Tag Archive | Lifetime Achievement

Golden Leaf Spotlight on Hall of Fame Inductee: Holly Jacobs


Welcome back! Today, we’re taking a break from sharing Golden Leaf finalist snippets to recognize our 2016 Golden Leaf Hall of Fame Inductee, Holly Jacobs. This achievement is awarded to an author who has won three times in the same category! We have the privilege of recognizing Holly at this years’ “Put Your Heart in a Book” Conference on October 14, 2016. I had a chance to chat with Holly. Below, you can read about how she balances writing and her busy family plus learn some of her hobbies. You can also get a glimpse into each of her award-winning Golden Leaf books. Enjoy!

Hi Holly. Congratulations on winning New Jersey Romance Writers’ Golden Leaf award three times in the Short hollyjacobslrgobx-220Contemporary category. It’s a wonderful testament to the success of your stories!

Two of your Golden Leaf winning books are part of your Perry Square series (Be My Baby and Once Upon a King) and the third is part of your Words of the Heart series (Carry Her Heart). What’s your favorite part each series?

So many parts are favorites.  Hmmm. My Perry Square series had a secondary character who popped up in each book. Pearly Gates is a fan favorite—and I’ll confess, she was one of mine, too.  She was the wise-woman of the series. However, her wise words were frequently hidden in crazy, circular stories.  Most of the time, she’d start talking in a book and I wouldn’t have a clue where the story was going. I was as surprised as the readers were when she reached a point.

My favorite part of Carry Her Heart?  I started my career writing romantic comedy and sweet humorous stories.  In recent years I’ve branched out and written books that I call Romance+.  Women’s fiction and romance stories.  I tried to coin the term Womance, but it never took off. LOL  My Words of the Heart Series are those kind of books.  My favorite part of the series is, well, their heart.  Each one is the heroine’s journey…and part of her journey is a romance.  I loved Ned, the hero of Carry Her Heart. He made me cry at the end of Carry Her Heart.  And my September release, Hold Her Heart, opens in his point of view. I cry every single time I read it.  It’s absurd.  I wrote the book.  I know it has a HEA.  And still, I cry.  When I can get so wrapped up in a character…well, that’s my favorite part. 

What’s the most challenging part about writing contemporary? How do you keep your ideas fresh?

Coming up with ideas is never a problem.  They’re everywhere.  In the news.  In a song.  In a random thought.  My problem is finding the time to write them all. 

That being said, I have themes that I’m attracted to.  Family.  That’s a huge one for me.  Looking at how families come together and what makes them work.  To be honest, Be My Baby had a baby bring a couple together and make a family (BTW, my hero, Mac was really named Larry in the books…so a shout-out to my editor’s brother, Larry who loves Taco Bell as much as me and inspired Mac’s love of them). Once Upon a King had three friends who had become so much more than friends…they were family.  And Carry Her Heart’s heroine was a teen mother who gave her baby up for adoption then built a life around that child she no longer had. That child was part of a family she knew nothing about.

Yes, each of those books (and so many more of my books) look at family, but all are (hopefully) looking at it from a fresh perspective.  I think that as we grow in our writing and get older, we are constantly looking at the world around us from a new point-of-view and that influences our writing and keeps it fresh.

What is your writing process? Do you plot a series at a time? Do you plot a book at a time?

I was a seat-of-the-pantser when I first started writing.  But as I started having more sales and contracts, I learned to write a synopsis and plot a story out.  Although, I do write very loose synopsis.  I like to leave myself wiggle room for unexpected turns.  Like Pearly’s stories in the Perry Square series. 

And frankly, most of my series are unintentional.  I write a book.  I fall in love with the characters, their town and their friends…and I want to know more. So I write another book, and then another…  That’s how most of my series are born.  That’s why there are eight Perry Square books.  And it’s why there are four Words of the Heart books (one more coming next year)! 

What’s your favorite/most productive time of the day to write? Do you need a certain type of atmosphere to write (noise, silence)?

