Announcing the 5 FINALISTS in the First Chapters Romance Writing Competition

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on October 11, 2007 0 Comments

The results are in – congratulations to our 5 FINALISTS!

The 5 finalists below have been selected from a group of truly amazing writers, making this a difficult decision for everyone who participated in Round Two by reading, commenting, and voting.We would like to extend a sincere thank you to all of the semi-finalists for their fine work, as well as to everyone involved in the reading and voting process.

The manuscripts of the 5 finalists are now in the hands of our Grand Prize Judging Panel, who will announce the Winner of the First Chapters Romance Writing Competition on October 30.

Without further ado, here are the five finalists:

Judi Fennell – In Over Her Head
Rachael Herron - Love Spun
Meredith McGuire – The Shadow’s Kiss
Dena Straughn – Dancing with My Dream
Starr Toth – Trust Me

Judi Fennell – In Over Her Head

Judi Fennell grew up on Bewitched, The Addams Family and I Dream of Jeannie, so it’s no wonder she loves to write light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek paranormal romance novels. Her story, Beauty and The Best, was the only Romance in the semi-final round of the original First Chapters Contest, and her Merman story, In Over Her Head, has made it to the final round of the First Chapters Romance Contest.

Judi is president of her local chapter of Romance Writers of America and has won numerous national writing awards for her stories. She finds the time to write because of an incredibly supportive husband and children for whom the words, “Don’t bother Mom, she’s writing her book,” are normal. (Poor things don’t know any better.) Check out excerpts and book trailers for her stories and articles on writing at

About In Over Her Head
…just when you thought it was safe to fall in love…

When Erica Peck, one terrified-of-the-ocean marina owner, finds herself at the bottom of the sea conversing with a merman named Reel, she thinks she’s died and gone to her own version of Hell. When the Oceanic Council demands she and Reel retrieve a lost cache of diamonds from the resident sea monster in return for their lives, she knows she’s died and gone to Hell.

When they escape the monster and end up on a deserted island, she amends her opinion – she’s died and gone to Heaven.

But when Reel sacrifices himself to allow her to return to her world, she realizes that, Heaven or Hell, with Reel, she’s In Over Her Head.
Chapter 1  | Chapter 2

Rachael Herron – Love Spun

Rachael Herron is a freelance writer and a 911 fire/medical dispatcher living in the Bay Area. She received her MFA from Mills College, fell in love with Oakland and remained after graduation. She knits, spins, and is learning how to play the ukulele. Her blog can be found at and her most recent article was a travel piece on Venice in Curve Magazine.

About Love Spun
Abigail, a knit-designer, inherits a cottage on a shepherd’s land and uproots her city life to move to the country, bringing her spinning wheels and knitting needles with her. Cade has spent his adult life making the sheep ranch profitable, and Abigial’s encroachment does not come easy for him, made worse when her plans of starting a yarn store on her share of the property become clear. The two are forced to share close quarters by terms of the will, and even while they’re drawn together, Cade rejects the idea of sharing his hard-earned space with an over-eager knitter with a love of alpacas and the surrounding hills. Will the spinning wheel of love ply them together or will it spin them out and away from each other forever?
Chapter 1  | Chapter 2

Meredith McGuire – The Shadow’s Kiss

Born in the south, raised in the west, and schooled in the east, Meredith McGuire grew up enamored of English history.  Indeed, her penchant for Shakespeare, six-course lutes, castles, and complicated chignons earned her the sobriquet “Medieval Girl” in high school.  When a friend from Bombay invited her home for the holidays, she thought the best part would be the layover in London, and a chance to see Holbein’s painting of Anne Boleyn—until she stepped off the plane into the sultry heat of a Bombay spring, and realized that all her assumptions about India were completely wrong.  Now the veteran of several lengthy trips to both countries, she is pursuing a doctorate in social sciences—and, of course, writing romance in every spare moment she can find.

About The Shadow’s Kiss
Having survived the shipwreck that killed her parents, Emmaline Martin is determined to fulfill their final dream for her: marriage to the man they chose, and a comfortable life with him in Delhi’s Anglo-Indian society.  But as the city trembles beneath the natives’ growing unrest, and her fiancé’s callousness turns to brutality, she finds herself increasingly drawn to his cousin, Julian, the enigmatic and controversial Marquis of Holdensmoor.  When revolution sweeps across India, bringing violence and destruction for British and Indian alike, it is Julian who sweeps her to safety in the city-state of Sheend. 

