With the official announcement of the Top 10 looming over the semi-finalist today, I thought I should take a second to give all my fellow contestants a huge—and congratulatory—round of applause. Not just the ones who have advanced with me, but the ones who entered all together.
Seriously – this contest is always stacked with some major talent, and this year was no exception. To have reached this point with my second complete contemporary romance novel (OUT OF FOCUS) is an accomplishment I hadn’t expected.
Having said that, of the Top 25, I thought it would be fun to play a game of Who’s Going to Make Top 10?
In no way am I saying that my selections are somehow more or better or whatnot. All of the Top 25 have serious chops or they wouldn’t be there. This is merely for fun and not meant to discourage or offend anyone.
So with no further ado, here are my picks for Top 10, in no particular order:
By LDCrichton (Leah)
I stumbled across Leah’s entry somewhere around the Top 55 announcement, staggered to see that she stands are one of Wattpad4 which not only makes her awesome, but also kinda famous in contrast to the rest of us plebes. LOL. She was contracted by Sony to write the first official 1Direction fanfic on Wattpad. Seriously.
We’ve gotten to know each other a bit more over the last week, commiserating over book trailer hell, and SYTYCW stress/nail biting, and I love her infectious personality, warmth and humour. Honestly, anyone who can devote themselves to spending so much time engrossed in Wattpad4 – volunteering and giving so much to the community of young writers is an amazing person in my book.
BEFORE SUNDAY touches on a young college chick (Lola) who is shy and awkward and very much the studious and responsible sort (totally me back in the day), with her nose in her books and eye on much bigger and important things than typical college shenanigans. But for her birthday wish, we see that underneath that industrious exterior is a soft, inner core that longs for something deep, true and everlasting. Love of course. The kind that means she will be seen—because with a nickname like Mouse, clearly she’s got Wallflower tattooed somewhere.
What I loved about Leah’s voice and style is that it reads as so honest. I fell in love with the best friend Xavier who is like the ultimate guy (popular jock and literature buff and trendy hipster all rolled into one delicious package), and when we shortly thereafter meet Jax (Jackson Sunday) who apparently is Lola’s husband from the future come back to make her fall in love with him (thanks to a birthday wish and a magical cupcake)—I fell in love with him, too! Seriously. I want Mou—I mean Lola to have them both. I’m already crushed for Xavier cause I know this isn’t going to end in his favour. And this is only after Chapter one.
Not to mention *spoiler* apparently Jax has a sleeve tattoo that centers around clocks and his philosophy that time is something we all take for granted. Swoon.
The immediate impression I got when I read her pitch was LIAR, LIAR meets THE TIME TRAVELLER’S WIFE. This is going to be one I plan to read from front to back and sideways. A guilty pleasure.
By: Fiona Marsden
There are few who have been as active and involved in the SYTYCW15 contest/community than Ms. Fiona. From day one she’s been a constant voice reaching out to anyone and everyone, showing unflagging support and encouragement. Tweeting, liking, sharing, commenting, voting. This lady read all Top 55 entries in the space of a single weekend. Like seriously – Mind. Blown.
In addition to that, she followed up with a blog entry covering the Semi-Finalists.
I’m convinced she’s a cyborg because how and when she manages to do it all, I have no idea.
Like myself, and a few others who have advanced, she got out of the gate early. And sucked me into a world of espionage. THE SPY WHO SAVED ME Is about Anna, a Russian spy who is reunited with the hero Gabe with whom she had a brief, but passionate affair five years ago. Lo and behold, she had a baby and decides that it’s time to reunite son and father. There are a few reasons why she elects to do this now, all of which I seriously don’t want to give away. But what I can say is that Fiona nailed Anna’s psyche and character voices/dialogue. It reads so authentic I could actually hear the Russian accented voices in my head. Anyone who has struggled with how to capture character voice and how to make your characters all ‘sound’ different on the page – see Fiona. She has that market cornered.
By: Kimmie Ferrell
This was one of the earlier entrants I read, and I think stands as a testament to why entering early was a great idea. Those of us who did, we tapped in to each other and gave both encouragement and feedback. With Kimmie’s entry, it was sharp and showed great potential, but drawing upon a few comments that expressed possibilities for tightening up the pitch and honing in on the first chapter, she came back stronger. I remember coming back later, once the deadline had passed and thinking, ‘Wow! This is so much better, and it was already great to begin with!’
