La Jolla – 1st Round – NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge

Well, everyone, I participated (and survived) yet another round of an NYC Midnight (NYCM) writing contest. If you’d like a behind-the-scenes look at what I went through to produce the story below, click here. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy my first round entry, La Jolla. 

As a reminder, I had 48-hours to write a 1,000 word story based on these prompts:

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 10.13.33 AM

Thanks in advance for reading, and thanks for any feedback you might have.

“La Jolla” 

By Jenna Willett

Brief Synopsis: A catastrophic disaster strikes during a train tour through La Jolla Cove. Cole must save himself and his brother from the deep blue.


“Welcome to Windansea’s Nature Tours, sponsored by Scripps Institute of Oceanography. My name’s Cole and I’m pleased you’ve joined us on California’s newest and most unique attraction.” He flashed his kilowatt smile at the tourists. One of them, a woman sporting a hot pink fanny pack, snapped a photo of him.

It wasn’t the first time.

Cole gestured to the foggy landscape swaying past their single-car, electric powered train. Palm trees on one side, the Pacific Ocean on the other. “Thanks to Scripps Institute’s eco-friendly, state-of-the-art rail system—all constructed upon suspended bridges and stone outcroppings—we now have a way to experience the seven underwater caves of La Jolla. And thanks to the low tides today, we’ll be able to enter…”

As he regurgitated the memorized spiel, Cole glanced at the back row. His nine-year old brother, Finn, smirked at him and mimed taking a photo. Cole squeezed his fists. He regretted agreeing to babysit.

Ignoring his brother’s ongoing mockery of the other passengers—an old man blowing his nose; yet another middle-aged woman snapping a photo—he continued with his rehearsed speech. “La Jolla Cove is best known for its kayaking and snorkeling…” A cute blonde in a Cal Poly t-shirt caught his eye. He stumbled over his words and grinned at her. Finn made a gagging noise.

Smothering the urge to boot him off the train, Cole refocused on his captive audience. “As we enter the first cave and begin winding our way—”

The train’s lights flickered.

Off. On. Off.

A blanket of murky darkness descended and a distant rumble overtook the train’s gentle hum. It shivered along the tracks and quivered up the wheels. Everyone went quiet and still, even Finn.

“What’s happening?” Fanny Pack placed a hand against the vibrating window.

Cole couldn’t find the breath to gasp the single, horrific word.

Earthquake.

His gaze flew to Finn’s. His brother half stood, as if to run to him.

“Sit down and stay buckled!” Cole flung himself towards the back of the train. “Everyone hold on!”

The rumbling grew louder, the vibrations harder. A chilling screech tore through the train, followed by a metallic groan and cracking glass. The train sped over a bridge and lurched sideways. Cole staggered into the old man. He grabbed Cole’s arm. “We’re gonna die!”

Cole pried himself free and struggled on. He had to get to Finn.

The bridge heaved, like a briny belch had blown out of the waters below. Cole’s knees buckled. Cal Poly made a mad grab for him and missed.

“Cole!” Finn’s shrill voice cut through the metallic booms and wails.

The tracks collapsed.

The train plummeted.

Gravity’s force lifted Cole off the ground and smashed him into the ceiling. Purses, cameras, and backpacks whipped past him.

“Grab my hand!”

He looked down.

Finn strained to reach him. Their fingers brushed once, twice—Finn lunged and grabbed his wrist. As he yanked Cole down, the train plunged into the water. The impact tore Cole out of Finn’s white-knuckled grip and catapulted him into the rear window face first. He stared through the spider-webbed cracks spreading across the glass, down into a deep, black chasm.

“Shit.” He rolled over. With the train vertical, everybody, including Finn, hung above him. A symphony of sobbing pleas, splintering glass, and grinding metal deafened his ears. He struggled to his feet and unbuckled Finn. “You okay, buddy?” He lifted him down.

Finn nodded.

“Good, cause we gotta go.” He struck the damaged window with his elbow.

Nothing.

“Watch out!” Cal Poly peered over the top of her seat with a five-pound dumbbell. He didn’t ask her where or how she’d found it. People packed the weirdest shit. He shoved Finn back.

She dropped it.

The dumbbell struck the center of the window and shattered it. Icy saltwater rushed in. Cal Poly wasted no time leaping from her seat and vanishing through the gaping hole. Cole grabbed Finn and urged him to follow her.

He balked. “Ar—Are there sharks?”

“No,” Cole lied. “We’ll be fine. Just swim as fast as you can.”

Finn nodded.

“We’ll go together on the count of three. Ready?” Cole held up a hand. “One, two, three.” They inhaled and went under. Keeping a firm grip on Finn, Cole launched them through the window, away from the wreck, and towards the surface. It seemed a million miles away.

With each stroke and kick, Cole’s lungs burned, his legs seized, and his arms weakened. Dark shapes floated around them. Passengers? Debris? Sharks? He refused to look. He didn’t want to know. He clawed his way towards the shimmering daylight streaming through the blue.

Finn went limp.

No!