Mornings.  I got this interview a half hour ago and I’m sipping coffee and working on it at 6:49 am.  I was working before that.  I love mornings!  After the house is quiet, I take the dogs on a quick walk, then sit down in the silence and work.  I love mornings!

With four kids and very specific times you need to write, do you ever get writer’s block and if so, how to you work through the process?

My kids are older now, so that’s made writing so much easier. I call my years of writing at night after they went to bed my vampire years.  LOL  And as a early bird by nature, they were hard on me.  Now that they’re older, things are easier.  Although, I’ve discovered that older children still require a lot of time and attention.

As for writer’s block…no.  If I get stuck on a story, I always have something else to play with.  But frankly, I’m almost always on a deadline, so I don’t have time for writer’s block.  And maybe that’s a good thing.

You have a seriously impressive career with 12 series and 47 books. What tips do you have for building a successful writing career? 

Why thank you for the compliment! I guess my biggest tip is…write.  I write every day.  I have since I decided I wanted to be a writer. It’s become as much a part of my life as my family, or my dogs, or the fact I like mornings and coffee.  It’s as much a part of my life as breathing.  I write.  It sounds simple, but sometimes it’s a challenge.  Even when the world goes crazy around me, I write.  Frankly, during the hardest times in my life, my writing has been a lifeline.  It’s a constant in a sea of chaos.

How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?

Well, since you asked…
I split all the wood for our fireplace, I weave baskets, I garden, I cook (and lately I’ve been doing videos called Cooks and Books that talk about both…well, cooking and books!), I antique, I do renovations, I read, I listen to music (I’m a huge Broadway fan…and I have tickets for Hamilton next year!!!), I walk the dogs, but most of my non-writing time revolves around my family.  Here’s the thing, I’m so lucky to be married to my best friend, and together we’ve raised our kids to be our other best friends!  I know I sound like one of those moms, but seriously, my kids are amazing!!

What are you working on now?

I’m almost done with a new Romance+ story.  I’ll confess, it’s made me cry more than once, too.  But it’s also made me laugh.  And it’s made me look at my life and the people in it in a new way.  As a writer, that’s all I can ask of a book.  And hopefully, it’s what my readers enjoy!

Here are some rapid-fire questions.

Where’s the most interesting place you’ve lived or visited?  Erie, PA…I live here and set books here because it’s such a great city!

Print book or digital?  I read any book format…I also read cereal boxes. I’m an equal opportunity reader!

Book or author who inspired you to become a writer: I grew up in books and can’t remember a time I didn’t read…so many, many authors and books inspired me!

Favorite color:  Orange.

Dream date (place and person):  Joss Whedon. I’m such a fan of his shows and dialogue. I’d love to spend an evening discussing dialogue.  It’s one of my favorite parts of writing.

Favorite movie: Hm, I just mentioned Joss, so I guess I’ll go with Serenity.  LOL

Favorite ice cream flavor: My favorite flavor is ice cream…what? You mean, ice cream isn’t a flavor? LOL  I eat pretty much any flavor.  Unless they make a Brussels sprout one. (See the next answer.) One of the quotes in These Three Words was “There’s never a bad time for ice cream.” It’s been a theme of my life!

Favorite food:  That’s like asking what’s my favorite book…I like food.  Almost all food.  I don’t like Brussels sprouts.  I keep trying to like them.  I’ve had them prepared a bunch of ways.  I just can’t.  Sorry, Brussels sprouts!

Favorite season: Fall! I love to decorate for it.  I love cooking fall foods.  I love apples and grapes and…  I love fall.

Tea or coffee?  Both! I love coffee in the morning, but I switch to tea in the afternoons.  I know, I’m complex.

Boxers or briefs?  Have you seen ever seen boxer briefs?  I’ll go with that as an answer!

Channing Tatum or Chris Hemsworth? They both seem like very nice boys, but can I say Sam Elliott?? 

Check out Holly’s Golden Leaf Short Contemporary winning books.


