J Thorn Supercharge your Scene in 5 Days Course Review

When I found out this was free , I decided to do it. 
Spread over 5 days from Monday 15 June to Friday 20 June, the course premise is to teach you how to write a better scene. 
I have been seriously into,and active, with anything related to writing since 2013 but have never done any course that was specific at the scene level.
The course is based on short videos (1 each day) which address different concepts: 

There was a video uploaded on the 14th of June and the title was Prep Work: How to decide on the scene or article you want to write and why you must write it. At this stage, I went through the extensive prompt PDF. 
I was torn between women’s fiction, YA general fiction and thriller so spent some of the 14th mulling over which prompt I was finally going to use. 
 I have never worked on a thriller before and felt I needed a lot more practise in the genre before I did, so I chose women’s literature. 
Starting on the 15th, the first video was: 

How to frame the scene, so you know what you want the scene or article to accomplish. 
To use NaNoWriMo terminology, I have tried planning and “pantsing” novels and my work and either way works for me. in fact, I often do a hybrid of both. So am a plantser really. 
Tuesday 16 June: How to ignite the motivations of your protagonist and antagonist. Motivations are always something I have struggled to show but this was clear and gave me more confidence with that. 
 Wednesday 17 June: How to guarantee that your scene or article explodes on the page- I love my work to be detailed in the right places and have great visuals or small details that make people resonate with characters or decide what they think about them as much as possible. 
Thursday 18 June: How to create a difficult, complicated decision for your protagonist that readers can’t possibly ignore- this had me thinking more, but in a good way. I love a challenge! 

Friday 19 June : How to utilize the protagonist’s consequence when you start the next scene- Just as a hook is important for the beginning of the story, the ending has to leave people satisfied too. This video helped with that step. 
Saturday 20 June: This was a day with a bonus video. 
As well as daily videos, J Thorn created a Facebook Live schedule for this event with videos on 13,16 and 19 June: 
June 13, 2020, 12:00 pm Eastern time – “What do you want to get out of this challenge?”
June 16, 2020, 6:00 pm Eastern time – “How’s the challenge going so far? How can I help you?” 
June 19, 2020, 9:00 am Eastern time – “What do you need to write your scene, short story, or article?” 
I took part in the first 2 and asked a lot of questions. I did not take part in the last Facebook chat since I worked on my piece each day and felt confident about it. 

One thing about this challenge is that you absolutely do not have to be on Facebook to participate and complete it and that the Facebook community is completely optional. This was a new aspect to me and one which differentiated this challenge from others I’ve done. 
The AutoCrit challenges I have done, as well as some related to DIY MFA, while immensely enjoyable, are more closely linked to the need to be on Facebook. 
There’s a downloadable worksheet (in Word and PDF format) to use as you work through the challenge. 
The assignment for the challenge was to come up with a scene of 2,000 words and under by the 23rd of June. 
The idea was to wait until the end of the five days to do the work but I wanted to get it done so I could relax. 
The scene can also be a standalone short story, article, or blog post. J Thorn says Creativity needs constraints, so the scene must stay under 2,000 words. 

Of course, there are prizes too! 

Every writer who completes the challenge gets automatically entered into the prize pool drawings, which include:

A FREE signed copy of Three Story Method: Foundations of Fiction

A $50 Amazon gift card

A FREE 30-minute, 1-on-1 consultation with J.
The course is free until June 24th at 12:01  EST. 
Overall, it was a really fun experience and very well organized. I even managed to get 4 edits in. 
I submitted my scene a few days ago and am proud of it. 

 The course is a very enjoyable way to spend 5 days if you want to improve your writing at scene level and love a challenge. 
Join J Thorn’s writing community HERE.  

I took part in the participant bonus mini course too. That’s free until 12:01am EST on 24 June too. Review of that to come. 

My Review of the AutoCrit Destination Unknown Challenge

I joined this challenge because of the mystery the title evoked. I had done the Short Story Challenge  which   involved funishing a story from a prompt in 2 weeks. 

The AutoCrit Destination Unknown Challenge ran from June 2 until June 16 this year and involved using the following prompt for a story: 

We reached the third day of our journey, and, to be honest, things were not going well.

There were 3 live streams on both Facebook and YouTube on 2 and 9 June and the winner’s live stream was today. 

During live stream #2, another “twist” was announced- this time for the ending sentence which had to be: 

I’d rather be a bird than a fish. 

The third twist was to use the Repeated Words tool in the AutoCrit  Free Forever account. I have this account. At first I was nervous about using it but it went well. 

I’ll review the account in another post. 

Thanks to Jocelyn, Beth and Kevin for organising this fun, and well “challenging ” (but in a good way) challenge. 

Another huge thanks to Kevin for answering my questions during the challenge. 

I’d do it again. 

You can find my entry HERE


This is my entry for the AutoCit Short Story competition 2019.

I take the eyeshadow out of my makeup bag and scrutinise it. The pale shadow has a subtle sheen to it yet is classy, like the vanilla buttercream my mother used in the butterfly shaped fairy cakes when she was small.

