2016 PYHIAB and Golden Leaf Contest Winners!

New Jersey Romance Writers is proud to announce the winners of our 2016 Put Your Heart in a Book and Golden Leaf Winners Contest! Check out the pictures at the end.


2016 Put Your Heart in a Book Contest Winners (unpublished manuscripts)

1st: Love’s Whisper  Jeanine Englert
2nd: Three Lessons in Seduction  Tracy Johnston
3rd: Taming Julia  Jodie Wolfe

1st: He Loves Me Knot  Sarah McGregor
2nd: Desperate Sacrifice  Linda Schad
3rd: The Seductress  Jessica Grace Kelley

Romantic Suspense
1st: Hit and Run  Lori Matthews
2nd: The President’s Assassin  Renita Bradley
3rd: Beyond Paradise  Barbara Forlenza

Single Title Contemporary
1st: Love Around the Ring  Alleyne Dickens
2nd: Hearts on the Vine  Jessica Holt
3rd: Meadow Wind  Betty L. Unkel

Contemporary Series
1st: The Hottest Guy  Gloria Duke
2nd: Scooped: Confessions of a Former Tattletale  C.A. Speakman
3rd: Trial Run  Masha Levinson

Young Adult
1st: Road to Eugenica  A.M. Rose
2nd: Lucky  Laura Cumbie
3rd: From There to Here  Laura Cumbie

2016 NJRW Golden Leaf Contest Winners (published authors)

First Place

Christmas Laurel by Christine Bush



In the Spinster’s Bed by Sally MacKenzie
Guarding the Quarterback by Liz Matis


Romantic Suspense
First Place
Seconds to Live by Melinda Leigh




Energized by Mary Behre
True Peril by Veronica Forand
When Secrets Strike by Marta Perry

Historical Romance
First Place
Magnate by Joanna Shupe








What To Do With A Duke by Sally MacKenzie
The Daughter of an Earl by Victoria Morgan

Contemporary Romance Short
First Place
Two Doctors & a Baby by Brenda Harlen








Wedding Date for Hire by Jennifer Shirk
The Rancher’s Surprise Son by Christine Wenger
The Lawman’s Christmas Proposal by Barbara White Daille

Contemporary Romance – Mid-Length
First Place
Carolina Dreaming by Virginia Kantra






Her Second-Chance Family by Holly Jacobs
These Three Words by Holly Jacobs

Contemporary Romance Long
First Place
Sunset At Lake Crane by Casey Hagen







The CEO Buys In by Nancy Herkness
The All-Star Antes Up by Nancy Herkness

Paranormal Romance
First Place
Skin Deep by Marissa Doyle







Cottage in the Mist by Dee Davis
Forbidden by Katrina Snow
Heir To The Pack by Laura Welling

Erotic Romance
First Place
Hard Ride by Opal Carew







My Best Friend’s Stepfather by Opal Carew
Operation: Desire Me by Christina James

Best First Book
First Place
The Ghost Chronicles by Marlo Berliner







The Love Square by Jessica Calla
Tiger Lily by Wende Dikec


Congratulations to all winners and finalists. We hope to see you again next year!

2016 Hall of Fame display

2016 Hall of Fame display




2016 Finalist display

2016 Finalist display

2016 Golden Leaf winners & finalists

2016 Golden Leaf winners & finalists

2016 PYHIAB winners & finalists

2016 PYHIAB winners & finalists

PYHIAB & Golden Leaf Contest Chairs

PYHIAB & Golden Leaf Contest Chairs



2015 Put Your Heart In A Book Contest Finalists!

Congratulations to the finalists of the 2015 Put Your Heart In A Book Contest!

The winners will be announced at the PYHIAB conference award ceremony on Friday, October 16th. For more information about the conference and to register, please go to

We hope to see you there!


Janna MacGregor – The Secret Affairs of a Duke
Linda Olson – An Improper Pursit
Denny Bryce – Wild Women and the Blues


Kari Cole – Constant Craving
Harris Fischer – Queen of Hearts
Michelle Edwards w/a Elle McKay – Seducing Death

Single Title Contemporary:

Celeste Deveney – My Fair Mademoiselle
Darlene Pytlinski – Not My Type
Victoria Handel DeLa O – The Rule of Thirds

Contemporary Series:

Sia Huff – One Night Together?
Beth Seeber w/a Sera Cassell – Princes Charming
Rebekah Millet – 15 Days

Young Adult:

Sandra Havriluk – Hide the False Heart
Debbie VanBrunt – Beest
Colleen Oefelein – Bagged

Romantic Suspense:

Harris Fischer – The Keys to Her Heart
Anna Sweringen – All My Sins Remembered
Susan Dunn – Betrayed

Thank you to everyone who entered and best of luck in the final round!