In this enchanted desert kingdom, romance blossoms between Emma and Julian.  When he is called back to Delhi to negotiate a peace, he swears that he will come back for her.  But in the wake of his departure comes a tragedy that no one could have foreseen… leaving Julian convinced that Emma is dead, and Emma too numb to care.

1860. Emma’s paintings of the Mutiny have created a furor in London, making her artistic pseudonym, Aurora Ashdown, the talk of the town.  When, on the night of his betrothal to another woman, Julian discovers that these scenes from his private nightmares have been painted by the woman he thought long dead, his world is overturned.  Emma tells herself she wants nothing to do with the man who abandoned her when she needed him most.  Julian, knowing better than she of the darkness that now possesses him, forces himself to stay away.  But when someone tries to kill Emma, it becomes clear that buried in her paintings is the key to one of the greatest crimes committed during the Mutiny—and that they must work together to unravel the mystery before the villain silences them both.  As they are forced to confront the past they so unwillingly share, Julian and Emma learn that the only thing more difficult than solving the crime is the task of resisting their attraction to each other…
Chapter 1  | Chapter 2


Dena Straughn – Dancing With My Dream

Dena Straughn is a mother of four and an educator. Because of side effects from treatments for cancer, for the last twelve years Dena has been in a wheelchair or has had to use crutches in order to ambulate. Because of the painful illness, she recently made the decision to retire early. That, along with the fact that her children are now marrying and leaving home, left her with time to begin writing this summer. Dancing With My Dream is her first novel and she is excited that Gather has welcomed her work so openly. 

About Dancing With My Dream
Sensual, talented, Addie Kane left her hometown in Alabama after her brother died. Rather than grieve, Addie shut the world out, and buried herself in a goal. When her parents died, there was no one to hold her or give her solace. She simply worked harder at her goal. When she reached it, she found herself utterly alone, a social hermit, transplanted in South Carolina, away from anyone she had ever known. Jake Stewart came as a blinding light, piercing her darkness and reviving her hope. He was three years old, but great in stature in Addie’s eyes. Through an unusual encounter with the toddler, Addie gets involved in the lives of the eight families in her cul-de-sac. She meddles, mends, and magically weaves her heart into the lives of others. She gives passion, hope, love, and faith, and in the end, she wants what she has given. Colin Stewart, Jake’s dad, dances with Addie in the rain, where she first feels a baptism of hope. Dave Jameson is a comfortable friend, who wants more from the relationship. Michael Addison is a volatile tempered paint and body man who needs a lot of restoration himself. A twisting and turning, controversial plot keeps the reader interested and wondering which leading man to root for. Passion and love bloom as Addie travels the road to restoration.
Chapter 1  | Chapter 2

Starr Toth – Trust Me

Starr Toth has been a writer all her life (yawn, we all say that) but never really found her creative muse until she bought a horse.  That’s when she discovered where that elusive little bit of inspiration lives — in the barn.  Cleaning stalls is a solitary (why does no one ever want to help?), contemplative activity, and the one where she gets her best ideas.  She started writing down the stories she dreamed up while cleaning stalls.  It began with mystery novels, then took a sharp turn into romance.  Ideas came even faster.  By the time she wrote “Trust Me”, she had four horses and four times the manure to clean.  Her muse was fairly screaming at me.  That was a few years ago.  Since then Starr’s 2 daughters moved out and she and her husband live on their small farm with two horses, 8 chickens, 7 cats, and one dog.  And her muse, who still hasn’t shut up. 

About Trust Me
Eleanor Coggins may be inept at every career she’s tried, but she is determined to succeed at one thing — making Banner Westfield pay for the death of her best friend.  The night she breaks into the Westfield mansion, there’s only one thing standing in her way: Banner’s half-brother, Jack Payton.  His life hasn’t been a resounding success either, if you count going to jail for manslaughter as a career bump.  But he’s determined to put his bad-boy life behind him and gain custody of his daughter.  The catch is convincing social services and his domineering mother that he is a reformed family man.  A fiancee would help. 

Being engaged to Jack gets Eleanor inside Banner’s house.  But Banner has more secrets, and Eleanor is getting too close.  Too close to Banner’s secrets, too close to Jack’s mother-less daughter, and too close to Jack, who proves to be an expert at talking her into his bed.  Right before he plans to dump her out of his life.
Chapter 1  | Chapter 2


Please join me in congratulating our five finalists on their success!

About the Author ()

Hi everyone! I am a twentysomething (soon to be thirtysomething... :o) Bostonian who loves to read, write, and spend time with friends and family.

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