Monday, July 07, 2008

Best First Book 2008 RITA Nominees

Okay, so I'm (Helen) doing some shameless promotion today. Only not for me!

I've been emailing with a few of the other RITA nominees for Romance Writers of America's nominees for BEST FIRST BOOK and they're a great bunch of ladies.

So here's your chance to find out about some hot new writers ... and their reactions to the call notifying them they were RITA finalists ...

Jamie Carie SNOW ANGEL

What was it like to get THE call?

Well, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that when I glanced at caller ID and saw RWA on the screen, I thought it was a telemarketer! So when I said, “Hello,” my voice wasn’t exactly enthusiastic. Then, while the sweet RWA lady is telling me of Snow Angel’s nomination for a RITA, I wasn’t, at first, tracking with her. My initial response was, “huh?” Isn’t that awful!?! After a few seconds though, it hit me. RITA Awards – Snow Angel – First Books Category. Then I nearly fell to the floor in a dead faint! I started gushing my unbelief and thanks and she sounded relieved that I was finally giving her the expected response! After hanging up, I started shaking. I think I felt shaky for a good hour after the call. Then I called all my friends and family with the news. I’m still amazed and so thankful to be nominated. Whoo-hooo!! What an honor!!




Truthfully, I actually heard a few of the Young adult RITA calls had
already gone out earlier that day, and well, I hadn't received a call
so that was that. Almost as soon as I had the thought the phone
rang, and it was my RITA call for being a finalist in the Young Adult
category. My heart was beating fast, my hands trembled, and I
couldn't stop laughing. Yes, a total nervous giggler. I zipped off
a ton of emails, and made calls. It was so surreal, I swear I felt
lightheaded. Then an hour or so later, I get another call that I was
a RITA finalist. I told the nice lady, "Oh, thank you! I already
received my call." "You did? From whom?" I told her, and she said,
"Oh, this is one is for Best First Book." Ohmigosh. And yes, more
laughing, this time a little breathless because surely pigs were
flying. ;)"

I'm an investigative reporter for the NBC station in Boston, and have been for about 25 years now. So when the phone rings at my desk at the station, there's always the possibility that it could be someone spilling the scoop on the best story of your career. It could also be--and I am not exaggerating, this is a real call--someone calling to reveal they've got the goods on who's responsible for the arson in Andover: the Ashtar Intergalactic Command. People call to rat out corrupt politicians, offer in-house documents on Statehouse scandals, want me to get their health insurance lowered or fix a parking ticket. (Can't do that.) It might be my news director sending me out to cover breaking news. You have to be pleasant to everyone of course, member of the intergalactic command or not.
So it's always with a balance of the promise of possibility and the knowledge of past experience that I pick up the phone. It's no coincidence, I think, that my phone ring sounds like "uh-oh!"
I had no idea it was RITA call day. So when the phone rang? Well, now you know what went through my mind. Uh-oh. And we were racing out to do a story, so I was under the gun.
"Seven News," I said. This had better be good, I thought.
"Hank Phillippi Ryan?" the voice said.
"Yes?" I replied. (Who else would it be on my private line?)
"I'm calling about the RITAs," the voice said. "Congratulations..."


I still don't think I have quite recovered from getting the phone call telling me I had been nominate for a RITA because I had two of those calls! The first was to announce that Silent in the Grave was a finalist in the category of Best Novel with Romantic Elements. I had just finished jumping around about an hour later when the phone rang again. It was a different woman this time, and when she started to tell me I'd been nominated, I thought it was a mistake. It wasn't until she got to "Best First Novel" that I realized I was actually a finalist in two categories! I still can't quite believe that I get to attend my first RWA national conference as a nominee. I would pinch myself, but I've done that so much I'm violet!



Forget Cloud Nine. Forget floating on air. Forget phrases like “flying high” and “on top of the world”. Being nominated for a RITA (not once, but twice! EEEEE!) is so hard to describe that I can only compare it to being on another planet—and as a romance writer, the planet could only be Venus, of course.

The lightheadedness from lack of oxygen began at 10:03am on March 25, 2008, when the phone rang and a sweet-voiced woman announced that she was calling on behalf of Romance Writers of America, to tell me that DEAD GIRLS ARE EASY was a finalist in the Best First Book Category of the RITA awards. From what I recall of the conversation, my mind went blank at the words “Romance Writers of America”. I started to cry, and quite honestly missed most of what she said after that. I tried to take notes, but my hands were shaking, and even though I was sitting at my desk, I couldn’t seem to find a pen even though there was a cup full of them right in front of me! She was so kind, so patient, and so obviously happy for me—the moment was surreal.

