A Glimpse of Paradise – Part 2 (SSC)

**If you’ve missed the first part of the ‘A Glimpse of Paradise’ – read it here.

Polly’s bitter assessment held true. When the doctor showed up, his diagnosis was as vague as frustrating. 

“We’re managing a host of symptoms. Re-hydration took care of blood pressure, seizing, and vomiting. The kidneys look bad. The underlying cause is unclear. Allergies, infections, drugs—”

“We’ve been through this!” Polly hissed. “Sera’s no junkie!”

The doctor ignored her. “We have nothing concrete yet, Mr. Roth, and need more information for precision testing. For now, it’s wide-ranging standard tests until something crops up that limits the parameters.”  

Nathaniel pinched the bridge of his nose. As a brother, he’d dropped the ball. Whatever had happened to Sera was just another forensic puzzle. He knew how to solve those: intuition as to which details might prove relevant, straightforward logic, and the common investigation principles: identify, record, assess. If the doctors needed more information, he’d get them some. 

When the doctor had gone, he turned to Polly. “We need to retrace Sera’s steps. Last month to six weeks. Who she met. What she did, ate, drank. Where she was.”

Polly perked up at once. “It’s all on the social. Look it up.” 

“Why don’t you tell me?”

“Wait, you don’t follow her?” 

Nathaniel ignored Polly’s horrified expression. He would not discuss his social media habits with an influencer. “No. I don’t that stuff anymore. So…?” he prompted. 

“She was at The Glimpse. A last-minute opportunity with this new jewelry brand, Body Armour. Impossible to pass up. I would’ve gone too, but I had that gig in Gibraltar.” 

“What’s The Glimpse?”

“Just the hottest location in the world. A secret Caribbean Island.” 

“Right. Then that’s where I’m going.” He pulled out his phone. If an answer was out there, he would find it. “Caribbean, you said. Which airport? San Juan? Havana?”

Polly rolled her eyes. “Nassau. But that will be the closest you get. The Glimpse picks up all their guests.”

Nathaniel shrugged. “A stack of bills will solve that issue—”

“No!” Polly threw up her hands. “You don’t get it, do you? The island’s location is the best-kept secret since…the Coca Cola’s original formula, maybe? It’s not a second FYRE Festival where everyone with a couple thousand bucks can buy themselves popularity by proxy.”

“Sat-nav geolocation says no place is secret once you’ve been there. I don’t see them taking influencers’ phones. So…”  

“Sera’s phone is locked,” Polly deadpanned him. “And no, I can’t unlock it.”

“Alright. Who else has been there?”

Polly snorted. “No influencer would risk blabbing. The Glimpse is exclusive. Invite-only. You need a sponsor, a model, and a photographer to qualify.”

Nathaniel paused, then smiled. “You’re a model, and I am a photographer. Sort of. So… who’s going to be our sponsor?” 

Thirty-eight hours later, Nathaniel and Polly sat at a diner outside Nassau Airport. They had both called in favors: Nathaniel with his fellow investigators, Polly with Rhingo Glasses, their new sponsor.  

They huddled over Polly’s phone, swiping through Sera’s profile. Promos and staged product placements alternated with more private pictures. Nathaniel focused on the latter category. 

Click: Sera and Polly in dirndl dresses at Munich’s Oktoberfest, drinking, singing, laughing.

Click: Arm in arm at the Eiffel Tower.

Click: Atop Grande Dune du Pilat, their mingled hair dancing in the wind. 

“Trekking up was hard,” Polly said, smiling. “Thousands of years’ worth of sand pulling at our feet, a free face exfoliation from the sand in the air. The view was worth it, though.” 

Ding! A notification interrupted her reminiscence. 

She checked it. “It’s from JC, Sera’s photographer,” she said. “Listen. ‘Hey, I can’t get ahold of Sera. BA is asking why she’s not posting/boosting. Get her on it ASAP! Hope it’s not the a pinkeye like mine that has her out. Talk soon. xo’ Man, I wish we just had to deal with a fucking pinkeye,” she huffed. Looking up, she added: “I haven’t told anyone about Sera’s condition.”

“Nobody’s business anyway, “Nathaniel said and drummed his fingers to the tabletop.” So, this JC guy uploaded pictures of Sera?”

Polly’s eyes went wide. “Damn, I should have checked their tag before. Of course JC and the sponsor posted something, even if Sera didn’t.”

She opened JC’s profile, and Nathaniel took it all in.  

Click: Sera in a wide shot, body wrapped in too little fabric and too much jewelry, her hair streaming behind her in the wind. 

Click: Sera stretched out near the surf, sand clinging to skin and metal alike. 

Click: Sera’s face in a close-up, eyes closed, lips sandy, tongue playing with a delicate silver chain. 

Nathaniel caught Polly’s eyes, his throat thick and dry. What if JC’s pictures were the last? What if the worst came to pass?

Up until four years ago, Nathaniel had enjoyed Sera’s profiles, had kept in touch with her. Before bed, he’d scrolled through the social media sites, smiling at pictures of her day’s activities. Then, Sera’s influencer career had gathered momentum, and the experience soured. 

