First of all, I’m over at Mama Writers today. Stop by and leave a comment for your chance to win my book…yet again.

Okay, now to what you’ve been waiting for…the finalists. Go ahead, jump down to see who they are, then come back up here for a pep talk for those who didn’t final and what to do next for those who did.

For those who have finaled, please send me your first page( loribrighton at yahoo.com), including that first paragraph. Only one page! I’ll send those to Megan and she’ll pick about 5 finalists to go on. Those five will send their first chapter (not more than 15 pages). Finalists, please try to send me your first page asap. No later than tomorrow!

Now, for those of you who didn’t final. When I thought of doing this contest it was to help out my fellow writers because I know how hard it is. I hadn’t thought about the fact that I would have bad news for a lot of people, including some people who are close friends. This is hard for me, but I know it’s even harder for some of you. You’ve prayed for publication and you’re now wondering if you’re good enough. I was flipping through RWR one day, the magazine that is put out by RWA. I saw a first sales clip by a women who had been writing for 20 years and had written many, many manuscripts. A long time to keep trying, but she hadn’t given up. You have to decide how badly you want to be published. Can you stop writing? If you can, then maybe you should if all you’re getting his heartache. But if you can’t stop, then don’t.

Just because you didn’t final in a contest doesn’t mean your book isn’t good. It’s one paragraph. One. No editor is going to stop reading your book if you send it in just because of one paragraph. So keep improving, keeping writing, keeping sending out those queries. And just because Megan didn’t pick your entry, doesn’t mean you can’t still send to her. It was just one paragraph! I’ve said this before and I’ll tell you again, Wild Heart was rejected by about every editor and agent it could be rejected by, but I didn’t give up. It only took one editor to like it. Now, its out there on the shelves and the Germans love it! 😉 And as for the rules (para vs 150 words), next time I’ll be sure to make the rules clear.

And if you didn’t final, or even if you did, remember my friend and fellow Kensington author Beverley Kendall is going to have a similar contest in December!

And the finalists are…

1. Bewitching the Highlander—Renee
She inhaled the thick, moist air in a slow, steady rhythm and eyed the new border warden sitting his horse a stone’s throw away. The leather fabric of her gloves clung to her palms hiding the frantic pulse throbbing at her wrists. Her nerves, taut like a pulled bow, refused to be alleviated by the sword at her side or the quiver of arrows across her back, and the five hundred mounted men on the hill behind her only made her aware of just how much was at stake if she failed in her task. “You’ve cullions to cross on Graem lands.”

2. Hephaestus Unexpected—Alexis Walker
His muscles rigid with tension, Hephaestus pushed his hand through the tear in the clear flexible barrier that imprisoned the gods of Mt. Olympus. Cool air on the other side brushed his palm and released hope from its dark cell within his chest. Though he could see nothing but a cloud-like opaqueness on the other side, it had to be the first opening to the human world in centuries. It had to be.

3. Sisters by Choice: Book Two —Mary Mccall
Perpetual damnation might not be so bad. Might even be her wisest option. Mayhap she should go back. The Almighty knew she could die if she stayed, for if her heart thumped any harder, her chest would explode. From her hiding place in the forest, Lady Faith of Hawkhurst watched the cloud of dust move ever closer. The outlines of giant warriors riding the biggest horses she had ever seen came into view. Swallowing hard, she dug her fingernails into her palms and tried to suppress the fear gnawing at her insides. It would be too late for the Highlanders if she didn’t make herself move. And hadn’t she rushed out here just to warn them of her brother’s unscrupulous plans? She didn’t know why Leland wanted to kill these warriors, but they were surely the answer to her prayer.

4. The Highland Touch—Pat
Roderick, the new Earl of Lennox, was determined to remain blind to all who knew him at Court, until he found her. Each day, as he healed, the itch grew – to discover her whereabouts, to thank her, hold her, to touch her…only her. Title, money, estates, horses…they’d mattered once. But now The Blind Earl, as he had come to be known in the Highlands, knew those things would never satisfy him. Because during the months of illness and darkness he realized it was hands that mattered. Not the face, not the breasts. Not cloying perfume or sympathetic offers. No. One women’s hands held a fascination for him, and the desire for her grew as his vision improved. “The problem,” he confided to March, his snorting black-as-night destrier, “is that I’d wouldn’t recognize her if I fell over her.”

5. Trefoil—Monica Peters
The woman who paused on the cemetery path contained a soft, flickering glow like a candle in a very still room, wavering when first lit, and then swelling into yellow radiance. The weak winter sunlight contributed nothing to this, and Nathan knew if he drew her into the shadows, she would still possess a clear, golden look that only immortals have. He should know.

6. Making the Ghost of it—Kerri
Riley Donovan had seen insanity before but it had never come in such an adorable package. He watched from his back porch as the woman next door swatted at gnats with a gloved hand. At first, he’d thought that she was just fussing at the annoying little insects that were hovering around her face. Then, he’d seen her turn towards a seemingly invisible person and actually have a conversation. Her small frame was crouched down on the ground as she tended to her flower bed and her long golden hair was pulled back from her face. Even from this distance, he could make out the particularly appealing shape of her nose and lips. He shook his head as a grin began to form on his mouth. He was getting a crush on the new neighbor and she was talking to thin air.