I look at my reflection in my dressing table mirror; high cheekbones below huge brown eyes that my mother had said were pretty. Today, they are outlined with dark liquid liner and I’m wearing my signature look: perfectly smudged charcoal grey shadow. I look over to my bed where a huge array of Vogue and Elle magazines lay strewn. Not the best when it comes to order, I do not really care. I live alone anyway, and every inch of this London flat is mine.

I look over to my computer as a sound alerts me to an incoming email.
To rinameyers@gmail.com
From jennyarmstrong@afassociates.co.uk

Dear Rina,
We are delighted to invite you for an interview at 10 AM on Thursday 15 June with Alicia Freymore.

I smile and punch the air, it seems like mum is smiling down on me today. I sit in my chair and think awhile before typing my reply.

Dear Jenny,
Thank you for your email and considering me for interview.
See you on the day.
Kind regards,
Rina Meyers.

I hear a meow and look down to see my black cat Nightshade.
“Hi girl,” I say as I bend to scoop her up for a cuddle. Nightshade’s warm body vibrates with purrs and I feel myself relax. If I ace the interview, I’ll be one step closer to following my dream of owning my own makeup brand. I am already a makeup artist as my mum was before me.

I let my mind wander awhile, Doing makeup at London Fashion Week. Paris, Madrid the world could be my oyster. That is far off now, but I can dream…..Who knows? Maybe one day I can make that my reality.
I make a move to get up and Nightshade leaps gracefully off my lap and onto my bed where she curls and sleeps. I busy myself with chores before taking a long hot bath and crawling into bed.
Interview day arrives after a week that seems to crawl by. I have bitten my nails down to the quick, but, thanks to my supply of fake nails, my hands look manicure ready with pale rose polish. I chide myself as I smooth down my burgundy skirt suit, a much loved wardrobe staple from my time as a fashion editor for Trendsetter, a small fashion magazine.

My heart beats with painful memories as I remember the way I left work the day my mother had a massive stroke.I wipe an errant tear away and my eyes fall on the photo of my mum on my bedside table.
“Wish me luck, Mum,” I say, fighting to keep my voice steady.
I look around for Nightshade who is nowhere to be seen, grab my car keys and rush out the door as fast as my Prada heels can carry me.

The building is imposing grey stone with mirrored windows; AF Associates is home to the beauty brand that’s a household name for anyone who is anyone in the beauty industry. I throw away the disposable coffee cup and quickly rummage in my black Kate Spade bag for some breath freshener spray. I avoid mints, too much sugar. I reach into my bag and flip open my gold pocket mirror, checking that my reflection is as perfect as possible. Urban Decay is my favourite everyday beauty brand, but I’m wearing a slick of my rose gold toned Chanel lipstick for the occasion. Satisfied, my reflection smiles at me and I take a deep breath and walk towards the building.
Sitting in Cassie’s, my favourite coffee shop, later, I grip my cappuccino with a firm hand as I run back over the interview in my mind. Had I answered well? Did my voice betray me? Honestly, I hadn’t noticed, I’d just wanted to get through it. I need to put the moment out of my mind with a little treat, I decide as I swallow the last of my drink.

Urban Decay’s shop is my paradise; it is where I can relax. Minutes later, I leave Cassie’s and walk through Urban Decay’s electric doors. I see row upon row of foundations, blushers, eye shadows and accessories. A beauty addict’s dream. I whip my phone out, snapping photos of the products that catch my eye.

The silver bullet of the lipstick gleams under the shop lights. On sale! A red card announces. My hand shoots out for a tester. The creamy fuchsia shade is outrageous against my skin, but I love it. Grabbing a black wire shopping basket, I fill it with my beauty essentials.

I stop off at the supermarket for a bottle of wine for myself and some special cat food for Nightshade. I can’t help myself but I have a good feeling about the outcome of the interview.

I am really feeling the hunger pangs by the time I get home. The Underground was slow. I throw my keys on the counter and phone for a pizza.
Half an hour is enough time for a quick shower before it comes. Twenty minutes later, I’m sat on the couch in a peach fleece and my comfy jeans, a small folding table by my side, wine and phone at the ready. The doorbell rings; I get up to answer it.

Just as I do, my phone buzzes. Indecision slices through me: phone or pizza? My stomach growls and I near the door.
I take a bite of the steaming pepperoni pizza and relish the taste as I chew. Nightshade, lured by the smell of food, comes into the room and gazes longingly at me. I laugh and say, “Not for you I’m afraid, this is my treat. Anyway, you’ve just eaten.” Nightshade jumps onto the sofa and delicately sniffs the air.
“I know, the garlic’s strong, isn’t it?” I finger a piece of garlic bread and moan at the buttery deliciousness that assaults my taste buds.

