little firstborn has gone from the familiar arms of its mother and its editor at the Pocket Star nursery into the big wide world of commerce. I imagine it, little Thrown all wide-eyed, being tossed about from worker to worker in the giant factory of online retail. Strangers are touching my book (not inappropriately, I hope!). This is what happens to real writers.

    I am a real writer. It still hasn’t QUITE sunken in.

    Thanks again for your support. (And go buy my book!)

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  • There are authors who dream of their debut novel’s future cover the way some brides dream of their wedding gowns.

    I am not one of those authors.

    Did I have something in mind as I wrote the book? Yes, but it was a cartoon. I’m not a designer in any way, shape or form, and I knew the professionals at Pocket Books would come up with something far better than my cave painting. Designers are, after all, magicians of sorts.

    The designer who did my cover is a veritable Dumbledore. Beyond a magician—a wizard.

    I adore my cover. ADORE. It blew me away. When I opened the pdf, I actually gasped (just ask my cube mates). I had nothing in mind, really, except I thought maybe there’d be a man, possibly half-dressed, somewhere in the vicinity. Instead I got this stunning, painterly image, elegant, sophisticated, graceful and powerful. It was astounding. As one of the Firebirds (co-finalists in the Golden Hearts last year) put it, the cover gods smiled upon me.

    Now, as I’m writing the follow-up book to Thrown, I feel extra pressure to make it live up to this woman and her steed. I want to be worthy of the gorgeousness. I don’t want to disappoint the cover! Can you blame me?

    This December, look for this cover wherever you like to buy e-books. (And buy one. Please!)

    978147674580

     

     

     

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  • This is a reprint of my post for the Firebirds blog (at ghfirebirds.com) on Tuesday. So if you read that, you’re free to go!

    My agent search started out normal.

    I collected agents’ cards at RWA. I logged into Querytracker.com (I love querytracker; I love the frowny, red faces for “rejection” and the smiley faces connoting incremental progress and the smiley-faces-with-Jackie-O-sunglasses for offers) and searched and sorted and refined until I had a list of agents I thought might possibly maybe perhaps like my book. Then I wrote my query letters, customizing as I went, and sent them off with a big ol’ bless and release.

    Thanks to that Golden Heart Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, I got more requests than not. But no offers. I even had one agent from a big agency call to say she loved my writing, didn’t think she could sell Thrown, and would love to see my next book. Another well-known agent (with the initials Jill Marsal) asked for the full almost immediately after getting my first three chapters, but ended up passing anyway.

    Then came the big day when I got that phone call from an editor who offered me a book contract with Simon & Schuster for their Pocket Star line.

    I thought, “Zowee, that agent who didn’t think she could sell Thrown (my first book, the one that finaled in the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart contest last year) doesn’t have to sell it now. It sold itself!” I thought she’d jump at the chance to represent me. Nope. Still wanted me to write the next book. With my offer in hand, I approached romance novelist extraordinaire Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ agent, figuring not only is he a superstar, but man it would be so much easier to stalk her if we had the same agent. (I am Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ official stalker. She knows this. And doesn’t always call security when she sees me.) He asked for my full, then politely declined. I asked the lovely, talented, bestselling, multiple-RITA award winner Kristan Higgins for advice about the agent who didn’t think she could sell Thrown. Should I push my first-born aside, refuse the offer and write my next book for big money? “No!“ said Kristan. I queried an agent she recommended at 5:30 p.m. on a Friday and two minutes after I hit “send,” my phone rang. The agent wanted my full. She emailed me on Saturday to pass. I emailed Kristan’s agent, who had previously requested revisions, to see if the revisions were up to snuff. In one of the kindest rejection emails I’ve ever received, she too, passed.

    See, about now I started to wonder if my now-editor had been drunk or recently concussed when she called me. Was it some kind of dare around the office? “I’ll give you twenty bucks and a MetroCard if you call this woman and tell her you’ll buy her book.” Isn’t it supposed to be easy to get an agent when you have a book contract?

