Sixty Seconds III with: Phil Coltrane

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.

(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)

Matchlight

Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Phil Coltrane.  Read his winning story here. Note that this is his THIRD win, people, which only a tiny handful of others have done. HUGE congrats, Phil! Read his first #SixtySeconds interview here and second one here. Then take another minute or two (because three-time winners get to be all chatty) to know him better below.

1) What about the prompt inspired your winning piece? My first draft was about a union dispute in orbit of the seventh planet of our solar system. I realized it had nothing to do with the prompt, so I threw it out and scrambled to write another story.

2) Describe your perfect writing day, if money/time/space were no object. All I really need is a comfortable chair, an idea, and a laptop. I also wouldn’t turn down iced tea and some crackers.

3) Describe an actual writing day. Daydreaming about an idea at work (don’t tell my boss). {Editor’s Note: Don’t worry. We’ll keep it between us.} Scribbling some notes in between dinner and my daughter’s bedtime. Hopefully fleshing out the idea later in the evening. 

4) You’re a NaNoWriMo survivor. Talk about it. NaNoWriMo motivated me to start writing, which seems to be the second hardest part. The hardest part seems to be finishing. Flash fiction is teaching me that — this year I’ll be more focused on telling a complete story.

5) What are some of the most helpful things you have learned about giving and receiving criticism? Prior to Flash! Friday, I was reluctant to share what I wrote with anyone. So far, the criticism has been constructive, so I try to return the favor and write an encouraging note whenever I enjoy another’s story.

6) You’re a huge Carl Sagan fan. Where should a curious reader start, and why? Fiction-wise, his only novel was Contact. In his essays, Sagan crisscrossed scientific disciplines without hesitation. He was on (stealing the subtitle of Cosmos“a personal voyage” to find his place in the universe, and we were along for the ride.

7) Are you involved in any writers’ groupsI went to a couple of NaNoWriMo local events, but was too socially awkward to get much out of them. Online is easier for me. I’m still looking for active online communities to join.

8) How do you balance home/work/writing lifeLife is much like a dragon. First comes its fiery head — that’s family. Next come the fearsome claws — that’s work. Last comes its serpentine tail — that’s writing. Am I making any sense? {Editor’s Note: Yes. But also, who cares? You’re talking about writing. And dragons. Smiley with heart eyes.}


 

The Sleeper

Swimming ducks. Public domain image by Nemo.

Swimming ducks. Public domain image by Nemo.

“The Sleeper”

by Rebekah Postupak

“Sleep is a marvelous thing.”

He stood over her still form, smiling a tender little smile that was all too rare these days, his voice low and gentle. She was a teen now—fourteen, in fact, full of all the rage and arrogance and comedy that mark girls her age. But now, with shadows tugging at the corners of the room and her frayed comforter with its cheery ducks tucked beneath her arms, she might have passed for nine or ten. She looked peaceful. Happy, even.

In my hand lay a long to-do list for both of us. It could wait. Wrapping my arm around his, I stood next to him in the half-darkness, another silent watcher.

In a few minutes they would come to take our daughter away. They would cover her pale, peaceful, warrior face with professional-grade pity and leave us alone with an empty room and her spent fury.

But for now, smiling, weeping, we stood together silently and watched her, as though she only slept.

♦♦♦♦♦

169 words, written for the flash contest #FinishThatThought, beginning with the mandatory opening sentence and incorporating the judge’s challenge element of ducks.

Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 19: WINNERS!

Happy Easter! It’s been a glorious sunny day here–I hope your weekend has gone smashingly. In a good way. I continue with plottings and machinations here in the lair. Oh my lands. SUCH fun attacking the impossible! Which writers do on a daily basis. You amaze me, by the way. And now:

♦♦♦♦♦

Judge Jess West says: I knew I’d have my work cut out for me, and boy was I ever right. With so many well written stories, choosing a top ten list was a feat in itself. Nearly every story had  vivid personalities, was packed with internal and external conflict, and was loaded with flip-the-script moments that knocked my socks off. I greatly enjoyed reading your stories, and can’t thank you enough for participating this week. I sincerely appreciate you taking time out of your day to contribute to this fantastic community of writers. By allowing me to read and assess your work, each and every one of you has helped me to become a better writer. That is a gift from you that I am unimaginably grateful for, and will treasure always. Okay, before I get too maudlin, on to the winners!

