Protected: The Blue Divide – 1st Round – NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge

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Smooth Sailing – Round 1 – NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge

Let me start off by apologizing to my regular blog followers. I have been completely negligent of my blog the past few months due to some personal matters. But, my life is gradually returning to a new, steady rhythm and I hope to begin blogging again soon. Thanks for your patience!

For today, I’d like to share my most recent experience from the first round of this year’s NYC Midnight (NYCM) Flash Fiction Challenge (FFC). As a quick reminder, the NYCM FFC is a writing contest where writers are given three prompts (genre, location, and object), and then 48-hours to write a 1,000 word story. It’s always crazy! But fun.

Round one kicked off last Friday night at 10 p.m. (MST) when I received my assignment:

Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 10.34.05 PM

First impressions: 

Drama

A corporate conference room

A baby rattle

…Yeah.

No joke, I wanted to go to bed right then and there. Talk about BORING! I’m used to off the wall prompts (like an action adventure that has to take place in an underwater cave and incorporate a dumbbell). I was also a touch nervous because drama tends to mean literary, and I’m much more of a commercial writer. Ugh.

I allowed myself about 15 minutes to absorb the prompts and get over my “I don’t wanna” attitude. Then I hunkered down with my favorite brainstorm buddy and personal Simon Cowell (my mom) and contemplated what to write about.

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I instantly assumed many of my competitors would take the corporate conference room and baby rattle prompts and write a story about a custody battle. So, I wanted to stay as far away as possible from that sort of plot line. For a few minutes, I considered writing about a plane crash involving a woman who smuggled diamonds via baby rattles. But, even that wasn’t thrilling me.

Without knowing it, my eyes drifted to my nephew’s water bottle sitting next to my elbow. While gazing at its green space shuttles and yellow stars, a new idea struck me.

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Space! Astronauts! Exploration! I pitched the idea to my mom, and she instantly said, “Yes! I love it.” Suddenly, my prompts were no longer boring.

After another hour of contemplating and brainstorming (about characters, conflict, plot, etc.), I packed up my computer and went home to get some much needed sleep.

On Saturday, I spent most of the morning watching documentaries about outer space, debating various routes to take with my characters, and helping fellow competitors (and friends) brainstorm ideas for their own prompts/stories. Around noon, I realized I better start actually writing. The clock was ticking!

I whipped out an ugly first draft in about an hour. After a quick break, I whipped out a second draft. Then a third. By 6 p.m., I was ready to share it with my first and most critical reader: my mom. I went over to her house and let her read it.

Her response? “It’s so good!”

I was stunned! It’s pretty rare for my mom to like my first attempt during these challenges (i.e. during last year’s first round of FFC, she basically told me to trash my entire concept and start over).

Filled with giddy relief, I proceeded to revise and edit my story until I had a beta worthy draft. Before bed, I sent it out with the hope I’d have more critical feedback by the time I woke up on Sunday.

To my delight and utter disbelief, I awoke to more positive reviews. Everyone really liked my story. Like, really liked it. I was shocked. In 15 rounds of NYCM, I’ve never had a story receive such a positive reception during its infancy.

Feeling calmer than I’ve ever felt during FFC, I decided to set aside my story and focus on helping other writers for a few hours. I beta read, assisted those still struggling to find their groove, and offered general support.

Around 11 a.m., I shifted my focus back to my story. Although my betas liked it, it still had quite a few problems. So, I called my mom and asked her to come over to help me polish things up.

By 3 p.m., I had a final draft and was ready to submit. Yay! I triple checked my story for errors, loopholes, and weak spots, and then sent it off to NYCM.

All in all, it was an exhausting, yet smooth weekend. By far the smoothest I’ve ever experienced during any NYCM competition…Hmm, I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad sign. But, whatever. I’m going to go ahead and celebrate the fact I survived and came out with a story I’m proud of!

In the past, I shared my story publicly. However, I’ve begun sending my work to publishers, so I’m no longer posting them here for any and all to read. Sorry! If you are interested in reading it, please send me a message and I’ll provide you with the password. For now, here’s my title and synopsis:

“The Blue Divide”

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The countdown for Lorna to decide between her family and her dreams of deep space exploration has begun. Ten, nine, eight, seven…

Congrats to all those who participated and submitted a story for NYCM’s Flash Fiction Challenge 2016!

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Photo Credits: giphy

 

Book Review: Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

13104080Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi 

Synopsis

“tick
tick
tick
tick
tick
it’s almost
time for war.
Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.
She’s finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch.
Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.
In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart—and Adam’s life.”

Jen’s Review

Overall, Unravel Me was fine okay good. Did I love it as much as Shatter Me? Unfortunately, no. Shatter Me was better. A lot better.

In the first book of the Shatter Me series, the protagonist, Juliette, was uncertain, fragile, and scared. And in this sequel, she was uncertain, fragile, and scared. And I’m betting she’ll be uncertain, fragile, and scared in the third book, Ignite Me.