After I hung up the phone, I immediately called my husband, my agent, and my editor. Slightly hoarse from squealing, still shaking like a leaf, I put hands to keyboard and started letting some of my dearest online friends know the fabulous news.

The first problem arose at the excited response, “What category did you final in?” The high-altitude lack of oxygen to my brain affected my memory, and again, the mind went blank. Could’ve been either Paranormal or Best First Book, and I honestly DID NOT KNOW at that point. (Yes, I’m blonde, but I’m not normally that ditzy!) I dithered, I fluttered, I wrung my hands, cursing the gravitational pull that tried to pull me back down to Earth before I was ready—how could a person who couldn’t remember details like that possibly be eligible for a RITA?

So just as I’d made up my mind to call back and reveal my stupidity by asking what category I’d finaled in, the phone rang again. It was another RWA board member, calling to inform me that DEAD GIRLS ARE EASY was a finalist in the Paranormal category of the RITA.

I honestly thought there’d been a mistake—that I was being called twice in error. The woman was probably as confused as I was; I told her someone had already called, and it took some babbling and questions and repeated questions before she made it clear what had obviously happened—I’d finaled in BOTH the Best First Book and Paranormal categories!

Earth receded into a tiny blue pinpoint as I got back on the rocketship to Venus. It was a little dry up there, but champagne took care of that little problem. The landscape’s a bit barren, but the flowers that I got from my husband, publisher and friends brightened it right up. It might’ve been lonely up there in the sky, but the emails, phone calls and good wishes from my writing pals kept that from happening.

And if you don’t mind, I think I’ll stay up here just a little while longer. I know the chances of me actually winning are small (I’ve read some of the books I’m up against!), but it truly doesn’t matter to me whether I win or lose, because I got to ride the rocketship (not once, but twice!), and I’ve had my trip to Venus. Nothing can change that.

Have you ever had a day or a moment that you knew you’d remember forever? Re-live it again in your memory, and tell me about it.

There’s plenty of room up here, as long as you’re not afraid of height.

Jamie's giving away a copy of SNOW ANGEL today. Hank's giving away copies of PRIMETIME and the second book in the series, FACETIME. And Terri's giving away copies of the first two books in her Nicki Styx series, DEAD GIRLS ARE EASY and A MATCH MADE IN HELL.

The author's will checking in a few times today, so if you've got questions or comments, have at it!


Dina said...

Congrats to all for being nominated and good luck.

Margay said...

This is so exciting! Congratulations to all of the nominees - I wish you all could win. I have to give a special shout-out to Hank Philipi Ryan, being from the Boston area myself. I have watched her on the news for years and was delighted to find out she was a novelist, too. Way to go, Hank! You make Boston (and the whole Commonwealth) proud!

Again, congratulations to all!

Betina Krahn said...

How totally cool of you, Helen, to share the spotlight with your fellow writers! Only one of the many reasons we love you!

Ladies, welcome to convertible and thanks so much for sharing your "call" stories with us. I felt like I was right there with you, reliving and re-enjoying some of my own highlights! I can't wait to see how all of this comes out in San Fransisco! Regardless, you're all winners! This is one contest that makes you a star just for finalling! And seeing your name and photo and your book cover on those big "Jumbo-tron" screens. . . it's quite a thrill! Good luck!

Betina Krahn said...

Oh, and whatever you do, write out a thank you or two to take to the podium with you. Don't be caught unprepared for success! You never know if you'll need it. . . fate takes funny turns sometimes!

D Twomey said...

Congratulations to everyone! I'll be adding more books to my TBR pile now....

And don't leave yourself out, Helen. Tell us your reaction story!

Best of luck to everyone!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Hey All--and a special shout out to Margay! Thanks so much for watching..and thanks so much for reading. You made my day.

Helen--this is so much fun. Thank you for so graciously and generously taking us for a ride with the top down. (My hair....)

Prime Time is also nominated for Best Romantic getting two calls on RITA day was, yes, astonishing.

SO--shall we dish about dresses? I read somewhere that Deanna--who is the only other nominee I've met and who is beyond gorgeous--is thinking of wearing an ultra-glam lace-up thing?