    As it turned out, I got four offers of representation. An embarrassment of riches, I know, since I had assumed I’d have to send out 100 queries, minimum. Heck, it took huge bestselling author Jayne Ann Krentz six years.

    Four offers. Four reputable agents. I was lucky enough to know at least one client for each agent, so I could ask them questions. One agent was a friend, so I decided not to risk the friendship. Check. One was just too…aggressive. I think she would have been fine, but I would’ve been uncomfortable with her business style. Check.

    I was down to the last two, and this is where the big piles of angst came into play. Both of their clients I spoke to loved them. I liked what the agents had to say about their vision for my career. They were easy to talk to, but I’ll admit I hit it off better with one than the other and could have talked to her all day. They both made the same number of romance deals over the previous year. Here was a key difference: one had made deals only with houses that accepted unagented submissions; the other, with several houses that only accepted agented submissions. The first was with a larger, well-known firm. The other had her own agency. After much hand-wringing (not really—I’m more of a sigher and talk-to-myselfer), I chose the agent who, all things considered, had made deals with the more exclusive publishers. She’s the one who had her own agency, which I hoped meant she’d be “hungrier” because it was all on her shoulders to succeed. I also liked the idea of giving my business to a smaller agency.

    As it turned out, she got me a bigger advance, made all sorts of changes in the contract to my advantage and my editor said she was “lovely.” We’re still in the honeymoon phase—I haven’t gotten my editor’s revisions yet—but I haven’t regretted my choice. All that sighing paid off.

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  • So this is all about me (yeah, like all my other blog posts AREN’T), but this is also an announcement. A big announcement.

    I got a book contract.

    This happened a while ago (the very end of November), but I was waiting until I got the contract in my hot little hands from the publisher before I announced. However, I’ve learned (again!) that publishing runs at a pace that makes tectonic plate shifts seem supersonic. Here’s the deal: My Golden Heart finaling book, Thrown, will be published as an e-book by Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Star line in December, 2013.

    !!!!!!!!

    Yes I am ecstatic. Yes I pinch myself to make sure it’s not all a dream. Yes I float through my days.

    But wait, there’s more. Not only is the deal for Thrown, but for two more books set in the same world as Thrown. So it’s a three-book deal. A THREE-BOOK DEAL WITH A MAJOR BIG-SIX PUBLISHER. Am I over the moon? Yes. Yes I am.

    This started at the Romance Writers of America’s national conference in Anaheim in July. I met my now-editor there, but NOT because she was in any way interested in my book, but because I went to two workshops where she was on the panel, and she was hilarious. I spoke to her, and then found out when I was back in Denver, that I was following her on Twitter. I looked at her profile, and lo and behold, she was a HORSEWOMAN! Obviously I had to tweet her immediately and tell her my book was about horses. She said she’d love to see it, and I sent it to her when I was done revising, in October. And the rest, as they say, is history. So basically, I sold my book on Twitter. And yes Abby and I talked about horses for twenty minutes during our first phone call.

    I also got an agent. The delightful Emily Sylvan Kim of Prospect Literary. I was quite spoiled, as I got to choose from several agents after I told those who I’d queried that I had a book contract. (From a Big Six publisher. Did I mention that?) I still managed to make it incredibly stressful. But I have to say, it’s really really fun to talk about “my agent” and “my editor.” Like, really fun.

    So that’s my news. Thank you for your support and good wishes through my novel-writing odyssey. It has paid off in spades and my dream is coming true.

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  • OBB and me.

    5 Nov
    12

    My husband is an actor. Yes, I am secretly married to George Clooney.

    Okay not really. (Damn! I’d love to have a pet pig. That’s truly the only reason I’d EVER think it would be in any way pleasant to be Mrs. George Clooney. Honey*.)

    My husband is actually handsomer and talenteder than Mr. Clooney. (I realize I just lost a few readers because “talenteder” isn’t a word.) Here’s what I’ve learned, being the spouse of an active thespian: You have to participate in what a seasoned theater person told me is “Obligation Theatre.”