Yeah, obviously I’d hoped wanted expected to see more character development with Juliette in Unravel Me. Her “I’m so scared and weak and useless” mindset quickly became frustrating. And what made it even more frustrating was in every chapter, she’d make some kind of vow to be “stronger” or “nicer” or “happier” after a pep talk/lecture from her friend, Kenji, or Omega Point’s leader, Castle…but then she’d encounter her boy toy, Adam, or she’d accidentally hurt someone, and she’d fall right back into her ol’ weepy, self-loathing ways. I hate to say it, but the only time I liked Juliette in this book was when she turned into that “monster” she feared. Then, she was cool insane badass.

On the plus side, I still worship praise adore Tahereh Mafi’s writing style. I can’t tell you how many times I’d re-read a sentence/paragraph for its sheer beauty or imagery. “My fists are full of unlucky pennies and my heart is a jukebox demanding a few nickels and my head is flipping quarters heads or tails heads or tails heads or tails heads or tails.” Mafi truly has a magical touch (no pun intended) with words.

I also loved many of her secondary characters, especially Kenji and Warner. Kenji is just plain fun. In fact, he’s probably my favorite character in this entire book. Strong, daring, hilarious. Kenji rocks. However, his many “Ugh, Juliette! Will you stop whining/crying/beating yourself up/making out with Adam?” moments highlighted Juliette’s many faults.

As for Warner…

…sigh

Unlike most, I fell in love with Warner in Shatter Me. I sensed there was more to him than lunacy cruelty bloodlust. And there was! In Unravel Me, we discover many of Warner’s humanistic emotionally scarred delicate layers. However, as much as I love love love Warner, I don’t love love love his involvement in the love triangle with Juliette and Adam. It’s too reminiscent of Bella, Edward, and Jacob…Okay, quick side rant: Juliette is blindingly beautiful. Adam is blindingly beautiful. Warner is blindingly beautiful. Everyone is blindingly beautiful in this book! Why? And why does that beauty overshadow more important qualities like personality? I just don’t like it when a protagonist has serious emotional/personality problems, yet she’s desired by all because she’s “hot”.

Well, anyways. I know it may not seem like it, but I did enjoy this book. Yes, it’s flawed, but yes, it’s good. And yes, I’d recommend it. And yes, I’m planning to read the third book in the series, Ignite Me. But, if you LOVED Shatter Me, all I can say about Unravel Me is:

Jen’s Rating

3 Star

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Book Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

13455782Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi 

Synopsis

“No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal, but The Reestablishment has plans for her. Plans to use her as a weapon. But Juliette has plans of her own. After a lifetime without freedom, she’s finally discovering a strength to fight back for the very first time—and to find a future with the one boy she thought she’d lost forever.”

Jen’s Review

You can’t touch me,” I whisper. I’m lying, is what I don’t tell him. He can touch me, is what I’ll never tell him. Please touch me, is what I want to tell him.”

I loved loved loved this book. So much so much so much. You should need must read it!

Okay, sorry, I couldn’t help myself. I guess Tahereh Mafi’s writing style rubbed off on me a bit. It was so different unique strange. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. Actually, I mean it in a very good way. I thoroughly enjoyed Mafi’s fun take on formatting. I wasn’t at all fazed by her lack of commas and periods, repetitious sentences and crossed out words (I’m sure her Word document would beg to differ; I bet the entire thing was underlined in green squiggly lines).

Besides Mafi’s crazy weird cool style, her story was interesting captivating addicting. Okay, so perhaps it wasn’t the most original concept. I mean, a girl who can’t touch people without hurting or killing them? Sounds just like Rogue from X-Men, right?

However, Shatter Me wasn’t X-Men. It was too pretty poetic artistic. So many of Mafi’s lines would literally make me sigh out loud. She definitely has a way with words and painting them in a beautiful, imaginative way.

As far as her characters went, I found them to be a likable, complicated and endearing group. The protagonist, Juliette, was a big bag of polar opposites: quiet yet loud, weak yet strong, passive yet aggressive. And Adam, the love interest, was what every girl wants in a boy: gentle, protective and hotttt…Oh yeah, I’m still cooling off, ladies. Adam definitely qualifies for my Book Crush Club. And, if I’m being honest, Warren–the antagonist of this dystopian tale–might too. I know it’s weird and wrong, but his bad boy psycho complex personality was too interesting to dismiss.

I only have one complaint about this entire book: Adam’s eyes. Did you know they’re blue? No? Well, you will after Mafi tells you about them a hundred times. “Adam stares at me so long I begin to blush. He tips my chin up so I meet his eyes. Blue blue blue boring into me.”

Blue blue blue…

Despite the countless ooey-gooey descriptions of Adam’s blue blue blue eyes, I adored Shatter Me. And I highly recommend it. I do I do I do. So go go go to the bookstore and buy it. Now now now.

Okay, I’m done.