2005 Golden Leaf winner, Short Contemporary

      “…don’t go falling in love with me. Even if I were looking for a relationship—which I’m not—but if I were, it wouldn’t be with you. You’re the kind of woman that wants the whole ball of wax. That’s the last thing I want. And then there’s the simple fact that we’d kill each other. So, get the stars out of your eyes.  I’m not the man for you.”

     Mia tried—after all, men had such fragile egos—so she tried to hold back. Truly she did.  But she couldn’t help it. 

     A loud chuckle escaped, just a small bark of laughter. 

     The baby gave a visible jump in Mac’s arms, but then snuffled in closer to his chest and went back to sleep.

     Mia tried to stifle the laughter, but it built and the pressure was too great.  Chuckles burst out and escalated until she was laughing so hard that tears streamed from her eyes.


2006 Golden Leaf winner, Short Contemporary

2006 Golden Leaf winner, Short Contemporary

    Cara knew that sometimes something was just too strong not to be, no matter how long it took. 

     Call it magic.

     Call it fate.

     Call it destiny.

     Call it love.

     Her eyes met Michael’s and he mouthed the words, I love you.

      Cara knew just what she planned to call it…


2015 Golden Leaf winner, Short Contemporary

2015 Golden Leaf winner, Short Contemporary

“I can see you thinking,” Ned said. “You’re running through a bunch of scenarios. What if we dated and it didn’t work out? Could we still be friends? What if we dated and it did work out? What then? What if . . .”

“Yes,” I admitted. “I don’t want to lose you.”

“Here’s something else I know from our walks and talks, and from reading your books . . . running through multiple scenarios is a big part of your profession. But maybe just this once, you don’t. Maybe you simply try a date with me and see how it goes.”

“What if I lose you in the process?” I asked. That was my true fear. I’d come to count on Ned in a way I didn’t count on anyone else. Not even Coop.

He pulled me close. I thought he might kiss me, but he didn’t. He simply held me and said, “Of all the scenarios that you can imagine, take that one off the table. You’re my friend. My best friend, truth be told. I think there could be more between us, but I’m absolutely certain there can’t be less.”


You can catch up with Holly at the Put Your Heart in a Book Conference later this month, where she’s also a finalist in the Golden Leaf Contemporary Mid-Length category. Hope to see you there!



Golden Leaf Spotlight on Hall of Fame Recipient: Maria V. Snyder


Welcome back! We’re continuing our celebration of NJ Romance Writers Golden Leaf Hall of Fame recipients. This achievement is awarded to an author who has won three times in the same category. We have the privilege of recognizing two fabulous authors at this years’ “Put Your Heart in a Book” Conference on October 17, 2014.

Today, we’ll move away from Romantic Suspense and onto our Paranormal Hall of Fame Recipient, Maria V. Snyder. Below is my interview with Maria. Over the next few days, I’ll be posting excerpts from her award-winning books.


Hi, Maria. Congratulations on winning New Jersey Romance Writers’ Golden Leaf award three times in the Paranormal category. It’s a wonderful testament to the success of your stories.

MVS: Thank you! I’m thrilled and honored to have won the Golden Leaf three times.

Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions.

Two of your three Golden Leaf winning books (Touch of Power and Scent of Magic) are from your Healer series. What was your favorite part of writing this series? Do you have a favorite book/hero?

With the Healer series, I really enjoyed writing the interactions between the characters and how they change and grow throughout the series. I also experimented with switching POVs between Avry and Kerrick and really loved getting into his head and showing more of the world since they weren’t together during most of books 2 and 3.

There are parts of all three that I love, but overall Touch of Power is my favorite of the 3 because the characters were all together and it was fun writing their banter. My favorite character is Belen. He’s the protective older brother type – the others call him Poppa Bear and that’s perfect for him. I always wanted an older brother who is built like a linebacker but is the sweetest soul until someone picks on me, then he’d defend me. And readers will find that character in all my books – I can’t help it!

Where did you get the story lines for your Golden Leaf winning books?