Watch this space for a giveaway of Prime Time and book 2 in the Charlotte McNally mysteries, Face Time!

Much love and luck to all...

Helen Brenna said...

Hank, Primetime's been nominated for a long more than RITAs from looking at your website. You go, girl!

And Diane (d Twomey) I cried! How's that for a call story? LOL 'Course that wouldn't surprise anyone who knows me!!

Cindy Gerard said...

Congratulations, ladies - and wow, so many double headers. Just goes to show what a talented group you are.

And Helen - you are a sweetie to share the spotlight. Now I want to know - did you get your Rita dress, Helen? and if so, details, please!!

I know this isn't about ME BUT, I've gotta share. I finished my book!! Today was deadline so I'm doing a little cloud walking myself. Whew, what a relief.

Again, congrats to all you RITA finalists. I get to present a RITA this year - not your category but I'm so excited to get to be a part of the celebration!!

Helen Brenna said...

Yay, Cindy! Major congrats on getting that book finished. Tight deadline there, so I'm sure you're exhausted.

Yes, I did get a dress. Although I'm still thinking about it and may do a little more shopping. With any luck, I'll figure it out by the weekend and post a pic, how's that?

Cindy Gerard said...

Absolutely Helen. We want pictures!!

CrystalGB said...

Congratulations to all the nominees. How exciting. :)

Terri said...

Hi, everyone! I've always wanted to ride in a convertible - an extra RITA call benefit I didn't expect! :-) Thanks for hosting us today, Helen!

I still can't believe it, quite frankly. And yes, I will unashamedly admit that I went dress shopping the day after I got those calls! LOL I'm going all out in floor-length bronze satin (with matching shoes). Who knows when I'll get another chance to wear a dress like that, hm? My heroine has a saying: "Look like a million bucks, feel like a million bucks", and I'm going to do my best to take her advice, at least for one evening.

Thanks for the words of advice about the "thank yous", Betina, and congratulations to Cindy for finishing that book!

I'm going to copy Hank and give away the first two books in my Nicki Styx series: Dead Girls Are Easy and A Match Made In Hell.

Anybody out there like spooky/funny stories full of quirky characters, twists and surprises?

lois greiman said...

Congrats everyone. Thanks for riding with us and sharing your stories. I'll be there to cheer you all on in San Fran. Think of all those Ritas going home with happy winners!

Anna And Sean said...

Congrats on all the nominations! I thought it was a riot that the double nominees all thought they were being called twice in error. As a reader I can only imagine that these awards are like the Oscars- so good luck to all. I'm also very excited to have some new authors to read. My husband might not be so happy ( I only have so much room he says) but I am tickled.
My question to all the first book writers: How do you juggle writing with all the other demands of the day? Do you have set schedules for writing? And also, Has being published (and nominated) changed any of those demands?
Thanks for cruisin around today and again, Good Luck!!!

Debra Dixon said...

First a big thanks to Helen for bring all these yummy books to us! ::cha-ching goes the Amazon shopping cart::

I've gotta say, I'm loving the covers. Loving.

Cheri2628 said...

Wow, ladies! What a way to begin your writing careers! Not only have you achieved the success of being published in the first place, but you have also been nominated for a MAJOR award for your FIRST books! This must be immensely satisfying and exciting for you. Congratulations! Good luck with the award, and best wishes for continued success. :)

Kelly Parra said...

Helen, thanks for having us here! And I'm excited to be part of this nomination with each of these great writers!

I'm going to be total last minute on the dress issue. Bad, Kelly, bad. :)

Liza said...

Congrats to each of you! Looks like I have a few more books to add to my TBB list.

Helen Brenna said...

Have you looked for a dress, Kelly, or are you procrastinating? Oh, you'll find something perfect!

Deb, you're welcome.

Anna and Sean - I can answer for me, anyway. Writing has become a full-time job for me. Working from home does make it more difficult to stay focused and easier for the family to expect Mom to do everything, as usual, so I've just had to learn how to turn a blind eye to things. The house isn't as clean as it used to be and we eat a lot more takeout than ever before, but this is really something I want to work. So I just do it!

Being nominated hasn't changed anything for me from a demand standpoint. I was already contracted for several books. I'm hoping, though, that it'll open a few doors.

Thanks Cheri and Liza, and everyone else for that matter!

Carrie - the book girl said...

