Disaster Strikes – Round 2 – NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014

Well, it finally happened, everyone. The worst case scenario struck this weekend. I received political satire as my genre for the 2nd round of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014.

As usual, I went to bed on Friday night without looking at my assignment–the last thing I needed was to be kept up half the night with swirling ideas. Around 4:30 a.m., my nerves woke me up. Unable to stand it, I turned on my tablet to find out what my new prompts were:

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 8.38.53 AM

Blank.

My mind went blank.

Then it quickly screamed:
Ugh, I had so been hoping for comedy or sci-fi. Or, heck, even romance. ANYTHING but political satire, because 1) I don’t know jack about politics, and 2) I’ve never tried writing satire.

I ended up throwing myself back into bed, curling up in the fetal position, and battling between despair and anger for a solid hour. It. Was. A. Disaster! In fact, for a serious moment, I even considered throwing in the towel and giving up…

But, darn it, I’m competitive. And I wasn’t willing to just roll over and die. So I got over myself, and I went to work.

Thankfully, I happened to overhear a rant about a current event the day before, so I had a topic to use as my story’s inspiration. I pulled up Google and began educating myself on it. I spent most of Saturday morning reading articles and watching a Congress hearing on C-SPAN.

I know, it sounds borrrring, but surprisingly, everything I read and heard was fascinating. Better yet, it was mockable. There was one particular quote that inspired my story’s entire theme. Hint:

After a wicked case of Distractionitis (Facebook, Twitter, chores, etc.), I battened down the hatches and whipped out a first draft.

Now, normally I will revise a first draft at least a couple of times before I send it to my mom, AKA, Mrs. Harsh Beta Reader. This time, however, I broke tradition and asked her if she’d come over to my house to read it/help me revise it. I didn’t want to waste time revising a story I had zero confidence in.

To my complete shock, she loved the first draft. In fact, she was crying she was laughing so hard at some of my jokes. I cried with her, but I think that was more out of relief than humor 😉 We edited the story to a semi-solid draft and I sent it off to a couple of other beta readers, one of whom had way more experience in political satire than me.

Their critiques came back positive, but the one who had political satire know-how said my story was too funny. Satire is supposed to suggest, not slap the reader in the face with comedy.

So, I revised it and tried to tone things down.

Tried.

Honestly, I would’ve needed to start completely over to make my story more “satire” funny than “HAHA!” funny, and I wasn’t going to do that. It was late and I was exhausted. Plus, I liked my story–for what it was–and I figured the chances of getting any points for it in the competition were slim-to-none. So why not write a story I liked–even if it didn’t meet the traditional standards of satire?

On Sunday morning, I sent my beta readers a polished version. One of them still thought the humor needed to be toned down and a specific aspect needed to be deleted, while the other thought the story wasn’t as funny anymore and thought that specific aspect needed to be emphasized.

So, I decided to leave the story as is. HA! I ran through it once more and submitted it. Done and done!

Now, is this the best story I’ve ever written? NOOOOO! Will it get me points? NOOOOO! Am I proud I sucked it up and wrote a political satire? YES!

One of the main reasons I do this competition is to push my boundaries and experiment with various genres. And although political satire wasn’t one of the genres I wanted to experiment with, I’m glad I did. It challenged me in ways I’ve never been challenged before. Plus, I learned a lot about a current event I wouldn’t have known much about otherwise.

Hopefully people will read my story and enjoy it, even if it doesn’t fit the traditional political satire standards. I plan to post it here in a few days. For now, here is the title and synopsis:

“OPERATION DISNEY”

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: It’s the 21st century and time for a new, inviting strategy for the Secret Service. But Director Peterson’s plan might be too Disney for special agent Prouty.

***

Okay, normally, I don’t offer explanations for my stories. But since this is a political satire and not all of us are on the up-and-up of various current events, I wanted to give you one to–hopefully–improve your reading experience.

Operation Disney is based off of Julia Pierson, the recently resigned Director of the Secret Service.

APTOPIX-Secret-ServiceSince she was hired back in 2013, there have been multiple security breaches. Some of these include: An armed man hopping the White House fence, running across the lawn, and entering the property through an unlocked door. A construction worker/felon being allowed to share the same elevator as the President (and snap photos of him with his phone). And, finally, a series of gunshots echoing outside the White House that were blamed for a car backfiring (five days later, a maid found a window in the President’s private residence damaged from bullets).

On top of all of that, Pierson made this comment (and it’s this comment I based the tone of my story off of):

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 11.49.17 AMHopefully that explanation helps some of you enjoy Operation Disney more! Thanks in advanced for reading and providing feedback. I appreciate it.