Storm Glass is a spin off from my Study series. Opal, the main protagonist was instrumental in Fire Study where she discovers she has a rare form of magic. She can trap magical power in glass that then can be used by other magicians. It’s equivalent to inventing batteries. I really liked her and wanted to explore more about her powers. I also wanted to feature the Stormdancers who can harvest the energy from big storms into glass orbs. These orbs are then used to fuel the local factories. This is where my meteorology degree from Penn State University came in handy.  In 2005, it was a record season for hurricanes with four Category 5 hurricanes (Emily, Katrina, Rita and Wilma).  The 2005 season caused $180 billion in damage and killed approximately 2,280 people.  Hurricanes release a ton of energy in one day. Enough energy to meet the electrical generating needs of the entire world for 200 days. And I thought wouldn’t it be nice to harvest that energy and use it productively! But of course something has to go wrong and that’s where Opal comes in. Someone has sabotaged the glass orbs so they shatter when being filled with the storm’s energy and Opal is sent to figure out what’s going on.

For the Healer series, I had this vague idea about a healer or an apprentice healer during an epidemic. She was either going to be sought after for her powers – like everyone wanting her, or be hunted.  I wasn’t sure. Then one night my daughter couldn’t sleep and she wanted me to tell her a story. She knew all my other books, so I started telling her about this healer. And every night, she’d ask, “What’s next?”  That’s why Touch of Power is dedicated to my daughter.

I also have to credit an old Star Trek episode titled The Empath – about a race of healers/empaths who would can take on the injury or illness of another and they heal themselves. As a mother, this ability really appealed to me – I would have loved to take on my kids illness and injuries so they didn’t suffer. I also thought that even though the healer heals faster than a normal person, she would have to decide who is healed and who can heal on their own.

I read on your website bio that you get very hands on in researching your books. What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve done in the name of research?

That depends on your definition of outrageous. I did a tree top adventure that included climbing and zip lining through the trees to research a character avoiding capture by traveling in the tree canopy. I visited a men’s maximum security prison – that was the scariest thing I’ve done. I took a number of glass classes to learn how to work with glass, including blowing glass, cutting, fusing, and making beads for jewelry.   <I agree, the prison sounds very scary!>

How do you approach world building?

Through the eyes of the main protagonist. I don’t do a ton of world building before writing a story – I just decide on the basics. I start with a character and a situation and the world develops as I write. I did have to draw a map for the Healer books because they were going to be traveling and their world was in turmoil. It was fun making that map and I wrote a blog post about it.  If anyone is interested they can go here: http://seeingnight.blogspot.com/2012/01/author-guest-post-giveaway-touch-of.html  <Thanks!>

What tips do you have for writing a successful series?

Keep a series bible! <Great advice. Dee Davis said the same thing!> When I wrote my first book, Poison Study, I thought it would be a standalone novel and didn’t keep good notes on the characters or anything.  When Harlequin bought the book they wanted a second one, then a third came naturally.  Next thing I know I have a spin off series and nine years later, I’m writing another set of 3 Study books. I really wished I kept better track of everything and everyone. I’ve a dedicated reader who is working on a spread sheet for me now.

Another tip is to plant little clues in your first book that you can expand on in the next books.  JK Rowling was a master at this in her Harry Potter series – even the smallest thing that didn’t seem relevant at the time, would come back in a future book. Also make sure each book has an ending. That the major plot/problem is solved during that book.  You can leave other threads untied, but in order for the reader to feel like she had a satisfying read, then that is important.

What’s your favorite/most productive time of the day to write? Do you need a certain type of atmosphere to write (noise, silence)?

My most productive time to write is from 10:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. I’ve always been a night owl and once my kids were able to get themselves up and on the bus, I switched to writing at night. I play music while writing – mostly pop so I don’t really listen to the lyrics and I drink a thermos full of decaf tea.

How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?

I do have two teenagers and there’s the soccer games, marching band, laundry type of things that dominated my non-writing time. When I have time to myself, I enjoy reading, playing volleyball, and taking pictures. I also love to travel and have gone to some exotic locations.


Here are some rapid-fire questions.

Where’s the most interesting place you’ve lived or visited?  I loved visiting China and hope to return for a longer visit next time.

