My Fellow Finalists:


Jenny Gardiner    Kim Howe


Raz Steel    Lindsey Brookes


Kate Carlisle     Sally Stotter 


Cathy Pegau   Meretta Pater 


Linda Thomas-Sundstrom


Beauty and The Best: TOP 20 FINALIST out of 2,676 entries in the FIRST CHAPTERS contest and Top 6 FINALIST in the American Title III contest.


The American Title Contest is a contest run by Romantic Times BOOKreviews Magazine and Dorchester Publishing, similar to television's American Idol. The finalists are chosen by the staff and compete over 5 rounds, comprised of Best Opening Line, Best Story Summary, Best Hero/Heroine, Best Dialogue Scene and Best Romantic Scene. The entries are published on RT's website and in the monthly additions of the magazine. The public then votes online each month and the two contestants with the lowest scores are eliminated. The author who gets the highest number of votes has his/her manuscript published.

I was in the third installment of this contest with my manuscript, Beauty and The Best. We had the honor of being the only round of American Title contest to count a man as one of the finalists. Raz Steel made it all the way to the Top 4--but in the end it didn't matter that he didn't win; Dorchester bought one of his stories. 

To date, five of our ten finalists have gone on to get publishing contracts and we're keeping our fingers crossed for the rest! Below are my submissions for this contest and you can see the judges' comments in my Press Kit.

The winner of American Title III was Jenny Gardiner for her story, Sleeping With Ward Cleaver.


Beauty and The Best

Jolie Gardener's new boss, reclusive widowed landscape artist, Todd Best, who hadn't produced anything since the death of his wife two years ago, was a pretty interesting guy. He a) showed up buck naked on her first day on the job, b) asked her to pose for him - in the nude! and c) discovered she was an aspiring romance novelist who found the tragedy of his lost love inspiring, thereby throwing her out of his house, his life...and his heart. What's a girl to do? Fall in love, of course!


Round #3, Story Summary:

Former foster child Jolie Gardener is searching for happily-ever-after. Oh, not for her. For her manuscript. She believes "ever afters" only happen between the pages of a book. Problem is, she has no idea how to write a happy ending.

As personal chef to Todd Best, famous landscape artist whose paintings and legendary love story are synonymous, she's found her true-life hero. Too bad he's so freaky about his privacy he's vowed never to exhibit again, let alone star in her romance novel.

When her apartment burns, Todd offers a room in his home in exchange for her culinary expertise at a charity picnic. Jolie ropes Todd into some cookin' in the kitchen and temperatures soar, melting Jolie's heart, as does Todd's penchant for organizing events for homeless children.

A merchant gives Todd a book on portraiture, relaxing the stranglehold on his muse. Paintings flow onto canvasses, all of them of Jolie. Her zest for life has rekindled his with a rainbow of color.

But when his words surface in Jolie's manuscript, Todd sees only red and Jolie learns what she's always feared is true: Nothing lasts forever.

Or can it? With the help of an anthropomorphic kitty (who, coincidentally, isn't around when the merchant is), Todd realizes they've each found their muse in the other. Maybe life is for the living. Together.

At an art show benefit for local shelters, Todd reveals his feelings for her in the paintings she inspired. Some things can last forever. The Best things.


Round #2, Characterization:

Jolie Gardener, personal chef by day, aspiring romance writer by night, likes to talk and does it a lot. She has to because if she stops, all the pain, disillusionment, and abandonment of her AWOL mother, question-mark father and foster-care childhood may rise up like a chocolate souffl on steroids, sweeping away the fragile infrastructure of her life. But she's fine. Really. She is.

Or so she thinks.

Todd Best isn't fine. He knows it. And doesn't care. After his wife died - the woman who believed in him no matter what, even when he was a struggling artist - he's put painting aside, moved from their home and lost himself in the minutiae of daily life. Alone. Private. The way he likes it. The last thing he needs is some chatty cook seeping into the perfectly bland canvas of his life.

Or so he thinks.


Round #1, Opening Line:             There's a naked man in my kitchen.





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