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.”



A Glimpse of Paradise – Teaser (SSC)

The NYC Midnight SSC 2023 started on Jan 20th – the first round running for 8 days. If you want to see the prompt I got, read about it here. And as promised here, I’ll share a few snippets.


A forensic photographer who vehemently rejects all things social-media must team up with an influencer to find out what’s ailing his sister after her stay at The Glimpse, an invite-only island resort in the Caribbean.

Nathaniel Roth pressed his forehead to the glass pane separating him from his sister’s hospital bed and let the cold seep into his skin. The chill in the observation room did nothing to calm the questions whirling in his head like lost leaves on the wind. 

What on Earth had happened to his little sister? People in their mid-20s didn’t end up in the ICU for no reason. He knew in his gut that someone was responsible.

He turned at the sound of nearing footsteps, desperate for a doctor with good news or at least some answers. Instead, a young woman opened the door and gave him a quick once-over.

“You’re the cop brother?”

He nodded. “Nathaniel Roth.”

“Took you long enough to get here.”

Nathaniel’s inner photographer took her in the way he would catalog a crime scene.

Click. Tired eyes, handkerchief balled up in her fist.

Click. Crumpled dress, strap sandals, battered sling bag.

Click. Delicate features, messy long hair. 

She hadn’t slept or changed clothes since last night. Loyal friend of Sera’s.

“You’re the…roommate who called 911?” She held out a hand. “Penelope Machiello.” 

Nathaniel didn’t recognize the name—and Penelope noticed. “Does Polly Papillon ring a bell?”

It didn’t. “Ah, Polly,” he feigned recognition. 

Polly didn’t buy it. “Whatever.” She crossed the room and touched her hand to the observation window. “I found her crumpled on the floor, seizing every minute or so. Blood streaked vomit everywhere, her eyes rolling back in her head….” She turned away from Sera’s immobile form, eyes squeezed shut. “You have probably seen worse. But for me, it was so horrible. Ghastly!” 

Nathaniel made a noncommittal sound in his throat. Polly knew a lot about him, while he hadn’t been precisely involved in Sera’s life. Was Polly a close friend, a travel companion, or a co-worker? Did influencers even have co-workers? For him, the idea didn’t fit with an influencer’s MO: the relentless self-promotion, the jet-setting, the freeloading. Plane tickets, accommodation, promo gadgets. Everything was fair game if it came with a hashtag and an additional cheque. 

“I’ve seen some ugly scenes,” he volunteered. “But those were strangers. Anyway. What are the doctors’ plans for Sera?”

“The white coats know shit what to do!” Polly spat. 


Read the 2nd part here.

NYC Midnight SSC – The Submission

for the first round IS DONE!

And it wasn’t even a last-minute submission either. I didn’t have to pull an all-nighter, even though it took me quite some time to actually get started on writing.

Somehow, the 48h timeframe with last year’s FFC put me on the spot and I got the stories out fast – with 8 days to go, I seemed to lack the motivation to even start in the first days.

But anyway, now it’s done and submitted and all I can do is wait.

As always, I’m trying to not get my hopes up in terms of advancing to the next round. With the FFC, every participant got to do the first 2 rounds, regardless of their placement in the first challenge. But with the SSC, I would need to be among the best 5 in my group to advance – and that’s a high bar.

I’ll share snippets and the synopsis with y’all at a later time. Promised!

Short Story Challenge

Last year, I participated in NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge. I didn’t expect to get far when I started, flash fiction being a new kind of writing for me. (In general, I’m an over-writer, so flash fiction didn’t seem to be the best fit for me…)
BUT, surprisingly, I made it as far as round 3 of 4 – finishing 4th and with honorable mention in my group in round 3.

NYC Midnight holds other challenges during the course of a year. Upcoming right now at the start of the year is the Short Fiction Challenge – and of course, I signed up! The challenge will start in only two days’ time.


(Secretly dreading that I will get a bad genre because I have been so lucky so far.)

I’ll yet y’all know what I got to work with once I got my prompt.

NYC Midnight FFC – it’s over!

So, the results are in & I will not advance to the final round. Booooh!

But, I’m not super sad about it, because 1) it was my first time participating at all; 2) I made it this far despite writing my a second language, and 3) I finished round 3 on 4th place, one place short of advancing – getting the first honorable mention in my group.

The full synopsis of Do No Harm

When a cruel captain kills Kip’s friend, the med-tech cyborg needs to find a way past his hardwired Do-No-Harm subroutine to avenge the death and liberate his cyborg crewmates.

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?

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.