Print book or digital?  Print – I still enjoy the feel and smell of a book in my hands. I do read digital when I’m traveling – it minimizes the weight of my suitcase.

Book or author who inspired you to become a writer:  Dick Francis.

Favorite color:  Red.

Dream date (place and person):  Chris Hemsworth in Paris.  <Yes, please!>

Favorite movie: The Princess Bride.  <It’s one of mine, too!>

Favorite ice cream flavor:  Mint chocolate chip.  <Another favorite. Must be something about the name Maria!>

Italian or Chinese food: Italian. I love pasta!

Favorite season: Winter. I also enjoy skiing.

Jamie Dornan or Colin O’Donoghue?  Colin O’Donoghue!   <Agree, although Jamie is pretty fine to look at, too!>


You can catch up with Maria at the Put Your Heart in a Book Conference next month, where she’ll be signing her award winning books. Visit our website for more information. But hurry, registration closes October 4th!

Maria V. Snyder

Golden Leaf Spotlight on Hall of Fame Recipient: Dee Davis

The annual NJ Romance Writers “Put Your Heart in a Book” Conference will be here before we know it! Over the six weeks leading up to the conference, we’ll be spotlighting our Golden Leaf finalists.

To kick off this event, we have a special treat. This year, we have two Hall of Fame presentations that will be awarded during the Golden Leaf and Put Your Heart in a Book award ceremony on October 17, 2014. This achievement is awarded to an author who has won three times in the same category. Winning once is a challenge with so many talented authors. Winning three times is outstanding!

I had a chance to interview both recipients, and over the next week I’ll be posting their interviews along with excerpts from their award-winning books.



First up is Hall of Fame Romantic Suspense Recipient, Dee Davis.


Hi Dee. Congratulations on winning New Jersey Romance Writers’ Golden Leaf award three times in the Romantic Suspense category. It’s a wonderful testament to the success of your stories.

Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions.

All three Golden Leaf winning books (Dark Deceptions, Deadly Dance, and Double Danger) are from your A-Tac series. What was your favorite part of writing this series? Do you have a favorite book/hero?

There are a lot of wonderful things about writing a series. But this one in particular was fun because of all the action. I love writing action scenes, and the people in A-Tac seem to always be in some kind of trouble. I especially love the first chapter of Dark Deception when the team is trying to destroy a terrorist network’s communications system. It was fun to write, but it was also the first time I saw these characters bonding—and working as a unit. Then throughout the series it’s been fun to see their friendships grow, and their solidarity as they become more like a family.

I never really admit to having a favorite book or hero. It’s like choosing one child over the other.  But that said, Harrison Blake in Deadly Dance is one of my all-time favorite characters. He first appeared in my Last Chance Series. And was actually supposed to get his own book then. But the third book clearly belonged to Nigel Ferris and so Harrison was on his own still. To date he’s received more fan mail than any of my other characters. And so when A-Tac needed a forensic computer analyst—it just seemed to perfect to be true. And then watching he and Hannah grow into their relationship set the stage for Deadly Dance.

Where did you get the storylines for the A-Tac series? What kind of research did you do?

The original idea stemmed from my brother-in-law who is a teacher and my husband who works for the United Nations. I always tease that he’s actually working for the CIA.  Of course, he isn’t, but one night sitting beside my BFF Julie Kenner’s pool, I posed the idea of a group of college professors who secretly work for the CIA.  And with a little help from Julie, and a Margarita, A-Tac was born.

I do a lot of research for my books. Primarily on plot points that need to have at least a small amount of credence. For example the type of gun used. Or the trajectory of a shot.  How a bomb works, how it can be disabled. How particular characters might act, a terrorist, a serial killer, a computer geek etc.… Sometimes I use real life to inspire locations in a book. In Double Danger there is a hidden passageway in a building in Manhattan. I came across just such a passage, one that was meant for servants use, in an old building and from there worked it into the story. The dog run and bridge where Nash first sees Annie again, is an exaggerated version of the one where we took Max, my cardigan welsh corgi. I also spoke with a climbing expert for the scene in the same book where they scale the side of the cliff. For Deadly Dance, I invented catacombs for my fictional Sunderland College. Much like many tunnels beneath colleges in the northeast used to get to class when it’s snowing outside. And of course Sunderland itself was based on the small liberal arts college I attended, Hendrix College in Arkansas.