I swallow and my mobile rings. I reach for it.
“Hello?” I look around for the time. The retro cookie shaped clock on the wall reads 5:20. I know AF Associates are open until 5:30PM but maybe it isn’t them. I take a dainty bite of pizza and swallow it as quickly as I can and answer the phone.
“Hello, Rina?”
“Yes? Speaking,” I say politely.
“It’s Jenny, from AF Associates.” My fingers tremble and I try to get a grip on my phone and myself.
“We really want you as part of the team, Congratulations!”
I resist the urge to fist pump. I want to run round the house screaming “Yes!” but I swallow my excitement just like I had the pizza only moments before.
“When do I start?”
“Monday at 9, have a great weekend. And congratulations again.”

I can hear the smile in Jenny’s voice and my heart lifts at what I have achieved.


That Monday, I near the familiar office buildings. The sun glints off the plaque which reads AF ASSOCIATES: A NEW KIND OF BEAUTY.
My hands are sweating and I have nowhere to wipe them. I suddenly feel extremely self conscious, like maybe this is a bad idea. But no. I have to follow through. My mum’s voice sounds in my head. If you want something, you have to fight to get it. I’ve got this far so I will continue, I must.
I take a few deep breaths and open the glass door.
Jenny welcomes me in the same friendly manner she’d done when I was here for my interview. I greet her and take the gold panelled lift up to Alicia’s office.

Alicia is turned out immaculately in a dove grey trouser suit and a wine shirt. Wine toned stilettos are on her narrow feet.
“Hi Alicia, great to see you again.”
“Great to see you too, Rina. I hope you had a good weekend.” She extends her hand and I shake it.
“Welcome to the team, there’s your desk, just there.” She gestures to a white table with an iMac. I raise my eyebrows; I have never had the money for one.
“OK,” Alicia says. “Lunch is at 1 and as my assistant you’ll be expected to get my lunch and any coffees as well.” Suddenly, I have a flashback to the scene where Andy arrives at Runway in The Devil Wears Prada. I feel intimidated. Is it me or is Alicia being bossy?” I’m only a newbie; maybe I am being too sensitive. Whatever the problem is, I hope Alicia is just having a fleeting bad moment.

Suddenly, Alicia smiles and says “Rina, relax, I really am glad to have you as my new assistant.”
The phone rings and Alicia gestures to me to pick it up. I shake my head mutely; my blood runs cold and goose bumps form on my skin.
Alicia nods insistently, gesturing towards the phone with an upturned palm.

I relent and answer. “Hello, AF Associates, Yes….I’ll put you through.”
I direct the call to Alicia while Alicia closes the glass door between her office and my desk for some privacy and focus on my computer screen. I play around a little, changing the colour of the screen from lilac to fuchsia and changing the AF Associates logo, two lipsticks, each with one of Alicia’s initials on the end of the bullet, to a spinning bright gold 3D version instead of the usual black 2D.

“Chanel HQ wants us to design some eyeshadows and lipsticks for a new collection. They say surprise them with a theme. I think this will be a good challenge for you to start with,”
I can’t believe it Chanel!
“Great, when do we start?”
“You have 2 weeks and will be working with Gerry, who’s our design team chief. Amy will take you to his office.”

Suddenly, a tall, rail thin blonde stands up from a desk and crosses the room.
“Hi, I’m Amy.” Her hand shoots out and I shake it gently as if it’s made of paper.
“Pleased to meet you.”
“Me too.”
“Bye Alicia,” she says as she leads me away. Alicia smiles at her and winks at me. My heart speeds up. What does that mean? I don’t know, but I am determined to impress my new boss.

A few polished wood floor metres and another clear glass door later, we are outside Gerry’s office. Amy knocks daintily and waits before opening the door.
“Amy, how are you doing? And who is this?”
“Rina, she’s new.”
“Hi Rina, pleased to meet you.” Gerry has a tall, lean physique and blonde hair that is slightly wavy. His skin is lightly toasted, and I wonder if he travels much and where to. I fleetingly think I wouldn’t mind taking him places….his grey eyes are mesmerising and I find myself drawn into their sinister depths like a sudden storm over a previously calm tropical paradise. Oh, how I want to discover that paradise….
“….design team.”
“What? Sorry,” I blush as I realise my mind has wandered.
He fixes those mesmerising eyes on mine.
“I said welcome to the design team.”
I can’t stop thinking about him in the car on the way home. Those eyes. That smile.
I am still smiling as I unlock the door to my flat.
As soon as I do, Nightshade winds herself around my legs, meowing for food.
“Hi girl, oh it’s good to be home.”
I feed Nightshade and then turn on some chillout music and pour myself a glass of wine. I let the alcohol and music calm me as I heat up some spaghetti and meatballs in the microwave. Nightshade jumps up on the sofa and sniffs around me.
I finish my food, have a bath and go straight to bed. I try to concentrate on at least a chapter of the book I’m reading but I can’t. I can only think about Gerry. We’ve only just met but why do I have a hunch about him?