Cole clenched his jaw and used his last bit of energy to propel them to the surface. Air bubbles billowed from his mouth and nose. Just a few more feet. One more kick, one more stroke. One more—

He burst through the surface and sucked in a sweet, sweet breath. Then another and another.

Finn remained limp.

“No!” Cole spun around in the water. Cal Poly clung to a nearby rock. “Help!” He struggled towards her. “Please—My brother—Help!”

She pushed off the rock and swam to him. Together they dragged Finn over to a rocky shore.

“He’s…not…breathing.” Cole collapsed next to Finn’s motionless body.

Cal Poly thrust her hands against Finn’s chest and began CPR. Cole watched, terrified by Finn’s blue lips and white face. He’d give anything—anything—to see him goofing off and mimicking passengers again.

Suddenly, Finn’s chest jerked, his shoulders heaved, and water shot from his mouth.

Cole closed his eyes and buried his face against his brother’s curly hair. “Oh, thank God.” He looked at Cal Poly. “Thank you.”

She nodded.

As Finn’s coughs and sputters quieted, and the few surviving passengers joined them on the shore, an alarm echoed through the cave’s opening.

“What’s that?” Finn sat up.

Cole couldn’t find the breath to tell him or Cal Poly.

Tsunami.


To read more stories, visit the Jen’s Pen Page.

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Music Monday – Bad Blood – Taylor Swift

Welcome to Music Monday! As many of you know, music contributes a great deal to my writing process. Whether it’s a song’s lyrics, beat, rhythm, or tone, I find myself constantly inspired by it.

writing-to-musicYes, it has finally happened. Taylor Swift has invaded Music Monday.

But, darn it! Her past few songs have gotten under my skin. And her latest one, “Bad Blood”, was just too good to keep to myself.

taylor-swift-bad-blood-video1-700x394Simply put, this song kicks ass! And its music video kicks ass. And it’ll make you want to kick ass!

The number one thing I love about this song is its energy. Even though I don’t write action-adventure, and my stories lean towards ahhh!, not hi-yah!, I like to feel a buzz while I write. You know, tension, movement, feeling. And I get that from “Bad Blood”. It makes me want to infuse those white-knuckled elements into my work.

I also love the lyrics!

IMG_8364 (1)The first time you watch the music video, you might be distracted by its awesome visuals. But if you close your eyes and really listen, you’ll hear a lot of great lines:

Did you think we’d be fine?
Still got scars on my back from your knife
So don’t think it’s in the past
These kind of wounds they last and they last

So, if you’re looking for a kick ass song that’ll get you energized, check out “Bad Blood” by Taylor Swift.

What song(s) are you in love with right now? Which one(s) offer you inspiration? Let me know! I’m always searching for songs that motivate my writing.

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Photo credits: 

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Music Monday – Back in Black – AC/DC

Welcome to Music Monday! As many of you know, music contributes a great deal to my writing process. Whether it’s a song’s lyrics, beat, rhythm, or tone, I find myself constantly inspired by it.

writing-to-musicOn my way home from work on Friday afternoon, I set my iPod to shuffle, and after a few not-so-motivating songs, AC/DC’s “Black in Back” came on.

Dc-Logo-Nature-Ac-Back-In-Black-Acdc-Band-Heavy-Metal-51360Before I knew it, I was dancing and head jamming in my car.

Well, until I came to a stoplight and noticed the guy in the car next to mine staring at me like, “Uh, what’s wrong with you?”

I hate when that happens, LOL!

Anyway, after I hit the gas pedal and left my humiliation behind, I replayed “Back in Black”. This time, I listened more than danced, and as I did, I began using the rhythm and beat to choreograph the action sequences I’m currently working on. All of the punches and kicks, twirls and whirls. Pow, pow, pow!

By the time I sat down and started writing on Saturday morning, my creative cogs were spinning fast. And they kept spinning all day. From dawn to dusk, the words poured out of me and the action sequences I’d imagined in the car sprang to life.

acdc-000000-0110 copySo if you’re looking for a song to pump you up and motivate your “Pow, pow, pow!” scenes, check out “Back in Black” by AC/DC.

What song(s) are you in love with right now? Which one(s) offer you inspiration? Let me know! I’m always searching for songs that motivate my writing.

Photo credits: 

http://michaelgalvis.com/

http://s289.photobucket.com/user/maycon-sama/media/Music/AC_DC.jpg.html

http://www.survivingcollege.com/14-stages-of-midterms-bridesmaids-gifs/

 http://gif-central.blogspot.com/2013/12/jesse-pinkman-what.html

https://www.morrisonhotelgallery.com/photographer/default.aspx?photographerID=151&photographID=10722

 

Music Monday – I’m Shipping Up To Boston – Dropkick Murphys

Welcome to Music Monday! As many of you know, music contributes a great deal to my writing process. Whether it’s a song’s lyrics, beat, rhythm, or tone, I find myself constantly inspired by it.

writing-to-musicGood news, everyone: I’m in the groove again! This past weekend, I set aside every and all distraction and wrote…and wrote and wrote and wrote. In fact, I was so into my manuscript, I had to force myself to stop yesterday to run errands and get out of the house for a few hours.