    What is Obligation Theatre, or OT? As much as possible, if an actor you know is in a nearby production, you must attend said production. For me, it’s OT by association (OTBA). Depending on the show, it can be rewarding or painful, and is usually somewhere in the middle. But your actor-friend is always happy to see you after the show and thanks you for coming, so that’s nice.

    The other benefit? It guilts actor-friends into attending my husband’s shows. (If you’re interested and live in or near Denver, he’s starring in the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center production of “A Christmas Story” this holiday season—fun for the whole family!) So he’s got that going for him. Which is nice.

    How does this relate to writing? My “pre-published” novel, Thrown, was a 2012 finalist for the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart award. A bunch of Firebirds (the official nickname of the class of 2012) have secured publishing contracts and their Golden Heart books are now coming out as real live novels.

    THIS IS SOOO FUN!

    An author’s version of OT is what I’ve christened OBB, or Obligation Book Buying. I feel obligated to buy the books written by my fellow Firebirds, read them, then review them in as many places as possible. So far I have two: Susan Boyer’s Lowcountry Boil and Tracy Brogan’s Crazy Little Thing. I love buying these books! For one thing, it makes me happy to support my “classmates.” For another, it’s just plain cool to see a book for sale on Amazon by someone I know personally. For a third—and this reason is no slouch—it gives me hope that I too, will be published soon. They did it, why can’t I? It gives me full-blown, unmitigated, hooked-on-steroids optimism.

    I hope I’ll have to do a ton of OBB in the years to come. And, of course, I hope my author friends will follow suit after I get The Call.

    As always, thank you for your support!

    * In case my husband reads this.

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  • Brooke and me cantering in the warm-up ring at a show.

    Maybe nobody puts Baby in a corner, but somebody put bloggie in a corner. That somebody would be me. Apologies off the blocks for calling my blog “bloggie.” I couldn’t help myself with that Dirty Dancing reference. But what’s three months between friends? My friend Brad shamed me into writing a post mach schnell.

    My excuse is, hey, I didn’t have time to post because I was polishing my novel, the whole reason I have a blog in the first place. And I’m pleased to report that it’s done! I’m sending it to agents and editors. Don’t get me wrong, I realize there will be more revisions. But if I’m very lucky, the next round will come from an editor who has seen fit to publish Thrown!

    Anyhoo.

    Last weekend I had the pleasure of auditing a dressage clinic given by Jan Ebeling, the guy who rode Rafalca (Anne Romney’s mare, of Stephen Colbert foam-finger fame) in the London Olympics. This clinic was a dandy, because Mr. Ebeling was not only the expert one would expect of an Olympian, but was an effective, patient and gracious teacher. I wasn’t sure what to expect—sometimes I think trainers who are famous only want to work with advanced riders on very fancy, expensive horses—but Jan took each horse-and-rider partnership and made them better, no matter their level or natural talents.

    As with many sports, you can’t help but touch on the basics, no matter what the exercise. With dressage, it’s rhythm, relaxation, connection, impulsion, straightness and collection (in that order). If those are in place, everything else is easy. I couldn’t help but link it to writing.

    Take tempo, for instance. In dressage, tempo is the speed of the horse’s footfalls. In dressage, generally speaking, you want the tempo to be consistent within the gait you’re riding, especially if you’re in competition. In training, sometimes you want to vary the tempo within the gait, usually slowing it, then speeding up again. In writing, you want to vary the tempo–a steady tempo would be dull, although you want your story to move along at a nice pace.

    Another parallel with tempo in both disciplines is, you often slow the tempo to execute a more difficult movement. In dressage, the tempo (or cadence) of the passage (a majestic, slow-motion trot) is slower than a “regular” trot. The tempo of the canter in a canter pirouette (the horse’s hind legs stay almost in the same spot, while the front legs describe a circle around them) is slower than a “working” canter because the horse has shifted much of his weight to his hind legs. Same with writing. Often, if you have an emotional scene, you slow down the tempo. You want to give it more impact, and give the reader time to absorb and experience it. If you have an action scene, you speed it up for similar reasons.