A week into working with Gerry, I feel like we are getting to slowly know each other. He’s funny, and a real gentleman. I sip my coffee and pass him my sketch of the lipstick tube. Rhinestones decorate the black, cat shaped tube. I want something fun, and the tube is complete with fake fur cat ears and a tail. The Black Cat Collection is Halloween inspired and created in honour of Nightshade. Each black cat has different coloured rhinestones and eyes. Pink, purple, turquoise and red.

“I love it,” Gerry says as he clutches the printout. He looks into her eyes.
“What does Alicia think?” My heart sinks, I haven’t thought at all about Alicia. I feel the same nerves I had felt at school when I was in the queue waiting for my exam results.

“Be right back,” I say grabbing the printout and racing out of his office.
”She loved it!” Back in his office minutes later I can’t contain my excitement as I tell him.

He gets up from his desk chair where he’s sitting to wait for me and goes to close his office door. He turns back to me and suddenly I am in his arms and he is trailing kisses down the sensitive areas of my neck, stroking me and kissing me on the lips again and again. When we have finished, I feel dizzy with hope and desire.
“Fancy some proper coffee sometime?” he throws our empty cups from earlier in the bin.
“Proper coffee?” I ask, eyes shining.
“I want to take you out, Rina.”

My stomach hitches. “I really enjoyed this week working together and I want to get to know you more, spend time somewhere away from work.”
I take a breath in but it comes out shaky. “Where?”
“My Nonna’s cafe, my family’s Italian and she makes the most amazing food and serves the best coffee this side of Rome.”
“OK,” I say.
“Great,” I say.
“I’ll come to yours,” he suggests. “7 OK? Tomorrow night?”
My answer is a kiss.

Driving home that night, I sing along to the radio, drumming my fingers on the steering wheel.
Nightshade is ready and waiting for company and cuddles.
I eat a quick salad and then go into my bedroom to pick out what I am going to wear the following night. Nightshade jumps onto my bed and my heart is in my throat. I cover my heart with a fluttering hand and laugh, stroking my beloved cat’s onyx fur.

I reach into my wardrobe for first a black dress with a sweetheart neckline, a side slit and a deep scoop back. I then find a blood red V neck dress with a ruffle hem. Nightshade sits by the black dress and starts purring louder. I laugh again.

“Great choice Nightshade.” I scratch my beloved cat behind her ears and her tail starts swinging like a grandfather clock pendulum.
One by one, I put my dresses back and settle on the sofa to watch some TV.
Work goes quickly the next day and I happily leave at with a spring in my step. I want to get back as quickly as possible to have enough time to get ready. I want to create a knockout makeup look. Maybe I’d do something different with my hair, too. My long brown poker straight hair could do with some curls. I get out my curling tongs and leave them to heat and then practise. It’s so long since I have styled my hair that the first time the curl doesn’t come out right. I search YouTube for some curly hair looks and find a few I like. I add them to favourite videos in my account and then run a bath with lots of bubbles.

As the bubbles and hot water relax me, I feel my mind go back to when I had first become interested in makeup. I remember my mother getting ready for work one day when I was about 8 years old. In the memory, the hot pink lipstick was bright against the dark wood of the dressing table and I picked the tube up after my mother left the house. I squinted at the worn sticker on the end of the tube and, if I concentrated hard, I can just about read the name Electric Rose. Cute but edgy.

Next, I remember I turned my hand facing palm down and dragged the lipstick over the back of it as if drawing with a brand new crayon. This was how I felt then, excited. Mum’s lipstick, although well used, was well cared for.

From that day on, mum loved me wearing makeup. She would do my makeup on any special occasion in my life, from school fun days to carnivals to school plays, and then when I left school and before I graduated as a makeup artist .

I bought more and more makeup, and promised myself that one day I would make a living from it.
Suddenly, I feel a pang of nostalgia and wish mum was there to do my makeup.

I sigh, and some bubbles from the surface of the bathwater float upwards. I reach my hand out and touch them. They don’t pop. Maybe there’s still hope for my dreams.
Back in my bedroom and now in the dress, I sit at my dressing table. Makeup palettes are spread before me and I have a makeup mixing palette to one side but within reach. What look shall I go for?
Anything looks good with black, but I want my eyes to be the focus tonight. I prime them with my favourite primer. The product glides onto my lids and I mix deep burgundy eyeshadow with a red glitter one in my beauty palette. The result is a deeper, richer colour with some sparkle. It isn’t overpowering but it does not need to be.

I highlight the inner corner with a soft gold shadow and add the dramatic flourishes of bright gold eyeliner and finally lots of deep black mascara. I keep my base and lips light with powder foundation a slight dusting of nude blusher and warm, peachy nude lipstick. I add some random curls with the curling iron. A spritz of perfume I’m done.

