Sunday, January 31, 2021

We Just Need 10 Quick Ones. Finishing a story-a-day.

 This premise challenge was pretty hard. But, today I'm getting it done:

1. A city gal goes to college and falls in love with a guy who wants her to then move up to live on the Alaska homestead with his family. They have a reality television series, and she needs to be on it. And have a pit toilet and hunt bears.

2. A woman puts an app on her kids' phones that lets her read their every text without them knowing. She accidentally finds out way more than she wants to know about her son's friend group and their weird friend-hazing cult type thing. She tries to stop bad stuff from happening and ends up in a compromising situation.

3. A woman hates her stepfather. She's always just had a bad feeling about him. When her mom dies and the woman starts cleaning out the attic, she discovers that her stepfather is actually much worse than she imagined...and her mom might have been complicit.

4. An animal-lover can't stop getting animals. She has many dogs and cats, plus a couple of fish tanks, four guinea pigs, a handful of gerbils in separate cages, and a tortoise. It's hard to explain this situation and the accompanying smells when she starts to date.

5. It's the 100th year of a summer camp. There have never been deaths at the camp before ever in the camp's history, but this time, there are two in a boating accident. The trauma turns up other secrets of the camp from past and present.

6. A woman enters a writing contest and doesn't make the finals. This snub puts her over the edge, and she starts to stalk every finalist, turning up in their towns and at their online events to heckle them and make their lives miserable. This isn't a good career move.

7. A kid plagiarizes a paper, but it turns out his dad is the one who helped him with the plagiarizing. And the dad is the headmaster at the school.

8. A woman was on The Biggest Loser back in the day. She has since learned that The Biggest Loser is very bad... it messes with one's metabolism in a way that makes it impossible to maintain a healthy weight long term. Plus, the trainers yelled at her so much that she now hates every single thing about herself if she's not working out. She seeks revenge on the trainers.

9. A woman wishes to buy a vintage typewriter and finds one on Facebook Marketplace. She drives a half-hour to pick it up from a stranger. The stranger is odd and wears ill-fitting clothes. When she gets home and types on the keyboard, fantastic words and sentences spew forth. It might be haunted.

10. A woman has not seen her father in many years, and when she does see him, she's stunned by his youthfulness. He might have discovered a secret and dangerous drug to prevent aging. She launches an investigation.

Quick and dirty. And Done.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Four More Dead Bodies. Catching Up.

Well! Here we are a few days behind. In my defense, we got a new president. Joy cometh in the morning, and the reign of terror is finally over. Also, it has become clear that a major tenet of my marketing plan for my second novel (out March 16th from Penguin Random House) is me contacting everyone I know and asking them to preorder my book. 


Please preorder my book. Do it from this place, and then you get access to my launch event with Nora McInerny. This is very important. I will also sign your book before the shop ships it. Nora is a BFD, and you're going to want to see her. Besides her brilliance, she usually looks very striking and has a bold lip.

Ok, moving on. Really quick, here are four more dead bodies that could turn into novels.

There might be a dead body in the back room of the bookstore and here's why: An author moved from central Minnesota to New York City when she was 22. She hadn't written a full novel yet or secured an agent or a book deal. She had a chapbook of pretty good poetry and started an online journal. She had three other jobs she did while also trying to make it as a writer, including one in a sandwich shop. After a few years, she gives up on her impossible life in the big city and crawls back to her small town. People think she's too big for her britches. She tried and failed, and now she should pay. She gets a job in the independent bookstore, and two weeks later, she's dead in the back room.

There's a dead body in the locker room at the Super Bowl. It's not a player or a coach. It's a woman who was very vocal about fighting against the rampant sex trafficking that happens at the Super Bowl.

There is a gal who has been a life-long student at a prestigious all-girls Catholic school. This young woman is a star at that school: she has top grades, zero uniform violations, and also she has prayed the rosary with the Archbishop of the Diocese as a representative of her school. And then one night, she's caught in the monestary with a cocktail of questionable drugs on the same evening one of the elderly nuns has been found dead.

