Contemporary/Women’s Fiction Category: Choosing a Winner Sends Launch Pad Judges Through the Roof

Wow.

This month offered an amazing array of entries, a number
of which appear to be nearly publication-ready. When I say it was difficult to
choose the winner, I’m not just being nice to all the entrants. It’s the absolute truth.

Just one? Really? Sigh. Sometimes life isn’t fair. We’d love
to see every one of these writers succeed.
Tough as it was to choose, we’re pleased to present the
Contemporary Fiction/Women’s Fiction winner of Novel Rocket’s LAUNCH PAD
Contest: Boosting You Out of the Slush Pile: 

It’s Not You, It’s Me by Orly Konig-Lopez of Gaithersburg,
Maryland.
Orly will be asked to provide a proposal and the complete
manuscript for entrance into the final round.
One judge said: “Good story, well plotted, and told with a
pleasing voice.” Another judge enthused, “This is really top-notch.  I could see this being published
as-is.”
You’ll see what we’re talking about as you
enjoy the first two chapters of this winning entry:
It’s Not You, It’s Me
by
Orly Konig-Lopez
Chapter One
My mom always said
good things happen to good people. She also said bad things happen in threes.       
Tonight was going
to be one of those good-things nights.
I tugged at the
hem of my dress. I shouldn’t have let my roommate Rachel talk me into something
so short. I turned to look out the window of the taxi, my thighs suctioning to
the sticky vinyl of the bench seat.
Rachel had
insisted I take a taxi to meet my boyfriend for dinner. Eric had made
reservations in Georgetown to discuss something important. After dissecting his
message like sixteen year olds, Rachel and I reached the conclusion a proposal
was imminent and we surely wouldn’t be leaving the restaurant in separate cars.
A taxi made perfect sense. Then. Now,
with my thighs sweating and my feet pinching in the new shoes I’d caved to, I
said a little prayer that Rachel was right. 
The taxi lurched
left around a black Tahoe trying to parallel-park in a spot barely fit for a
mid-size sedan. A stream of curse words in a variety of languages bounced off
the plastic divider between me and the driver.
Another lurch and
I grabbed at the black leather clutch before it went airborne. My phone buzzed
inside, cranky at being ignored. Two missed calls. My mom and my mom.
We stopped at a
traffic light, a momentary lull in the amusement park worthy ride. A woman
laughed on the sidewalk outside the taxi window and I looked over. She laughed
again and tipped up on her toes to kiss the man at her side. He lifted her hand
to his lips. The setting sun threw a ray their direction, making the engagement
ring on her finger sparkle blue crystals.
I pushed a fist
into my stomach, trying to keep the butterflies from getting overly rowdy. What
if we’d gotten it wrong?
I stabbed at
Rachel’s photo on my phone. It was the before picture I’d snapped on the way to
the salon when she’d decided to chop the bulk of her brunette mane. Her hazel
eyes hid behind a pair of green rims with blue polka dots. One ring. Two rings.
“Oh god, answer already,” I said, blowing out a breath.
“Why are you
calling me?” Rachel answered just in time to prevent full-out hyperventilating.
“What if we have
this all wrong, Rach?” My stomach dropped again as the taxi rocketed forward.
At this rate I’ll be too sick to eat anything.
“Nicole, relax.
Eric is taking you to Utopia. It’s one of the hottest new restaurants in DC.
And on a Saturday night. Can you imagine what strings he had to pull to get a
reservation on such short notice? And what about last week? Seriously, Nic, it
was his idea to go shopping, right? And he just happened to stop by a jewelry
store window to check his messages? Come on.” I heard the woosh of air pass
over the phone and could picture the be-sensible tilt of the head she used with
her students.
“I know. I’m just
nervous.” I slid my hand under my thigh to break the seal with the vinyl.
Nauseous and missing chunks of skin. Lovely way to start a romantic evening.
“Miss, we’re
here,” the taxi driver said in perfect English. I couldn’t help wonder if he
spoke any of the languages he’d cursed in.
“Rach, I have to
go. Wish me luck.”
“You don’t need
luck. Relax and enjoy. Call me later with the good news.”
“But, Rach …” But
Rach wasn’t there anymore.
“Miss?” The driver
glared at me via the rear-view mirror.
I handed a twenty
dollar bill through the opening in the plastic partition, yanked my thighs
loose and teetered out of the taxi.
The driver waved
the change at me. “Keep it.” I waved back.
With a screech and
a “Hey, watch it, Jerkoff,” from a pedestrian, my chariot was off, the driver
clearly amused by the crazy tip lady.
I looked up at the
sign above the door. Utopia beckoned. Reviewers had called it “the hottest new
date night restaurant in DC.”
I tugged at the
hem of my dress, pulled up to cover some cleavage, pulled back down to cover
thigh, then swore never to go shopping with Rachel again.
[Click here to continue reading.]