The doorbell goes and Nightshade is unusually nervous, pacing and flighty, meowing more than usual.
I open the door to Gerry in a dark plum shirt and pale jeans.
“Hi Rina, bought you some flowers,” He hands me the deep red roses and kisses me. I kiss him back.
“Hi,” I say as I let him in and smell the flowers. “They’re beautiful, thanks!”
“You’re so welcome,” he says, flashing his smile that makes my knees weak. I grip the doorframe to steady myself.
“Hi kitty,” he says as Nightshade winds herself round my legs then shoots out the open front door.
We laugh.
“She’s protective of you,” Gerry observed.
“Yes, she is my own personal guard cat.” Whoa, bad joke, Rina, what’s wrong with you?”
I laugh good-naturedly, and walk to the kitchen for a vase. He follows me.
As I set the vase of flowers on the coffee table in the sitting room, he looks at his watch.
“We’d better go, my Nonna’s waiting.”
I feel intrigued. “Where are we going?” I ask.
“It’s a surprise,” he says mysteriously as we begin our walk into town.
“Here we are,” he says as he opens the door to a small restaurant. “My Beautiful Little Italy was owned by my grandparents. Nonna has run it alone since my grandfather’s death.”
“Wow!” I look around me. White tablecloths on small square tables, dark wood chairs. Rust red walls packed with coloured and sepia photos and family memorabilia show happy times. The place is cosy and homely.
“Nonna, hi!”

Nonna is petite and deeply tanned with salt and pepper hair in a bun. She and Gerry greet each other with a kiss on each cheek.
She sees me and says “Ah, I finally get to meet Rina.”
“Nice to meet you,” I say.
She places kisses on my cheeks.
“Dinner is served.” She leads us to a central table where food is laid out. First pasta in olive oil then a pizza to share and tiramisu.
Nonna smiles. “I’ll let you have the restaurant to yourselves.”
We make small talk, kissing now and then as we make our way through the home cooked culinary feast.
Then Gerry says “So, ready for the real coffee?”
He gets up and goes to the kitchen, returning with nutty smelling coffee which wafts round the restaurant.
After the meal, satisfied and happy, we walk slowly back to mine.
No sign of Nightshade.
“Probably on a night prowl.”
“Yeah, maybe.” We smile knowingly.

We talk some more and then somehow end up kissing. First slow, then more insistent. His arms feel tight, but secure around my body and I feel a safeness I do not remember having felt in so long.
We stay like that for some time and he cradles me as if I’m the most important thing to him. We are interrupted by a meow and Nightshade walks in.

“There you are!” I laugh. Nightshade jumps up and walks across the couch and then our laps before settling on Gerry’s lap.
“I think she likes you!” We laugh once again and sit there for a few minutes while he strokes a purring, very relaxed, Nightshade.
“Fancy a tour of the house?” I stand up, tugging on his arm. He gently moves Nightshade to a new spot then gets up and follows me.
“I think you have a nice place here” he says as we walk from room to room.
“Thanks,” I smile at the compliment. The touch of his hand in mine sends shivers down my spine. I love the fact that he likes how I live. Yes, my life is cosy and quiet and I have done the best I can to get by since mum died.
I try to push the memory of that day away but a tear trickles down my cheek. Gerry must notice out the corner of his eye, because he turns to me and asks “Hey, you OK?”
I sniff and fumble in my pocket for a tissue. Finding none, I she sniff louder and breathe deep as I try to control the flow of my tears.
Gerry stops looking around the room and puts his arms round me. “Look, I know we have not known each other long at all but whatever it is, you can tell me, OK?”
I nod, and we resume walking along the corridor. I say “In here, I want to show you something.”

We turn into the bedroom. I lead him straight to the bedside table where the photo of mum sits.
“This is why I’m sad,” I say. He’s silent, just looking at the photo. “This is my mum, she died.”
“You look like her.”
I do, I have the same long dark hair and eyes. I’m tall like her too. My gut squeezes I look away trying not to show him my tears as they began to fall.
“Hey, it’s OK. I’m here.” He hugs me tighter, which only makes the tears flow quicker. I suddenly feel a wave of gratitude for having met him and hope there can be more between us. Maybe that will come in time.
Back at work, I realise how lucky she am to have found something I love doing, I am even getting to know Amy better. Alicia is not as strict as I had feared. I remember that I was nervous at first but I feel like here is where I’m supposed to be.

At the end of the two weeks, Gerry and I are called into the office and given some paper with gold lettering on it.
“What’s this?” I ask.
“The invitation to the product launch, the manufacturer really liked the lipsticks and they want to do a special event.”
The day is here. Gerry and I are driven to the event in an official looking car with tinted windows. I bought a new dress for the occasion, and he’s in a new suit.

After a short while, the car stops outside the building where the event is. The chauffeur opens the car door and Gerry takes my hand leading me.
Inside, the building, chandeliers glow and tables are filled with food. We mingle with people we know.

Alicia comes up to us and says, “Well, this is a big night for you, isn’t it?”
“Yes definitely.” I look around in wonder at the building’s high ceiling and classical design. It really is the perfect place to have this event.
“We’re up next,” Gerry says, as he pulls me to the front, where a microphone sits on a podium in front of a glittery backdrop. A large banner with the name of the event hangs across the room. I say a silent prayer and hope that I do my best in this presentation. I get nervous in presentations, and have done since I was at school.