Her feed became too good to be true, a picturesque mirage that—once one looked past the oversaturated color, the pushed contrasts, and the carefully cropped view—faded to what it really had been: a woman as genuine as a Barbie, hawking useless gadget to her followers. 

Nothing real. Nothing that could last.

Soon, he couldn’t bear looking at her over-processed images and sun-flared selfies anymore. He had felt sad for her. In retrospect, it seemed silly. Stupid even.

 Ding! Another notification made them both jump. 

“It’s Rhingo Glasses. The props delivery is five minutes out. After that, we have another hour until the guys from The Glimpse are due.”



NYC and the SCBWI RT Meeting

It’s been a while since I visited the States, but today I got up real early, put on a mask and took car, train, plane, AirTrain, and the subway to get to the hotel where the SCBWI Regional Team is meeting this weekend. More than 14h later, I’ve finally arrived!

I am super excited to meet many new RTs and see some of those I met in 2020 at the Winter Conference again. So far, everything went smoothly. I can’t wait for the programming to start tomorrow.

Challenge #3: submitted and received

A few days ago, I posted about the prompt for the 2nd round (3rd challenge) in this year’s NYCMidnight Flash Fiction Challenge. Luckily, I – and with me 24 more writers in group 12 – got this:

Genre: Sci-fi
Location: a trawler
Object: a pigtail

TBH, that wasn’t the worst prompt – but not quite as accommodating as the 2nd challenge’s fantasy-prompt. It didn’t take that long to come up with a way to put a trawler in a Sci-fi setting that I liked – but the whole pigtail number had me thinking for a while.

But, as inferred in the headline: I made it!
I submitted my story in the early hours at 3:17 am, with less than 3 hours to go before the deadline ended.
Tired. Happy with the story. But a bit doubtful, too. I’m not sure if it is going to be good enough to score a place amidst the best three of the group. After all, the competition is bound to be harder this time. Those who got to write in challenge #3 all made the cut of the best 600.

Now, there’s not much to do but to wait, and hope the judges like my story. Midnight EST (NYC time) on Wednesday, Nov 9th (aka Thursday, Nov 10th, 6am in Germany) I’ll know if I get to write in the final round. I’ll let you all know.

I Made the Cut for Challenge 3! #FFC

Well, actually, I WON the 2nd challenge, and I am FIRST in my group! I am so SO happy. And proud. And, of course, now stressed about Round2 and the 3rd challenge this weekend.

(15 points)

I still can’t quite believe it! I made it and get to write in the next challenge.

But now, I’m AGAIN super worried I will get a weird genre this time. I’ve been lucky so far – while I had not written mystery before the 1st challenge – fantasy is quite my genre. Perhaps the one easiest for me.
(I mean, apparently so… 😉 )

I wonder if I’ll get lucky again.

A recap for those of you who don’t know what I am talking about:
In May 2022 I signed up for NYCMidnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge (see post)- a writing competition where participants get to write 1000 word flash fiction pieces on a prompt (genre, location and object). The first round, consisting of 2 challenges, is open to all participating writers. The best 15 stories in each group get awarded points. The cumulative points of both challenges determine if a participant will move on to the next round – the top 5 in each group get to advance to round 2.

And that now includes me. Because I came in second in my group in the 1st challenge – 14 points. And now, I WON! 15 points, baby! That brings me to a total of 29 (of a maximum possible 30) points – the best result in my group!

What happens next? Well, all the writers who placed in the top 5 – that’s 600 out of the original 4200+ participants in all the 120 groups of round 1 – will be assigned new groups. At 11:59PM EDT on Friday 7th Oct the new prompts will drop and everyone still in the game will scramble to get something worthwhile to paper in the 48h given to us.

The time translates to 6am for me. And once again, I’m, not at home, but on the road with my dear husband. That’s somewhat lucky, though. I’ll have a hotel room all for myself b/c he’ll be working.

So… fingers crossed I’ll wake up to a good prompt in about 2 days’ time! I’ll keep you all posted.

Done, and done. #FFC

It’s a bliss to work on a flash fiction story while on holiday in Sweden. We’re staying at Thankfully, the LTE availability is superb even in remote areas. Right now, we’re at a camping ground in Glaskogen Nature Reserve. It’s beautiful, peaceful, relaxing – just right for a challenge with a tight deadline. This time, it wasn’t even necessary to write through the night! I submitted on Sunday, 14th of August, 11:30pm – with 6,5h deadline left… and got the confirmation email a few days later.

And now, AGAIN, waiting for the results! Isn’t that just the worst part of it all?

The Prompt is…

The assignment for the 2nd challenge in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge dropped. And what can I say? It’s …


I kid you not! I got FANTASY as a genre – one of my favourite genres next to SciFi. Granted, the butcher shop is a bit out of the ordinary, but I’ll make it work somehow.

So, I better get going and start drafting a story. Tick Tock. 48 hours until deadline.

NYCMidnight – Flash Fiction Challenge

Results Round #1, Challenge #1

Progress on the WIP had been somewhat non-existent lately, while all the nice little side projects ate up all my writing time. A rather unsustainable situation for someone who really, desperately wants to finish_the_damn_1stdraft. So I had to make a decision about the continued participation in the NYC Flash Fiction Challenge (NYCM-FFC).

