Flash Fiction Friday: The Numbers

“458, 3701, 3, 2, 1.”

Stella joined Rocky in his walk as he counted his numbers.

“Morning, Rocky.” She adjusted her backpack on her shoulders and kicked a stone on the crumbled sidewalk.

“5, 5, 5.” He looked at an imaginary point straight ahead and gripped the straps to his pack a little tighter. His gaze never slid to his feet and he never looked anyone in the eye.

Stella had always found it curious that he didn’t trip or fall.

“Ready for that test in Pre-Algebra?” she said.

The two crossed 36th and Main. Stella had to shield her eyes from the early morning sun that fell through the cracks of the tall buildings.

“38, 921, 2023.”

Rocky’s jaw was tight and his gut swayed as they walked around a street vendor who sold fresh coffee and day-old donuts. No one in eighth grade ever spoke to Rocky, except for Stella, of course. He’d always been a bit odd, but he’d been her neighbor ever since she could remember. There had to be something behind those numbers and the way he ignored the world around him. She just had to stick around long enough to figure out what.

“Cheer assembly is tomorrow. Think you’ll wear something funky for Crazy Hat Day?” She smiled and waved at the nice lady who ran the fish market.

“971, 636, 259.”

Stella threw an arm across Rocky’s chest to stop him from stepping in front of the car that just ran a stop light. “Hey! Watch it!” They stepped off the curb and continued their walk. “You okay?”

“1, 1, 1.”

She sighed and they walked in silence. Cars squealed past, parked along the street, waited bumper to bumper for the stoplights to change. They crossed 37th Street.

“So you think Mr. Hopper will count that project for double like he said…”

Her brow pulled together as they passed the shoe repair shop, address number 3701. A guy at the next shop over stood outside yelling, “3 days left for this amazing sale! 2 deals for the price of 1!” Where had she heard those numbers before?

The bum along the wall of the building grunted and jumped as a pigeon above pooped along the sleeve of his jacket. Stella pressed an inch closer to Rocky and they swerved out of the way.

“5 bucks is all it takes! Just 5 to try your luck! Who’s got 5?”

A street magician shuffled a deck of cards between his hands, like liquid that poured from a faucet. Stella blinked.

She grabbed Rocky’s arm. “Come on. We need to get to school.”

They crossed 38th, walked half a block, then the crunch of metal stopped them short. A three car pile up sat just feet from the curb. The lead car–a BMW that looked brand new–was crumpled like a piece of paper, its license plate twisted in half. Only the 971 part of the tag was still visible.

“Wait.” Stella’s heart raced.

“60, 59, 58.”

“You said that number, didn’t you? The one on the license plate?” She narrowed her eyes at the boy but he still wouldn’t look in her direction.

“55, 54.”

“And you’ve been counting each street we cross minutes before we even cross it, haven’t you?” Stella was right. She knew this in her soul. How had she never seen the connection between the numbers before?

“10.7, 10.8, 53.”

“Rocky, what do the numbers mean? Why do you repeat numbers all the time? Why did we see them just after you said those exact numbers?”

“7, 35.”

“Rocky, how can you do this? What does it mean?”

He shifted on his feet, his fingers at work on the straps of his pack. “41, 40.”

A man and woman stormed past as their voices echoed through the streets. “1 good reason! Just give me 1, Nancy! 1 reason why I should stick around this time!”

Stella’s heart sank to her knees. “Rocky. How do you know? Tell me how you know.”

For the first time she could ever remember, Rocky turned and looked Stella directly in the eyes.

“19, 18, 17.”

“Rocky?” Her lip quivered and her voice was small.

“I’m sorry, Stella. 10.9, 3, 2.”

She glanced at the clock in the square. 7:35 exactly.

The ground rumbled then it sank below their feet.

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman 2016

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Photo credit Unsplash Loic Djim

Where You Can Find Me, and Other News.

Hey guys! I’m still alive after NaNo! Isn’t that great news?! Yay! *Cartwheel and flip*

Actually, I really am alive and still kicking. Sorry to slack on my FF post this past Friday. I had the story and everything (Still do. Inside my head, of course.) but the weekend arrived early so alas, you will have to wait another few days to read my story.

BUT until then, you can find a couple things I’ve written for other websites! Head on over to AlmostAnAuthor for my Fantasy/Sci-Fi article on magical objects (here), and swing by the ACFW PA blog to read my thoughts on my purpose in writing (here).

Okay, now on to other news! *Jig and a hop* Sooo, I can’t give specifics just yet–because, honestly, I don’t have any!!–BUT I can tell you that there might be something exciting on the horizon! There is some interest in my writing from an outside party, and while that gives you absolutely zero to go on, just know that it means I could have some of my writing available soon! Yippee! We shall see if all the pieces fall into place. Until that time, would you please pray with me? It’s always been my heart to write quality literature for young people and I’d love to see it available in print someday!