7. Demon Connection—Margaret
The sharp, acrid scent of sulfur wafted lightly through the air just when I was about to call it a night. Bingo. I raised the wine glass to my lips as I tried to figure out which one of these bar flies was my target. I suspected the only way to find out would be to leave and see who follows. Initiating plan A. I slugged back the rest of my merlot and made an obvious effort of trying to steady my glass as I set it on the hotel bar before sliding off the stool. I paused a second as I wobbled on my stilettos and made a show of straightening my pencil skirt. Not that I needed to catch my balance, but I wanted to give the impression that I was stupid drunk with a target plastered on my back.

8. Totally Dody—Tracy
Like timeless Brigadoon, the citizens of Bell Harbor, Michigan remain blissfully ignorant of current crime rates and skin cancer statistics. They are trusting, friendly and tan, three things my neighbors back in Glenville are not. My Aunt Dody has invited me here to spend the summer. She says I need a good psychic cleansing after my divorce, and even though I don’t put much faith in her aura-reading, angel-guided, crystal-waving nonsense, I am desperate for a vacation. Her pink clapboard house, perched high on a hill overlooking the bay, is the perfect spot for me to rest, reboot, and figure out what the hell to do with the next fifty years of my life. Realistically, I’ll be dead long before that, but I don’t like leaving anything to chance.

9. The Wager—LaRue
“My father did what?” Charles Lawton, the Earl of Chesterton, sat back stunned, staring at his solicitor in disbelief. “Are you sure it’s legal?”

Sir Cedric Wodehouse nodded. “Quite legal, my lord. He didn’t involve entailed properties in the conditions he set in his will. Anything not entailed, of course, your father could dispose of as he saw fit.” The solicitor cast a stern look at the very unhappy young man before him. “This is not the first time I’ve sent you notice about the terms of your father’s will”—he frowned severely—”or about other matters requiring your Lordship’s attention.”

“Well, I’ve only just returned from America,” Chess said defensively, though he was damned if he knew why he should feel the least
defensive about whatever he did. Old Wodehouse had been his father’s solicitor and seemed to feel he had a rather paternal interest in Chess’s affairs.

10. Heiress Found—Joanna
A bright pink hat and short frilly skirt weren’t unusual on the dance floor, but when the items were worn by six-feet-six-inches of masculine persuasion, people tended to stare.

11. After Thoughts and Before—Vicki Lane
Prologue:
Eldridge’s heart constricted. His lungs deflating as air passed through his lips in a rush. From the crude wooden bed, frail hands begged him closer. Her time was coming to an end. The scrap of the small stool he sat upon as he moved closer sliced upon his already flagging nerves. His mother clutched the sleeve of his dull gray servant garment. Eyes aged by illness held his as death spoke words that changed the living forever. “The Count, he is your Dah.”

12. What’s the Worst that Can Happen—Terri
I always wondered why people like Jane Goodall went out in the bush and forsook all humans for animals. Now I know exactly why. Animals were much more reliable and much, much kinder. That epiphany came first thing on a Monday morning when the door bell rang.

“Coming!” I shouted, running towards the front door of the animal foundation where I worked and lived.

I peaked out the peep hole. My heart slammed head on into my throat. A Sarasota County, Florida police officer. My God! What could have possibly happened? My hand gripped the door knob. It nearly slipped off with my palms sweating. Visions of my father, sister, mother, and step siblings passed before my eyes. Was one of them hurt? Possibly dead?

13. A Knight’s Victory—Eliza Knight
The distant clang of metal on metal hung in the sky like music, before reaching Michael’s ears. His blood surged with power and lust for a good fight. He’d traveled nearly a month to reach this location. Shouts of pain and triumph floated in the air. He smiled.

England—home, from now on.

How long had he yearned to return to the place of his birth? Nearly twenty years. He couldn’t believe it had been that long, and yet at the same time the wait was unbearable. Although he’d called Ireland home for that long, he’d dreamt of returning. His goal since childhood had been to set foot permanently on English soil. Excitement filled his veins, his muscles flexed and un-flexed with his need to work them out. He took a deep breath. The air was different, dryer. There always seemed to be a mist in the air of Wexford.

14. Divine Awakening—Michelle Johnson
The fight had gone badly.
Braden Vaughn took in the devastation of the alley through narrowed eyes. The remains of the six member death squad were scattered amid the heads and torsos of the two killed civilians. It was a small, narrow alley that dead ended at the back of a liquor store in a seedy part of town. The wet marks pooled under the remains appeared more as oil slicks than blood. The rank smell of rotting garbage that permeated from the large green dumpster overpowered the tangy, metallic scent of freshly spilled blood. He quickly turned to the mouth of the alley, ensuring visibility from the dark street was minimal. He looked over at the two fallen members of the Order. They had failed miserably.

