Title: FINDING SETH
Entry Nickname: Mother of All Custody Battles
Word count: 73K
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Lola Bishop has been to the end of her rope so many times she’s not sure she has enough antidepressants to keep her from tying it into a noose and slipping it around her neck. All she wants is to have a baby and raise a family with her husband, Paul. But their premature son doesn’t make it, and an emergency hysterectomy kills any future dreams of motherhood. More dark days follow in the form of depression and divorce papers. Then she discovers not only has Paul moved in with his young girlfriend, Iris, they’re also expecting a baby – a little boy they name Seth.
But Lola’s got to pull her act together when a car crash kills Paul and Iris and orphans Seth – now a toddler. Iris’s will has some glaring holes, but Paul’s will clearly names Lola as Seth’s guardian. At the same time Iris’s dad, who’s been caring for Seth since the accident, starts building his legal case to contest Paul’s will, Lola ponders whether she’s strong enough to raise the child her ex-husband had with his girlfriend. Steeling her heart, Lola jumps into the legal ring as she and Isaac try to outmaneuver each other in the mother of all custody battles.
It was the receptionist at my gynecologist’s office who clued me in that something major was afoot. Not that she said anything in particular – of course she can’t say anything. Medical privacy laws and all. But there’s no privacy law that prohibits a weird, high-pitched tone when calling my name, or an uncomfortable shiftiness palpable across the sliding glass divider.
No, there was no one in the office who said anything during my checkup. But my nurse gave me several odd, sideways glances. And Dr. Marta, the obstetrician who’d walked me through days darker than death, made a telling comment on my way out of the office. As she put her cool, clinical hand on my shoulder, she held it a beat longer than normal and asked: “How’s your friend Brenda these days?”
Brenda Gillis – one of my dearest friends on earth, despite all the crap I’ve put her through – has an uncanny knack for knowing exactly what’s going on in the lives of everyone in Glenhaven without being a busybody. While she flirts with the line of being a gossip, there’s no malice in her methods. Less paparazzi, more society columnist.
I called her immediately from my car. “Where are you?” I asked. “I just left Dr. Marta’s. Her whole staff was acting weird.”
Brenda sighed on the other end. “I’m taking the kiddos to Noodles before their piano lessons,” she said. “Do you want to meet me there? We need to talk.”
Title: Drowning in Perfect
Entry Nickname: Three Men and an Actuary
Word Count: 93K
Genre: Women’s Commercial Fiction
Brooke Holt, a twenty-seven-year-old actuary, began her quest for perfection the day her mother walked out of her life. She had been ten, incorrigible, and as far away from perfect as she has ever been.
After her safe, lackluster boyfriend dumps her via a company-wide email, Brooke is unable to cope with the humiliation and flees to Minneapolis for a fresh start. Pressured by an overly helpful coworker, Brooke agrees to rent a basement apartment sight unseen. The three younger, immature men living upstairs are determined to disrupt Brooke’s meticulously crafted life with their teasing, partying, and carefree attitudes.
When her estranged mother reaches out with a wedding invitation after seventeen years of no contact, Brooke views it as the long-awaited opportunity to show her mother she isn’t the stupid, careless child she once was. The only problem is she would rather get a thousand breakup emails than face her mother. Desperate for courage, Brooke turns to the last people she would ever think to ask for help—her rowdy roommates.
The guys rally to help her in their own unique way, which puts her through outlandish challenges such as delivering pickup lines like a pirate, singing in public, and even falling in love. This gauntlet forces her to relinquish control and live in the moment. While their efforts increase her confidence to be herself, she struggles with the vulnerability that comes with letting down her guard.
In the end, she can abandon who she has become to maintain a perfect façade for her mother or embrace the real Brooke and risk losing her mother all over again.
And to Brooke Hott, while I 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 all the best.
That gem of a sentence landed in my inbox two weeks earlier, 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?
My decision to quit my job was rash, but if I stayed then I would forever be known as the woman dumped over email. Despite obsessively planning my exit, I still felt panicky as I handed my resignation letter to my boss. After shaking his hand, I strode down the quiet hallway to the bathroom where, after verifying I was alone, I vomited.
Had I just made a massive mistake? Should my farewell email mention that Ira had once thought a spreadsheet macro was a bigger spreadsheet? Should I even send one?
Back at my desk, 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.