2014 Golden Heart® Finalist

Wednesday morning my husband burst into our bedroom. “You’ve got a phone call.”

“Who is it?” I was groggy. I’d been up till three AM writing on my next novel.

“She said something about your book and a golden heart.”

I’m dreaming…or so I thought until he picked up my hand and slapped the phone into my palm. I transferred the damn thing to my other hand and rubbed my smarting palm on the edge of the bed. “Hello?”

“Congratulations. You’re a finalist in the Golden Heart contest,” said the woman on the other end of the line.

She continued, but I couldn’t comprehend her words over the buzzing in my ears. My body shook. I pounded my chest to make my lungs suck in air before I passed out. I must have responded appropriately, because she congratulated me again and hung up. I ran from the room screaming and crying.

My husband hugged me and endured my strange behavior for a few minutes. “This is unbelievable. I so proud of you, honey.”

I nodded. Totally unbelievable.

Oh. My. God.

What if they made a mistake? Called the wrong person? I rushed to my computer and signed on to the Romance Writers of America’s website.

This is what I read. I’ve highlighted the most important part.

Romance Writers of America (RWA), the trade association for aspiring romance fiction authors, announces the finalists for the Golden Heart® Awards. The Golden Heart recognizes excellence in unpublished romance manuscripts with finalists in seven categories chosen from more than 1,200 manuscript entries each year.

Finalists in the category of Romantic Suspense

“Chasing Damn” by Denny S. Brycegoldenheart

“Dangerous Dreams” by Abbie Roads

“Fatal Fragrances” by Connie Taxdal

“In a Sea of Change” by Deborah Wilding

“Secrets That Kill” by Sarah Andre

“See Her No More” by Sharon Wray

Did you hear me scream again?

Thank you for visiting my website and congratulations to the other five 2014 Golden Heart finalists!

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Connie Taxdal


“Someday they’ll find our bleached bones,” Tim said.

My younger sister, Debbie, who was ten at the time, started bawling.

Mom pulled Deb onto her lap from the back seat. “Timothy, don’t say things like that,” Mom scolded my older brother, and then turned to Dad. “David just pay attention to the road and keep driving.”

“I can’t see a thing,” Dad shouted above the roaring wind.

We were on Route 66 in the middle of the Mojave Desert when a fierce sandstorm suddenly swooped over us. The Mojave is known for its summer heat and high winds, often above 50 miles per hour, that occur frequently along the western end.

West End Rt 66 West end of Route 66.

Every summer, Dad packed the station wagon with luggage, coolers, and games for a three-week tour of the United States, and off we’d go. Since he was a minister, our destinations always coincided with the cities hosting the Southern Baptist Convention. Invariably, a number of mishaps occurred on each trip.

It was 1962. Our course was set from Oklahoma, west to California, north to the World’s Fair in Seattle, back east through Yellowstone National Park and the Black Foot Hills of North Dakota, and then southward to home. The “Grand Tour” Mom called it. Daddy call it several other things by the time the trip was finished. I called it one big square and thousands of miles cooped up with Debbie, “Mommy’s Little Angel” and my obnoxious fourteen year old brother.

Dad stopped the car in the middle of the road, but kept the motor running. We hadn’t seen another vehicle in either direction for over an hour so I guess he figured it was safer to stop than to run off the road into a gully. The car rocked as it was buffeted by the wind.

For once in twelve years, I agreed with Tim that we might end this trip as a pile of dry, brittle bones. I put my hands over my ears and thrust my head between my knees. Stories of pioneers dying in the desert swirled in my mind as furiously as the sand whipped across the land.

“I’m too young to die,” I chanted to the floorboard. Tears threatened to spill from my eyes, but I sniffed them back. I didn’t want to be a cry baby like Deb who still cowered on Mom’s lap. If big brother wasn’t scared, then I wasn’t either.

I stole a peek at Tim. His face looked chalky-white and a sheen of sweat dampened his forehead. His lips formed a tight, thin line. Ha. He was as frightened as I. That made me feel better. I sneered at him just for good measure. He stuck his tongue out at me and then turned away.

The sandstorm barreled past as quickly as it had appeared. Dad got out of the car to check the extent of damage. The paint was pitted down to bare metal in spots and the windshield looked frosted like it had been sandblasted. Imagine that!

The last vision in my mind that day was of Dad driving to the nearest town with his head sticking out the window and muttering that at least we were lucky the windshield hadn’t been blown to pieces.

The experience was typical of our family vacations.

Connie Taxdal

Do you have a memorable family vacation to share? Please comment below.

Detroit River

Tim had a choke hold on my wrist and a smirk on his face. “You’re in big trouble.”

My family was on another summer vacation. Dad was a minister and our trips revolved around whatever city hosted the Southern Baptist Convention. This particular year the location was Detroit, Michigan.

The first evening of the conference turned into a disaster. At fifteen years of age, I wasn’t interested in sitting on a hard, folding chair, listening to a boring speaker. Debbie, my younger sister, sat quietly and dutifully between Mom and Dad. My older brother, Tim, read a book, and I squirmed. I tugged Dad’s suit coat sleeve, and when he bent his head, told him I had to use the bathroom. He nodded and I was out of there.

Exploring the building, I wound up on the roof’s observation deck among a group of kids who seemed as bored as I. It didn’t take long for my budding sex glands to pick out the cutest teenage boy and strike up a conversation–and steal a few kisses in the dim shadows.

Just as things got interesting, my brother jerked me out of Jason’s arms. “We’ve been looking all over for you. Mom is about ready to call the police thinking you were kidnapped.”

“I wish. Then I wouldn’t have to put up with you,” I said as I struggled to wrench from his grasp.

He dragged me across the rooftop to the door as I waved goodbye to Jason. When we met the rest of the family, Mom gave me the riot act. Dad pursed his lips and shook his head as he led the way to the car.

We left the Convention Center and headed to our hotel on the Canadian side of the Detroit river.  Riding through the city streets, my brain whirled to think of something to ease the tension that was as thick as the Niagara Falls mist. I had to get my parents’ minds off of my “terrible, inconsiderate” deed.

“Which way does the river run?” I blurted from the back seat of the car as we started over the bridge.

Ambassador_bridge_evening The Ambassador Bridge from the Canadian side of the Detroit River.

Dad pointed West and Mom pointed East, their fingertips almost collided. “That way,” they declared confidently at the same time.

Our car rocked with laughter. Ah, the world was back on its axle, at least until…

Connie Taxdal

Do you think family vacations are important in this day and age? Please leave your comment below.

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