I promise to update whatever I can, when I can, but again, I don’t even know for sure what this all means, so I’m just taking things one day at a time. Catch me Friday for the latest FF, and maybe I’ll find something else fun to write about before then! *Wink, wink*

Happy reading, friends!

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Photo credit Unsplash NASA

ACFW Author New Releases – December 2016

Happy Holidays, friends! Here is the latest list of new releases from my fellow ACFW authors! Grab a few to give away as gifts! Happy reading, friends!!

December 2016 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

bella-natale Bella Natale! by Marianne Evans — An aspiring American artist and the widowed, Italian owner of a premier art gallery meet and fall in love in Florence when he champions her work, but there are her American family’s expectations and his five-year-old son to consider. (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

with-this-kissWith this Kiss by Marianne Evans — A kiss stolen in a midnight snow. A jealous colleague at Jonathan’s firm is bent on revenge…revenge that puts Isabella’s store into legal peril. Will love be enough to see them through? (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

mistletoe-daddyMistletoe Daddy by Deb Kastner — Bubbly Vivian Grainger bids on gruff Nick McKenna at Serendipity Texas’s annual Bachelors and Baskets for one reason–to help her build her hair salon; but once Nick finds out she’s pregnant, he does his best to build a path to Vivian’s heart. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

a-hero-for-heatherA Hero for Heather by Marion Ueckermann — When a “homeless” man she’s been helping rescues social worker Heather Blume from a vicious attack, she’s so grateful she violates one of the most important rules in her profession–she takes him home to tend his wounds. But the mysterious Paxton Rathbone is no homeless man…he’s a gentleman. When feelings grow, and Paxton’s past beckons, both he and Heather discover there’s a fine line between gratitude and love. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published) Continue reading

NaNoWriMo 2016: The End

Just wow!! I can’t believe NaNoWriMo 2016 is finished! And did I mention I WON?! How did everyone do? Did you meet your goal? Are you still alive??

Here are my final stats for the month:

Total Words Written: 54,086 (According to the NaNo site. Somehow when I verified my words with NaNo I lost 200+ words that Word says I had??)

Number of Chapters Written: 43

Well, I survived my very first ‘official’ National Novel Writing Month! It was intense and there were days I doubted I would be able to keep up the pace, but I can look back and say it was definitely worth it! NaNoWriMo was great incentive to get my next manuscript going and I’m excited to get it finished up so I can share it with all of you!!

What about you? Did you meet your word count for the month? How was your experience with National Novel Writing Month? Will you do it again? Please comment below! I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Happy writing, friends!

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Book Review: DESTROY ME and FRACTURE ME by Tahereh Mafi

This is the last week of reviews of the “Shatter Me” series by Tahereh Mafi, *Sniff, Sniff* The entire series took up a solid 2 weeks of my life, and this was one series I was sad to see go. If you haven’t seen my previous reviews of the full length novels, check them out here, here and here! Otherwise, read on for my thoughts on the ‘in-between’ novellas that helped round out the characters of Warner and Adam!

DESTROY ME Synopsis:

Perfect for the fans of Shatter Me who are desperately awaiting the release of Unravel Me, this novella-length digital original will bridge the gap between these two novels from the perspective of the villain we all love to hate, Warner, the ruthless leader of Sector 45.

In Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me, Juliette escaped from The Reestablishment by seducing Warner—and then putting a bullet in his shoulder. But as she’ll learn in Destroy Me, Warner is not that easy to get rid of. . .

Back at the base and recovering from his near-fatal wound, Warner must do everything in his power to keep his soldiers in check and suppress any mention of a rebellion in the sector. Still as obsessed with Juliette as ever, his first priority is to find her, bring her back, and dispose of Adam and Kenji, the two traitors who helped her escape. But when Warner’s father, The Supreme Commander of The Reestablishment, arrives to correct his son’s mistakes, it’s clear that he has much different plans for Juliette. Plans Warner simply cannot allow.

Set after Shatter Me and before its forthcoming sequel, Unravel Me, Destroy Me is a novella told from the perspective of Warner, the ruthless leader of Sector 45. Continue reading

NaNoWriMo Wrap-Up: Week #4

Week #4 of NaNoWriMo–Aaannnddd I’m done!

I WON NANOWRIMO! Woo Hoo! 

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Here are my stats and what I hope to accomplish next week! (Even though I don’t have to!)

Words Written This Week: 9,943

Total Words Written During NaNo: 51,070

Total Number of Chapters Written: 42

Word Goal for Next Week: 4,000

So close, guys! Just a few more days and we’ll be done! Since I’ve already won NaNo, I set my goal low for the last 4 days–just 1000 words per day! Still motivation!