Do I just stop after the 1st round’s 1st challenge? Do I go on if I got points? If so, how many to still have a shot at round 2?

For clarification: about 4200 writers from all over the world participate in the NYCM-FFC. That’s 120 groups of about 35 each. Each group writes a 1000 word flash fiction using their unique prompt (genre, location, object). The best 15 stories earn points – 15 points for placing first, 14 for second place, 13 for third – you get the idea. After round 1 (consisting of two challenges; max 30 points possible), the best 5 in each group advance to round 2 and get to write on.

I got lucky with the prompt in my first challenge. You can read about it here. I wrote through the Sunday night and submitted around 5am. (Time zone shift of 6h compared to NCY)
And then, the waiting began.

The results came in late. Exactly 24h before the 2nd round’s prompt was due, actually. And I, on family holiday in Sweden as of now, had discussed the “prioritize your WIP!”-issue with Husband over the last few days. Decision: if I scored more than 5 points, I’ll be ready to write the 2nd challenge – provided the genre is somewhat manageable for me.

Well. Tomorrow I’ll be at least looking at the prompt. Because I came ion 2nd in my group. SECOND! 14 points, baby!

Will you look at this?!?!?

I have to say, I am somewhat proud right now. Let’s see what tomorrow’s prompt is.

Writing Challenges

From time to time, writing turns into a really frustrating experience. Nothing seems to happen. The ideas won’t come – or too many of them, and then I end up chasing all the plot bunnies and short fiction ideas while my WIP sits in a corner, sad and lonely. It’s hard to avoid this from happening – at least I have not yet found a strategy against it yet – so naturally, I embrace it!

Enter: all the challenges and competitions.

No, not ALL of them, but here and there, if I come across an interesting opportunity, I just give myself some slack and just roll with it. See where it gets me.

This time: the NYC Midnight Challenges. Yeah, plural. You read that right.

Check out the website here. I can’t remember when and where this came to my attention, probably Twitter or maybe Insta. The Short Story Challenge was under way at the time (still miffed I missed this!) but there was a Flash Fiction Challenge coming up – just what I needed! Something that will get my creativity flowing but won’t bog me down for weeks. Something with a tight deadline, a clear task, a limited amount of hours involved. There was going to be feedback! Terrific!

So, I signed up in late May, got my registration confirmation, and had to wait for the first of at least 2 challenges to start.

The assignment dropped – as specified – on 11:59 EDT, 6:00 in the morning for me. On a weekend I was visiting my sister whom I had promised to help sort through kid’s clothing, clear the overgrown garden and turn the compost. Perfect timing.


Anyway, I had been so afraid I’d get Romance or Political Satire as a genre, but I got lucky. I got this:

My prompt for Challenge #1 in Round 1 – Flash Fiction Challenge

It was a ride! I ended up writing through the night and submitted with only an hour left. Forking 5am in the morning. It was nice to hear the birds coming to life and all that. And honestly, I suffered the consequences for a couple of day. I’m just not used to pulling all-nighters anymore. But, it’s over and done. I got the confirmation a couple of days later. Now we wait for the results.

Morning pages, journaling, habits.

I admit it: I sometimes struggle to prioritize my writing. There’s the house and the chores and the kids and the husband and the cats and the taxes and the business and… AND the writing. Too often I find myself tired at the end of a long day and not once did I pick up a pen or type something up. And I am furious about it.

So here’s an idea: I need to work on forming the habit of writing more regularly. Urgently! I know I can do it. Heck, there was a time when I got up at 4:45 just so I was ready to write at 5am – proud member of the #5amwritersclub on Twitter. But honest: I’ve not managed that kind of enthusiasm (and masochism) for a long while.

In Autumn 2019 I attended the SCBWI-BI (British Isles) conference in Winchester. I wrote about it here. And at this conference, I listened to Piers Torday‘s “Creating Characters to Care About” presentation. During this talk, Piers mentioned something called Morning Pages and his way of basically employing the well-known journaling method to pump out some prose. Not just in terms of writing something, but also in terms of learning to write no matter the mood of the day.
Of course, I had heard of journaling. Bullet journaling for chore and task tracking, journaling for working through tough times,…but I had never considered to just write unrelated pieces of prose, unconnected prose, a type of association game.

So I went through my stack of unused notebooks and picked just the right one for the job. LARGE! (It’s a DIN A4 size; does anyone outside of Germany even use the DIN norms?) Hard-over. Bound in black fabric. 500 pages. Hahaha. Optimism FTW. I had already written on the first few pages at some other point, but figured 480 pages will be good enough too. Here it is:

I vary the methods from day to day. At some days, I pick up where I left the day before. That’s usually when I draft a short story and am immersed in the plot/story. Other days, I start with a random line – from a book (a bit like the Literary Taxidermy idea, or from my list of ‘this could be a good beginning/first sentence’. Some days I pick a random word. Or an idea/event/titbit I heard on the news and just let my imagination run free: what if…?

So far, I’m not disappointed. 🙂