Title: Drowning in Perfect
Entry Nickname: Three Men and an Actuary
Word Count: 93K
Genre: Women’s Commercial Fiction
Brooke Holt is a twenty-seven-year-old actuary and raging perfectionist—not that she sees it that way. She is simply striving to be the best version of herself, especially in the eyes of others, whose opinions hold her hostage.
After being dumped by her safe, lackluster boyfriend, Brooke takes a job in Minneapolis. A new city gives her a fresh start where she can get it right this time. She rents the basement apartment of a house occupied by three younger, immature men who are determined to disrupt Brooke’s carefully calculated life with their teasing, partying, and carefree attitudes.
When her estranged mother reaches out after seventeen years of no contact with a wedding invitation, she is torn, but ultimately decides she must finally get the answers she’s been longing for since she was ten. Desperate for the courage to face her mother, Brooke turns to the last people she thought she would ever ask for help—her rowdy roommates.
Forcing her to confront all her worst fears, the guys put her through a gauntlet of hellish challenges such as delivering pickup lines like a pirate, singing in public, and even falling in love. Unfortunately, she can’t tell if their efforts are curing her or crippling her further.
In the end, she must decide whether she will continue to hide behind her perfect façade, or finally acknowledge her demons and reveal the real Brooke.
And to Brooke Hott, while I have enjoyed our time together over the past year, there comes a point when you know a person isn’t THE person, but I wish you the best future imaginable.
That gem of a sentence had ended up in my inbox on the Friday before the Christmas holidays from my boyfriend, Ira. It was the last sentiment in the mass farewell email he sent to the entire company. He even spelled my last name wrong. It’s Holt, not Hott. Was his error a slight against me, a careless typo, or did he sincerely not know my damn name?
After the worst holidays of my life, I turned in my resignation. I also vomited. At least I had made it to the bathroom with the utmost composure, so no one knew.
I sat at my desk, still shaky from being sick. My rash decision to quit USA Care came the day after that email. I had no choice since I would forever be tied to it, yet uprooting my career and life to another state was the riskiest thing I had ever done. Despite insanely planning for two weeks, I still felt out of control.
I wiped my clammy hands on my pants. I needed to stick to my to-do list. Unfinished business needled me like the constant clicking of a pen. I popped a piece of gum in my mouth, chewed for thirty seconds, and spit it into the trash can. Good as new, kind of.
Title: Bouncing Back
Entry Nickname: Boomerang
Word Count: 80K
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Now that her children are grown and flown, Robin Larson is looking forward to resuscitating her almost thirty-year marriage. Unfortunately, her husband Bob has other ideas and, within hours of dropping their youngest at college, he announces he’s leaving her for another woman.
A year later, Robin has cobbled together a new life. With the help of her closest friend—a 63-year-old flower child named Barbara—Robin now works at a hipster coffee shop where she’s building new relationships with the young baristas, particularly the beautiful and brilliant but acerbic Dara.
Just when she finally starts to get the hang of her new independence, her adult son, Owen moves back home after having crashed and burned his own life in Hollywood where he was the creator of a popular sitcom. Mother and son unwittingly tumble into old roles—a choice that has disaster written all over it. Eventually, Owen’s childish regressions push Robin to the brink. Thinking it might help him get back on track, Robin introduces Owen to her co-workers at the coffeehouse. But when her two worlds collide and Robin finds her new friend Dara in bed with her son, she realizes she must cut the apron strings or risk losing her chance at finding new love, adventure, and a truly independent life.
We haven’t spoken since Allentown. Bob listens to sports radio and occasionally digs at something in his ear as I stare out the window at distant, seemingly idyllic farms that turn dilapidated and disappointing the closer we get to them. I’m not the least bit concerned about the silence. It’s one of the perks, actually, of twenty-nine years of marriage—knowing you don’t have to worry about filling the dead air. And besides, I’m sure Bob is as lost in thought over the events of today as I am. She was our last to go. It’s a big deal.
“The roommate seems nice,” I finally say.
Bob doesn’t answer. He leans in and cocks his head toward the radio. Two guys named Joe, both with Long Island accents (pronounced Lung Island) are talking about a baseball player named Manny whose injury and forthcoming surgery will keep him out for the rest of the season. Joe and Joe take a caller.“I’m a little worried about how they are going to organize that room,” I say, letting my ongoing internal monologue spill out, “It’s so much smaller than I thought it would be. And it isn’t a real closet. It’s an armoire. She’s never going to fit everything in there. I should have insisted she leave her winter clothes home until Thanksgiving.”
One of the Joes is arguing with the caller who thinks Manny should pay back part of his fifteen million dollar salary. Joe calls him an idiot and hangs up on him.