In The Mind of Sandra Pesso – 30 Years of Happily Ever Afters

This week we’re jumping over the hump with our featured workshop presenter, Sandra Pesso!

Sandra will be giving a workshop at our conference in October. Work Your Social Media Platform Like A Rock Star! is just one of many fabulous workshops we have scheduled.

For more information on our conference, on how to register, and other popular questions, please visit our website at

Please welcome Sandra!

How did you come up with the idea for Colors of Us?

The idea for my new release was born from a self-portrait created from friend and blogger, Michelle Willis.

How long did it take you to write Colors of Us?

It took me about six months to write. However, I also spent a lot of that time outlining the rest of the books in the McAvery Brothers series.

How much research did you conduct for Colors of Usand what was the most interesting thing you did while conducting your research?

I always do extensive research for each of my stories. Colors of Us is based in the trendy SoHo section of New York City so I spent much time there to nail the setting as accurately as possible. One trip was made to confirm which streets are paved and which still have the original cobblestone. Here’s a little known fact, I shot the background photo used in the background of the cover of Colors of Us.

Do you write multiple drafts or barely need revisions when typing, The End?

I’ll answer this with Ernest Hemingway’s quote: “The first draft of anything is shit.” I think of a rough draft as an artist’s sketch. The general idea is there but it’s still just ordinary. Layers of emotion and scene progression are necessary for the story to come to life and become extraordinary.

How do you make time to write?

My best friends are coffee and under eye concealer.

Who has had the most influence on your writing?

It’s not so much “who” as “what” has the most influence on my writing. I tend to find inspiration in the vibe of everyday life. Music, locations, even weather create and grow characters and plotlines.

What advice do you have for other writers?

Finish your book! So many writers ask me for advice on getting published but don’t have a finished manuscript. There’s a reason most publishers won’t commit to a book until it’s finished – it’s hard to finish! Take your book to completion, even if it’s not perfect. The exercise of writing a book from start to finish will help you do it again and again.

Why did you decide to become a romance author?

It’s all about the HEA, baby!

What was the most exciting thing that happened to you after you signed your contract – besides receiving your first check as a published author?

Honestly, the royalty check is just the icing. The most exciting thing about being a published author is hearing from readers who have dedicated their precious free time to read my work. Really, how awesome is that?

What do you want your readers to take away with them after reading the story?

The heroine of Colors of Us is a survivor of sexual assault. However, Colors of Us is not a story about sexual assault. It’s about moving on, healing and beating down the demons that hold us back. But most of all it’s a romance complete with an HEA because with ugly comes beauty and with hurt comes healing. I hope that message comes out loud and clear

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as an author?

Don’t write for the trends. Write for yourself or choose a reader and write for that person. You can’t be everything to everyone.

If you could choose anyone, past or present for a mentor, who would you choose?

My grandmother.

Do you have an ebook reader? If so, which one?

I read from my iPad’s Kindle app.

Tell us your latest news.

I’m taking Michelle, Hunter and the McAvery Bar crew on the road! I have a mini book tour planned and will be visiting Maryland, Las Vegas, and a few New Jersey locations and events.

What is your favorite music?

My current musical obsession is Ed Sheeran.

What is your favorite quote?

“Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing.” ~ Georgia O’Keeffe

If you were a millionaire would you still write?


Cat or dog person?


Okay, get ready, we have our rapid response portion. Don’t think about your answers, just say the first thing that comes to mind. Ready?  

Favorite color: Red

Favorite number: 11

Favorite Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio

Favorite Actress: Emma Stone

Wine or liquor? Martini, please

Tea or coffee? Big fan of both

Decaf or caffeinated? Is this really a question?

Boxers or briefs? Boxers

Chocolate or vanilla? Vanilla

Donald Duck or Goofy? I’m more of a Pluto gal.

Frozen (the movie) or Tangled? Haven’t seen either…I’ve been writing!

Channing Tatum or Johnny Depp? Oooh…I have to go with Depp.

Want to meet or attend Sandra’s workshop? Make sure you check out the information on our conference at!

Registration closes October 4th!

Sandra Pesso