Jen’s Rating

4 Star

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Book Review: Origin (Lux 4) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

13644052Origin (Lux #4) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Synopsis

Daemon will do anything to get Katy back.
After the successful but disastrous raid on Mount Weather, he’s facing the impossible. Katy is gone. Taken. Everything becomes about finding her. Taking out anyone who stands in his way? Done. Burning down the whole world to save her? Gladly. Exposing his alien race to the world? With pleasure.
All Katy can do is survive.
Surrounded by enemies, the only way she can come out of this is to adapt. After all, there are sides of Daedalus that don’t seem entirely crazy, but the group’s goals are frightening and the truths they speak even more disturbing. Who are the real bad guys? Daedalus? Mankind? Or the Luxen?
Together, they can face anything.
But the most dangerous foe has been there all along, and when the truths are exposed and the lies come crumbling down, which side will Daemon and Katy be standing on?
And will they even be together?”

Jen’s Review

First off, if you haven’t started reading Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Lux Series, don’t waste another second. Go grab the first book now…I mean it! Go! Okay, back to the review. When I finished Opal, the third book in this terrific series, I literally screamed out loud. Talk about a cliffhanger.

Seriously, what the heck, Armentrout? How could you do that to us, huh? The shock, the disbelief, the pain…AHHH! I didn’t think I was going to be able to wait for my copy of Origin from the library. (I was like 200-billionth on the wait list…okay, more like 50, but still!)

Well, I’m happy to announce my torture has finally ended. I now know what happens next in Katy and Daemon’s tumultuous, romantic, action-packed saga…But, don’t worry, I won’t tell you. I wouldn’t want to ruin any of the surprises 😉 I will say Origin lived up to my expectations and matched the quality of the first three books. It also kept things moving along. Sometimes when a series is longer than a few books I feel it has a tendency to stall out at some point. The plot halts to a grind and the characters stop evolving. Not so for the Lux series. Every book so far, including Originhas kept things progressing.

And, just like its predecessors, Origin was filled with plenty of alien awesomeness, numerous twists and turns, and countless heartwarming and heartbreaking moments. Trust me, as you’re reading, you’ll feel angry, happy, sad, relieved, giddy, furious…Origin is a roller coaster ride of emotions that’ll have you all over the place until the last page.

If you’re a fan of the Lux series, Origin won’t disappoint. And if you haven’t picked up this series yet, go get started. It’s fun, easy and thoroughly entertaining!

Jen’s Rating

3 Star

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Book Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

13206760Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Synopsis

“Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.
Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.”

Jen’s Review

I couldn’t wait to leap straight into Cinder‘s sequel, Scarlet. In fact, I had it on my desk and ready to go before I’d even finished Cinder. I knew I wouldn’t be able to wait a single day to keep this magical tale going.

Now, at first, I was put off when I discovered this second book in the Lunar Chronicles was based off two new characters, Scarlet Benoit and Wolf (aka, Little Red Riding Hood and the Big, Bad Wolf). I just wasn’t happy to put Cinder and Prince Kai’s adventure on hold. I wanted to know what happened to them–now! However, my fears were instantly quieted. First of all, Marissa Meyer soothed me by interweaving Cinder and Prince Kai into Scarlet and Wolf’s story. Second, I LOVED Scarlet and Wolf, perhaps even more than Cinder and Prince Kai. They were so likeable, so entertaining, so passionate. And Wolf…growl. I might have a new book crush, ladies 😉 Just like CinderScarlet was fun, fast-paced and addicting. More addicting than Cinder, in my opinion.

Trust me, Marissa Meyer knows how to write a story, build its momentum, and keep her audience thirsting for more. Which I am! I’m already counting down the days to Cress, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles.

Jen’s Rating

4 Star

Read more about Scarlet here.

Book of The Month: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

11235712Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Synopsis

“Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.”

Jen’s Review

Okay, I admit I’m arriving late to the Lunar Chronicles party. For almost two years, I’ve seen this book on shelves with its striking red heel and fancy font, but I never thought to pick it up. I didn’t even consider reading the synopsis. Why? No idea. It was just one of those books that screamed for my attention, but I ignored it. And I’m both horrified and grateful I did: Horrified, because I was missing out on a wonderful, innovative, magical story. Grateful, because I was able to jump straight into its sequel, Scarlet, and now only need to wait about a month for its third book, Cress.

From beginning to end, Cinder captivated me. Completely! I zipped straight through its imaginative pages, loving nearly every inch of its original plot, endearing characters, and entertaining twists and turns. I even enjoyed its sci-fi base, and I’m not a sci-fi fan, especially when it involves cyborgs, androids and intergalactic politics and wars. But, Marissa Meyer has a gift for taking futuristic elements like robots and outer space and making them fantastical, romantic and adventurous. And addicting! I couldn’t pry my eyes or mind away from Cinder. It was always there, begging me to pick it up and keep going. Which I did, even when I was supposed to be focusing on last minute holiday errands and chores.

If you like stories that take classic fairy tales and give them a unique twist, Cinder is for you!

Jen’s Rating

4 Star

Read more about Cinder here!