SMOLDERING is a reunion story about two people who dated in high school and are reunited fifteen years later. Angela is a music teacher, passionate and selfless; she wants to see her students score a trip to Madrid that could change their lives. Only problem is she has to somehow come up with $50,000 in a very narrow window to make it happy. Daniel never forgot the one who got away, or understood why she got away in the first place. Now a successful Chef on the cusp of major stardom, he could be Angela’s saviour. But the two have a lot of unresolved feelings—and the spark of passion never really went away.
By: Elle Marlow
Elle is another powerhouse in the SYTYCW community. And someone I have had considerable pleasure getting to know during the last couple months. She’s quick to leap in with a joke to make us all laugh, or a shoulder to commiserate, or little snippets of her own experiences to lend the rest of us plebes some inspiration and hope. As she’s dubbed us the Class of #SYTYCW15, I’d nominate her valedictorian of our little bunch. Or at the very least class president. LOL.
COWBOY’S BABY is about a woman named Alana, an aboriginal actress who walked out on her hubby a year ago, following a devastating miscarriage amongst other terrible things. But now she’s back, filming a new Western movie and desperately needs his help in order to complete the film and meet the terms of her contract. Toss in a grimy, touchy-feely film studio exec and a lot of old wounds, this story is the epitome of #THEFEELS
There was a lot of grit in this story, as Haydon struggles to find the ability to trust Alana again, as well as overcome his own issues with drinking (an addiction acquired to temper the sting of her walking out without a word).
By Melita Joy
I keep saying how positive and amazing everyone has been in this contest, and Melita is no exception to the rule. It almost seems crazy, but I’ve never encountered such an easy-going, supportive bunch just about anywhere else on the internet. I think part of that stems from the Wattpad community, and also because (so I’d like to hope) that writers are just that awesome and friendly.
DISCARDED is about Leilani Davide taking an impulsive trip to Rome to escape what seems to be rather shocking turn of events/news. We meet her on the plane, battling with the overhead compartment (c’mon—we’ve all be there), and winds up seated next to Renato Favalli. I seriously had way too much fun saying that name to myself, over and over and over again. All kind of R rolling and Italian lilting shenanigans. The kicker? He’s also her fiancé (I get the sense that this was some sort of arrangement made when they were children and expected to uphold though only recently revealed, hence Leilani’s abrupt attempts to flee). He’s come all the way to Australia to ‘collect’ her in true Alpha male fashion (and a billionaire). After deliberately securing a seat next to her on the flight (Renato’s reactions to economy is absolutely hysterical, his first impressions of Leilani—even more so), his motives, I can only assume, are to learn more about his bride-to-be without disclosing who he is just yet.
Oooooooooo the drama! The fun!
By: Rachelle Paige
With so many entrants/entries – it was hard to get through everyone in the early days while keeping on top of your own writing, etc. Rachelle’s was one I remember ear-marking but failed to actually get to until quite recently.
PATTERNS is Elizabeth (Lizzie) Shaw’s story – weddings was def a theme I noticed with the wave of entries this year. Probably because when it comes to romance as a whole, weddings and occupations tangled up in them seems like a natural accompaniment. Elizabeth, however, is looking to take on more than just weddings, however, which will increase her income and thereby all her to stay put on Jekyll Island. But she didn’t bank on competition for the role in the form of Mark Edwards, an experienced catering looking to settle down in the seaside community. I was immediately drawn to Lizzie, as the first chapter opens with her taking dance classes with a bunch of seniors; we all discover quite quickly that she considers a septuagenarian to be one of her closest friends. To me, this was smart, clever story crafting—because in that small sliver we so see much about Lizzie. Who she is and how she sees herself. A perfect example of showing and not telling.
By: Michelle Miles
I haven’t gotten to know Michelle as well as some of the others, but what I’ve seen online she strikes as sweet, sincere and the sort of person who makes easily makes friends and keeps them. Honestly, the best part of this contest is getting to know the other entrants, bonding and connecting. Writing can be such an isolating craft, this experience with Harlequin has really blown all the doors and windows wide open, allowing us to tap into each other. We’re all becoming a little family and it’s really, really effin cool. Michelle is quick to leap in and toss out comments or praise or jokes, she’s an active force on Twitter and I look forward to getting to know her better as I am sure she advances to the next round.