Photo credits:

http://www.omgfacts.com/lists/7722/A-man-survived-the-Hindenburg-disaster-by-bailing-out-the-window

http://www.studentbeans.com/mag/en/campus/the-25-stages-of-writing-an-essay

http://gifsb.in/will-ferrell/

http://torimac.tumblr.com/

http://dailycaller.com/2014/10/02/julia-pierson-on-secret-service-we-need-to-be-more-like-disney-world/

http://www.i-am-bored.com/forums.asp?page_num=1&action=read&q_id=71067&ct=10

http://hotair.com/archives/2014/10/02/fired-secret-service-directors-strategy-for-the-agency-we-need-to-be-more-like-disney-world/

http://www.post-gazette.com/news/nation/2014/10/01/APress-Secret-Service-chief-Julia-Pierson-resigns-after-security-lapses/stories/201410010204

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

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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

Confession: I Fear Sharing My Stories

Ever since I posted my first round story for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014, I’ve been a bit of a mess–anxious, queasy, stressed. Perhaps you find this reaction surprising–maybe even a little unbelievable–because I’ve always acted like sharing my work with you is no big deal. But, to be honest, it terrifies me.

Last week, when I hit the “publish” button on my blog to post Inevitable, I had a moment of pure panic. A million “what if” questions flew through my mind: What if people hate it? What if people laugh at me? What if this is the stupidest story I’ve ever written? What if I didn’t push myself hard enough? What if I offend someone by accident? What if. What if. What if…

 It doesn’t seem to matter if I’m sharing my story with a friend, a beta reader, or a complete stranger, I’m always petrified I’ll be judged, ridiculed, and/or ripped apart. The minute I put a story on my blog, or I hand chapters of my manuscript over to a beta reader, I experience a sharp twinge of anxiety, and my heart does a pitter-patter–stutter–halt!–boom-boom-boom! dance.

You’d think this fear would go away after years of sharing my work with others, but it hasn’t. I always experience a sickening sensation, followed by a silent chant of, “Oh God, oh God, oh God…”

Part of my fear stems from the worry people will read my work and think I’m someone I’m not. Let’s face it, many of my stories are on the darker side: Tragic. Morbid. Whacked out! I’m so scared people will read them and think, “Wowza, this chick is messed up!” Or, “Poor thing, she must have a terrible life.” Or, “Yeesh, this writer scares me.”

And, who knows? Maybe people do think those things about me? Maybe people see me as this:

When, in reality, I’m like this:

The only thing I can do to manage this particular fear is to explain to people my writing process. I like to tell them, “When I write, I’m not there. I’m pushed into a cage and locked up while my characters hijack the story. They’re the ones writing it, not me.”

Hmm, maybe I am a little crazy–ha!

But it’s the truth. When I sit down to write, I check “Jenna” at the door and let my characters orchestrate the plot. They tell me how the story is “supposed to go”. I do my best not to interfere as the outsider.

For example, when I started writing my short story, Chasing Monsters, I planned on telling a story about a little boy who’d witnessed a murder in the forest. But when I arrived at the murder scene, my characters said, “Um, no. That’s not going to happen. This is!” And they yanked the plot out of my hands and twisted it into something completely different and unexpected…It was horrible and beyond terrifying, and I did not want to write it.

I think I almost threw up when I posted Chasing Monsters on my blog. If there was ever a story people were going to judge me for, it was that one. Thankfully, nobody did–at least not to my face.

Truthfully, I’ve never been outright slammed for any of my stories. Of course, that’s not to say I’ve never had negative reviews, or had my feelings hurt by less than tactful individuals. Just this past weekend, I had someone send me feedback for Inevitable. They point blank said, “I didn’t like it at all.”

Yeah, that one hurt. But it’s okay. One of the things I’ve learned from sharing my work is not everyone will be a fan. Even if I have pure gold on my hands, someone out there will think it stinks. The best thing I can do is move on and let it go.

…Easier said than done, right?

The bottom line is I will always be afraid of sharing my work. Even if I become a New York Times bestselling author, I’ll struggle with the knowledge there are people out there reading my work and judging me in one way or another. And there will always be critics and, well, insensitive meanies who will tell me, “I didn’t like it at all.”.

But you know what? I can’t let my fears stop me. Even if I have an anxiety attack every time I press the “publish” button on my blog, or sit and stare at my email until my beta readers return with their feedback about my manuscript, I need to be willing to share my work. I need to suck it up and take the terrifying plunge.

If I don’t, how else will I discover my strengths and weaknesses? How else will I become the best writer I can be? There’s only so much I can learn on my own. Without constructive criticism from a variety of sources (friends, family, strangers, bloggers, other writers, etc.) I’ll never reach the next level.

And, really, I need to get used to people reading my stories if I want to be a published author. That’s kind of the point of all of this, isn’t it?

