Word Count: 84,000
Genre: Women's Fiction
XO intertwines two timelines.
Forty-one-year-old Juliet stares at a blinking cursor, finger poised over the Enter key. Send or not send – what’s she got to lose? It’s not like she’s hoping to rekindle their old romance. She hasn’t laid eyes on Nick since she was sixteen. Hell, she even told her estranged husband about her plan to contact an old friend and Ethan’s ultra-sensitive jealousy meter didn’t so much as budge.
Of course, Ethan has no clue Nick was her high school sweetheart. Not yet anyway.
Sixteen-year-old Juliet thinks her dreams have come true the day senior Nick finally casts his green eyes her way. She gets crazy butterflies just holding his hand. And when he kisses her – holy shit! But if she’s being honest, she finds the intensity a little scary – especially when her new boyfriend has an abusive dad, a psycho ex and an escape plan. What’s worse, that black cloud hanging over him is starting to cast a long shadow between her and the fireworks she used to feel.
Of course, Juliet has no clue love is more than cheap pyrotechnics. Not yet anyway.
Twenty-five years later, when Nick’s email pops up, so do her old butterflies – though tinged with a dull ache of regret. Juliet gets a delicious thrill remembering the good times with Nick until he wants to rehash the bad. If Ethan was unhappy with Juliet before, wait til he finds out she’s resolving issues with her old boyfriend instead of him.
Juliet can’t fix one relationship without jeopardizing the other. She’ll have to decide if she’s willing to sacrifice her last chance at saving her marriage to risk it all on a second chance with a virtual stranger.
First 250 words:
The cursor flashed in the message box, blinking on/off as if it were telegraphing her internal debate: Send. Don’t send.
Juliet bit her lip as she typed, “Nicholas.” A tingle crept up the nape of her neck, the caress of an invisible finger. She couldn’t believe she found him.
Message written, she hesitated. What if he didn’t want to hear from her?
The cursor blinked. Send. Don’t Send.
Hannah dropped into a chair next to her. “Whatcha doin’, Mom?”
“Trying to decide if I should send this.” Juliet spun the laptop around.
Hannah leaned forward to read the screen. “Who’s Nicholas?” Curiosity competed with teenage indifference.
“Someone I knew when I was about your age.”
“Like, a boyfriend?”
“Something like that.”
Hannah scowled. “Does dad know about him?”
Juliet’s gut reaction was: “It’s none of his damn business.”
“Yeah,” she half-lied. She had told Ethan she was looking up an “old friend,” nothing more. If Ethan were half as inquisitive as a disinterested teen, he would have had a shit fit.
“He told me to prepare for disappointment.” Everything Ethan said lately felt like a veiled critique of her own failures.
“You should send it.”
“I doubt he’ll even find my message on this money-grubbing site.”
“So what’s there to lose?”
That was the million dollar question.
After twenty-five years, Nick would have moved on. And she had her own collapsing marriage to worry about.
Send. Don’t Send.
But Nicholas was right there.
The cursor blinked.
She hit send.
Entry Nickname: Reality Star
Title: I Was a Summer Reality Star
Word Count: 79,000
Genre: Women's fiction
Life after college isn’t as advertised: Jen’s low-paying job is uninspiring, her apartment is tiny, and she’s suffocating under hospital bills she can’t pay. When she finds an ad seeking intelligent, adventurous 21-25 year-olds for a new competition-based reality show with a cash prize, Jen thinks it might be the solution to her problems.
Things go quickly downhill when Jen’s apartment building converts to condominiums, she meets the wife she didn’t know her boyfriend had, and her employer lays off her department. With little to keep her home, Jen leaps into the competition, solving puzzles, exploring mazes, and having the time of her life. Things change when Jen finds herself embroiled in a love triangle, battling another woman for the attention of fellow contestant Justin. As the show progresses, she struggles to win viewer votes while trying to tell what’s real and what’s part of the show. It’s a tricky balancing act, and one that’s hard to manage without lying, cheating, or backstabbing. When Jen discovers that she’s on the verge of elimination, she must decide whether to sacrifice the money, her chance at love, or herself.
First 250 Words:
"Do you want to win $250,000? Are you outgoing, vivacious, engaging? Do you always have to be right? Do you love puzzles and trivia? Do you usually find yourself surrounded by less intelligent people? We’re looking for smart, spunky 21- to 25-year-olds for an exciting new reality competition! Email Stephanie with your name, age, 2-4 pics, and a little about yourself for more information."
I huddled at my desk, wrapping a blanket over my hoodie. Maybe one day management would allow employees to turn the heat above sixty degrees. I held my caffeine molecule mug close to my body, trying to gain warmth by osmosis. The coffee was awful; drinking it wasn’t an option.
With my right hand, I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed, scanning the jokes, cartoons, and political statements. I know: it’s not allowed. But everyone does it. Besides, I had nothing to do while my boss reviewed my project. Being a marketing assistant often meant waiting. After working insanely long days all week to include last minute changes, I’d earned the break. While waiting for something more productive to do, I turned up the volume on my computer, blasting my music over the howling November storm while I read.
An ad posted by my former Beginner’s Drama professor caught my eye.
A reality show for smart people?
Before I could explore further, a pop-up informed me that new email awaited. I hit control-tab to switch programs.
It was Seattle General Hospital’s billing department.