Congratulations to all of you!! I will be adding your books to my tbr list!!!

catslady said...

Congratulations everyone. I loved hearing all the stories and I think I would love reading all your books :)

Maureen said...

Congratulations to everyone! I loved hearing your stories and I wish you all the best of luck.

Kammie said...

awwww....I got a little weepy-eyed reading all your stories. Congratulations to all of you!

traveler said...

Congratulations and all the best. What wonderful stories which are so inspiring and uplifting. All the best for future success.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading about the nominees and the books look so fascinating and intriguing. Congratulations at this exciting time.

Cathy said...

There are some great stories here, and I can't believe I missed them all the first time around. Thanks for posting the list.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations everyone! How wonderful to celebrate with this nomination. The books are so enticing.

Wendy said...

Congrats to everyone! the only book I've read in the list is Dead Girls Are Easy - it's great! I can't wait to read A Match made in Hell. I definitely want to read the other authors, too. :)

Estella said...

Congratulations, ladies! My TBR pile just became a mountain.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to all the nominees. What great books to look forward to.

flchen1 said...

What a fabulous post! Thanks for sharing your stories, Jamie, Kelly, Hank, Deanna, Terri, and Helen! The element of surprise seems to be a common theme--I'm waiting for the story that starts, "I just knew when the phone rang that it would those RITA folks calling..." :) Congratulations, all of you!

Kelly Parra said...

Helen, I'm afraid I'm a procrastinator by heart! eek! ;)

Ann M. said...

What a fun post to learn more about all these wonderful RITA nominees. Just what I need is to add books to my long list of TBR books. :)

Congrats on your nominations.

Cheri2628 said...

All of you ladies are deserving of the award, but if you are the one who does win, where do you plan to put your lovely award?

cas2ajs said...

Awww . . . those call stories gave me shivers for you ladies. All your books sound wonderful. I can tell from Terri's story that she has the support of her husband in her writing career. What about the rest of you . . . do your families support your writing?

Cheryl S.

M. said...

Great stories! And the covers are all very striking despite being in very different styles. Congratulations and good luck to all, and thanks for sharing - it gives us prepubbers courage to enter yet another contest....

Lori T said...

Congrats to all the nominees! How exciting to be chosen! These all sound so great.

Good luck and again congrats

cc said...

Congrats to everyone! I love the stories but I really like that so many are cross nominated? double nominated? Acknowledged in multiple categories! It's nice to see first books get noticed in categories besides just "first book."

This is one of those time I love living in a small town- forward the post to my local indie bookstore (with a note that I don't need Dead Girls ordered since I already have that one) and sit back and wait for goodies to arrive.

tetewa said...

Congrats to all, I enjoyed all the posts today!

Terri said...

Thanks so much for having me here, ladies!

ALISSA is the winner of a signed copy of DEAD GIRLS ARE EASY and A MATCH MADE IN HELL!

Alissa, please send me an email at, and include your mailing address so I can get your books in the mail. :-)

Kelly, Jamie and Helen will be my guests this week over on my group blog, Writers At Play, and I hope some of you will stop by to play with us! (Kelly on the 9th, Jamie on the 13th, and Helen on the 14th).

Happy reading, everyone!

Laurie said...

I too must send my congratulations!
I read a lot and I am always on the look out for new authors. Best wishes and keep on writing! I am looking forward to reading your books.

jamie carie said...

Hello Helen and everyone! Sorry I missed commenting yesterday! My boys had a million things going on and I was so excited about the three hour finale for The Bachelorette (what a shocking ending!) that I spaced it! So, Anna and Sean, I guess that answers your question of how I'm doing on this balancing act. Not so well some days! LOL!

Yes, I have the dress! I love it! I'll put a photo of it on my blog:)

And Yes!! My hubby has been amazingly supportive of my writing. We met when I was 12 and he was 14 (at a church camp meeting) and he says he turned to his friend and said, "I'm going to marry that girl someday." And he did! (I ignored him for several years - silly girl - but I finally wised up and he truly is my prince charming:)

Okay, drawing the name now. And the winner is - liza! Email me at with your address and I will send you both Snow Angel and The Duchess and the Dragon:)

Also, if anyone would like another chance to win free copies of our books you can comment on my blog as I am interviewing each RITA nominee in the First Books Category - including Helen! Her interview is up now! Thanks again everyone - so nice to "meet" you all!