2017 Linda Howard Award of Excellence


Polish up those unpublished /non-contracted manuscripts and get ready to enter…
Southern Magic’s 2017 Linda Howard Award of Excellence writing contest!


The Linda Howard Award of Excellence, sponsored by RWA chapter Southern Magic, was conceived in honor of best-selling author Linda Howard to award excellence in unpublished romance fiction and their authors. The contest is judged by trained, PRO and published authors. Finalists are judged by top editors and agents looking to contract romance fiction authors.

All you need is the first 5,000 words of your unpublished, non-contracted ROMANCE manuscript (any sub-genre). It will be read and scored by three trained judges.
Finalists (three highest scoring entries of each category) will be judged by some of the industry’s top agents and acquiring editors.

Open: NOW!!!!!! Deadline: May 31, 2017

Contemporary Romance: Manuscripts that are set from 1950 to the present that focus primarily on the romantic relationship. Word count: 70,000-110,000 words
Final Judge – Michelle Grajkowski, agent, 3 Seas Literary Agency

Historical Romance: Romance novels set in any historical time period prior to 1950. Word count: 40,000 to 110,000 words
Final Judge – Barbara Rosenberg, agent, The Rosenberg Group

*Inspirational Romance:* Romance novels in which religious or spiritual beliefs are an inherent part of the love story. Word count: 40,000 to 110,000 words
Final Judge – Elizabeth Mazer, editor, Harlequin

*LGBTQ Romance:* Romance novels in which a member(s) of the LGBTQ community is central to and an integral part of the plot. Word count: 50,000-100,000
Final Judge- Rachel Haimowitz, editor, Riptide Publishing

Paranormal/Futuristic/Fantasy Romance: Romance novels in which the future, a fantasy world, or paranormal elements are an integral part of the plot. Word count: 70,000 to 110,000 words
Final Judge – Victoria Lea, agent, Aponte Literary Agency

*Romantic Suspense:* Romance novels in which suspense, mystery, or thriller elements constitute an integral part of the plot. Word count: 70,000-100,000 words
Final Judge- Cheryl Yeko, editor, Soul Mate Publishing

Romantic Sensual and Sizzling: Romance-based novels that include a high (often explicit) element of sexual tension or sexual play.These novels may contain elements of other romance subgenres, such as paranormal, historical, etc. Word count: 40,000 to 110,000 words
Final Judge- Ric Savage, editor & CEO, Black Velvet Seductions Publishing

The Write Magic: All Southern Magic members who either final in their category or earn a score of 90 or higher will be automatically entered into The Write Magic category final round.
Final Judge- Patricia Nelson, agent, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

Young Adult/ *New Adult* Romance: Manuscripts in which young adult life is an integral part of the plot. Word count: 50,000-110,000 words
Final Judge – Kristy Hunter, agent, The Knight Agency

Fee: $25 USD for first manuscript
$20 each additional entry

For more information go to: http://southernmagic.org/lindahowardcontest.html

To enter, go to: https://www.rwa.org/e/in/m=1&req=Edit&eid=643

For questions, comments, or concerns, please contact the Linda Howard Contest Coordinator at lhcontest@southernmagic.org

Good Luck!


A Red Letter Day

Several years ago, one of my dearest friends, Jill Odom, revealed she had written a romance novel. I was astounded and excited for her. For years I had written stories, but it never went further than forcing sharing them with friends. Shaking, terrified of her hating my story, I showed it to her. She smiled, patted my hand, and said, “Come, follow me.”

She led me to an fantastic group of writers, Southern Magic, RWA. These amazing women (and a few men!) meet monthly to help each other learn the craft, share experiences, offer advice, and navigate the choppy waters of publishing. They pick me up when I’m down, talk me off the ledge when frustrated, and cheer my milestones. They epitomize my favorite saying, Book Friends are Best Friends. I’m honored to be associated with these talented folks. They are my book family. If you’re just starting out, I encourage you to find a group like mine. Writing can be a lonely business, but it doesn’t have to be. You are not alone.

When I first joined Southern Magic, I perused every link the website offered. They have a list of members. Those who are published are listed in red. I clicked on every single author link. And I dreamed…

Today, my dream came true. My name is in red. I’m humbled and grateful.

My Cat is on the Blogging Bandwagon


My spoiled, rotten cat visits Heather Leonard at Magic City Writing

to discuss writing,watermelon and the importance of spaying and neutering.

Drop by for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.

My advice for new writers.


I’ve had a few people ask me how I got started writing. Quite frankly, I was bored with television. I was a young mom with a small child and a husband who worked 3-11. I had written angsty stories as a teenager, but decided to try my hand at romance writing, thinking  it would be easy. After all, I took English in high school and college. I read voraciously.