How did you do this week? Do you think you’ll make it? Comment below!

Happy writing, friends!

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Flash Fiction Friday: Lights Out

Thunder slammed against the side of the house, made the knees of the structure’s foundation tremble. The lights grew weak, blinked in confusion, before they remembered their purpose. Tyler swallowed, the throng of hornets that sat in his belly content to stay put a while longer.

At least the power was still on.

Everything about this hurricane had surprised his little town. From the fact that it decided to slide further inland than forecasters originally thought, to the bad luck that his parents had gotten caught at his grandmother’s house. His armpits bled sweat as he thought of just how alone he really was.

A tremble skittered through the veins that held his heart together, the ones that made sure he was still alive. For now.

How much longer could this thing last?

He caressed the keyboard of his laptop, yanked it from the slumber it so earnestly insisted took priority. Not anymore. Tyler may’ve been only thirteen–might be wishing with all his heart that he wasn’t alone while the world crumbled apart at his feet–but at least he still had connection to the rest of mankind. A little social media was just what the doctor ordered.

The forbidden Twitter account that his parents didn’t know about popped up, loaded with pictures of waves that attacked shores and underwater graveyards for cars and all the worst parts of nightmares people chose to ignore but never really thought would happen to them.

Ding. His cell phone chimed for the first time since he’d talked to his parents.

Crazy weather outside, eh?

Tyler narrowed his eyes at the tiny screen. Unknown.

Could it be a wrong number?

How are things, Tyler? Doing okay without mom and dad?

He jumped to his feet, grabbed the offending object that dared force his blood to pump harder than it already did.

Who was this? And how did he know about—

Relax. I’m sure they’re fine. Sit back, enjoy the storm.

Every part of Tyler’s body shook, his grip on the phone now white knuckled, painful. He couldn’t rip his eyes from that screen. From those words that held too much knowledge, that made every hair on the back of his neck stand at attention and threaten to go AWOL.

Sit, Tyler. You’ll feel better.

A blink. A breath.

A thousand breaths.

Then, Who are you? How do you know these things?

A million and one seconds passed, his eyes glued to that screen. That stupid, stupid screen with all the answers he didn’t want to know.

The bubble with three dots appeared, an answer two seconds, five seconds, ten seconds away. He held all the air he could muster inside his pathetic little lungs.

Because, Tyler. I’m right behind you.

A crash of thunder and the lights went out.

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman

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Photo Credit Unsplash Brandon Morgan

Book Review: IGNITE ME by Tahereh Mafi

Finally! Week #3 in my month long review of Tahereh Mafi’s “Shatter Me” series! This week I review Book 3 in the series–“Ignite Me.” This is the final book in the “Shatter Me” trilogy, although not my last review for the month! Read on to find out more!

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Synopsis:

The heart-stopping conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Shatter Me series, which Ransom Riggs, bestselling author of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, called “a thrilling, high-stakes saga of self-discovery and forbidden love.”

With Omega Point destroyed, Juliette doesn’t know if the rebels, her friends, or even Adam are alive. But that won’t keep her from trying to take down The Reestablishment once and for all. Now she must rely on Warner, the handsome commander of Sector 45. The one person she never thought she could trust. The same person who saved her life. He promises to help Juliette master her powers and save their dying world . . . but that’s not all he wants with her.

The Shatter Me series is perfect for fans who crave action-packed young adult novels with tantalizing romance like Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and Legend by Marie Lu. Tahereh Mafi has created a captivating and original story that combines the best of dystopian and paranormal, and was praised by Publishers Weekly as “a gripping read from an author who’s not afraid to take risks.” Now this final book brings the series to a shocking and satisfying end.

The Review: 5 stars out of 5

I don’t have many words to say other than, Wow. This final book soared far above what my expectations could have conjured in my tiny little imagination! I could not have predicted the direction Tahereh Mafi would go with this story, but was pleasantly surprised when I read that last sentence. *sigh*

Juliette: I’m so happy to see how her character grew throughout this entire series–particularly in this novel alone. At the beginning of the series we see a broken almost soulless being, and it was so fulfilling to see her evolve into a strong confident woman. Yes, this change makes things different between the relationships she has with others, but I felt this depiction was true to life. I enjoyed watching Juliette as she discovered each new facet of her newfound power, and appreciated that her true abilities unfolded slowly over time, and that she didn’t master all elements of herself in a single chapter.

Warner: Ahhh, Warner/Aaron! Definitely not the same person as book 1, but in an entirely welcome way! To be honest, in book 2, I wasn’t so sure how Juliette could have feelings for him (although, strangely, I wanted to have feelings for him, too.) But this book solidifies who he is as a person, and why he is the way he is. It gives hope for him for a future and truly pulled at my heartstrings when Juliette turned him away. By the end, this guy is definitely the one I was rooting for, in all levels of the plot line. Yay, Aaron, for not turning out like daddy. P.S. I also loved that we saw a foreshadowing of where the name of this book came from, back in book 2! 