I breathe deep. “Welcome to the launch for our product. It’s a collection of lipsticks which are completely original and you have different colours and designs within the same collection.” The company have paid extra to have people hand out a product sample to each of the people at the event and I see people doing that.

People grab the products and they seem impressed and there are exclamations of “Oh, this is cute!” “Really original.”
We have break for lunch. As we near the tables trying to get around the crowds, I hear a voice that makes fear slice through me. My hands start to shake and I drop the sausage roll I’m holding. Gerry is piling food onto his plate and doesn’t seem to notice.

That is until the person shouts “Hey, great to see you, Rina!”
Rooted to the spot, I look around for the exit. I look at him, trying to convey a silent message that we should just leave. He understands and lets me lead him to a corner of the room behind people. I think we’ll be well hidden.
“We have to go,” I say to him.
“What? Why?”
“It’s Sandy Braymer, from my old job. She was the one who wanted me out, she made my life hell.” My urgent whisper catches the attention of people near us who turn to stare.
“We can’t leave,” he protests. “Today is our big day.”
“Ah ha! There you are!” The chilling voice cuts through the room’s atmosphere and I freeze.

People start whispering louder, fidgeting, looking concerned.
Suddenly, Sandy runs up to the mic and pushes the guy next to her out of the way.
“Rina!” she shouts. “You think this is your big day? I was meant to be successful! My ideas are so much better than yours! You are incapable, You ought to know that. It’s obvious to me, ever since you stole my idea about the diamond-infused eyeshadow.”

She turns to the event organizers and says “And her products should not be on the market!”
Suddenly, two burly security guards are on either side of her and one of them quickly turns the microphone off so we are spared the rest of her rant as she is led away.

“Wow, she’s intense,” Gerry says.

People start gossiping again and staring at me.
“Right, I need to set the record straight,” I walk through the crowd to find Alicia.
“You know this rubbish isn’t true,” I say.
“Yes, I do,” she says. “We checked your references when we employed you and that didn’t come up.” She hugs me. “Don’t worry, today’s your day.”

I feel worry niggle still and say “Thanks, but I have to set the record straight.” I grab Gerry’s hand and lead him up to the front of the room. People are still murmuring but I forge on.
“Erm, hi,” I say. “That was something that I wasn’t planning on- she’s crazy. I didn’t steal her idea for an eyeshadow.”

Suddenly, Alicia is by my side talking to the organizer. A slide with my employment credentials is on the screen. People gasp. Then the clapping starts. Cameras flash left right and centre and then there are questions during which there’s an avalanche of possible buyers and investors for my lipstick campaign.

I feel amazing. My heart is singing.

“Well done!” Alicia hugs me once everyone is gone.
Gerry does too, and he’s not ashamed to do so in front of my boss.
“Look after her, she’s special,” she advises.
“Oh I will do,” he assures her.

And once she’s gone, he kisses me once more.

So, I did it, I created my own brand. I couldn’t have done it without Gerry though, and as for Nightshade, she’s a real celebrity. Sponsors of the brand have provided cat treats and toys for her as well as rooms at the best cat hotels so she can have her own pampering sessions.

Oh, and did I tell you Gerry proposed? Well he did. And guess who will be the ring bearer? You guessed it-Nightshade!

And we plan to go to Italy, Paris and Madrid. Nightshade will come too because even the hotel will be pet friendly.

So, a lesson to take away from my story. If you don’t fight, you don’t get what you want. With a fighting spirit, love, and a little help, I have renewed faith that anything is possible. I feel a glow, and know mum is looking down on us and feels proud.

Irresistible Fiction Course Review

In early December last year, I was really happy to receive a Holiday Pack from a fellow writer who is always so supportive of me and my writing endevours.
The pack is created by William Victor S.L. and the courses are email courses taught by Nancy. 
It contains 2 courses, the first of which is Irresistible Fiction. This course has 8 classes (1 per week) and I eagerly awaited each of them every Tuesday evening. Details are HERE if you want to sign up to this course.  

I went into it really excited, as many of the books I buy and the Advance Review Copies (or ARCs) I review are fiction. Many of my own writing projects are fiction (either Young Adult, General Fiction or Women’s Fiction). 
I had some questions beforehand which Nancy answered quickly and thoroughly. Mostly, I was concerned about the pace of the course and the workload, since all through my previous educational life I required close support. 
As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about and was able to work the course around my other commitments. 
The best thing was that, as well as the course emails, I was able to share my homework tasks and comment on others’ work on the specially created class blog. 
In general, my homework responses were well received and liked by others on the course. 
There was one occasion when my work was not exactly what the reader liked but, if there’s one thing that I’ve learned in my 8 years of being a writer and blogger, it’s that everyone has different styles and tastes. 
And that’s OK with me. 
Thanks to the Irresistible Fiction course, I’ve come away with more ways to incorporate pacing, mystery suspense cliffhangers and more into my writing as well as know what to keep and what to cut and how to create better characters. 
Obviously, I know about all these aspects, but it was good to find it out from a different source with different prompts and examples. 
I signed up to Creative Writing Now which is a great site run by the same company with prompts and I have been receiving their emails for years now. I have short stories I’ve come up with based off their prompts and they have a wealth of resources. 
I’m due to start the Poetry Essentials course which is the second one in the Holiday Pack next week, and that will be 8 weeks long too and also have a blog for homework and comments. I’m looking forward to fleshing out some poems I was working on during Camp NaNoWriMo years ago and learning more techniques related to that genre since poetry is a pretty unknown genre for me. 