It isn’t easy and I had a LOT to learn. I dabbled for a few years, but real life interrupted and I had to return to work full time. Writing was shoved aside for over ten years until I found out a dear friend had published a romance novel. I was amazed and in awe. I timidly mentioned I had tried writing a few years back. She took me under her wing and helped me. I wouldn’t be sitting this close to being published without Jill Odom.

Next, I joined my local Romance Writers Of America chapter, Southern Magic. I was terrified and intimidated entering my first meeting. I mean there were AUTHORS there! (yeah, I know, DUH) But, authors are my rock stars. I’ve always loved reading. I had fangirled over many of these remarkable women at the annual Readers Luncheon. Why would they want me there? I didn’t belong. I wasn’t published, I didn’t even know where to begin.

I think this is a common fear for most new writers. We’re scared we don’t belong with “published” authors. We’re terrified of being humiliated. Let me tell you a little secret. Yes, pull in closer, I’m going to whisper this. Guess what?

Authors are readers, too.

Yep, that’s the big secret. Authors loved books way before they wrote one single word. We all started right where you are today.

So start by putting an idea down on paper. Will every single word remain? Nope. Will your first book be published? It happens, but not often. Some things you write will never see the light of day.

Here is my step by step advice.

1. Write. Every. Damn. Day. Even if it is just one sentence. Sentences become paragraphs. Paragraphs become pages. Pages become chapters. Chapters become books.

2. Do Nanowrimo when it comes around in November. If you are a plotter, start plotting now. If you’re a pantser like I am, well, just go for it when it rolls around. (although you might want to at least get an outline done) Nanowrimo is a community of like minded folks who want to write. They challenge you to complete 50,000 words in the month of November. It’s a great motivator. They even send you cheer-leading type emails to encourage you as you write. Plus, it gets you in the habit of writing every day.

3. Hook up with other writers. Join writer associations like Romance Writers of America. Friend them on Nanowrimo. Friend authors on social media. Most believe in paying it forward. We wouldn’t be here without the help of others.

4.  Ask questions, even if you think they are silly. I guarantee someone else has wondered the same thing.

5. Take classes. Community colleges. RWA classes, other writing venues. Most classes I’ve attended were reasonable or free.

6. Enter contests. I can’t stress this enough. Where else for $15-30 can you get professional critiques? I promise, asking your friends is nice, but usually not helpful. They are either so brutally honest you quit writing, or they fangirl over stuff they hate because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. Contests give you honest opinions from non-biased writers.

Does some of the critique hurt? Absolutely. I still have not re-visited the manuscript that got these comments. “I have to admit if this was anything but a contest entry I would not have read far into the story.” OUCH. I admit, I cried over that one. Here’s another. “I didn’t connect with the hero or heroine.” WHAT? HOW COULD YOU NOT LOVE MY BABIES?! *insert loud wailing and gnashing of teeth* And the parting comment: “I would have no interest in reading anymore.” Yep. More tears shed. (I plan to revisit this manuscript someday. I still love those characters. However, I won’t worry if it isn’t salvageable, not everything we write is.)

However, let me point out this was my first contest entry. It scored 49/100. What did I do after that critique? Did I hang up my “pen” so to speak? Hell, no. I  decided I’d prove to myself I could write. I took classes. I entered more contests. I found critique partners. I continued to WRITE. EVERY. DAMN. DAY.

Don’t worry if you enter a contest and get a bad score. Sure, it might feel like a failure, but it isn’t. Did you hear that? IT IS NOT A FAILURE. Because here’s the thing, the lower the score, generally, the better the critique.

The comments above? Did they hurt. Of course they did. Maybe she could have phrased things a little “nicer.” But, the judge explained why she didn’t like my entry. At various points she showed me where/how to improve it. The judges that just give 5/5 or 4/5 on everything, rarely make comments. To me, while it is flattering, it isn’t helpful. I WANT and NEED the explanations and advice. That’s how I learn.

Enter contests. I promise, your writing will improve. I kept at it. (See the picture above, those are all contest entries from 2013-2014) My scores improved, but usually I’d score high with two judges and bomb with one. I finally decided it wasn’t too bad, I meant two out of three people liked my stories! And again, the judge that hated it gave the best critique. Judges are not the enemy. Most of them are writers. They know what you’re going through and they want you to improve. So learn from them.

And yes, I finally placed and won in a category. My husband swears his hearing problems are the result of my scream of excitement. Did the final judge (who are usually editors and agents) ask for it? No… but someone else did.

Saving Evangeline will be published next month with Omnific Publishing!

Hang in there. Dreams do come true, as long as you work for it.