Kenji: I love this guy. (Who doesn’t, right?) In book 1 he served as more the comic relief character, while in book 2 he moved to annoying leader/friend. But in this book, he truly comes to be Juliette’s best friend, and I loved this about him. He’s always been a major character but somehow I think I viewed him as minor. In this book he breaks free of that mold, however, and he is possibly my favorite character of the entire series now!

Adam: *Spoilers* Oh, Adam. How I wanted to love you. Or even like you, really. Sadly, both Juliette and Adam have changed too much for their relationship to be anything other than toxic. Yes, by the end things have worked themselves out to a tolerable balance. But really, I mostly just wanted to smack this boy throughout the entire novel. Thankfully, Kenji was there to do it for me.

Final thoughts: Okay, so it’s no secret that I love, love, loved this series! Again, I appreciated this final book simply because it was so very different than I thought it would be. Also, I must say, I was counting the pages once I got close to the end. I honestly couldn’t see how Mafi was going to resolve the story effectively with so few pages left! I even went so far as to Google if there was a fourth book coming out. (There isn’t, BTW. *Sniff, sniff*) But just wow. Mafi not only tied up all loose ends, but the ending didn’t even feel rushed, like I thought it might. It ended with hope, but also left it so wide open to allow the reader to consider the direction of things for themselves. Do yourself a favor and give this series a chance!!

Next week I will tackle the novellas that go along with this series. Be sure to check back to see how they affect the overall arc of this fantastic series!

Happy reading, friends!

(“Ignite Me” by Tahereh Mafi is a YA dystopian novel with mild language and mild sexual encounters. Appropriate for older teens and young adults.)

 

NaNoWriMo Wrap-Up: Week #3

Week #3 of NaNoWriMo is over! *cartwheel, backflip* Yippee!! Here are my stats and what I hope to accomplish next week!

Words Written This Week: 11,204

Total Words Written During NaNo: 41,348

Total Number of Chapters Written: 36

Word Goal for Next Week: 10,000

How did it go? Are you ahead of your word count? What did you learn this week about your characters and the direction of your plot? Comment below!

Happy writing, friends!

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Flash Fiction Friday: Flames

Flames burn around me, as they lick the bookshelves, taste the walls, swallow every inch of library. I tilt my head against the wood floor but only see obsidian, floating bits of a hue that is nothing, that is everything. My lungs scream but I find no comfort for them. Oxygen has become my greatest traitor. I cough and roll onto my side.

It had been near closing time, not many people remained in the library. No alarms rang, not a single sound of warning. Everyone on the ground floor had made it out just fine, had little suspected I was trapped upstairs. Alone. Suffocating.

I push beneath me but my arms shiver, shake, give out. It’s no use. There is zero energy left inside this shell of a body.

Then, a figure, a child, walks toward me. The inane thought that she shouldn’t be out so late on a school night fills my head before my chest cracks what could be a laugh. School doesn’t care if you live or if you die.

Covered in soot, yet unnaturally calm, she reaches down to take my hand. I open my mouth to urge her, to yell that she must run, she must get out while she can still walk! But her eyes implore, beg me to comply with her feeble attempt at saving my broken and battered cocoon.

My hand trembles, then relaxes in her grip. Like melted chocolate and s’mores around a campfire. Campfire. Fire.

Fire.

Get out! I want to yell at her but she insists, tugs, pulls against my resistance.

“Can’t—breathe—” A hollow scratch from my throat. Can she even hear me?

She bends down, places one hand on my chest. Smiles.

A heavenly blessed rush of oxygen consumes my lungs. The spots in my vision fade away.

Once more, she tugs my hand. I comply.

Through the flames we walk, across charred floor, between ash covered shelves, down stairs, impossible stairs that shouldn’t hold my weight but do. Past the inferno. Between that moment of shadows that could be death.

Fresh air assaults my nostrils, fills my core, hammers my body to the ground. My world goes dark, my mind too lazy to bother to stick around any longer.

I open my eyes. How much time has passed? My body is on a gurney, a mask over my face, a man covered in grime hovers over me.

Are you all right? he says.

I glance right, then left. Where is the little girl? No, I say that out loud. I said it to the man. “Where is the little girl?”

His brow pulls together. “What girl? You were the last one out. There were no bodies found inside.” Pause. “Tell me how you did it…how you survived so long? You should’ve suffocated before you made it out.”

I don’t know, I tell him.

But that is a lie.

I do know. I know exactly how I survived.

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman 2016

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Photo Credit Unsplash Sweet Ice Cream Photography