What’s the most challenging part about writing romantic suspense?

I think the trickiest bit is always balancing the suspense and romance. And making certain that the two stories are integral to each other.

What tips do you have for writing a successful series?

Keep a story bible. It’s really hard to remember by the eighth book, that Nash hates computers. Or that one of the characters only drinks scotch. Not to mention backgrounds, physical descriptions, locations of buildings and so forth. I forgot once that a character in another series had a moustache in book one. Never did explain why he lost it for a little while toward the end of book two.

I also think it’s really important that all of the characters interact and have relationships with each other. So that you care about the group within the series as a whole, and not just when someone is the hero or heroine of that particular story. Sometimes those relationships will be surprising and sometimes they’re orchestrated, but in the end they need to be a part of each other’s lives in such a way that we care about all of them.

I attended RWA Nationals this year and noticed a lot of workshops geared toward the romantic suspense genre. What do you think’s the most important areas to study to prepare writing romantic suspense? How do you make your situations and action scenes so realistic?

I think the key with romantic suspense is pacing. If your story doesn’t build and the proper pace, and hit those all important cliffhangers that keep the pages turning, it’s very difficult to have a powerful story. And with romantic suspense you’re always jugging both a romance story and a suspense story and they have to be interwoven so that the two push each other forward toward that ultimate black moment.

Realism comes from three things I think. Life experience. Which doesn’t have to directly relate, but does impact the story. For instance in Just Breathe the inciting incident is a woman falling off of a train onto a dead body. Did this happen to me? No. But I was terrified of falling off of train steps in Europe when we lived there. I had a six month old baby, and the fear was that klutzy me would fall with my most precious cargo when getting off the train. From that fear came the creation of Chloe and her tumble onto the dead body. The second thing is research.  When you don’t know, then you have to hit the books to find out. This can be as simple as finding out what the trees and birds and so forth are in a particular area to lend realism to the scene. Or something as dramatic as learning the chemistry involved in the use of frog poison. And what conceivably could happen if it were aerosolized. And third, it’s all about the writing. You can make anything believable if you write it well enough. I believe in Middle Earth. Don’t you?

What’s your favorite/most productive time of the day to write? Do you need a certain type of atmosphere to write (noise, silence)?

My favorite and most productive time to write is very late at night. I have always functioned better when all the chatter of the day is quiet, and there’s nothing but me and the computer, and at the right moment in the story maybe an iTunes playlist.

How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?

I spend a lot of time on marketing and other business aspects of my career. And in addition to that I travel to readers conventions, writers conventions, and I often speak about writing for various groups. For several years I taught a class on writing the romance at NYU. When not doing writing things, I am a television addict (at the moment Orange is the New Black and Orphan Black), I love to garden (we just bought a house built in 1802 with the most AMAZING gardens), and I love hanging out with my husband and my new cardigan welsh corgi (Gus).


Here are some rapid-fire questions.

Where’s the most interesting place you’ve lived or visited? Vienna, Austria (lived), Ceský Krumlov in the Czech Republic (visited)

Print book or digital? Digital these days (Old eyes)

Book or author who inspired you to become a writer: Mary Stewart

Favorite color: Either blue or green depends on the day and my mood.

Dream date (place and person): My husband, candlelight dinner, our screened in porch

Favorite movie: There are a thousand.  But The Guns of Navarone is a fav.

Favorite ice cream flavor: Vanilla (I know…)

Italian or Chinese food: Italian!

Favorite season: Fall.

Jamie Dornan or Colin O’Donoghue? Colin, Colin, Colin  (although I had to look them both up…)


You can catch up with Dee at the Put Your Heart in a Book Conference next month. Visit our website for more information. But hurry, registration closes October 4th!

Dee Davis-1454-HR-Color cropped