One more.

A popular progressive news host on a channel very much like MSNBC disappears after uncovering documents that link a conservative general to war crimes. She had been warned not to release them, but she did anyway, and now there's hell to pay... maybe by people who've been sworn to protect her safety.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Two Dead Bodies. Stories Fifteen and Sixteen.

 My last post was misnumbered. After today, we'll be up to sixteen. And, both of these premises will be about... MURDER.


Sarah Smith went to a state school in Wisconsin in a beautiful small town adjacent to an idyllic river. "Stay away from the river when you're drunk," her mother warned her before she left for her freshman year. Every so often a kid would drown in icy water in the winter after doing something stupid on the way back to the dorms after a party. During Sarah's first year, a kid did just that, and the victim happened to be named Sarah Smith, just like our protagonist. 

It was just really weird and kind of creepy for our Sarah that someone with her same name suffered this horrible fate. For at least a year afterward, people kept telling her they thought the victim was her. Professors, students, strangers, friends from high school. Five years after she graduates, our Sarah starts finding strange posts on her social accounts, things she hasn't posted, about what she's done and where she's gone. She changes her passwords, and it keeps happening. Then, she gets a letter in her mail one day with a return address from the same small town in which she went to school. "It should have been you," the letter says. And Sarah starts to investigate.

Now, here's story #16:

Lauren James always wished her dad was dead. He was not such a great guy and impossible to get a long with. Him dead would have been easier to deal with than their weird estrangement. The last time Lauren sees her dad is at her high school graduation. Her dad looks awful there, wearing a baby blue suit several sizes too small. He criticizes Lauren's appearance, pointing out her round cheeks, her thick upper arms. 

On the way to the graduation, Lauren wishes again that he were just gone. 

But, Lauren didn't kill him. She's suspect number one when he's found soaked in blood and vomit in his condo. Lauren didn't even know he lived in town, but her jackass older brother fed her as a suspect to the police. He showed them text messages about how much he hated him. His replies, equally as damning, were conveniently deleted from his feed.

The police don't have enough evidence to arrest Lauren, so she starts investigating. She's only 22, but she's scrappy. Her bitchy grandmother on her dad's side is her first suspect.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Two Stories about Substitute Teaching. Twelve and Thirteen.

I subbed yesterday. Certainly, that's fodder:

Fresh from student teaching, Darby keeps hearing about a teacher shortage, but at the same time, she keeps getting passed over for the jobs she applies for. It's December, so most of the openings are actually filled, but still. "You were our second choice," the principals keep saying when they call her to say that someone else will do so-and-so's eight-week maternity leave. Eventually, all of the first choices will already be hired, and then she'll actually get a job. In the meantime, she'll sub. 

It's a dystopian nightmare from the start. No lesson plans, kids who throw chairs, one who defecates in the corner, and worst of all, a guy from her graduate school program who just happens to end up at the same schools she subs at each day, even when she district-hops midweek. What's with this guy? And what's the definition of stalking?

That's one. Here's another:

Ingrid lands a long-term sub job. She's pumped because she's been out of the workforce raising her kids for a few years, basically going crazy watching spit-up dry on receiving blankets and shaking rattles above their wobbly heads. But now the twins are in Kindergarten and the next one can do daycare. Ingrid's husband wonders whether the daycare investment is worth it, but Ingrid insists. "What is the price of my fucking sanity?!" she demands. He lets it go.

Little does Ingrid know, she's walking into another nightmare. The teachers in this place are unbelievably competitive. They hide lesson plans from one another, steal each other's recess spots, and trash-talk each other's contributions to mandatory workplace potlucks. Ingrid's got to not only manage her rowdy class and keep them quiet in the hallways, but she also has to navigate this grown-up bullshit. A week or two into the job she discovers one teacher's shocking secret, and suddenly the power dynamics start to change.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Two Stories Today. Eleven and Twelve.