    Then there’s connection, which in dressage has to do with the horse’s contact with the bit and the horse’s correct posture, which allows for balanced movement. In writing, I think of it as keeping the reader in mind—connecting with the audience. This encompasses things like keeping the characters true to themselves (don’t you hate it when you’re reading along, and you’re forced to say, “Huh? That character would NEVER willingly eat a sea urchin!”) and not bogging down the story with all the impressive research I may have done just because I find it fascinating.

    Overall though, the main lesson in writing as in riding, is to have fun. Yes I know writing is hard, and so is riding. The best riders make it look like they’re just sitting there, not doing a thing, while the horse happily dances. Same with the best writers, who entertain us and move us so effortlessly, we don’t notice the writing because we are absorbed in the story. But honestly, I love doing both. In riding, there are days when I am so in tune with my horse that I can literally think what I want and the horse does it. In writing, it’s those days where the characters have come alive and are off and running, and I merely have to keep up and take notes—the scenes write themselves. It is easy. It is joyful. And I strive for this bliss every time I mount my horse or open my MacBook to write. I hope to do both for a very, very long time.

    As always, thank you for your support.

    Oh, and I’ll be guest posting for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers blog, “Chiseled in Rock,” on Wednesday, October 31. It’s about cheetahs and sloths. Feel free to stop by!

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  • Me and the iconic LAX thingy.


    At last, at last, I am at the Romance Writers of America National Conference, in Anaheim, California, home to Disneyland and every chain restaurant ever invented. (In that way it’s much like my charmless, soulless Denver suburb of Westminster so I feel right at home.) I can’t see much of Disney from my hotel room except for the parking lot. But mouse ears are everywhere.

    And until Sunday, so are romance writers. I just found this out—with 10,000 members, the RWA is the second-largest group of writers after the Screen Actors Guild or one of those screenwriting trade groups. I’m going to assume this is accurate, because then it makes my finaling in the Golden Heart contest even more impressive. In fact, in my mind, I’m going to pretend RWA has two million members. Yes, that’s what I’m going to do.

    Okay, I hate to do this to you, but I started this blog post on Wednesday and now it’s Friday. This conference never stops! I ducked out of the gathering of Firebirds (the nickname of the Golden Heart class of 2012) by the pool to, yes, watch the Olympics opening ceremonies because I am an Olympic fiend. I’ll post lots of pictures. How’s that?

    The closest I'll ever get to a tat. Our custom-made Firebird temporary tattoos. I say the winners have to get real ones.

    Bestselling author, champion of new writers and all-around hilarious gem Cherry Adair and me at the Golden Heart Network retreat.

    At the literacy signing for charity, it's me and Susan Elizabeth Phillips, who has graciously accepted me as her official stalker.

    The fabulous bestselling author Kristan HIggins and yours truly.

    Several of us Golden Heart finalists descended upon Susan Elizabeth Phillips after her workshop.

    Fellow Single Title Contemporary Golden Heart finalist Nikki Salcedo and me. I'd knock her off if I didn't know the judges voted weeks ago.

    Overall, this is quite the wild ride and I’m being treated like minor royalty. Strangers in the elevator see that I’m a Golden Heart finalist and say, “Congratulations!” Today I got my official certificate, which made it all the more real. By this time tomorrow, we’ll know who won. But you know, I’ll be thrilled—genuinely thrilled—no matter which of us Firebirds wins each category, because I feel so connected to this group of talented, determined writers. I’m not saying (writing) this to be all PC or anything. I cheer this gifted crew on with all my heart and hope this is the last year any of us will be eligible for the Golden Heart because by next year we’ll all be published. Fly, fly, little Firebirds!

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