Details are HERE for the poetry course. 

Writer Igniter Reading Challenge Prompt 10: Scene Analysis

Analyse a scene. 

HOW does the WHAT reflect the WHY? This magic question can help you analyze and interpret just about any piece of literature. Use this framework to analyze a scene in the book you are reading. Start by looking at what the author is saying, then consider the meaning behind it (the why). Finally, consider how you might achieve a similar result in your own writing.
In your response take an extra-deep dive into the scene you have chosen and think critically about what the author is doing and how they are doing it. Use the formula of “HOW does the WHAT reflect the WHY?” and apply it to a short section of the book.

Close Reading
Now that you’ve finished your book, it’s time to do an in-depth analysis. Choose a single scene out of the entire book and consider the following elements.
The WHAT. What is happening in the scene? Who are the characters involved? Where are they and what are they doing?

Sarah and Beatrice are the main characters in the scene I’ve chosen. Sarah is at Beatrice’s apartment in a less-well-off area of Paris and they’re having a heart to heart. 

The WHY. Why is this event important to the book? What deeper meaning can you draw from this scene? What is the author trying to say and why?

This event is important to the book, because, to quote from the text, it’s like the missing pieces of the puzzle snap into place for Sarah regarding Beatrice and it is something I did not expect and it had me going “Wow, that came out of nowhere!” 

 I was also thinking “Yes, that’s what I was wondering about or wanting to know all along.” 
I think the author is trying to say that, despite the tough exterior and the front Beatrice puts with her attitude towards running the shop, her hostility, apparent jealousy towards the other characters in the book and her almost bullying of Sarah as a newcomer that Beatrice has a sensitive and vulnerable side to her. 

The author focuses on the questions Sarah has in her mind which are the same ones I as the reader wanted answered. The author also focuses on Beatrice putting things into perspective about her life and seems more relaxed around Sarah than at other points in the books. 

The HOW. What effect does this moment have on you, the reader? How is the author achieving this effect? What techniques is the author using to direct your attention or elicit certain emotions?

I was surprised, shocked and also started to feel for Beatrice more than I had before. The author goes deeper inside Beatrice here than at any time in the book. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the Reading Challenge and I would definitely do it again if there’s a repeat of this event in the future. I learnt so much about book terminology and analysis techniques which I didn’t know before. 

Writer Igniter Reading Challenge Prompt 9: The Ending 

****SPOILER ALERT: The example from the book is used for the purpose of text analysis for the course*****

What is the second pivot point of the story (i.e. the dark night of the soul)?

Sarah decides to stay in Paris
What scene represents the climax?

It’s Christmas and everyone is there for a Christmas meal…..everyone except Ridge. Sarah is thinking of him, Beatrice and her son Marc are the special guests. TJ, Oceane and everyone is there. The house is festively decorated, Marc is given gifts. 
What is the outcome of the story?

Ridge turns up and Sarah is overjoyed. He says he wants nothing more than to walk the streets of Paris with her. 

In other words, does the character get what they want and do they still want it? 

Yes and yes, so this falls into the happy ending category. Sarah and Ridge are together, Ridge chose Sarah over his work, Sarah gets to stay in Paris. The happy ever after is not just for Sarah and I won’t give more away because that’ll just be too “spoilery”- best you read the book for yourself. 

Writer Igniter Reading Challenge Prompt 8: Theme and Thematic Elements 

Start with the theme.
Could you sum up the book you have selected in a single sentence? If so, this is your theme.

Take a chance in life- you may be surprised the results that brings. 

What evidence can you draw from the text that helps support this? 

In other words, what details clued you in to this being the theme?

How Sarah decides it was time to take the reins of my life once and for all and do the things I yearned to do. No more was I missing out because things weren’t panning out the way I imagined they should.  
Next, consider the thematic elements.

What imagery or detail does the author use to underscore that theme? 

Sarah’s bookstore, books, descriptions of the images and clues are there right from the opening scene of the book: Sarah is in her bookshop and Ridge calls. She starts wrestling with her feelings of missing him, being somewhere she loves yet feeling like life is passing her by. 
There are physical descriptions of both Ashford and Paris. The bookshop in Paris, the main streets and smaller ones, images of Paris culture (cafés, daily life). 
How does the author use these thematic elements to emphasize or illustrate the theme?