 I'm obsessed with mysteries and detectives right now. Maybe I should write some books with dead bodies? Here are some ideas:

Louise Marmaduke is a young woman who has just scored her first position as an investigator in a suburban police department. The main guy, Jerome Saint Ruf, is old and craggy, and Louise is young and fresh. It's a dichotomy. On her first day on the job, Louise almost quits because Saint Ruf is mean and not that innovative. Their first case is about tagging at the local park, and the guy basically terrorizes a few pre-teens who are maybe or maybe not responsible for a little spray paint. Everything changes when Saint Ruf sends Louise over to the high school on her own after a weird call from the police liaison officer. When she gets there, she quickly realizes ole Jerome probably should have accompanied her because there's a dead body in the oven in the cafeteria. It's a despised teacher of Advanced Placement United States History.

Not sure that one has legs. What about this one?

A dog trainer (I've met a few, and they've all been interesting sorts) is doing the boot camp program for her dog training school, See Spot Sit. Her livelihood and freedom are threatened when one dog at a time from SSS starts to die. Someone is poisoning the dogs. It's not the trainer! But, it's someone who hates her quite a lot. The suspects include a disgraced former employee who was found to have used small shock buzzers on unknowing animals, the trainer's mother who really wants her to do something different with her life, and a total weirdo from her high school class who feels it's his mission in life to marry her.

Also not the best. But, we all know that you just have to write the ideas and sometimes they grow better as you edit and think.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

A Story a Day. Ten.

A woman is just making her way through life, trying to be a good parent and wife. One of her kids is usually humming or singing lightly, little non-tunes, under his breath. The tunes are high pitched and loosely melodious. She doesn't think he even notices he's doing it, and is generally pretty pleasant.

One day, the song the boys hums takes a shape that is uncomfortably familiar to the woman. It's the same damn song her dad used to sing to her when she was little. It makes her spine tingle. Something messed up happened when she heard that song. "Where did you learn that song?" she demanded. She hasn't seen her dad in more than 20 years, either because they're estranged or he's dead.

It turns out the song came to him in a dream. The dream is that a guy who resembles the woman's father whispers in the kid's ear. Maybe he's singing to him from outside the window.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Two Stories Today. Eight and Nine.

As many have noted, this is a hard challenge.

Here's what I've got today:

A girl goes to a small liberal arts college in a remote area. I guess it would most likely be in New England, right? Where all those elite small liberal arts colleges are located? But, I kind of want this one to be in Montana. In any case, the girl has been pretty lucky for her whole life -- plenty of money and food and opportunity, adoring parents and teachers. She tries to contact her assigned roommate over the summer. There are Facebook groups for it, and she reaches out on social to no avail. When they finally meet, something is a little off about the roommate. She has three or four outfits total. She smells a little off, not BAD exactly, but also not like the usual soap and shampoo. As time goes by, there are weird calls to their room and odd packages, and then near Thanksgiving, her roommate filches a paper the girl is working on and hands in an identical one to their ecology professor. Later, a card from the girl's mom lies open on her bed with the twenty-dollar bill that's normally inside missing. There's other stuff, and then it gets worse. I'm thinking there's also a bear attack. That's why I wanted it in Montana.

Speaking of Montana, this next idea takes place in some of the USA's National Parks:

Some parents are divorced, and the dad moves away to another state. It's an unusual choice, but there were circumstances. The divorce decree says the kids have to spend six weeks in the summer with the dad because they don't see him hardly at all during the year. They're teens and they hate this. They miss their sports and their friends, and they don't really like their dad that much. He's not the world's most spectacular guy for reasons that will become clear in this novel through flashbacks, etc. For the second summer (after the first one was a spectacular failure when he signed the teens up for a bunch of lame-ass park league activites), the dad decides on a several-state road trip to see our National Parks. Endless calamities ensue -- falls off cliffs and into geysers and such. I haven't decided the tone of this story, yet, so I don't kow exactly what happens. But, this is the premise.