   ♦♦♦♦♦

SPECIAL MENTIONS

Bart van Goethem, “The Great Train Robbery.” 

“I think we’re on the wrong train, Charlie.”

This one line combined with the title provided me with enough of the elements I needed to hook me. I pictured a pair of western train robbers hopping a train and finding sleeping vampires or dead bodies awaiting disposal instead of the treasure they’d expected to find. Really, it could go any number of ways. In any event, you got my attention, Bart. Among the tools in a writer’s belt, the one-line elevator pitch is a must have. That is why you get a special mention.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Marie McKay“The Collector.” With just two words (Social Anxiety) the writer provides a fortress worth of internal and external conflict. The story supported the character’s conflict, revolved around it, and ended with the resolution of it in a most profound way.

Charity Paschall, Untitled. I love flash fiction that hints at a much larger story, just as this one does. What are Morlings? Why does the Morling’s voice render Loraine unconscious? Don’t even get me started on her sentient hair! If this was an excerpt on the back cover of a book, I’d open it up to page one.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Robert Marazas, “Train to Nowhere.” You set the melancholy tone right from the start with a funereal train in a deserted station. You continue with ominous hints throughout. The visceral descriptions really make “Train to Nowhere” stand out in my mind. Though I may not have remembered the names from such a short piece, I remember the wounds of each overnight. It’s a great thing to have a story stick with you like that. Well done! 

FIRST RUNNER UP

M.T. Decker, “Murder on the Marrakesh Express.” The final line was sheer brilliance. I have to admit, though I read this blind, I had a good idea M. T. Decker wrote this. Hers is a voice easily recognized, as she is a truly unique talent. M on the ME is loaded with conflict, the main character a vibrant personality. I can’t help but wonder where that crow was headed with its treasure. Is there a colony of rogue thieves below-ground? Oh, and that title … perfection!

And now: for his very busy third time, it’s Flash! Friday  

DRAGON WINNER

PHIL COLTRANE!!!

for

“Terminal”

In Terminal, you manage to hint at a past, present and a likely future. You tell us how our government failed us, and like any good captain, the Senator goes down with his ship. Though he may have been the bad guy in the stories that led up to this moment, even the antagonist has virtues. Clearly things have become dismal, but there is hope for the survival of humankind. In this brief moment, we see what happened to bring us to what is, as well as what’s to come.

Though the word isn’t mentioned, treasures abound in this piece. “Food to feed ten thousand for a lifetime.” “Earth’s surface should be habitable again within two centuries.” With just these two sentences, we know that there are precious few humans left. “I hope it’s enough.” This sentence tells us just how valuable these supplies are, making them treasures in their own right. And the “…final look at the future he would never know.” was a bitter-sweet cherry topping the cake. However long the Senator lives, I know he will treasure that moment.

For characters with tremendous depth, sufficient and strictly essential world building (big bonus in my book), enough of a hook to make me want to read the book, and the best use of this week’s prompts, “Terminal” stole the show and won the prize!

Congratulations on your THIRD win, Phil! Your winner’s badge (very familiar to you by now) waits for you below. Here is your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Watch your inbox for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature interview questions. And here is your winning story:

Terminal

The Senator stepped out of the train and marveled at Mile Deep Station. “The electric bill must be astronomical!”

“The light is Cherenkov radiation,” explained the General. “Our nuclear reactors produce enough electricity to light up Pittsburgh.”

“It’s safe?”

“Harmless. It’s to keep humankind alive, after all.” The General pointed to a storage area. Pallets stacked four stories high. “Food to feed ten thousand for a lifetime. Seed banks. Hydroponics. Textbooks. Spare parts.”

“I hope it’s enough.”

“Earth’s surface should be habitable again within two centuries.”

The last of Mile Deep’s new inhabitants disembarked the train. The Senator patted the General’s shoulder. “Time to go.”

“Senator, are you sure you won’t stay?”

He shook his head. “Our way of thinking is what made this place necessary.”

They boarded the train. As the doors closed, and the train began its slow return journey to the surface wastelands, the Senator took a final look at the future he would never know.

 

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