My Contest Entry: James Patterson Masterclass

I was given the James Patterson writing Masterclass for Christmas, and enjoyed the class. Part of the class involved a contest to become a co-writer on a James Patterson book, and a lot of people took a stab at it — including me!

Since the 10 semi-finalists have been announced and I’m not one of them (insert sad violin song here) I get to share what I wrote for the contest! It was really fun coming up with something that might fit the James Patterson style. I didn’t quite succeed (I’m a little too snarky) but I like my concept and definitely had fun writing the chapter. Keeping it short was the hardest part for me since I tend to write long, but both the blurb and the sample chapter had very tight word count limits.

The title (which inspired the whole idea): Dead Date In Hipster Paradise

Here’s the blurb I wrote for the book:

“Hipster in Paradise” was a killer idea for a reality dating show — only it came with a real killer! The murder of a contestant right after she won the first challenge (maple-bacon donut tossing and espresso chugging) is initially assumed to be unconnected to the show. But then contestant Jolie Sanders has her own near-death experience, and she begins to wonder if someone in the cast (or crew) is hunting for the perfect mate, or for the perfect victim.

And here’s my sample chapter:

Chapter 3.

The explosion threw us backwards, directly into the balloon wall. I don’t know which sound drew the rest of the show contestants and the crew — the booby trap on the pretty blue box when we opened it, or the sound of two bodies popping hundreds of balloons.  (I was too deafened by the explosion to hear the balloons at the time, but I later convinced one of the crew to play it back for me from the day’s raw footage, and it was quite impressive.)

The first people bubbled out of the extremely narrow stairs leading to the 2nd floor passenger area of the train car and came to a stop until pushed by someone behind them, who then repeated the stop and get pushed routine. I sat there blinking and listening to the ringing in my ears as two crew members pushed through, camera and boom mic in hand, then rushed toward us. All I could think of was that this probably wasn’t a good look for me. I reached one hand up to check, and yep, I definitely had balloon hair. I turned slightly and saw Jayson doing the same.

“That really sucked!” I bellowed. At least I think I yelled it. I could feel myself yelling, but still only mostly heard ringing. The train jerked around a corner and everyone swayed, grabbing at the wall for balance.

“Wh-ap-ed?” I almost heard from the crew member with the boom mic. I pointed at the remains of the box. Jayson was yelling something at the camera man, and pointing at me.

“The box said “open me if you dare” so we did,” I said, in a more normal tone. “It’s part of the show, right?”

Twenty minutes later Jayson and I had been checked out by the medical staff from the crew car and then abandoned along with the other contestants. Every single crew member was in an emergency meeting, and we’d all been moved to yet another train car.

The small office area with a single desk and two chairs was too small for all 23 of us so some were stuck standing in the hallway between the crew sleeping cabins. Barbie and I managed to elbow our way in together. Scott (the librarian, not the lawyer) and Pruett were trying to quiet us down by vigorous hand waving and polite “Oh hey now” lines when Sam whistled loud enough to wake people three towns away. Most of us quieted and waited politely for someone to play leader. Patricia, Scott and Alison began to rock-paper-scissors as Pruett asked if anyone had any straws.

Meanwhile DesiLynn was trying to look everyone in the eye without actually moving her ‘good side’ too far away from the single visible camera high up on the far wall. “The train…is a deathtrap. We must be…on our guard. And never…alone.”

Barbie mumbled “Asthma?” my direction. I shook my head and whispered back “Shatner school of acting.” A snort from behind me let me know I was still a little too loud.

“Shouldn’t we, you know, try to leave? I mean, explosions. And like death. That’s really not cool.” I couldn’t see who spoke but I could see frowns on other faces.

“Leave now? Before the elimination round? No way. I’m not going to give up that easily.” I couldn’t remember the redhead’s name but she was an accountant-slash-singer from Portland who wanted to find someone who enjoyed the same things she loved in life, like coffee, protest marches, and bicycle riding in heavy traffic.

“I’m still alive, so I’m staying,” I found myself volunteering. People twirled to see me, and some eyes moved over my shoulder. Without turning I knew the snort I’d heard was from Jayson. I put on my brave-yet-soulful expression (version 1.0) and lifted my chin a notch. “The crew might be panicking, but I don’t actually know that someone was trying to kill Jayson and I. It might have just been a dirty trick and unrelated to Karalee’s death. The police seemed to think her ex was involved in that, and there’s no reason for him to be on the train coming after the rest of us.”

“I heard rumors that the whole show has received threats from people who weren’t picked during the auditions!”

“All reality shows get threats,” suggested another voice, and a few heads nodded. We all looked at Kristen and Bradley. He smoothed his fluffy mustache and nodded while she looked wise and world-weary as she flipped her long brown hair back over the shoulder of her fur-trimmed denim vest. I’d seen each of them yesterday evening when I was sneaking around, and they’d definitely been practicing those same Wise Elder looks and poses so I didn’t buy it — but a lot of the other contestants looked like they’d just been blessed by the pope of Reality TV.

I made a mental note to try to separate the two of them the first chance I got, before they gained super-couple status, since that would ruin my chances of winning this. A quick glance at Barbie made me suspect that she was having similar thoughts — she had that dangerous half-smile going and had tilted her head just like I’d seen her doing during the first competition event. She caught me looking and her mouth twitched. It was too darned bad we were competitors on this show — I was really starting to like her.

Pruett cleared his throat and tugged on the bottom of his grey vest. “Folks, I hate to point this out, but we need to discuss the elephant in the room. Karalee’s murderer could be one of us.”

Yeah, like we hadn’t all already wondered that. It put quite a nasty crimp in the dating part of the contest. Instead of the cut-throat competition we’d been promised we all now had to worry about, well, throat cutting. Definitely not cool.