One of the things that helped me get pumped up and back on track was listening to “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” by Dropkick Murphys.

DKMThis song captures the essence of the chapters I’m currently working on: revenge, betrayal, anger, terror. It also lends excellent motivation for when I’m choreographing any fight scenes, and during this past weekend, I worked on two that were brimming with kicks, chops, and punches.

So, if you’re looking for a song that inspires “Ahh!”, “Grrr…”, and “hi-yah!”, check out “I’m Shipping Up To Boston!”

What song(s) are you in love with right now? Which one(s) offer you inspiration? Let me know! I’m always searching for songs that motivate my writing.

Photo credits: 

http://michaelgalvis.com/

http://www.redbullusa.com/cs/Satellite/en_US/Article/Dropkick-Murphys-Talk-Latest-Album-Bruce-Springsteen-021242992026935

http://itsarianadumbledore.tumblr.com/

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Book of the Month – The Maze Runner – James Dashner

Yet again, one of my favorite young adult books is being brought to life on the big screen. This month, it’s The Maze Runner by James Dashner.

6186357Synopsis

“‘If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.’
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers–boys whose memories are also gone.
Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out–and no one’s ever made it through alive.
Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.”

Jen’s Review

I read The Maze Runner forever ago, but even now, years later, I still remember how exciting, adventurous, and suspenseful it was. I also remember how I never stopped asking myself, “What the heck is going to happen next?”.

In a way, The Maze Runner reminds me of Lord of the Flies, except it has a maze, a girl, and oozing, creeping creatures that attack in the night! Oh, and there’s a tiny world-wide plague that gives people zombie-like symptoms, which makes things even more tense and crazy.

I will warn you: if you decide to read The Maze Runner, then you should prepare yourself to read its sequels, The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure. There are way too many unsolved mysteries at the end of book one to feel fully satisfied. But, that’s okay. As a whole (yes, I’ll admit, there are some ups and downs to all three books), this is an entertaining series that’s full of action and intrigue. And, in my opinion, they’re totally worth reading.

Mazerunner_minhoquoteSo what are you waiting for? Run out and read The Maze Runner before the movie hits theaters on September 19th!

Jen’s Rating 

5 Star

And for those of you who’d rather “see” the synopsis, here’s the trailer for The Maze Runner. Prepare to hold your breath for the next two minutes!

…Just remember: Read the book BEFORE you see the movie!

Related Articles

Get Your Heart Rate Up With The Official “Maze Runner” Trailer

THE MAZE RUNNER MOVIE IS COMING

Book Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Photo credits: 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6186357-the-maze-runner?from_search=true

http://www.teen.com/2014/08/07/movies/books-turned-movies-second-half-of-2014/attachment/maze-runner-thomas-running/

http://giphy.com/gifs/ColbXXtLhOz0k

http://mazerunner.wikia.com/wiki/File:Mazerunner_minhoquote.jpg

http://wifflegif.com/tags/202690-read-the-book-gifs

Book Review: Champion by Marie Lu

14290364Champion by Marie Lu

Synopsis

“The explosive finale to Marie Lu’s New York Times bestselling LEGEND trilogy—perfect for fans of THE HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT!
He is a Legend.
She is a Prodigy.
Who will be Champion?
June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps Elect while Day has been assigned a high level military position. But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them once again. Just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything he has. With heart-pounding action and suspense, Marie Lu’s bestselling trilogy draws to a stunning conclusion.”

Jen’s Review

**Spoiler-free**

So last week I finished the third and final book in the Divergent series (Allegiant). After its bittersweet ending, I was terrified to read the third and final book in Marie Lu’s Legend series, Champion. Like DivergentLegend has been rife with grim drama, nail-biting action and heartbreaking tragedies. But, unlike DivergentLegend has had two protagonists that I really cared about–Day and June. I couldn’t bear the thought of these likeable, cheer-worthy characters meeting a similar ending as Tris and Four. I just couldn’t.

But, I went ahead and read it anyways.

And, without giving anything away, here’s what I thought:

As I’ve mentioned before, I feel many series suffer from the “Woo!-Boo! Syndrome”. Woo! for book one, Boo! for book two, and Woo!-Boo! for book three. Great, bad, great and bad. Champion was mostly Woo! Day and June were as likeable as ever, the plot answered all of my questions, and the grim yet optimistic tone matched that of its predecessors. Champion was entertaining, endearing and filled with plenty of oh-god-oh-god-oh-god moments. And Day’s headaches could literally be felt. During his painful episodes, I’d have to stop and rub my own head, scared I too had a tumor about to blow. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a fitting finale to an outstanding series. I highly, highly recommend it to one and all!

Now, as for the ending, the one I feared would be wrought with tragedy and noooooo!…Well, you’ll just have to read Champion to find out. I’m not telling! 😉

“Sometimes, the sun sets earlier. Days don’t last forever, you know. But I’ll fight as hard as I can. I can promise you that.”

Jen’s Rating

4 Star

Read more about Champion here!