15. Freedom and Magnolias—CC
CIA Operations Officer Reese Trenton’s month long vacation ended up being four days. Nothing new about that outcome. Today’s assignment, contact point at a convenience mart. This wasn’t even his territory. Didn’t matter. When the call went out from Control on his emergency pager that an operative’s cover had been blown, he was in the area and offered assistance. His black Hummer stood out like a red neon light. On a planned assignment he used a nondescript car; but, since he’d been on a much-needed vacation, he drove what he had. If he ended up being involved, he’d have to get new license plates. Headed to visit friends, he planned to be smelling pine trees and campfire smoke by now, fresh brewed coffee and bacon sizzling in a skillet—not stale city smog and exhaust fumes. He knew he should have steered clear of Chicago.

16. Shadows of the Incubus—mynfel
Cat piss and cabbages.
It was the only way to describe it, really. Even on a good day, the bookstore smelled like a mix of dust and dirty feet, but the AC had coughed its last an hour ago, leaving me the proud employee of an ad hoc sauna. A drip above the lintel had forced me to keep the outer door closed to avoid a miniature lake from forming on the warping hardwood floor, and the remainder of the morning was doomed to be a soggy, stinky mess. The weathered iron sign hanging from the shutter outside had the words Prospectus Intelligentsia Tabernus etched on it. I called it the Pit for short. Probably unkind, but God knows the place fucking reeked like one this morning.

17. Untitled Paranormal romance—Louise D
His curiosity had got the better of him again. He’d overheard the guards mention level three, now here he was outside the last secure door debating the wisdom of going further. He stroked his hand over the metal panel, white paint chips catching on his calloused fingertips. Curiosity burned hotter. What were they hiding?

18. Without a Trace—Stephanie Griffin
Her red hair glowed like a beacon in the foggy air as he entered the pool hall that night. Thomas Williams shook his head and tried to ignore her. It was the same woman who stared him down the previous night while her boyfriend looked on in confusion. She was alone tonight but the place was crowded with men who looked at her like a piece of meat. Surely she’d find someone else to watch. He wasn’t interested in whatever game she was playing.

19. When a Heart Dares—Kathleen Roth
Celine stared down at the wooden casket. Rain drummed against the lid, turning the open grave surrounding it into a muddy pit. The pungent smell of wet earth and a sense of grit in her mouth nearly sickened her. The wind kicked up. Icy rain swirled around her and stung her cheeks. She shivered and pulled her full-length, hooded cape tight against her body. It seemed as if nature was bidding her mother-in-law a raucous farewell.

20. The Changed World—Maureen
Hard earth, frozen and bitter rough, bruised to the bone. Her skin shrank from the ice particles coating the ground and the cold snap in the air. Nowhere to hide and no warmth left to the world. Voices discussed her capture, debating how much he would pay them. The throbbing in her head too distracting, she could only listen, unable to reply, object or counteroffer.

21. Summer’s Road—Kelly Moran
A chair scraped across the kitchen floor as Sharon sat down. Summer couldn’t bring herself to turn around and look. She needed a moment to get over the shock, but the silence was deafening. “You want some tea?” she asked, her back still to the woman behind her.

Sharon cleared her throat. “Sure.” Silence. “It looks different in here than when I last saw it.”

Biting her retort, Summer transferred two bags into two mugs. Two. She hadn’t needed to make two cups of tea since Daddy died. And it had been seven years ago today. Sharon picked a hell of a time to pay a visit.

22. Untitled Historical Romance—Kat Duncan
“Strip off his shirt,” she ordered.
The insolent smirk on the man’s face remained. A guard reached to the prisoner’s neck, but he deflected the move with a swing of chained fists. The subtle movement promised injury on the next attempt.
“Can ye come hold him?” asked the guard.
Two of the men with her came into the cell to seize his arms. They pulled his torn shirt down to the belt of his kilt, exposing a magnificent chest. Mari didn’t recall that Brian was this good looking, but she hadn’t seen her cousin since their youth. Stepping closer she pressed her hand against the tanned shoulder. He didn’t resist. She turned his trim torso into the light of the torch. Her gaze darted down the smooth contours of muscle.
No scar.
She re-examined the dark eyes. Expressive eyes very like Brian’s. “You are not Brian MacLennan,” she said.

23. Untitled Historical—Nicky (main character: Madeline Wetherby)
If this hadn’t been the best day of her life, Madeline Wetherby would have stomped her kid-booted foot in frustration. As it was, she merely observed that the traveling coach’s axle was, indeed, cracked, blew the wisp of brown curl off the bridge of her nose and straightened her spine back into that of a lady.

24. My Shackled Marquess—Rhea
Mimi Anderson weaved her way across the ballroom and froze at the sight of three debutants slicing through the crush. Blast. Could a woman not pace and pray without being chased by husband hunters? She ought to tell them to go to the devil. What a lovely idea. Pity she needed a sparkling reputation to stay in Society and to unlock her inheritance. She spun, aimed for the opposite end of the long room, her primrose satin skirt swooshing about her feet. Pressing through the crowd, she struggled to keep a straight face at the suffocating smell of perfumes, pomade, and body odor. Not far behind her, girls giggled. She eyed the majestic staircase up ahead, and muttered, “Damn you, Ash. Come. End this parade, and let us get the war started.”

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