So, how about you? Do you fear others reading your stories? If so, why?

Related Articles:

What are you afraid of, dear writer?

Purging Your Writing Fear

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Photo Credits:

http://gifbuffet.tumblr.com/post/9431389021

http://imgfave.com/view/1351342

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20629796-fighting-for-you

http://seeyouinaporridge.blogspot.com/2014/07/confessions_30.html

http://silverscreenings.org/2014/04/25/day-6-the-great-villain-blogathon/

http://setsunajikan.blogspot.com/2012/08/34-ways-that-you-can-be-remarkable.html

http://borg-princess.livejournal.com/95677.html?thread=1791677

Friday Funny with a Birthday and Woot Woo

Happy Friday to one and all!

Well, I had one heck of a distracting week. In fact, I was so busy, I didn’t even get one word written for my manuscript. I didn’t even think about it that much. Eeks!

First off, I had my birthday on Tuesday.

Overall, it was a quiet celebration this year. Actually, most of my birthdays are on the quiet front. Believe it or not, I’m not a fan of the spotlight. Opening presents in front of people, having a group sing happy birthday to me, getting a cake with my name on it…Yeah, I pretty much burst into flames and go up in a flare of mortifying smoke every time. If I could, I’d happily hide in my house all day on August 19th, and then– slowly and cautiously–creep back out on the 20th.

Don’t worry. I didn’t do that. I went over to my family’s after work for my favorite home cooked meal–breakfast for dinner–had some cake (best part of a birthday in my opinion), and opened some great gifts. My family knows me way too well. They gave me a book, gift cards for more books, my favorites snacks (Craisins and granola bars), and a hilarious card.

unnamedI have a few other plans with friends, but they’re aware they’re not allowed to make a big deal about my birthday, so we’ll just be going to dinner and hanging out like we’d normally do…And if my friends are reading this, I mean it. This is your warning: No singing waiters or I’ll put you into one my stories and give you the boot! 😉 )

The other big part of my distracting week was the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014. On Wednesday, I received confirmation for my entry, Inevitable, and was able to post it to both my blog and the competition’s forum. For the past couple of days, I’ve been doing nothing but reading and reviewing other people’s stories, and also receiving feedback for my own.

So far, the reviews for Inevitable have been positive!

Here are a few comments from my fellow competitors:

Suspense is right, I actually held my breath at one point.  And that ending!!

Damn! Just…damn.

I felt like I was there! It unfolded like a suspenseful movie, and I was totally on board with being along for the ride.

Amazing! Everything about this moved me.

The biggest compliments I’ve received thus far have been about my dialogue and character development. Everyone seems to agree I nailed both, and that makes me so happy! I’ve been working my booty off lately on improving those aspects in my stories, so it’s awesome to see my hard work paying off.

Of course, there have been constructive criticisms as well–which I’m more than happy to hear. One of the main reasons I do this competition is to learn and grow, and I can’t do that unless I hear what’s “wrong” with my story.

Anyway, that’s about it. Busy week, but a good one. I will be plunging back into my manuscript this weekend to get back on track with that. It shouldn’t be too hard. I’m right at the juiciest chapters of the book, so it’ll be fun once I rev up the creative engines again.

In honor of my birthday this week, here is today’s Friday Funny–well, Funnies. I couldn’t decide, so you get two!

aeb97696b7c0bbe74cd13230d11ead11

633d5e26caa8877ac29ef931b73abf3fHow was your week? Distracted? Focused? Anyone else have a birthday? August seems to be a popular month for them, so I’m sure someone out there had one.

Jen’s Weekly Roundup

In case you missed my posts from earlier this week, here you go!

I Made It – Round 1 – NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014

Inevitable – 1st Round Entry – NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge Entry

5 Things to Know When Pitching to Literary Agents

Photo credits: 

http://imogenpoots-rph.tumblr.com/post/29738573493/did-i-really-hit-200-followers-within-a-week

http://verymerrydisneybirthdays.tumblr.com/post/28191748051/happy-birthday-alice

http://bitsofada.wordpress.com/2009/01/26/hugh-laurie-at-the-annual-sag-awards/

http://hellogiggles.com/amy-poehler-life-coach-15-things-shes-taught

http://imgfave.com/view/2106241

http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/ae/b9/76/aeb97696b7c0bbe74cd13230d11ead11.jpg

Book of the Month – If I Stay – Gayle Forman

On August 22nd, one of my favorite books is coming to life on the big screen. To honor that, I’ve chosen If I Stay by Gayle Forman as August’s Book of the Month.

6564365If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Synopsis

“Just listen, Adam says with a voice that sounds like shrapnel.
I open my eyes wide now.
I sit up as much as I can.
And I listen.
Stay, he says.

Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones: Stay true to her first love—music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind?
Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it’s the only one that matters.
If I Stay is a heartachingly beautiful book about the power of love, the true meaning of family, and the choices we all make.”

Jen’s Review

I read If I Stay years ago, and it still makes my heart twist and my stomach drop. Just thinking about it makes me search for a tissue while thanking God I haven’t had to experience what Mia did in this book.

tumblr_mp8lqkavxh1sxy5x9o1_500One of the most important things in my life is my family. If anything happened to them…well, I’m not sure what I’d do. It’s one of those fears that haunts me on a daily basis, just as I’m sure it haunts many of you. To think of having everything you cherish taken away in the blink of an eye…

*shudder*

If I Stay addresses this tragic fear. It makes you live it through the eyes of Mia, a girl whose family is killed in a car accident. She herself is on the brink of death and must decide if she has the strength to stay and live with the pain of knowing when she awakes, her family will be gone; or if she can’t bear their loss and will let go to join them in death.
But, don’t worry. This story isn’t only about making you cry and sob and go through an entire box of tissues. It celebrates life and love, and offers hope when there is no hope to be found.

tumblr_mdg8mwFXNk1rj9ghno1_500As hard as this story is to read, it’s worth it. For me, it made me consider what I’d do if this type of tragedy ever struck in my life. Would I give up? Or would I fight for life? To be honest, I’m still not sure. Like Mia, it’s a choice I can’t make until it I had to.

Jen’s Rating

5 Star

To read more about If I Stay, click here!

And for those of you who’d rather “see” the synopsis, here’s the trailer for If I Stay…I suggest you grab a tissue before you view it 😉

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

 Related Articles

BOOK REVIEW: IF I STAY BY GAYLE FORMAN

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Book Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Photo credits: 

http://brynnetervention.blogspot.com/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4374400-if-i-stay

http://gayleforman.tumblr.com/post/54363068897/the-quote-books-if-i-stay-by-gayle-forman

http://handwrittenonpaper.tumblr.com/post/35663785431

Book Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

18081809Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Synopsis

“Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now. Maybe that was always besides the point. Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her. When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts …

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?”

Jen’s Review

Meet Georgie McCool (er, but with blonde hair): 

Meet her husband, Neal: 

Meet their life:

Meet Georgie’s magical phone: 

yellow painted classical phone

Now meet the novel where all of this goodness happens:

18081809

And now meet my Two Thumbs Up for it: 

Okay, seriously, if you haven’t read a book by Rainbow Rowell yet…well. You better get on it! As of this month, she has four–FOUR–awesome books published. And her newest, Landline, is no exception. Just like her other novels, Landline had me hooked from page one. It was thoroughly engaging, filled with vivid, relatable characters, and so addicting, I didn’t want to put it down. I also enjoyed how it wasn’t completely adult fiction. There was plenty of YA moments, which made it all the more special.

So go pick up Landline and get reading. Scootch-scootch!

Jen’s Rating

4 Star

Read more about Landline here!

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Book Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Photo credits:

http://massivnews.com/evenements-du-jour/22-novembre-2012/

The week in GIFs: Mark Ruffalo edition

http://www.pleated-jeans.com/2012/12/31/your-daily-life-in-gifs-12-31-12/

http://rebloggy.com/post/film-jennifer-garner-mark-ruffalo-13-going-on-30-my-dream-otp/66946189691

From Working Girls to Devils in Prada: Top Female Leaders on Film and TV

http://www.wanderlyn.com/category/fun/

http://www.cornerstonefitnesstv.com/contacts/

http://www.eatprayriderun.com/2014_06_01_archive.html

http://ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com/61935334.html

http://www.zap2it.com/blogs/happy_birthday_tina_fey_celebrate_with_her_best_30_rock_moments-2014-05

Book of the Month: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

11870085The Fault in Our Stars by John Green 

Synopsis

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Jen’s Review

That about sums things up 😉

Okay, seriously. I’m not normally into stories about cancer and sickness and whatnot. They’re just too sad and depressing. However,  I made an exception for The Fault in Our Stars after hearing so many wonderful things about it. And I’m glad I did! This is a special story everyone needs to read. It has a touching plot, plenty of takeaway messages, and a cast of sincere characters. I especially love Augustus (I think most readers do). Simply put, he’s a good guy. A good, sweet, authentic, lovable guy. In fact, when my sister was trying to think of a name for her next kid, I suggested August…She almost used it, too. Darn!

I won’t lie. This is a heartbreaking story. And you will need tissues. But the pain is worth it, I promise!

1010396_212218672304022_342272204_nPlus, the movie is coming out in a few days, and you know my rule of thumb: read the book before you see the movie. So go read it!

Jen’s Rating 

4 Star

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