HEAVEN is about a wedding planner named Bella, a one night stand meant to be only just that comes back to bite her in the but when the chef for her latest wedding event (whom also happens to have close familial ties to the bride), the possibilities for delicious, searing tension is boundless. We first meet Wyatt, sweating in the Texan heat at the wedding (leading up towards the steamy night in question). As he so aptly describes, the decor is an explosion of pink that brings to mind Pepto-bismal, which makes me like him instantly. LOL. But Wyatt is grappling with a few bumps in the road that have bruised him personally and professionally. He’s moody, brooding and utterly irresistible.
Michelle’s writing style is light, easy and effortless—which means she’s spent a long ass time beating the keys to make it so. There’s a fun, quirky exchange of banter between Wyatt and Bella as they meet, him offering to buy her a drink at an open bar had me giggle. It all rings honest and believable, which is a commendable feat and accomplishment.
By: Daryl Baldwin
I have to admit, I was one of those clueless few who thought men didn’t write romance. I know, please don’t throw your shoes at me. But honestly, it’s only because every time I talk to guys about romance novels – they all get this glazed expression or roll their eyes. But when I attended the RWA conference this year (for the first time) I was pleasantly surprised. Men DO write romance. And not only write it, but read it – live it, breathe it and enjoy it.
Daryl is one of two men whom have advanced to the Top25, an encouraging and inspiring feat, I think, to show that gender doesn’t matter – it’s the story that counts.
AFTER THE HARVEST – The writing is lush and evocative. You’re immediately drawn in Lucy’s emotional angst as she sits in white-knuckle worry in a waiting room. Hoping and praying that the doctors don’t come back to her with the worst. Again, don’t want to issue any spoilers here, especially since I think it would diminish what is otherwise a gripping opening line/scene. By the end of Chapter one, Lucy is grappling some major dilemmas, some of which is tied up in past conflict of being jilted by her ex and a struggling new business. I found myself not only liking Lucy, but rooting for her.
By: JC Bullard
This is another entrant I didn’t come to discover until the contest was well under way and the Top 55 had been announced. So there isn’t much I can comment as far as my interactions with JC but what little I’ve seen on Wattpad should come as no surprise that JC is every bit as kind and supportive as the rest of the contestants have proved to be.
As far as HIGH STAKES goes – wow. I haven’t gone too far into this story just yet, but the first chapter ends on one hell of a bang. In fact, it starts with one, too. The pacing is smooth and the gaggle of teenagers the heroine Dani is transporting read/sound authentic on the page. And though there are roughly nine of them, I didn’t get a case of whiplash when leaping from one to the other. It worked. It made sense. Kids talk over each other and interrupt each other, so capturing that without confusing the reader is a mark of serious talent.
This is probably one of the ‘cleanest’/easiest reads I’ve seen in the running and if the rest of the book reads as smooth as the first chapter, then this one will be one to watch all the way to the bitter end.
- …and of course since this is my blog I will naturally pick my own story, OUT OF FOCUS to place as a Top 10 contender.
OUT OF FOCUS touches on the story of Eva Turner, a single mother raising three girls on a small island community known as Haven. Aptly named, as she’s spent the last five years in witness protection. Stripped of her name and anything that tied her to the past and all its mistakes, Eva’s tried to carve out a little bit of happiness for her and her daughters. Kicking off a photography gallery, where the theme centers on secrets we all bury deepest, Eva never expected her artwork would one day go viral, or the attention it would suddenly swing her way. Now, caught in the spotlight, Marshall Davies is an investigative journalist determined to wear her down. He’s faced terrorist, slippery politicians and rebel leaders. But he’s broken. World-weary, and a coveted promotion with CTV could take him out of the field (and line of fire). All that stands in his way is Eva, and whether or not he can convince her to let him tell her story, not realizing that exposing her could not only cost Eva her new life/identity, but custody of her three girls.
If you’d like to check out the Top 25 entrants, follow this link.
Honorable mentions go to:
- CHEKOWSKI’S REDEMPTION by: Alethia Stone
- CATCH THE FALLEN STAR by: Kim Greenwood
- MOUNTAIN OF LIES by: Jayne Evans
- REBOUNDS by Daphne Dubois
- CRAZY ENOUGH by Hmmcghee
- THAT SWEET DEAL by Elizabeth Lynx
Honestly – they’re all freaking awesome. And that includes most of the Top55, as well.