Ashford is painted as familiar, quaint, quiet and Sarah’s comfort zone as well as what she has always known. 
Paris, on the other hand, is bright, chic sparkling inviting and exciting. 
The author first shows us Sarah’s life then her decision process via a lot of inner dialogue and we go through the motions with her: the goodbye to her mum and friends, her memory of her last phone conversation with Ridge before she goes. Then we’re suddenly on the train with her as she arrives in France and makes her way to Paris despite feeling exhausted and trying to summon up her faulty French. 

Choose one thematic element that appears in several scenes and consider how the author uses that same element in different ways throughout the story.

 Books are a thematic element and they are everywhere: at Sarah’s bookshop, at Sophie’s, sold in little booths on the banks of the Seine. There’s the mystery of Sarah suspecting there’s a book thief and then of the mysterious man in the attic who turns out to be an author whose books Sarah likes. Sarah’s love of books is mentioned repeatedly too, whether she is talking about them or planning to sneak away and read for awhile during her breaks or her habit of reading before bed. 

Writer Igniter Reading Challenge Prompt 7: The Midpoint 

Is there a scene where the protagonist experiences a moment of self-reflection? 
Yes. More than one. 
What happens in that mirror moment and how close is it to the center?
 Sarah is out walking round the city with TJ and realises how far she’s come and how much she loves Paris/ French customs. This is at the 52% point in the ebook.
The 50% point is where she’s in the bookshop and sees her friend Lucy, an artist from her hometown (Ashford) who moved to Paris with her boyfriend Clay. Seeing how confident and happy Lucy is as she navigates the city’s Metro system and smaller streets makes Sarah wish she could be as confident. Sarah feels she’s floundering in comparison. I wished she’d give herself more credit, she hasn’t been there long. They reflect on Sarah and Ridge’s relationship and the fact he was there one night. 
What does the character realize about themselves?
 That she loves Paris more than she ever realised and maybe it is OK to stay longer and let Sophie stay longer in her bookshop. That she can, and has to be stronger if she has a chance of getting respect from Beatrice and the others in the shop like she has with TJ and Oceane. That she’s struggling with the bookshop accounts and running of the place more than the fact of actually being in France and adjusting to that. I feel having Oceane and TJ (and Luiz) around is helping her with that. That she feels like she is still adjusting to things and does feel lonely and inwardly contrasts herself with Oceane and TJ about the fact they are social butterflies and live life at a fast pace. 
When does the mirror moment occur? Is it directly in the center of the book? 
There’s more than one “mirror moment”, and for more than one character. Sarah’s mirror moments are when, not for the first time, she is thinking of Ridge and realises the best thing she can do is enjoy Paris with or without him. This is at 42% where she makes an internal promise to herself to find joy in the hidden parts of Paris. 

Then, at the 49% mark, TJ has his mirror moment as he opens up about how he came to love Paris. Then we’re back to Sarah as he asks if she’s happy in Paris and she tells him how she really feels. 
Is this moment a temporary triumph or false failure? It’s a temporary triumph. TJ’s is a triumph as he is very settled in Paris. 

How is the character’s inner reflection represented outwardly? (Are they actually looking in a mirror?
No, but there’s a mention (at 44%) of someone else (Ridge) looking in a mirror when at the gym by Monique, the photographer who answers Ridge’s phone when Sarah tries to call him. Sarah looks round her to the Paris scenery and gestures at it as she and TJ are walking by the Seine, passing people and different stalls. She realises Sophie needs to change and reflects on Beatrice. She feels something is missing from her life, like she has to change. 

She says “When you are miles from home, that’s how you find out who you really are.” I find this a very poignant quote and fitting for the story. Sarah is always letting us into her thoughts. 
The author uses the walks between TJ and Sarah as time for them to think and share ideas for how to improve the shop. Sarah realises how much she misses Ridge but tries to be as proactive as possible about her plans for the bookshop. 
There’s another triumph at the 55% point in the book when Sarah reflects on the book thief problem. 

Writer Igniter Reading Challenge Prompt 5: Inciting Incident 

What is the external event that sets up the inciting incident? 

Sophie, Sarah’s friend who lives in Paris, suggests a bookshop swap.
What internal choice does the protagonist make that they act on to pivot us into Act II? 

Sarah decides she needs more in life than just being in her town and bookshop. 
What makes this moment a point of no return? 

She has committed to the bookshop swap and Sophie will travel to the USA to work in her bookshop while she’s away. 
Why can’t the protagonist go back to the status quo? 

She’d be letting Sophie down and missing out on an experience to know another country and culture. She fancies a change although she’ll miss those close to her. 
How does the protagonist’s choice affect you, the reader, and your feelings toward this character? 

I was proud of her for going out of her comfort zone (the bookshop, books her boyfriend Ridge and her mum). I’m rooting for her! I hope she has a great time. Her choice makes me want to get through the book to find out what happens. She already seems more confident just by making this decision.